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Chat: Timo Seppa (Hockey)

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday May 30, 2011 1:00 PM ET chat session with Timo Seppa (Hockey).

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Here comes the Stanley Cup with Timo Seppa! Drink up, Jack!

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Hello folks! Ready to talk about the upcoming Stanley Cup Finals? What your team should do in the upcoming offseason? Let's get started.

Bobby (Las Vegas): Is it fair to say the Canucks have 4 of the top 15 players in the NHL (Sedins, Kesler, Luongo)?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Vancouver's obviously a strong and deep team, clearly the best team in the NHL over the course of the first 82 games. You'll get a quick yes from me on Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler. Not as sold on Henrik Sedin - I'd peg him a bit outside of top 15. I'll treat goalies separately and say that Bobby Lou is in the top half-dozen goalies.

Stefan (New York): Which team is going to overpay Kevin Bieksa this off-season? I'm going with the Blue Jackets.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): A team that was at (or near) the cap maximum in 2010-11 - one of about a dozen teams. With the cap reported to go up about $2.8 million, look for the teams that were maxed out to spend/overspend to reach the new cap, regardless of salaries coming off. Ironically, the other teams that will of course spend in one way or another (though possibly through buyouts, etc.) are the handful of teams at the cap floor. The Blue Jackets aren't in either group - but based on needs, I can see why they might want to look for a splashier offensive defenseman.

mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Timo, thanks for the chat. I really thought they had it this season. Good veteran presence, great young talent, a system that was seemingly working and made for playoff hockey, two good young goalies (in case one failed) and a team that was (or should have been) filled with drive from last year's horrific playoff disaster. They showed something in the first round against the Rangers, but just didn't show up in the second round. What is wrong with the Caps?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): As far as the regular season, I'll buy a good bit of bad luck on offense for Washington. The dropoff's not even that unprecedented recently, as we've seen the Bruins swing from offensive juggernaut to pathetic back to very good over the past few seasons. So I'd look for a bounceback next regular season as far as scoring.

As far as the playoffs, I kind of disagree in that they could have easily been in trouble against New York in the first round, if the Rangers had held onto one or two of those third period leads they gave up. The Caps weren't that far from being down 3-2 after 5 games as opposed to winning the series by a superficially easy 4 games to 1.

While it's commendable that Leonsis and McPhee aren't overreacting to make any radical changes (like firing Bruce Boudreau), in my mind some changes clearly need to be made. Although it's a different circumstance, this is what I said about the Devils this season when they were at their depths: do something. It's not overreacting, it's about realizing the current formula's not working and needing to change some key parts of that formula to try to figure out what's working and what's not by scientific method.

R.A. Wagman (Toronto): Brooklyn Decker or Kate Upton?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): I'll admit that I needed to look up who they were, so you've got a good portion of your answer right there. Anyway, Upton's more my speed.

Tim (SF Bay Area): Do the Sharks have to make wholesale changes in some areas or do they need to make a small move here or there? I think Niemi proved his worth as a capable goalie, but I think the defense needs to improve and the Top 6 needs to be shuffled around a bit. Marleau and Heatley might be the odd men out, in my opinion.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): The biggest change for the Sharks this season was Logan Couture, who's a coin flip with Michael Grabner for the Calder Trophy (Both guys kicked some butt for my fantasy team!). Another plus was the play of young Jason Demers on D - San Jose was definitely hurt by his absence in the latter stages of the Vancouver series. Niemi ("the Peninsula" in Finnish, btw - I'd love to see that nickname stick!) is solid but not what Sharks fans are making him out to be.

What's that leave? An aging, over-30 quartet of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle. Which means that the window of opportunity is closing fast, unfortunately. Whatever moves they're going to make to retool for another run, they better make them quickly and effectively, before this core loses its punch.

Zooey (LA): Am I the only person that thinks Jagr could still be a productive player in the NHL? I don't watch the KHL but I thought he looked fantastic at the Olympics over a year ago.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): I'd read recently that Jagr was only entertaining offers from the KHL? I'm not sure if that's true, but if it is, I don't get it. Why wouldn't Jagr want to play in the NHL? As I alluded to before regarding the salary cap increase, it would seem to be a very good offseason for him to get back into the mix. You're going to have some big market teams overspending to get up to the cap. Additionally, it's considered a considerably weaker UFA class than next offseason, with not many remarkable names past Brad Richards and Simon Gagne. You'd figure that a big name like Jarmoir Jagr could sign a really lucrative NHL deal this summer.

