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Chat: Timo Seppa (Hockey)

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday April 29, 2009 5:00 PM ET chat session with Timo Seppa (Hockey).

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Join Timo Seppa of Puck Prospectus to talk about the NHL playoffs as clubs pursue the Stanley Cup, as well as any other hockey topics that come up.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): On behalf of myself and the Puck Prospectus staff, welcome to the first ever hockey chat here at Baseball Prospectus! As we get ready to transition from an exciting first round to some great matchups in the second round, I’m ready to take your questions regarding the Stanley Cup playoffs as well as all things hockey-statistical. And I’m ready to field the occasional American Idol question to boot.

Justin (NYC): Timo, make me one compelling argument that the Norris could be awarded to Green over Chara or Lidstrom. IMO, you can't.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): I’ll go off the board and take Mark Streit of the Islanders, who had a fantastic season (16 G, 40 A, 56 P, +5) despite playing on the worst team in the NHL. Posting a +5 on a miserable team is remarkable; it’s a testament to the quality of his season. Our GVT ranking had him third among defensemen at +18.4; Gabe Desjardins’ Ratings rank him as the top defenseman.

If you give me just the choice of the three actual finalists, I’ll take Mike Green, although he didn’t impress me much in the Rangers series; I think that Tom Poti and Milan Jurcina were more valuable. GVT had Green ranked as the top skater, with +26.8. His 31 G for a defenseman is ridiculous, even given some of the superstars that he plays with. GVT ranks Lidstrom 2nd and Chara 13th amongst defensemen, although I’ll hand it to Big Z on some of the intangibles that have kept the Bruins tough and focused on their run.

Jeff (San Jose): How different do you expect the sharks to look next season? Between Thornton, Marleau and Nabokov, who stays? Who goes? I would love this team with a new goalie (Huet??) but picking on Marleau and Thornton seems to be a Bay Area pastime, and its just hard to see the team's core coming back after this latest flop.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Possibly more to the point - Should coach Todd McLellan stay at the helm if he shows himself to be outcoached in the playoffs while possessing superior talent? This is the Joe Torre question.

Roster: Devin Setoguchi and Dan Boyle are quality players. Thornton and Pierre Turgeon –I mean, Patrick Marleau– had a bad series but have talent, though at a price. I’d look long and hard at some of the other top six forwards, particularly Milan Michalek (As an aside, I swore two years ago never to have on my fantasy team again). Rob Blake has always been overrated in my book.

Huet (+4.5 GVT in 39 games) is not an improvement over Nabokov (+7.7 GVT in 61 games). How about dealing some of that second line dreck to Florida for Craig Anderson (+12.9 GVT)?

Jmadeja (Chicago): What do you think Osgood's chances of making the Hall of Fame are? How much would it help if he won another cup this season?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): I am shocked to see that this topic has actually gotten some traction in the media. Over his career, Osgood has obviously been a competent netminder, otherwise he wouldn’t have lasted to the point of being in the top 10 in wins. Then again, we’re not ready to send CuJo to the HOF either, are we? There’s the matter of those 3 Stanley Cup championships (1 while riding the pine), I know.

While I’ll admit that he’s been a solid playoff performer (.915 save percentage), this season is particularly instructive regarding Osgood. The Red Wings were a President’ Trophy contender despite his abysmal .887 save percentage. In our GVT ranking, Osgood was second to last among goaltenders at -16.3, slightly ahead of injury-plagued Vesa Toskala, though worse than the Finn on a per game basis.

An occasional early-career All-Star, journeyman starter, stats compiler, right-place-at-the-right-time champion, who never a major award. Anyone voting for Osgood deserves a good paddling.

Frederick (Washington D.C.): Who do you think it is the most underratted Defenseman, Forward and Goalie (ignoring possible one season wonders). Who do you think is the best value in terms of cap space?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Defenseman –Mark Streit.

Forward – Dustin Brown of Los Angeles for his penalty drawing prowess. At even strength, 63 penalties drawn versus 15 penalties taken for a mind-boggling +48 net penalties, far and away the best in the NHL for yet another season. Those net penalties are worth about 10 goals to the Kings.

Goalie – Tomas Vokoun, who appears to even be underrated by his own coach.

If you’re looking for an emerging goalie, rookie Pekka Rinne of Nashville, who didn’t get near the fanfare of St. Louis’ Steve Mason with essentially the same results.

