Ottawa at the 40-Game Mark

Ottawa has reached the 40-game mark (excluding last night’s 4-3 win over Boston), so it’s time to take stock and see how the team has performed (for the previous segment go here).  The Sens went 7-10-3, which puts them tied for 12th in the conference and they remain 6th in the division.  Their 111 goals for is tied for 3rd in the conference and their 131 goals against is 16th (last).  Ottawa has the 14th best powerplay (18.7%), and their penalty killing (79.3%) is 24th.  Their poor record is a dip from their first 20-games and virtually confirms this as a lost season.

Player’s stats (AHL=games in the AHL):

Erik Karlsson 20-3-14-17 -12
Clarke MacArthur 20-8-8-16 Even
Bobby Ryan 20-7-7-14 -1
Jason Spezza 19-2-10-12 -9
Kyle Turris 20-4-6-10 +5
Mika Zibanjad 18-4-6-10 -7
Patrick Wiercioch 13-2-5-7 Even
Zack Smith 20-4-3-7 -4
Chris Phillips 19-1-5-6 Even
Cory Conacher 18-1-4-5 -1
Marc Methot 15-1-6-7 -5
Colin Greening 20-3-2-5 -6
Milan Michalek
20-3-2-5 -16
Joe Corvo
13-2-2-4 -5
Erik Condra 20-2-1-3 +3
Chris Neil 20-2-1-3 -4
Cody Ceci 8-1-1-2 -1 [AHL 9-0-4-4 +3]
Jared Cowen
17-0-2-2 -1
Eric Gryba 8-0-1-1 Even
Jean-Gabriel Pageau 8-1-0-1 -2 [AHL 8-3-2-5 +1]
Derek Grant 7-0-1-1 Even [AHL 9-1-5-6 +1]
Mark Borowiecki 5-0-0-0 -2 [AHL 8-1-0-1 -2]
Matt Kassian 6-0-0-0 -1
Mike Hoffman 3-0-0-0 -2 [AHL 13-6-8-14 +1]

Robin Lehner 2-7-1 2.68 .922
Craig Anderson 5-3-2 3.26 .901

Many obvious truths are borne out by the basic numbers: MarArthur has been a fantastic free agent acquisition, his season largely wasted amidst a struggling lineup; Michalek‘s career has completely come off the rails as his production has vanished and he sports the worst plus/minus on the team by a large stretch (I’m aware of the weakness of plus/minus as a stat, but think it means something in this case); Spezza‘s struggles continue; Karlsson‘s big minus number seems largely based in trying to do too much, but his production remains astounding; Turris‘ offensive numbers are back in their normal range; Conacher continues to look like a Brandon Bochenski clone in terms of production; there’s no apparent reason for Paul MacLean’s love affair in having Phillips and Neil on the powerplay (or the latter playing much at all); it’s difficult to suss out the reasoning behind some of the rotation on the blueline, albeit Gryba and Corvo seem to have drawn the short straws most of the time (which makes sense); Kassian remains on the roster for no reason whatsoever; the team’s inability to win with Lehner in net remains puzzling; Anderson‘s numbers are starting to return to normal.  Ceci‘s addition, if it remains permanent, should involve moving either Gryba or Corvo–I don’t see a market for either, so I’d guess sending the former to the minors.  It looks as though the coaching staff has finally accepted that Zibanejad should play with better players, although their reluctance to do so in general makes me hesitant to say they’ve seen the light.  I’d like to see Wiercioch regularly in the lineup, but MacLean’s love of Cowen makes that unlikely.  Spezza‘s TOI should reflect the fact that he’s the team’s second best center, but I don’t think the coaching staff is willing to go down that path.

Despite the glut of blueliners on the team and in the organisation, rumours continue to swirl around acquiring Michael Del Zotto and I just don’t see the point in making that move (putting aside the fact that the Sens have to go dollar-for-dollar to get him).  At this point I think a good portion of the team’s struggles are directly related to poor coaching decisions.  It’s an odd thing to say about what’s considered a great coaching staff, but there are things apparent both to simple observation and via various analytical measures that make me see it this way.  One of the most obvious things is the long rope MacLean gives to his veterans, even after it’s clear they simply aren’t capable of improving their play.  Can the team improve?  I think they can (their underlying numbers have), but the playoffs seem out of reach at this stage.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Binghamton at the 30-Game Mark

The Binghamton Senators have passed the 30-game mark so it’s time to take stock and see how the team and the players are performing.  The B-Sens went 4-3-3, putting them 1st in their division and 3rd in the conference (for their previous ten games go here).  The team’s 107 goals remain 1st in the conference, while their 90 goals are tied for 11th worst.

Player’s stats (NHL=games in the NHL, ECHL=games in the ECHL):

Cole Schneider 7-5-6-11 +5
Mark Stone 9-5-5-10 -1
Mike Hoffman
8-5-4-9 -2 [NHL 3-0-0-0 -2]
Stephane Da Costa 10-3-5-8 +2
Fredrik Claesson 10-1-6-7 +3
Chris Wideman
10-0-7-7 -5
Derek Grant 9-1-5-6 +1 [NHL 1-0-0-0 Even]
Jim O’Brien 10-2-3-5 +2
Andre Petersson 10-1-4-5 -2
Matt Puempel
10-3-1-4 -2
David Dziurzynski
10-2-1-3 +2
Jean-Gabriel Pageau 4-1-1-2 +1 [NHL 8-1-0-1 -2]
Cody Ceci 4-0-2-2 +2 [NHL 8-1-1-2 -1]
Danny New
5-1-1-2 +2 [ECHL 6-1-5-6 Even]
Buddy Robinson 8-1-1-2 Even [ECHL 1-0-0-0 -1]
Mark Borowiecki 8-1-0-1 -2 [NHL 1-0-0-0 -1]
Michael Sdao 8-0-1-1 -2
Corey Cowick
8-0-1-1 -4
Wacey Hamilton
7-0-1-1 -1
Shane Prince
6-0-1-1 +2
Ben Blood
8-0-0-0 Even
Tyler Eckford
6-0-0-0 +2
Darren Kramer
4-0-0-0 -2
Troy Rutkowski
1-0-0-0 Even [ECHL 8-0-2-2 -3]
Jakub Culek [ECHL 8-1-5-6 -4]
Ludwig Karlsson [ECHL 9-2-6-8 +1]

