3/20/18 – What the Hell Part 2: Max Pacioretty Trade Scenarios and First Round Picks

I sat down to write more on the rapidly declining 2018 season. As I did it I realized this was quickly turning into something larger than just one post. Given the nature of the site as constructed I felt like cramming 2000 or so words into one post was absurd. I have no idea how long this series will be. 

I’ve never had any aspirations to be some insider, but I do hear things. Sometimes those things get confirmed publicly by another writer, or at least partially confirmed. Many times they don’t. I do want to discuss Max Pacioretty because I have now heard several different trade scenarios, and they all revolve around the same preposterous idea.

Pacioretty wasn’t going to be cheap because he wasn’t going to be a rental. He’s a consistent American 30 goal scorer who turns 30 next season when he is set to make $4,500,000.

Pacioretty

Pulling from the same All 3 Zones project data Corey Sznajder has tracked and CJ Turtoro has visualized you can see that Pacioretty is solid at both bluelines and really good offensively even if the counting totals aren’t exactly where you would like them to be this year. He’s an easy top six winger and the kind of player a good team builds around.

Adding to his appeal is that second year of control. Any team who would have paid to pick up Pacioretty would have been getting an early jump on the 2019 season by securing a trial run with a talented goal scorer. Two playoff runs with a quality inexpensive goal scorer is valuable.

I’ve heard three different pricing options for what it would have cost. Most recently I heard two first round picks, a good prospect, and a roster player (probably Brett Ritchie for money reasons).

Closer to the deadline I heard two potential deals. A 1st round pick, Roope Hintz, a roster player (Ritchie), and maybe a prospect – or a 2nd round pick, Julius Honka, a roster player (Ritchie), and maybe a prospect. Sean Shapiro put the first one out there more or less publicly in a tweet, though he emphasized he wasn’t reporting it. I’m not either, but I did hear that secondhand.

All three of those deals look somewhat similar. The Stars would either be giving up two top picks or a top pick and a good prospect plus other stuff to get their guy. That seems like fair value for a year and a half of an inexpensive goal scorer. Given their reluctance to play Honka and the coming of Miro Heiskanen, I think that last option was a real winner if available.

I do think the Stars value Honka as an organization, thus making that deal less palatable. I also know for as close to a fact as you can get that they don’t want to trade any first round picks. That’s a fine strategy because it is important to stock the cupboard with young cheap potentially good talent. The problem is when that isn’t fully the motivation for keeping the picks.

I’ve heard from no less than three different people that the Stars were adamant about having a first round pick for the upcoming draft in Dallas. This is one of the single most insane things I have ever heard and I want to flat out reject it, but I’ve heard it from so many people I trust that I can’t.

The logic goes that you want to have news to announce to your fans at the big gathering. A first round pick at the draft in your hometown gives you the opportunity to do that. In the past the Stars have planned offseason moves to coincide with those rally-type events they do in Victory Plaza so it isn’t like the logic leading to this conclusion is foreign to them.

But those events didn’t potentially impact the on ice product in a negative way immediately. An organizational philosophy of being unwilling to trade a first round pick during the season because you want to be able to make an announcement for your fans at the draft is the most competitively backwards thing (tanking excluded) I have ever heard. It’s so Jerry Jones it hurts.

The kicker to all of this is that, as of now per the beat guys, there are no plans to release general admission tickets for the public. The only fans who will be in attendance are a few season ticket holders who decide they want to go. So who are they making this announcement for anyway? Is the goal to parade the kid around since he will already be in town? Is that worth more than potentially improving a rapidly cratering team and getting a jump on building the 2019 roster?

90% of the fanbase, conservatively, would prefer a deep playoff run over a mid-first round pick who might make an impact four years from now. The decisions about what to do at the deadline have to be challenging for any franchise, but the Stars reluctance to just go for it when they have a window with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn is absolutely perplexing.

Pacioretty, or any trade acquisition, wouldn’t have immediately fixed all that ails this team, but they sure would have helped. Even in the worst case scenario had Pacioretty not worked out the Stars easily could have picked up a 1st round pick plus for him in the offseason.

I simply don’t get it.

3/2/18 – Optimizing the Dallas Stars Lineup Using Player Type Data

I’ve been beating the drum for keeping Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, and Tyler Seguin apart for a while now to follow in the Pittsburgh Penguins mold. Spread your stars out and complement them with useful players to maximize the offense. It’s an idea that has been out there for a little while now, and I remembered hearing a lot about roster construction optimization when the Passing Project information really started getting out there in force.

Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) has tracked a ton of data: zone entries, zone exists, defenseman touches, and a lot of other important microstats. Ryan Stimson (@RK_Stimp) led the Passing Project to get a better idea of how passing impacts scoring. Both sets of data were put together to give a more complete picture of players across the league.

One of the resulting conclusions drawn from the data was the existence of four “Player Types” at forward. Stimson put this excellent piece together at hockey-graphs.com detailing what he found.

Teams are incentivized to spread their best players throughout their lineup. This is due to a fact that a team can only have so much success with a stacked line (looking at you, Boston). Furthermore, with hockey being a strong link game, ensuring that the best players are on the ice as much as possible at different times gives you an advantage, or at least doesn’t put you at more of a disadvantage. The final piece is identifying which players can complement those elite forwards the best.

Emphasis mine.

He found that the four player types are Playmakers, Shooters, Balanced, and Dependent. Dependent is a nice way to say plugs. The other three showed to be useful, with playmakers being the ones who drive scoring the most which makes sense.