Keith (Marquette University): Fast-forwarding to the summer, the Blackhawks have some tough decisions, namely whether to resign Martin Havlat. And while I'd love to have Havlat back, can they really ink him to a long term deal with the prospect of losing someone like Keith, Kane or Seabrook in the future because of a lack of cap space? (As a mini rant, that Campbell contract dampens what has been a very enjoyable season. Right now he's no better than their third best defenseman and I think you can make a case for Hjalmarsson and Barker being more capable blue-liners.)

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Havlat was tops for Chicago with +16.7 GVT, but with the Blackhawks emerging young talent, they shouldn’t sign him if the price isn’t right. Among significant concerns are his durability issues of recent seasons. His suiting up for 81 games this season was a major surprise.

While we do rank Brian Campbell second among Chicago defensemen with+ 9.7 GVT, your observation is right on the money. Brent Seabrook (+7.4), Cam Barker (+5.9) and Aaron Johnson (+5.7) are all quality defensemen as well, without the name and price tag. Look at the bright side: Campbell’s $7.1M/year contract doesn’t look as bad as Wade Redden’s (+4.4 GVT, $8M/year).

Conjunction (Dallas): It's very difficult to find good information on the NHL draft. With that being said, I turn to the resident hockey expert; What can you tell us about who the Stars could target with pick #8?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): If this were BP, I’d tell you that I’m not Kevin Goldstein. That said, I'm leaning on Rob Vollman and Iain Fyffe for their take:

Rob: “Given how long it takes players to develop, the odds against anyone becoming in impact player, and the number of things that can change, I don't think it's useful to draft based on present-day ‘need’ or ‘fit’ in Dallas (or anywhere else).”

Iain: “At the #8 spot, the best player likely still available will be Ryan Ellis. He's not supposed to go until later in the 1st round.” I encourage you to take a look at Iain’s articles and posts on Ellis at Puck Prospectus.

Kris Allen (Soon to be Kodiak Theatre): Am I the equivalent of the Anaheim Ducks of American Idol? Nobody believed in me, and here I am three weeks away from the finals!

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Kris, you’re killing me. You are in fact better than the Ducks this season. The Ducks will have to pull an inside straight to get past the Red Wings into the NHL’s final 4; You’re a lock for American Idol’s top 4.

Last week, Will had me in stitches with his review of AI’s disco week: “’She Works Hard For The Money’ - Really funny moment when Ryan asked him why he chose this song and Deep Thinker Kris says ‘I like the story about the woman, working hard.’” Doesn’t that say it all?

Don’t forget that Jasmine Trias, Vonzell Solomon and Elliot Yamin made the final 3 in the past. There’s no accounting for taste.

gordrel (chicago): hawks chances of moving on past the canucks? to the cup?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Here are the current % chances of winning the Cup, per Tom Awad: Boston 31%, Detroit 18%, Chicago 16%, Vancouver 9%, Washington 9%, Pittsburgh 8%, Carolina 5%, Anaheim 4%. My personal feel is that Boston’s chances are overstated and those at the bottom of the list are understated. In particular, I like the talent and recent play of the Pens.

Tom gives the Blackhawks a 55% chance to win in the 2nd round. I’m not previewing that series for Puck Prospectus, but you’ve got to consider Roberto Luongo as a major factor. In my recent ESPN Insider article, I rated him as the top goaltender in the playoffs, predicting a .935 save percentage. He’s at .962 to date, which will of course come down to earth a bit. Look for a follow-up to that article soon, by the way.

Justin Singer (Miami, FL): I was hoping that Washington would play New Jersey in the second round instead of Pittsburgh. New Jersey seemed like an easier match up, so I was not happy that they blew it against Carolina. Do you agree? Do you think the Caps will win the Pittsburgh series? If so, what chance do they have against Boston?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): I agree with your assessment – I’d like the Caps chances against the Devils better (I picked Carolina to beat New Jersey in that series, by the way). The Penguins have one more super-elite forward than the Caps do, they have legitimate goaltender, they’re hot. Sure, Varlamov looked great against the 2nd worst offense in the NHL, but how will he do against Guerin and Gonchar, let alone Crosby and Malkin? That the Caps went to a life-and-death Game 7 against the Rangers –a game in which they were outplayed for long stretches– is a major indictment over their intestinal fortitude. I don’t think they beat the Penguins or Bruins. Or Hurricanes.

paulbellows (Calgary): What do the Flames do now? Is it nearing time for a rebuild?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): How about hold Miikka Kiprusoff under 2155 SOGA (1st in NHL) and 76 games (1st in NHL) on a lark and see if his .903 save percentage improves some?