Nathan Lawson 3-1-0 2.37 .928
Andrew Hammond 1-2-3 3.33 .895

The B-Sens went through the bulk of an awful losing streak in the absence of Lawson, but have bounced back since the veteran returned.  Hammond wasn’t terrible during the streak, but isn’t ready to take on that kind of workload.  On the positive side, Schneider is red-hot and a healthy Stone along with Hoffman and Da Costa are lighting it up.  Claesson is providing unexpected offence, matching Wideman‘s tally over the stretch as the pair took over the scoring duties in Ceci‘s absence.  On the downside, Cowick‘s season last year is looking more and more like a fluke as he cannot produce, Prince (when in the lineup) is struggling again, and Robinson was demoted briefly due to performance.  On the blueline Blood and Eckford add nothing offensively and Borowiecki is well off his usual pace.  Rutkowski has been mediocre in Elmira, while Culek has cooled off in the ECHL while Karlsson is heating up (we might see him called up in the near future).  Schneider lead the team as a plus (+5), while Wideman anchored the team as a minus (-5).  It’s difficult to guess what the parent club might do if they choose to call up a player (this would require sending someone down or an injury/trade), but at this point it would be hard to ignore Schneider (Claesson, alas, just has too many bodies in front of him while Ottawa is healthy).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: December 19th

-The Sens went 2-2 since I last wrote, narrowly beating the hapless Buffalo 2-1 (boxscore), losing to powerhouse Los Angeles 5-2 (boxscore), defeating St. Louis 3-2 in overtime (boxscore), and then dropping a disappointing effort 5-2 to the mediocre Devils (boxscore and Amelia L‘s excellent recap; the game featured Marc Methot as a healthy scratch).  The latter loss sent Paul MacLean over the top and he blasted the team afterward:

We’re an inconsistent group. We can’t get the puck out of our zone. We play good against good teams. We play bad against teams below us. That’s just a lack of focus, a lack of leadership and that’s a lack of us wanting to play in the National Hockey League and be an elite team. We are a long, long way from being an elite team.

No one can argue with MacLean about the team’s inconsistency or them not being elite, but the shot at leadership is interesting.  Jason Spezza has been a target of criticism throughout his career, but media darlings Chris Phillips and Chris Neil are sacrosanct in print/radio and I don’t doubt that the focus from local journalists will remain fixated on the captain (it does make you wonder if MacLean misses having Daniel Alfredsson in the room).  Regardless, the comment smacks of desperation (as does the insertion of Matt Kassian into the lineup for tonight’s game).  Is MacLean truly at the end of his rope?  At some point I thought we might see his line combinations come in line with analytics, but whatever stock the coaching staff puts into Corsi et al it clearly does not sway the many gut feels we see game-in and game-out.  The various closed-door meetings seem pretty useless to me–has any team turned it around in the regular season because of a meeting?  Needless to say, the fanbase is collectively losing it’s shit.

Travis Yost explores the data to see which forwards are weighing down their linemates and the long trend of Spezza‘s bad season is obvious (Jeremy Milks argues he could use consistent wingers, which is true), whose only real compatriot is Milan Michalek (the two really stand well below anyone else).  Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur are outstanding (as expected), and Mika Zibanejad‘s numbers continue to demonstrate he’s underutilized.

Varada warms the cockles of my heart by talking about the most annoying term of analysis in hockey: compete level.

I think that trying to quantify “effort” in pro sports is a game of diminishing returns—if you’re looking to consistently gain advantage over another group of pro athletes, “trying harder” or raising your “compete level” probably isn’t the way to do it. Some teams or players have lazy moments, but I would wager those are extremely insignificant outliers on an overall level of competition that, to us mere mortals, is unfathomable. Everybody tries hard.  I suspect that when I hear “effort,” like when I hear “focus” or “leadership” or “grit,” what I’m actually hearing is an easy substitution for any number of more nuanced and complex reasons for why a team might stink. Effort is always unquantifiable, so, there can always be more of it. What’s worrisome is that you hear these platitudes the most from Paul MacLean. Now, MacLean isn’t exactly going to get up in front of the media and outline the Xs and Os of his playbook for all the world to see. What else is he going to say other than, “We need to get ready for the next game, prepare properly, and raise our compete level”? But I’m telling you—if this is what the players are getting in the dressing room, I don’t know how mad we can be about the Sens’ current record. After almost half a season of hearing about compete level, it’s starting to sound obnoxiously disconnected from the real world.

This is sweet, sweet music to my ears.  I want to punch every hack who goes on about “compete level” or any other effort-related euphemism and those punches are going to go Paul MacLean’s way soon if he doesn’t shut up about it.  Varada is absolutely correct that coach’s aren’t going to detail the specific flaws in their team or players, but they need to mix it up a little–many fans take to heart that a player isn’t trying hard, apparently unaware of the fact that you can’t be a regular NHL player without working your ass off.  Players sometimes make bad decisions, but the effort is always there.

-Despite the disappointing season, Eugene Melnyk is negotiating to extend Bryan Murray.  This comes as no surprise as the faults this year largely lay in the lap of the owner rather than the GM.

-Binghamton lost both its games since I last wrote, dropping a 5-2 decision to Utica (boxscore and Jeff Ulmer‘s recap) and then a 7-4 game to Hershey (boxscore and Jeff‘s recap).  Andrew Hammond took both losses as Luke Richardson wasn’t willing to play his now-released PTO goalie.  Despite the long losing streak, Richardson remains positive, in contrast to MacLean.  Admittedly, Luke is under a lot less pressure, but I prefer his handling of the B-Sens.  The return of Nathan Lawson will definitely help matters.

-I took at look at how Sens prospects and players on AHL contracts are performing in Elmira.

-Speaking of prospects, Peter Morrow writes about the Sens prospects (focussing on those in junior), but doesn’t offer much analysis.

Mikael Wikstrand has joined Frolunda, having clearly outgrown the Allsvenskan.

SkinnyFish takes a look at Steve Simmons inability to remain consistent (along with his struggle with analytics)–a problem many of his colleagues share.

The Raaymaker departs from his usual poorly thought out opinion pieces to review Stan Fischler’s Behind the Net.  Hockey books aren’t generally my thing, but for those interested he provides a reasonable summary of the contents.

