Photo: Amanda Bowen
Editor’s note: We’re turning the site over to Don’t Tell Me About Heart for an educated outsider’s perspective and projection on the upcoming season.
How often does a team need to be called a dark horse until we can acknowledge they are simply good? I think the Washington Capitals are safely approaching that status for the 2015-2016 season. All the stars all seem to be aligning for the Capitals to have a strong year. Anytime you have a lineup containing a top-5 starting goalie, one of the leagues best playmaking centres and probably the greatest goal scorer in NHL history you are definitely starting off on the right foot. Add in the offseason acquisitions of TJ Oshie and Justin Williams along with the expected progression of promising young guns Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov, that is a scary team.
Over at my own site, I created a statistic coined Corsi Plus-Minus (or CPM). The goal of which is to isolate an individual player’s contributions to the share of Corsi events while they are on the ice regardless of their teammates. To interpret CPM, imagine a lineup of 5 players who are all completely average (they would have CPMs of zero), now swap one of those player’s for say Nicklas Backstrom and we would expect him to increase their team’s Corsi For by 2.57 per 60 minutes and decrease their opponents Corsi For by 0.63 per 60 minutes.
After I had all of these CPM numbers going back to 2007, I used the extremely basic Marcel method (created by Tom Tango) to project what we should expect a player’s CPM numbers to be for the upcoming 2015-2016 season. I used this same method to project goalies as well but only using even-strength save percentage.
Of course, games are won by scoring and preventing goals so a few steps need to be applied to convert our CPM numbers into a Goals Value. That involves designating a player’s role (ex. 1st Line) to figure out their expected Time On-Ice, figuring out a team’s expected Sh%/SV% based on the distribution of shots from different danger zones and for offensive numbers we apply a multiplier to forwards who tend to have a higher On-Ice Sh% (ex. Ovechkin gets a 1.04 multiplier while Chimera has a 0.94).
Once we have these player Goal Values we simply sum them up for a given each team and that gives us our Team Rating. Using these Team Ratings and the actual 2015-2016 season schedule I simulated the season 10,000 times to give us a team’s expected points total. That is a brief overview, you can see my site if you are interested in more about the methodology.
After all of that, Washington comes looking quite strong with an above average team rating of 7.6 and a projected 96.1 points. The lineup I used for this version of Washington was provided by RMNB’s very own, Pat Holden. So as a next step I wanted to see how I could maximize this rosters potential (within reason). The most obvious of which is moving Brooks Orpik to the 3rd pairing. I ballpark replacement level at around -3 CPM, which you can clearly see Orpik having no issue clearing, as does Jay Beagle. This means that the Captials (in terms of shot generation/suppression) would be better served by replacing those players with marginal NHLers. Unfortunately, they are both signed for the foreseeable future and then best we can do is demote them to the least ice time. Below are my projections for the upcoming season with my altered lineup.
Note: The dark blue number below each player is his goal value compared to that of an average player.
Before I receive any death threats I feel like I need to reiterate that we are dealing strictly with shot generation/suppression here. Elite scorers and playmakers will seem underappreciated since a lot of their value will not be accounted for in this exercise. With that said, I can then use this new lineup and simulate the season once again.
Now Washington is up to 7th in the NHL– not too bad. If we were to account for some of the high-end offensive talent they possess, we might expect them to look even better. This includes OTT finishing ahead as the model anticipates them to have (potentially) unrealistic expectations for their goaltending. An interesting note is even though a team like New Jersey has a lower Team Rating than Washington, they are projected for a higher point total due to an easier perceived schedule.
With all that being said, if Braden Holtby can continue his phenomenal play and the rest of the team can at least live up to its potential, Washington will be a true force in the upcoming season.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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