Jarome Iginla (+14.2 GVT) and Dion Phaneuf (+6.1) remain top talents, while Michael Cammelleri (+15.4), Craig Conroy (+11.4) and Rene Bourque (+11.5) are underrated. The addition of Olli Jokinen was a bit of a mirage; he’s an occasional flash in the pan whose days of consistent production are behind him. And he takes too many penalties.

The defense should be improved and the goalie should be given a day off more often.

David F (CT): Given his excellent play but also his foolish behavior in game 5, were the Rangers right to feature Sean Avery in the series they just lost to the MIGHTY Washington Capitals?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): The Rangers change of attitude and change of fortune this season can be traced back to the change of head coach to John Tortorella and to the return of prodigal son Sean Avery, two men strangely at odds with each other. I dissected Avery recently in my DTTN column, praising the so-called intangibles of his play in his controlled Game 2. Unfortunately, he lacks key offensive skills like one-on-one moves and shooting ability, as well as teammates willing to pass him the puck when he’s in front of the crease.

Yes, Mr. Hyde returned in Game 5. Think of Avery as a pit bull with a bit of a dodgy personality.

New York gets great energy from players like Chris Drury, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and Sean Avery. That energy and What’s-His-Name in goal brought the Blue Shirts to the brink of an unlikely upset.

Avery wasn’t featured, but then again, the Rangers have no feature offensive players. Properly constructed, a team should have Nik Antropov as about their third or fourth best offensive player, not their best.

rawagman (Toronto): Two great games yesterday. Awesome to finally get a hockey chat here, Timo! I'm driving home right now (when the chat starts) and I'm thinking that the Bruins must be very happy to be facing the Hurricanes in the upcoming round. Your thoughts? Most interesting/hardest to call series in round 2?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Boston is our highest ranked team by GVT. That said, they have young players who have not faced a worthy playoff opponent yet. I’m breaking the Boston-Carolina series down for my preview that will be up on Friday. I’m sure that the numbers will greatly favor the Bruins, but I like the roll that Carolina is on and the quality that they have in Cam Ward. Don’t count the Hurricanes out in this one too quickly. Without having done the breakdown yet, my gut tells me that the Penguins come out of the East.

The flashiest series is clearly Washington-Pittsburgh; the NHL must be drooling. The hardest to call is Chicago-Vancouver. That’s got seven games written all over it.

Aaron (YYZ): Will the NHL head office ever crack down on the goonery and overly chippy play that's come out in force so far in this year's playoffs? Will they ever get around to punishing for actions rather than results? (e.g. hitting a defender from behind into the boards down in his own end, you know the ones where they ring his head off the seam of the boards and the glass, you only get a suspension if he doesn't get up off the ice it seems)

Timo Seppa (Hockey): I’ve been surprised at the amount of fisticuffs and dirty play in the first round of the playoffs. I just explained to my wife a few days ago that the fighting at least was tabled for the postseason. So much for that!

Colin Campbell made some puzzling moves in his tenure as Rangers’ coach, much to my chagrin as a fan. Therefore, it seems completely consistent to me that he would make some puzzling decisions on league discipline as well.

Back in the day, when generals proved themselves unfit to command troops in the field, they were bumped to desk jobs at HQ while retaining rank. Not saying there’s necessarily any correlation here.

Patton1941 (NYC): When will the Islanders finally be competitve again?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): You’re referring to the Kansas City-Wichita Islanders, I presume? Islanders would be a pretty funny franchise name in that context, although it would make no less sense than the Utah Jazz.

Picking up John Tavares or Victor Hedman in the draft will be a good start for the Islanders, but there’s a whole lot of work to do. If you can draft well, it’s not completely insane to follow the Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ formula of stinking for long enough to stockpile a bunch of #1 picks, as distasteful as that might sound.

To explicitly answer, they can edge into the playoffs in two years, if they make the right moves.