-The NHL is talking expansion and the usual chestnuts of Las Vegas and Seattle are being floated.  The former has been described as an option since the 1980s while the latter has come up since the 90s.  I can’t say the chatter excites me at all.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Sens Prospects in Elmira (ECHL)

I thought I’d take a look at how Sens prospects (and B-Sens signees) are performing in Elmira (for those who don’t know, both Ottawa and New Jersey share Elmira as an ECHL affiliate).  The Jackals are 9-11-2, which makes them 10th in the Eastern Conference.  Like every ECHL team, their lineup fluctuates constantly, but as a constant throughout the league it’s no more or less a factor for their competition (the weirdest instance was Jordon Southorn departing for Britain’s EIHL, only to come back shortly thereafter to play for Fort Wayne).  I’m not going to tackle the issue of whether winning matters for a prospect’s development (off the cuff I’d say good coaching is more important, but I’m not a fan of gut feels as fact so take that with a large grain of salt).  At some point in the future I’m sure there will be advanced statistics like Corsi at this level (I’ve always liked Graphic Comments‘ explanation of them), but for now we have the more traditional stats to work with (in this case I’m only interested in their ECHL stats).  Note: I’ve ignored Buddy Robinson, as he suited up for only a single game before being recalled to Binghamton.

Ottawa prospects (those on their ELC; all are rookies):

Jakub Culek (C/LW)
2012-13 QMJHL 9-4-3-7 ppg 0.77 (missed most of the season due to injury/junior technicalities)
2013-14 ECHL 17-4-11-15 ppg 0.88
I haven’t always been kind to Culek as a prospect, but at least at this level the 21-year old leads the team in scoring, points-per-game, and plus/minus; the one critique I could make is he doesn’t shoot enough (32 SOG), but that’s a pretty minor flaw in what has been a great start to his pro career in Elmira.  He’s seen action in two AHL games.

Ludwig Karlsson (LW)
2012-13 NCAA 17-5-3-8 ppg 0.47 (missed half the season with a wrist injury)
2013-14 ECHL 13-3-4-7 ppg 0.50
The 22-year old free agent signees’ performance took a step back after suffering a concussion and it’s only in his last four games that he’s rounded into form (4-2-2-4 +2).  Due to the injury, it’s difficult to assess his play, but he should dominate at this level.  His three games in Binghamton don’t permit much analysis.

Troy Rutkowski (D)
2012-13 WHL 72-20-46-66 ppg 0.91
2013-14 ECHL 9-0-3-3 ppg 0.33
The 21-year old unsigned Colorado draft pick has spent less than half the season with Elmira, so it’s difficult to really judge his performance, but it’s clearly better than what he’s shown in his six games in Binghamton.  He should dominate here and I think if he spends enough time with the Jackals he will.

AHL-contracts:

Danny Hobbs (LW)
2012-13 ECHL 53-9-22-31 ppg 0.58
2013-14 ECHL 22-7-6-13 ppg 0.59
The 24-year old ex-Greenville Road Warrior and former Ranger draft pick is on par with his performance last year; he’s very unlikely to see time in Binghamton.

Danny New (D)
2012-13 ECHL 21-2-9-11 ppg 0.52
2013-14 ECHL 22-2-9-11 ppg 0.50
24-year old blueliner attended the Sens 2010 development camp and spent half of last season in Binghamton; his numbers (like Hobbs above) are a mirror-image of the previous season, although he’s saddled with an awful plus/minus (-12).  He has played one AHL game this season, with more to come given his call-up today.

Scott Greenham (G)
2012-13 ECHL 11-19-3 3.39 .908
2013-14 ECHL 5-6-1 2.59 .920
The 26-year old ex-Bakersfield Condor attended the Sens 2011 development camp and is in the midst of his best pro season.  He hasn’t started since December 6th and is apparently injured.

Both Karlsson and Culek are going to struggle to get much AHL action given the glut of forwards in Binghamton, but Rutkowski can push his way onto the blueline given the relative thinness at that position.  I’m not sure if Greenham has AHL-chops, but goaltender development is about as strange as it can get, so it will be interesting to see if/when he gets his shot.  I think New is a player who will generally bounce back and forth between levels.

Sens/B-Sens players who played in Elmira last year have all had varied paths this season (New is above): Ben Blood has been a Binghamton regular and appears to have benefitted substantially from his time with the Jackals; Darren Kramer is also a regular, but I’m less certain his game has evolved; Louie Caporusso continues to be an ECHL star (with Reading, but no transition to the next level); Dustin Gazley is also with Reading, but isn’t having the same success; Jack Downing joined Boston’s organisation and has had a cup of coffee with Providence.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

StarCraft 2 – Looking Back on the First Year of WCS

With the advent of Heart of the Swarm (the zerg-based sequel to Wings of Liberty that kicked off StarCraft 2), Blizzard instituted a more formal structure to the popular RTS (real-time strategy) game by imposing the World Championship Series (WCS) structure onto the competitive scene (an overview of the basics can be found here).    I liked the idea and thought I’d explore its first year (which began in March), particularly in view of who performed best and how balanced the results were.

Briefly, my background as a fan of the game: I got into the competitive StarCraft 2 scene in the summer of 2012 (following the route of becoming a fan of Day[9] via Tabletop and hence into the scene itself–I had played the campaign (including the first StarCraft) beforehand, but had no idea there was scene attached to it).  There are a number of sites that cover SC2 (Liquipedia is probably the best), but I haven’t seen an examination of the year quite like how I’ve approached it here.