R.A.Wagman (Toronto): In what direction is the world of hockey sabermetrics going? What is the next frontier?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Right now, Corsi is king, regardless of any discussion to the contrary. That'll develop a bit more until there's a good unified stat that takes into account quality of teammates and oppositions, zone starts, etc. It's pretty much there already. Lots of folks look at scoring chances as opposed to Corsi or Fenwick - same idea of tracking possession.

Next frontier? I'd say something along the lines of tracking the puck throughout the game...noting all of the events that change possession, position on the ice, etc. More comprehensive and less subjective than currently done with RTSS.

Drunk in Canada (Northwest Territories): Who is a better clutch goalie, Lou or Timmy?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Clutch? First of all, they're both great netminders, arguably the best two heading into the playoffs...and here they are. If there is such a thing as clutch...and I'm not saying that there is...I'll take Thomas (who won a championship in Finland for HIFK back in 1998, btw). There have certainly been games and series that have made folks believe that Luongo's un-clutch...you wonder if that gets in his head, late in a close series. In any case, I'm not officially saying there's a "clutch" so that I don't lose my sabermetrics membership card.

Confused (Nepal): Where there dinosaurs in Winnipeg? No? Will there be any next year? Seriously though, any thoughts on realignment? Will the NHL really leave the team in the Southeast Division?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Leaving Winnipeg in the Southeast Division would be as crazy as leaving Dallas in the Pacific Division. Wait... (Okay, crazier)

The one potential realignment piece that I hate is Detroit to the Eastern Conference. That would be a disaster, ruining a ton of great rivalries that the Red Wings have built up. To me, it should clearly be one of the newer teams like Columbus or Nashville moving...they're pretty "east" to begin with. Making an all- or mostly-Canadian Northwest Division would be pretty cool. Other than that, shuffling of a Colorado, Dallas, Phoenix within the Western Conference is fine by me. The Atlantic and Northeast Divisions should be left alone.

Phil (Pittsburgh): Besides the health of Crosby and Malkin, what would you say is the next most important thing for the Pens: secondary scoring or shoring up the 3rd pairing that got abused by TB in the playoffs? Would locking up Kennedy (maybe in the 1.8M range) be sufficient or should they target someone like Jussi Jokinen?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): The health of Crosby is so huge. As I said in an ESPN Insider piece, it was the difference between the Penguins possibly being the Eastern Conference favorite and a first round exit. And it was. His long term health would ensure Pittsburgh of being a contender for years to come.

Improvements? Let's see...since swapping out the hugely erratic Marc-Andre Fleury in goal isn't a realistic option, I'd give a stab at one of these: a. try to talk Jagr into playing in the NHL, b. improve the power play (finally...please?). Kennedy's very underrated - agree on that - re-sign for sure. And I definitely like Jokinen as a potential improvement on the PP. Interesting to see what kind of a contract he gets. I'm guessing that the thing UFA class allows him to get a significant bump in salary.

R.A.Wagman (Toronto): Timo - Maybe it's just because I live in Toronto, but it's hard to get used to hockey being played on ice at this time of year. Maybe the Cup should be played as a road hockey series? I jest. Hockey metrics have advanced a lot in a relatively short period of time, so much so that it can be very difficult to keep up with all of the new acronyms and their meanings - especially when they are not self-evident. Does Hockey Prospectus plan to bring the stats under one (its own) roof, and/or a glossary of terms? I'm calling Canucks in 6.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): We'll definitely work on that over the summer, to give you an even better product by the beginning of next season. Having our Goals Versus Threshold (GVT) stat available at the very least makes a ton of sense.

Canucks in six sounds like big time chalk, Ryan...not to say I won't end up there myself! I'm feeling the pressure of nailing the Finals prediction again, so I need another day to ruminate on what my official pick will be. Boston's better goal difference per game and shot difference per game in the playoffs are enticing, but they've of course come against weaker competition than the Blackhawks, Predators and Sharks. Stay tuned.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): All right. Time to join my family at a Memorial Day pool party. Thanks for the questions, and see you next time!


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