Scrapper (Chicago): Timo: Next time you should start your chat earlier so we can chat with you instead of working at our desks. A few Blackhawk questions for you: 1) Do the Hawks need to add anyone to win the Stanley Cup in the next five years or is it just a matter of seasoning? 2) Should the Hawks resign Khabibulin for the next two years even if it means eating some or most of Huet's deal? 3) Who are the key players in the upcoming Hawks-Canucks' series? Thanks.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): 1) The Blackhawks are a pretty well balanced team that could use some well considered improvements in all facets of their game, to complement their dynamic young core that will be improving as a natural matter of course. Above average talent is there at forward, defense and goalie, so the moves need to be carefully considered so that the overall effect is not negative.

2) Khabibulin has the playoff hardware to prove his worth, but I expected a little more from him this postseason. If you can upgrade in goal, do it. Huet is surplus and should be dealt for something useful.

3) Khabibulin and Luongo? If Khabibulin improves over the first round, the Blackhawks will be hard to beat, while Luongo needs to continue to be Conn Smythe caliber –very possible for him– in every series the Canucks will play this postseason for them to have a shot.

Justin Singer (Miami, FL): I was not too active in following regular season hockey, but I was so impressed with Anaheim. What was their deal during the season that they only ended up with the 8th seed? That was no 8 seed that beat San Jose in 6 games. I think it is a huge problem in hockey that a 1 seed loses to an 8 seed and that low seeds consistently go far in the playoffs. The NHL will always have its core set of fans who appreciate any match up, but it needs dominant teams and star power to attract others. I do not think a Vancouver vs Carolina finals would attract much attention, but Detroit vs Boston would be incredible. What are your thoughts on the parity in the NHL, and does it help or hurt in your opinion?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): A lot of teams get championship hangovers the following season, but we’re talking two seasons removed here. Troubles? Jean-Sebastian Giguere struggled this season. As a team, the Ducks have been notorious for taking too many penalties. Therfore, I’m impressed with Chris Pronger’s commitment to cut down penalties taken in their stretch run and in the San Jose series. His plus/minus and low PIM were indicative of his focused play against the Sharks.

With a low amount of goals per game, versus for instance basketball, one bounce of the puck can turn a 2-2 series to 3-1 or a 3-2 series to 2-3. More upsets are possible.

The NHL has a good mix of “quality parity” with some near-elite teams like Boston and Detroit. Those teams are very good, but there are plenty of potential Cup finalists left in the dance. All of the remaining teams have a legitimate shot.

JD (CT): What can the NHL do to change the fact that it's officiating is by far the worst of any professional sports league?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Having stopped watching the NBA in part for its officiating, I’m not sure I agree with your assessment. What the NHL has now is a more open game than in the clutch-and-grab 90’s, in my opinion. Although I was a big Ulf Samuelsson fan.

Stan (VT): The most valuable player currently in the NHL is _______. The most valuable player over the next 5 years will be ________.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): From my vantage point here on the fence, take your pick from Crosby, Malkin and Ovechkin as the answer to both questions. Each brings a different specialty to the game.

Remote (My couch): I love the NHL network. No more sitting through Terrell Owens updates and ESPN "talent" out bombasting each other to get to 30 seconds fo Barry Melrose. What's not to like?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): NHL On The Fly is a really enjoyable and informative highlight and analysis show. They do a good job of mixing the personalities from night to night.

Much like Steve Phillips, Barry's got the look.

Jeff (Houston, TX): Mark Messier was underrated, overrated, or neither?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): As a true believer who had the honor to be at Game 6 against the Devils in 1994, Messier is certainly not underrated. His intangibles as potentially the best leader in sports are justified – So "neither" on that count. If anything, his hockey skills are underrated for one of the top all-time scorers. He had wonderful speed, scoring ability, longevity and he could hit.

Hank (San Diego, CA): One game to win, which goalie do you take?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Currently? Roberto Luongo.

Jim (Portland, ME): You are starting an all-time NHL team - who's the 2nd player you take?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Mario Lemieux.

roguerouge (watertown, ma): Okay, I was watching a national broadcast of, I think, the Rangers playoff games and I was put off by Mike Millbury, who was essentially using the intro as a platform to pontificate on what rule changes should be made to allow for more violence, essentially. As a very casual fan of the sport, I was put off and turned the channel. Is this typical hockey announcing?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): I didn’t hear those comments, so I can’t directly respond to their content. I’m sure there are folks on Long Island at a minimum who question Millbury’s hockey judgment in general. In any case, I don't think hockey announcers normally advocate violence, if you consider Don Cherry an outlier.