When I started watching competitive play it was during the heyday of imbalanced Brood Lord/Infestor play, so with the onset of HOTS I was interested to see if the game was more balanced and what players would emerge as the best under the new system.  To that end I paid careful attention to how the races performed in the major tournaments and here’s the list of winners (chronologically; I’ve excluded the Redbull tourney below; there are WCS numbers here, btb, but I don’t like taking the raw data at face value).  Key: Z=zerg, P=Protoss, T=Terran:

Season One (March-June; 4 T 3 Z 2 P)
WCS Korea – Soulkey (Z)
IEM VII – Yoda (T)
MLG Winter – Life (Z)
WCS Europe – MVP (T)
Dreamhack Stockholm – Leenock (Z)
WCS America – HerO (P)
WCS Finals – Innovation (T)
Dreamhack Summer – Stardust (P)
Homestory Cup VII – Taeja (T)

Season Two (June-August; 5 T 2 Z 1 P)
WCS Korea – Maru (T)
WCS Europe – duckdeok (P)
MLG Spring – Polt (T)
WCS America – Polt (T)
Dreamhack Valencia – HyuN (Z)
IEM VIII Shanghai – Revival (Z)
ASUS ROG Summer – Taeja (T)
WCS Finals – Bomber (T)

Season Three (August-December; 5 T 5 P 3 Z)
WCS Korea – Dear (P)
WCS Europe – MMA (T)
Dreamhack Bucharest – Taeja (T)
WCS America – Polt (T)
IEM New York – Life (Z)
WCS Finals – Dear (P)
Blizzcon – sOs (P)
Dreamhack Winter – Taeja (T)
HomeStory Cup VIII – Taeja (T)
IEM Singapore – herO (P)
WCG – Soulkey (Z)
Hot6ix Cup – Rain (P)
ASUS ROG NorthCon – Jaedong (Z)

The last few tournaments happened after the end of the official WCS season, but I think it’s worth including them.  I realise the Korean season finals happened before the world season finals of the previous season, but I think it’s less confusing to lay it out as above.  Back to the main point, too much emphasis can be placed on the race of the champion, but nevertheless here’s the overall breakdown: T – 14, P – 8, Z – 8.

So was it the year of the Terran?  There’s no question Korean Terrans performed extremely well, even after the Hellbat nerf (in July).  It’s also worth noting that other than in Korea and in the WCS Finals/Blizzcon, none of these tournaments are truly “best-on-best” in terms of the caliber of players participating.

The other thing that remains a constant is that foreigners do not reach the podium (for those unfamiliar with the use of the term in this context, “foreigner” denotes anyone not from Korea).  One can argue that a couple of players (Scarlett and Naniwa) can compete with any top Korean player, but it’s needless to say there’s a large gap in overall talent after those two.  No foreigner has won their “home” WCS region–only one (Stephano) has made it to the finals.  Accepting that looking at the winners alone isn’t the most useful exercise, let’s look at the runner-ups in all the tournaments above:

Season One (4 Z 3 P 2 T)
Korea – Innovation (T)
IEM VII – First (P)
MLG Winter – Flash (T)
Europe – Stephano (Z)
Dreamhack Stockholm – Naniwa (P)
America – Revival (Z)
Finals – sOs (P)
Dreamhack Summer – Jaedong (Z)
HomeStory VII – Snute (Z)

Season Two (4 Z 4 P)
Korea – Rain (P)
Europe – MC (P)
MLG Spring – HyuN (Z)
America – Jaedong (Z)
Dreamhack Valencia – Jaedong (Z)
IEM Shanghai – Oz (P)
ASUS ROG Summer – San (P)
Finals – Jaedong (Z)

Season Three (8 Z 4 P 1 T)
Korea – soO (Z)
Europe – MC (P)
Dreamhack Bucharest – Innovation (T)
America – ByuL (Z)
IEM New York – Naniwa (P)
Finals – Soulkey (Z)
Blizzcon – Jaedong (Z)
HomeStory Cup VII – HyuN (Z)
Dreamhack Winter – Life (Z)
IEM Singapore – San (P)
WCG – Sora (P)
ASUS ROG NorthCon – Scarlett (Z)
Hot6ix Cup – Soulkey (Z)

This presents a very different picture (16 Z 11 P 3 T), with almost a complete absence of Terrans and an edge to Zerg.  Combining numbers with the winners (24 Z 19 P 17 T) presents an almost balanced picture, which is to say the races reach finals fairly evenly.  This suggests the ability of the players is more at the root of who wins than the race they play.  Does this stand up when we examine the other top-four finishers? (The way Dreamhack operates meant there was no real 4th place finisher in the second Winter tournament): Terran – 21,  Zerg – 19,  Protoss – 19.

The combined results are almost completely balanced (43 Z 38 P 38 T).  This isn’t to say the game is perfect, but whatever its imperfections clearly the best players find a way to win–I can’t think of a weaker player who was able to make a significant run at a major tournament simply because of a broken build (unlike the end of Wings of Liberty).

An entirely different question is looking at who excelled in the new format.  This year’s structure of the WCS hasn’t created space for foreigners to challenge the dominance of Koreans, but I think that’s less important than creating space for players to develop (that doesn’t seem to have occurred, thus the changes for the upcoming season).  The lack of region lock didn’t help (along with, perhaps, the game’s popularity not being what it was a few years ago).  Putting aside foreigner issues, I’m interested in which players were the best of the best.  The WCS point system is meant to encapsulate this (you can see it here), but I think the imbalance between WCS regions and mixed bag of talent at non-WCS tournaments makes it questionable.  So what can we do to figure it out?  My approach is to look at Code S players (Koreans premier players) who were consistently in the top-16, along with the results of top performances in the WCS Finals, Blizzcon, and Hot6ix (note: there was a change after the first WCS Korea season regarding whether there was a 5th/6th place finisher or simply a qualifier).  In terms of making sense of the raw numbers and differentiating the results I’ve used a very simple point system to illustrate who performed the best (R16=1, 7-8 or 5-8=2, 5-6 or 6th=3, 5th=4, 3-4=8, 2=12, 1=16; the idea here is that each round a player should earn twice as many points as the previous round; I’ve included their WCS ranking in brackets next to their name):

Best results in Korea/Finals/Blizzcon/Hot6ix (for full player profiles check out Aligulac):
Soulkey (1) – 60 (1st; 7-8; 3-4/3-4; X; 2nd/5-8/2nd)
Maru (7) – 49 (R32; 1st; 3-4; X; R16; 3-4/3-4/3-4)
Dear (6) – 42 (Code A; Code A; 1st/X; X; 1st/5-8/3-4)
Innovation (2) – 39 (2nd; 3-4; R16/1st; R16; X/R16/X)
sOs (12) – 37 (3-4; R32; R16/2nd; X; X/1st/X)
Bomber (8) – 36 (7-8; 3-4; R32/X; 1st; X/3-4/5-8)
Rain (19) – 32 (R32; 2nd; 7-8/X; 5-8; X/X/1st)
soO (24) – 17 (R16; R16; 2nd/X; X; R16/X/5-8)
Trap (t-21) – 13 (Code A; R16; 5th/X; X; 3-4/X/X)
Symbol (32) – 13 (3-4; 7-8; R32/R16; X; X/X/5-8)
First (25) – 12 (Code A; 5th; R32/X; 3-4; X/X/X)
RorO (35) – 7 (5-6; R32; Code A/5-8; X; X/X/5-8)
KangHo (34) – 6 (5-6; R16; R16/ R16; X; X/X/X)
PartinG (43) – 5 (7-8; R16; 7-8/X/X/X)
SuperNova (49) – 3 (Code A; 6th; R32/X/X/X)
jjakji (85) – 3 (Code A; Code A; 6th/X; X; X/X/X)
Flash (44) – 3 (R16, R16, R16/X/X/X)

