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Chat: Tom Awad (Hockey)

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday September 24, 2010 5:00 PM ET chat session with Tom Awad (Hockey).

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If you play fantasy hockey or just follow the sport, you've probably got questions for Tom Awad, the inventor of VUKOTA, Puck Prospectus' projection tool.

Tom Awad (Hockey): Hi everybody! There are two times when it's awesome to talk hockey: late September, and early April. Time to go!

mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Last year PP seemed to be on the forefront of hockey projecting by choosing the Blackhawks and Caps as the two best teams in hockey (if I remember correctly). What's your take on the two best teams this year?

Tom Awad (Hockey): Hi matty,

I think the Caps are still head and shoulders above everybody
as far as the regular season is concerned, while the team to
beat in the West is probably the Canucks. The Canucks have
a deep blue line and a one-two punch at center that is the
best in the league. The real issue is that the West is so strong:
the Red Wings are still very good, and this might be their
last chance. The Blackhawks, Kings and Sharks are not far behind.

Suzy (LA): With mostly B and C list calibre goalies in the Stanley Cup Finsls in the past 5 seasons, can we finally admit having a "big name" goalie is vastly over-rated in the playoffs?

Tom Awad (Hockey): Yes, I completely agree, and I think that's been the case for a while now. Obviously, when
you had a Dominik Hasek or Patrick Roy, they were so much better
than everybody else that it was a huge advantage, regular season
or playoffs, but today the playing field for goaltenders is much
more level. We saw it this summer as the market value for
goaltenders collapsed. The Ward, Thomas, Backstrom, even Luongo contracts
don't look so hot now.

Jon L. (TUFNEL Owners Retreat): Do you think any of the rule changes tinkered with at this years Research, Development and Orientation should be implemented? Is there anything they didn't try that you think would improve the game?

Tom Awad (Hockey): Hi Jon,

I think any of the on-ice rule changes, like no-touch icing, are fine but minor. The most important thing by far would be to remove the incentive to
play for the tie in the 3rd period, and the only way to do that
is to give 3 points for a regulation win. Right now, the 3rd
period is a snoozefest and no amount of minor tinkering is going
to change that, barring something radical like 3-on-3 overtime.

wgknestrick (Allentown, PA): Tom, First off: GVT is awesome. Never has there been such a simple value to equate players across different teams, roles, etc. We both know this, and you should be very proud of developing this stat. However.... Do you have any interest in improving the GVT calculation for defenders by pulling strength of competition, GAA/60, shot blocking, etc into the equations? Defender's GVT IMO is way too low and should rate the top D man up on equal GVT levels with the top forwards (at least) and maybe top goaltenders (considering ice time). Example from 2009: Ovechkin 30.1 GVT (top offense) Keith 22.1 GVT (top defense) There were only 2 defenders (Keith/Green) in the top 25 GVT in 2009 I don't see how it is possible for the top forwards to always "out GVT" the top D men considering the ice time of both parties. Hockey is a yin/yang kind of sport and a goal defended is worth the same as a goal scored. I don't understand why this isn't represented in GVT, unless there is missing data in the calculations. I would expect defenders to be MORE valuable than forwards given ice time and a 2 defenders / 3 offenders ratio. Any thoughts on augmenting the model to "fix" this?

Tom Awad (Hockey): Hi unspellable name,

Thanks for the praise. I don't think the problem is that defensemen's
GVT is too low; I think the problem is that there are no defensemen
today who are as good as an Ovechkin or a Crosby. I'm a huge Duncan
Keith fan, but I wouldn't pick him over Ovechkin if I had to draft
a team for next season. Nicklas Lidstrom finished #3 in GVT in
2007-08 and cracked the top 25 12 times, and Ray Bourque cracked the top 10 10 times in his career.

That being said, I don't think the best defensemen are more valuable
than the best forwards, and the NHL's salary structure agrees.

As for improving it, I'm always working on better metrics with the
better data we have available, but they won't be GVT. You could
check out my work on Delta, which is a variant of Corsi; I think next-generation
metrics will be built around something like this.

Matthew (Edmonton): Hello Tom. In regards to the vukota projections, I have a question concerning the Carolina Hurricanes. Anton Babchuk has returned to the team from the KHL and as you may recall during his last year with the team in 2008-09 he was one of the more effective scorers from the blueline in the league. Reading hockey prospectus 2010-11 I notice that he doesn't have a profile which I can understand as he didn't play in the league last year. My question is, do the projections for the team take into account his likely contributions? I guess the same question could be asked about Jiri Hudler in Detroit. Finally, do you think Babchuk is a good fantasy option? thanks -Matt

Tom Awad (Hockey): Hi Matthew,

Good point. No, VUKOTA didn't give us an exact projection, but there
were a few key players (Babchuk, Hudler, Zherdev) who we did factor
into their teams' totals because they are clearly major contributers.
I pretty much eyeballed their GVT projections based on similar players.
(for the record, I put Babchuk at 7 GVT, comparable to players like
Enstrom, Quincey and Goligoski).

I think Babchuk is a good sleeper fantasy option, as people won't have him in their recent memory, and Carolina's blue line isn't deep enough for him to get scratched for his defensive liabilities.

Matthew (Edmonton): Hey Tom, one more question. Yesterday Jack Campbell (11th overall draft pick by the Dallas Stars) played in his first OHL game with the Windsor Spitfires where he made 27 saves on 31 shots and got a win. I know that you guys have made it pretty clear on what to expect from a good juniors forward prospect, and somewhat so for a defenceman. I can't recall any article on how a goaltender should perform in the junior leagues. I know that Canadian juniors are a bit higher scoring than the NHL so you'd expect save percentages to be somewhat lower.. what's a good standard of performance in the juniors to expect out of a top level goaltending prospect?

Tom Awad (Hockey): I don't think I can help you with Jack Campbell. I'm not an expert
on Canadian Junior, and even less on what would be a realistic
development curve for a goaltender in junior. But my colleague Corey
Pronman is very high on Campbell.

Tom Awad (Hockey): Thanks to everybody who sent in questions. Best of luck to your team!


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