I definitely understand the point of enforcers protecting star players from cheap shots and stick fouls in the NHL, which many fringe observers do not, I’d imagine colored largely by their kind and mild-mannered personal demeanor and beliefs. There have obviously been points where hockey violence has gone way too far in recent years and where it has not been punished severely enough by the league.

Mike (Bristol): NHL teams seem to stick to a certain kind of voodoo when setting up line combinations. Could they/should they be using advanced metrics instead?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): It would certainly be worthwhile to take a look at how often teams use checking lines against top scoring lines, and the results thereof. Any advanced metrics must fairly treat checking line players that are forced to match up against another team’s best line, as methods that correct for teammates’ value only or the oppositions’ value only will miss half of the equation.

Matchups are certainly easier to do when teams lack balance between their lines. One series where we could see checking line matchups happen now is in the Boston-Carolina series, where the Bruins could use an effective checking line of Patrice Bergeron, Chuck Kobasew and Mark Recchi against scorching hot Eric Staal and Ryan Whitney of the Canes. Don’t be surprised to see the big body of Staal matched by the even bigger body of Zdeno Chara as well.

Bogomil (L.A.): What's your view of why teh Ducks beat San Jose?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): A wacked out shot distribution, for one. As I stated in my column today, 38 goal scorer Patrick Marleau took all of 12 shots on goal in 6 games, while he and Dan Boyle seemed to be the only Sharks skillful enough to beat Jonas Hiller.

Better secondary scorers. A better goalie wouldn't hurt.

Steve (Clearwater, FL): Is there any hope for the Tampa Bay Lightning? Assuming they take Hedman at #2, is he ready to step in and bolster a weak D? And would you trade Lecavalier?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Hedman is supposed to be the real deal, but one young defenseman does not a defense make.

They have a key issue in goal, with talented young goalie Mike Smith. First of all, they need to make sure that he is fully recovered from his concussion. Second, as I wrote in a DTTN column a few weeks ago, he has been unusually susceptible to poor results without significant rest between games. The Lightning needs to use Smith in a goalie tandem until that conditioning improves.

Regarding getting value for Lecavalier, they should have traded him long ago when his perceived value was higher.

strupp (madison): Timo, isn't fighting in hockey much like car wrecks in racing? We KNOW that hockey without fighting is exciting (see Europe, international competition, college, Olympic, etc). But there's enough of a (for lack of better phrasing) blood-thirsty audience, that the NHL dare not antagonize a solid base, even though it might help grow the sport in the long run.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Again, I think that there is a role for enforcers in the NHL to protect star players. Including allowing fighting. And yes, fans like it, I'd say especially at the minor league level - "One fight per game, guaranteed, or your money back!" I actually thought it was instructive to bring my 4 year old daughter to a Wolfpack game and sit behind the penalty box. "See, he has to take a timeout too, when he's bad!"

Not to get on a tangent, but since you mention it - One of the reasons I like European hockey and Olympic hockey (when played outside North America) is the wider rinks making for a more free-flowing offensive game. The NHL would do well to eventually enlarge their ice surfaces.

Tim (Tampa): McClellan was constantly shifting his lines around trying to find lines that matched up well and it seems like he alomst outcoached himself, nevermind the guy on the other side of the glass. That being said, while Thornton and Marleau are considered top talent, can the fact that they have constantly underperformed in the playoffs (Marleau's '08 run notwithstanding) be a true reason for them to be shipped out? I'd rather fortify around players I know are good already as opposed to a complete overhaul.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): The problem was that it took McClellan 5 games to convince Marleau to shoot. Bad on both of them.

That's a sensible approach regarding Thornton and Marleau, assuming that it doesn't come down to a cap decision versus better players for the money.

rawagman (Toronto): Nope, still at the office - Timo - if I told you that the Maple Leafs would be in serious playof contention next year, what would you think they had done over the off-season to get there? Thanks

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Picked up one big name forward, at least one good defenseman, a legitimate goalie. The Leafs offense was good, but they could use a legit star. The defense was below average. Having a healthy Tomas Kaberle would help. Their goaltending was atrocious, although it's possible that Vesa Toskala's hip/groin injury has affected his play for some time now.

Make sure you give CuJo a one way ticket.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): That's all of the time we have tonight. Thank you all for your great questions! I'm sure we'll be doing this again soon.


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