Jaedong (3) – 25 (America/X; 2nd; R16/2nd)
MVP (14) – 9 (Europe/3-4; X; X/R16)
Taeja (11) – 9 (America/X; 3-4; X/R16)
Alicia (29) – 4 (America/5-8; 5-8; X/X)
Polt (4) – 4 (America/X; R16; R16/5-8)
duckdeok (15) – 4 (Europe/X; R16; R16/5-8)
aLive (13) – 3 (America/5-8; X; X/R16)
Naniwa (16) – 3 (Europe/X; 5-8; X/R16)
ForGG (20) – 2 (Europe/5-8; X; X/X)
Scarlett (t-21) – 2 (America/X; 5-8; X/X)

The WCS breakout player has to be Dear, who is the only Code A player prior to HOTS who made a major impact.  Throughout the year Soulkey stood tall–his consistency second to none.  At the bottom end, it’s clear that neither jjakji, SuperNova, RorO, KangHo (now retired), or Flash belong amongst the best of the Koreans in Korea this year, while only Jaedong, MVP, and Taeja have held their own when facing top players.  That leaves fifteen players, some of whom played in a number of tournaments while others have played none.  Here’s how they performed:

Soulkey – WCG (1st)
Maru – none (he did try to get to IEM Singapore, but could not get through the Korean qualifier)
Innovation – MLG Winter (3rd to Flash), Dreamhack Bucharest (2nd to Taeja), Dreamhack Winter (R8 to Life and Patience), ASUS ROG NorthCon (R4 to Scarlett)
sOs – Dreamhack Bucharest (5th to Taeja), IEM New York (R8 to Curious), Dreamhack Winter (R16 to Patience)
Dear – MLG Spring (R8 to Polt/Naniwa)
Bomber – MLG Winter (R8 to MC), IEM Singapore (R16 to Scarlett twice)
Jaedong – Dreamhack Stockholm (R4 to Naniwa), Dreamhack Summer (finals to StarDust), Dreamhack Valencia (finals to HyuN), Dreamhack Bucharest (R16 to sOs), MLG Spring (R16 to Dear/Naniwa), IEM Shanghai (R16 to HerO and MC), Dreamhack Winter (R16 to Innovation and JYP), ASUS ROG NorthCon (1st)
Rain – MLG Winter (R8 to Innovation)
soO – MLG Spring (R32 to Sage)
Trap – none (he repeatedly tried to qualify for IEM, but could not)
First – IEM VII (finals to YoDa)
Symbol – HomeStory Cup VIII (R4 to Taeja and jjakji)
MVP – IEM VII (R4 to YoDa), Dreamhack Winter (R16 to MC), IEM Singapore (R8 to herO)
Taeja – MLG Winter (R16 to Bomber), Dreamhack Summer (R4 to Jaedong), Dreamhack Bucharest (1st), Dreamhack Winter (1st), HomeStory Cup (1st)
PartinG – IEM VII (R8 to YoDa), MLG Winter (R8 to Flash), WCG (R4 to Sora)

Other than players already on the list, there’s a very small group that the best of the best have lost too, a number of whom already appear above (those who didn’t quite make the cut above: Polt, Naniwa, Scarlett, jjakji and Flash).  The track record of the others is worth exploring (just top-8 finishes outside the WSC structure for those not playing in Korea):
Life (Z) – Code S (R16, R32, Code A), MLG Winter (1st), Dreamhack Summer (R8), Dreamhack Bucharest (R4), IEM New York (1st), Dreamhack Winter (2nd), ASUS ROG NorthCon (R4)
HyuN (Z) – Code S (R32, America), Dreamhack Stockholm (R4), Dreamhack Summer (R8), HomeStory Cup VII (R4), MLG Spring (2nd), Dreamhack Valencia (1st), ASUS ROG Summer (R4), IEM New York (R4), HomeStory Cup VIII (2nd)
HerO (P) – America (1st season one), Dreamhack Stockholm (R4), MLG Spring (R4), IEM Shanghai (R8), IEM New York (R8), HomeStory Cup VIII (R8)
StarDust (P) – Europe, Dreamhack Summer (1st), Dreamhack Valencia (R4), ASUS ROG Summer (R8), ASUS ROG NorthCon (R8)
herO (P) – Code S (Code A, Code A, R32), IEM Singapore (1st)
MC (P) – Code S/Europe (R32/2nd seasons two and three); MLG Winter (4th), HomeStory Cup VII (R8), IEM Shanghai (R4)
Sora (P) – Code A, WCG (2nd)
Curious (Z) – Code S (R32, R32, Code A); IEM New York (R4)
Patience (P) – has not made it into Code A; Dreamhack Winter (R4)
JYP (P) – Code A, Dreamhack Valencia (R8), Dreamhack Winter (R8)
Sage (P) – America, MLG Spring (R8)

Only five of these players (Life, HyuN, HerO, MC, and StarDust) have strong track records during the year (duckdeok was a consideration for this list as well–he won Europe season two and beat Innovation at Blizzcon–as was San, who finished second in a pair of tournaments).  All of these players are Korean–other than the aforementioned Scarlett and Naniwa, foreigners have not made a dent in the records of the best Koreans.  Speaking of foreigners, what are the most notable performances in tournaments?

IEM VII – both Ret and MaNa make it to the R8, but only Ret has a semi-notable win as he takes out MC in the group stage; neither player has a significant result the rest of the year
MLG Winter – no notable results
Europe WCS – Stephano reaches the finals, but with MVP the only notable Korean involved (who defeats him) it’s not that significant
Dreamhack Stockholm – Naniwa beats out MC in his group and defeats Jaedong in the semi’s to go on and lose to Leenock in the finals; SortOf makes the R8, but doesn’t face any heavyweight competition to get there
America WCS – Snute and Moonglade reach R8 without defeating anyone notable
WSC Finals – no notable results
Dreamhack Summer – SjoW beats Life in the R8 before falling to eventual winner StarDust; this is essentially a fluke as SjoW‘s subsequent results are middling
HomeStory Cup VII – Snute defeats HyuN in the quarters and takes Taeja to seven games before losing in the finals; it’s a great accomplishment, but Snute doesn’t follow it up with similar results
Europe WCS – Grubby reaches the semi’s (losing to eventual champion duckdeok) and earns a win over MVP in the group stage
MLG Spring – Naniwa works his way through the losers bracket to the semi’s where he loses to Polt, defeating Jaedong and Dear along the way
America WCS – Scarlett reaches the semi’s (losing to Jaedong), but without beating anyone notable
Dreamhack Valencia – Goswser makes it to the semi’s (losing to HyuN) without beating anyone notable; elfi and LucifroN get to R8 (also without significant wins)
IEM Shanghai – no notable results
ASUS ROG Summer – Happy and Goswser make the R8 without a notable win
Finals WCS – Naniwa and Scarlett reach the R8, with the former beating Innovation and the latter Maru
Europe WCS – VortiX makes the semi’s (losing to MMA) with a semi-notable win (over StarDust)
Dreamhack Bucharest – elfi makes the R8 with a semi-notable win (over StarDust)
America WCS – MacSed reaches R8 without a notable win
IEM New York – Naniwa is again the story as he beats HyuN and makes the final (where he loses to Life)
Finals WCS – no notable results
Blizzcon -no notable results (only Naniwa participates)
HomeStory Cup VIII – BabyKnight and Happy reach R8, with the former having the only semi-notable win (over HerO)
Red Bull – Scarlett beat Bomber and MC to finish 3rd in this very small tournament
Dreamhack Winter – Naniwa goes furthest, beating HyuN in the group stage before falling to JYP
IEM Singapore – Scarlett makes the R8 (losing to Hydra), beating Bomber twice to get there
WCG – Dayshi makes the R8 (losing to Sora) without beating anyone notable
ASUS ROG NorthCon – Scarlett makes it to the finals (losing to Jaedong), defeating StarDust and Life in the process; elfi makes the R8 without a notable win

As repeated above, only Naniwa and Scarlett have multiple wins over top players.  Stephano and Snute are the only other foreigners to make a final, but Stephano did so without facing any of the top Koreans to get there.  Is there anything to be drawn from the races of the best foreigners?
Zerg (8): Scarlett (Bomberx3, Maru, MC, StarDust, Life), Snute (HyuN), VortiX (StarDust), Ret (MC), Stephano (n/a), Goswser (n/a), Moonglade (n/a), SortOf (n/a)
Protoss (6): Naniwa (Jaedongx2, HyuNx2, MC, Dear, Innovation), Grubby (MVP), elfi (StarDust), BabyKnight (HerO), MaNa (n/a), MacSed (n/a)
Terran (4): SjoW (Life), Happy (n/a), Dayshi (n/a), LucifroN (n/a)

It’s worth noting that I haven’t included wins in earlier stages of tournaments (Grubby beat Polt in the group stage of Stockholm, for example), but there’s very little added in that respect.  The weakness of foreign terrans seems straightforward, but the talent available between zerg and protoss is equal.  None of these players are new, so there are no breakout performances to be noted (in fact, if anything many of the older players seem to have done better in HOTS).  It’s worth emphasizing that only two players have multiple wins over even second-tier Korean pros.

An additional question is how players placed in the initial premier league (those who enjoyed strong seasons in 2012) performed in the new system (I’ve only noted R16 or better in foreign tournaments):

Korea
(Bomber, sOs, Taeja, Symbol, Innovation, Soulkey, PartinG, Life, Maru, Flash, Rain, SoO, RorO, MC, KangHo, HyuN, and Curious are all covered above)
DongRaeGu (Z) – R32, Code A, R16; R8 IEM Shanghai, R8 ASUS ROG Summer, R8 IEM New York, R4 IEM Singapore
KeeN (T) – R32, R32, R16; he did not play in any foreign tournaments
YoDa (T) – R16 and won IEM VII before spending the rest of the year toiling in Code A
Shine (Z) – R16, R32, and then Code A
Leenock (Z) – R32, R32, and then Code A; R16 MLG Winter, 1st Dreamhack Stockholm, R8 HomeStory VIII, R12 Dreamhack Winter
Squirtle (P) – R32, R32, Code A; R16 Dreamhack Summer, R16 IEM Singapore
Flying (P) – R16 and then Code A for the rest of the year
Gumiho (T) – R16 and then Code A
True (Z) – R32, Code A, R32 with no foreign appearances
Creator (P) – R32 and the rest of the year in Code A; no notable foreign results
Crazy (Z) – R32, Code A, and then oblivion in terms of results
Fantasy (T) – R32 and then Code A
MarineKing (T) – R32 and then Code A until retirement
Last (T) – R32 and then fell off the face of the earth
BBoongBBoong (Z) – R32 and then fell off the face of the earth

There are no broad generalisations to be made from these results.  I’d argue DRG, KeeN, True, and maybe Leenock stayed at about the same level throughout, while the other players tailed off.  The 15 players consist of 6 zergs (3 of whom did not decline), 3 protoss (all of whom slumped), and 6 terrans (with one not declining), none of which makes any statement about the performance of the various races.

Europe
(MVP, Naniwa, Stephano, Grubby, Happy, LucifroN, Ret, VortiX, Dayshi, BabyKnight, MaNa, SortOf, and MMA are discussed above)
ForGG (T) – R4, R32, R16; R8 Dreamhack Bucharest, R16 Dreamhack Winter
TLO (Z) – R8, R32, R32; R16 Dreamhack Stockholm, R8 Dreamhack Summer, 3rd HomeStory VII, R16 ASUS ROG Summer, R16 IEM New York, R16 Dreamhack Winter
TitaN (P) – R32, R16, R16; R12 IEM Shanghai, R16 HomeStory VIII
HasuObs (P) – R32, R8, R32; R16 HomeStory VII, R16 WCG, R16 ASUS NorthCon
Nerchio (Z) – R16, Challenger, R8; R16 Dreamhack Bucharest, R12 ASUS NorthCon
Thorzain (T) – R16, R32, R16; R16 HomeStory VII
SaSe (P) – R16, Challenger, R32; R16 Dreamhack Stockholm, R16 MLG Spring
DIMAGA (Z) – R4, R32, Challenger
sLivko (Z) – R32, R32, R32; R16 IEM Shanghai
Bunny (T) – R32, R32, Challenger; R16 HomeStory VII
Socke (P) – R32, and then nothing notable; R16 HomeStory VIII, R16 ASUS NorthCon
Kas (T) – R32, Challenger, R32; R16 Dreamhack Stockholm
Shuttle (T) – R32, R32, R32; retired
Feast (P) – R16 and then took a break from the game (he’s now returned)
Strelok (T) – R16, Challenger league, and then nothing notable
Bly (Z) – R32, R32, and then nothing notable
Siw (P) – R32, Challenger, and then retired
monchi (P) – R32 and then nothing notable; retired
KrasS (T) – R32 and then Challenger

Again it’s hard to draw conclusions from the results.  There are only two Koreans in this list (a far cry from WCS America), which is of note.  ForGG, TitaN, HasuObs, Thorzain, sLivko, Shuttle, Kas, and arguably TLO and Nerchio were relatively consistent.  The group consists 7 terrans (4 of whom were consistent), 5 zergs (3 of whom were consistent), and 7 protoss (only 2 of whom were consistent), which if it says anything it confirms that European zergs remain among the strongest in foreign play (even after the Infestor nerf, although it’s worth noting that the days of Nerchio et al winning tournaments is clearly over).

America
(HerO, aLive, Scarlett, Polt, Revival, Goswser, Snute, Moonglade, and Alicia are above)
Oz (P) – R32, R8, R4; 2nd IEM Shanghai
Violet (Z) – R16, R16, and then visa problems; R8 IEM VII, R16 Dreamhack Summer, R8 HomeStory VII
CranK  (P)- R8, R16, R16
Heart (T) – R32, R16, R8; R16 MLG Spring
Ryung (T) – R4, R16, R32
Sen (Z) – R16, Challenger, R16; R16 MLG Winter, R8 WCG
The StC (T) – R16, R32, R32; R12 MLG Spring, R16 Dreamhack Valencia
Nestea (Z) – R16, R32, R16
HuK (P) – R32, R32, R16; R16 Dreamhack Stockholm, R16 Dreamhack Valencia, R16 IEM New York
Suppy (Z) – R16, R32, R32; R16 WCG
Apocalypse (T) – R32, R32, R16
Minigun (P) – R32, R16, R32
ViBE (Z) – R32, R32, R32
Killer (Z) – R32, Challenger, and then no significant results; R16 MLG Winter
State (P) – R32 and then Challenger; R16 IEM New York
Major (T) – R32 and then Challenger
theognis (T) – R32, Challenger and then he retired
HelloKitty (P) – R32, Challenger, and then nadda
Capoch (P) – R32, Challenger, and then nothing notable
Illusion (T) – R32 and then nothing notable
Maker (T) – R32 and then nothing notable
Idra (Z) – R32 and then retired
Fenix (T) – R32 and then took a break from the game

The predominance of second-tier Koreans is notable and would only become more of a factor as the year went on and because of that it’s difficult to judge the results–Koreans pounding on foreigners is hardly new or necessarily indicative of anything.  Because of that I’ll just point to the foreigners who handled the influx by staying relevant: HuK, Suppy, Minigun, and ViBE–two zergs and two protoss, as terran weakness in NA continues.

One other element worth looking at is balance patches during the WCS and what impact they’ve had:
-(May) Spore crawler damage was increased vs biological to cut down in the tedious muta vs muta ZvZ matches; the change helped, as that is not always the default of the mirror match anymore
-(July) Hellbat’s were nerfed (wrecking Innovation’s results and radically changing terran strategies); Banshee cloaking costs were reduced and have resulted in their use in virtually every TvT; Warp Prism speed was increased (the impact of this is very subtle, but given that virtually no one complains about it I’d say it was limited)
-(August) Overseer speed upgrade makes them even faster, a change that was supposed to help with widowmines, but as we’ll see Blizzard did not think it helped enough
-(November) Windowmine nerf (a further attempt to help ZvT and terran’s have struggled to deal with it), Seige Tank firing increased (no notable impact yet), vehicle and ship upgrades merged (in an attempt to help mech–impact yet to be determined), Oracle speed buff (causing many cries of imba, but it’s too early to tell), and Tunneling Claw speed buff (no notable impact yet)

Personally, I’d like to see less mutalisk play–it feels like every matchup is impacted by the unit, which seems a little ridiculous.  There are other things I could get into, but that’s the one thing as a viewer I’d just like less of.  That being said, I really enjoyed the first year of WCS.  There was more variety of play, a better schedule (almost no tournament conflicts), and a ton of content.  I’m hopeful the upcoming season will build on that foundation and be even better.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: December 12th

-Ottawa played three straight shootout games, losing to Toronto (boxscore), beating Philadelphia (boxscore), and then losing to Buffalo (boxscore), who they face again tonight.  The Sens sent down Mike Hoffman and replaced him with Jean-Gabriel Pageau; they also called up Cody Ceci as Jared Cowen is suspended for two games and Marc Methot has the flu.

-Speaking of Hoffman, Nichols echoes my thoughts:

A few days after Paul MacLean emphasized how pleased he has been with the way that Mike Hoffman has played, today it was announced that Hoffman had been demoted to the Binghamton Senators.

It’s getting a little absurd how much the organisation yoyo’s its comments on players (Defense Minister was having some fun with that on Twitter today, relating to Mika Zibanejad).  Bobby Kelly expounds on his frustration with how the organisation handled Hoffman.

Travis Yost sums up my thoughts about Zibanejad:

One of the things I’ve really been harping on this season — and again, it’s one of my only two objections with Paul MacLean’s deployment; I’ve absolved him of most of the team’s struggles this year — is the continued supressed usage of F Mika Zibanejad. Since the summer, particularly due to the way this roster has been assembled, it became clear to me rather quickly that if Zibanejad could transition to the wing, he’d be quite the weapon for this team — and allow for ideal line combination structure. Zibanejad was laughably cut from the team for reasons unknown, but since his call-up, he’s more or less tore through the competition. He’s the team’s best raw neutral zone player (probably second-best when adjusted for quality of competition), leads the team in EV possession, and generates shots at league-high levels. The argument to have him logging big minutes is hugely-supported; the argument to suppress his minutes (and consequently, create big minutes for lesser forwards) is far less supported. The idea that the Swedish forward suddenly morphed into a guy who can handle top-six minutes is rather ludicrous, particularly when you look at all of the available data and video from last season. I had doubts that Zibanejad could comfortably transition to wing, but a few games with Jason Spezza later, I saw a guy who reminded me a whole lot of the good Alexander Semin — not nearly as polished offensively, but twice as ready to fight away from the puck, defending his net.

Nichols looks at the Sens playoff odds and offers us this (the third column is the required winning percentage for the Sens):

Points Record Playoff Probability Point %
100 34-13-5 99.7 .702
99 33-13-6 99.3 .692
98 33-14-5 98.4 .683
97 32-14-6 97.0 .673
96 31-14-7 94.5 .663
95 31-15-6 90.7 .654
94 30-15-7 85.2 .644
93 30-16-6 77.6 .635
92 29-16-7 67.7 .625
91 29-17-6 55.7 .615
90 28-17-7 42.7 .605

Eric T looks at how to bring shot quality into player evaluation:

The stat community relies heavily on shot differential measures (Corsi and Fenwick) that don’t make any effort to account for the quality of those shots. But of course shot quality also has to matter a little bit, so why not try to factor it in?

He overviews Delta, the term for measuring shot quality and concludes:

Delta is even a slightly worse predictor of future Delta.

Eric offers five suggestions to make the approach more useful.

-Binghamton has continued to lose, dropping three more games since my last post (4-2 to Hershey (boxscore and Jeff Ulmer‘s recap);  3-2 to Albany (boxscore and Jeff‘s recap); and 4-3 to the Bears last night (boxscore and Jeff‘s recap)).  The latter two losses were via shootout (echoing the parent club).

-Elmira lost 2-1 last night with Jakub Culek scoring the lone goal for the Jackals.  I don’t know if Culek has AHL-chops, but among the Sens prospects toiling in the ECHL he’s been the best, as he’s now tied with Jordan Pietrus for the team’s scoring lead (but with a much better PPG ratio).  Neither Ludwig Karlsson nor Troy Rutkowski have dominated, although the former may still be dealing with the after effects of his concussion.  AHL-signee Danny New has decent numbers (20-1-8-9), but has the second worst plus/minus on the team (-12).  Danny Hobbs has been adequate, but neither he nor New are likely to see action in Binghamton barring major injuries.  Scott Greenham is having a career year (this is his third in the ECHL), but given that Binghamton choose to sign Rob Madore (playing for Cincinnati in the ECHL) to a PTO rather than recall him while Nathan Lawson recovers from injury presumably says something. [It seems as if Greenham is injured, as he hasn’t started for Elmira since December 6th.]

-I always liked Peter Regin, but his time on the Island hasn’t changed him from the sad shadow of his former self as he was last season (29-1-3-4 statistical line thus far).  Ouch.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: December 6th

-The Sens split their Florida trip, beating the hapless Panthers 4-2 (boxscore and Mark Parisi‘s recap) while losing to Tampa 3-1 (boxscore).  Ottawa fell behind in each game and their issues this season have finally hit the point (for me) where it’s beyond the point of no return in terms of making the playoffs (which I delve into below).

-A lot of ink has been spilt (does that expression still work in the digital age?) over what’s caused the Sens, so dynamic during the lockout shortened season, to fall hard.  I think the talent on the team (with the exception perhaps of the bottom rung on the blueline) is fine, but there’s something going on between the ears of a number of players that are preventing them from playing up to par.  Confidence is a nebulous thing, but it’s obvious to even casual observers that players like Jared Cowen, Colin Greening, etc have completely lost their mojo.  There are arguments to be made about how much the various players can truly offer, but to my mind all of them (with the exception of Conacher) have shown that they can be useful parts on the roster.  I don’t have an issue with Paul MacLean or his staff inherently, but whatever they are doing has not been able to swing the team out of its nosedive and the only external change I can think of is expectations.  The first two seasons under MacLean the team was rebuilding and the organisation did not have high expectations.  That all changed this summer with the Bobby Ryan deal and the hype generated over various media predicting how well the team would do.  I’m not saying externalities are part of the reason for the decline, but they can’t be ignored as a potential factor.  What does this all mean?  Unfortunately fans are going to have to buckle in and readjust their expectations.  The team will get better over the season–it’s hard for me to imagine the bottom falling out anymore than it has already–but likely when it’s clear the team is not going to make it into the playoffs.  On the positive side the area where the team is struggling the most (its depth up front and on the blueline) is what the organisation has in abundance in its system.  Time, for the moment, is on Ottawa’s side.

Travis Yost finds fault in how MacLean is using his players and if anything is clear from his piece it’s that Ottawa’s staff either isn’t using advanced statistic data to make their decisions or else trusts their gut more than the numbers they see (Travis does point out the underlying numbers for the team overall are starting to improve).

B_T takes a look at the Corsi data to see if there are little-used defensive pairings which might help the blueline (he includes the departed Mark Borowiecki) and while the sample size is small there’s encouraging numbers here.  I wish he’d explored how a new pairing would echo throughout the rest of the defense corps using the same Corsi data.

Nichols looks back at the ConacherBen Bishop trade looking to see if the Sens could have done better.  The article is exhausting in its explanation and I don’t think there’s a strong case made that there was a much better deal out there (which isn’t to say that’s Nichols’ argument, but just an assessment of the information available).

Bob McKenzie (via Nichols) downplays the odds of Tim Murray winding up in Buffalo.

-Binghamton faces Hershey (7-7-5) tonight and Jeff Ulmer has a preview.

-Here’s the latest Sens prospect updateMarcus Hogberg has been named to Sweden’s preliminary WJC roster.

Glen Erickson writes about Curtis Lazar whose head coach describes him as:

our spiritual leader

Which is an interesting description.  For those interested in scouting reports on Lazar, there’s a ton here.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)