So as we watch the Dallas Stars struggle through a tough stretch I thought “hey, I wonder how optimized lines for the Stars based off of the most up-to-date data available would look.” Let’s find out.

For future reference, this is what the Stars rolled out last night against the Tampa Bay Lightning:

(All data is from 2015-16 and 2016-17 which poses a problem: players age or get worse for whatever other reason. I’ll note where I think this could show itself as a problem.)

First lets see what roles are currently on the Stars roster.

The Playmakers

This group is the guys that move the needle the most. The names mostly aren’t going to surprise you. All the visualizations are from this awesome Tableau.

Jamie Benn

Benn

I mean, yeah. Obviously.

Tyler Seguin

Seguin

I said they weren’t going to surprise you.

Alexander Radulov

Radulov

This dude was such a bargain.

Jason Spezza

Spezza

Spezza has had a long career of being a quality player. We’ve seen him struggle to fit into the system under Ken Hitchcock at times, but he’s still Spezza. He still drives the play, but he’s been hampered by an aggressively low PDO driven by a really low on-ice save percentage.

Is it more likely that his numbers have gone down because he’s terrible, or because there has been an inordinate amount of puck luck going against him? I’m willing to let him stay in the playmaker category until data exists to prove it wrong.

Martin Hanzal

I shit you not.

Hanzal

He may not be in the Benn, Seguin, and Spezza category, but over the sample period Hanzal has been really good. You have to ask yourself if he has regressed this year, or if the role he is being asked to fill has killed his numbers off. Like Spezza he is the victim of an aggressively low PDO, but his is driven by both low on-ice shooting and save percentages. He legitimately is a bottom six anchor, but, like, a good anchor.

The Shooter

Brett Ritchie

Ritchie

One thing Ritchie does do is pump shots on net. I’m not going to try to argue that he’s elite or anything, but he isn’t as useless as many would like to think.

The Balanced Guys

These guys don’t fit into the top two categories, but they make useful contributions.

Radek Faksa

Faksa

I think I would be willing to argue that Faksa is more of a playmaker this year, but without data to support it I want to keep this as fair and realistic as possible. You could make a case for he and Hanzal flipping types here based on a 2018 season eye test and I wouldn’t try to argue against it.

Mattias Janmark

Janmark

After missing a year Janmark is getting jobbed by PDO like Hanzal and Spezza, but he has been visibly impressive all season.

Antoine Roussel

Roussel

I’m not going to lie to you, this one surprised me. Roussel is just a good all around depth player. You can see him making solid plays all over the ice, but he doesn’t jump out as this decent. Math is fun.

Devin Shore

Shore

Shore has been nothing special, but he isn’t a plug either.

There is currently no data for Tyler Pitlick, Gemel Smith, Jason Dickinson, or Remi Elie. I want to be as fair as possible and assume there are some plugs somewhere on the roster up front, but none of these guys strike me as drains. I don’t think it’s out of the question to suggest that every forward in the Stars lineup contributes something useful.

Optimized Lines

So, how best do the Stars increase their odds of scoring?

fwd_lines

Stimson included this expected goal chart in his story. Let’s use it.

The Stars have the ability to use a playmaker on every line, and a second one on one line. Down the middle it makes a lot of sense to go with Seguin, Benn, Spezza, and Hanzal.

If you split Seguin and Benn apart you have to figure out where Radulov goes. I have to wonder if some of the consternation people feel about Benn this year has to do with Radulov. When they’re on the ice together Radulov’s production lags. Seguin and Radulov hum along just fine.

Seguin-Radulov-BalancedF for your first line is the second best combination available at 57.2 xG%.

A playmaker, a shooter, and a balanced forward work well together too. Jamie Benn, Brett Ritchie, and a balanced forward of your choice would slot in at 55 xG%.

The final two lines would each feature a playmaker and at least two balanced guys, with the chance of Janmark or Faksa being in a higher “type cluster”.

Your third line would still be all balanced players which is still effective. A playmaker with two balanced lines goes for 52.2 xG%.

Those Stars lines from the Tampa game? They’re ok, but with all three of the alpha scorers lumped together the Stars minimize their offense to a degree.

Should the Stars ever use Benn, Radulov, and Seguin together?

Yes. Late in games when the bottom of the lineup is generally used less frequently the Stars would increase their expected goal output by throwing those three together. A line of three playmakers could expect an xG% of 58.9%. This is the most deadly line possible, and late in the game you aren’t hurt as much by throwing your top guys together.

Late in the game they could also throw Jason Spezza, Martin Hanzal, and Brett Ritchie together to optimize a second unit. That line would, based just on player roles, look at a 55.1 xG%..

How do you most appropriately use Hanzal?

I think there is a good argument that the Stars already are doing that, but the results aren’t there due to some bad luck. What he is doing isn’t showing up on the standard or advanced stat sheet without more data available, but I’ve seen enough to think he’s more useful than he appears at times.

Now he just needs to stay healthy.

Are the Stars getting the most out of their powerplay?

When Stimson put his story together he pointed out that there were about four playmakers and shooters per NHL club. The Stars have six, and two of them park themselves in front of the net on the powerplay.

This may make sense for Ritchie conceptually since he’s a shooter, but it doesn’t for Hanzal. It minimizes his ability to make plays by reducing him to a glorified crash test dummy hoping to get drilled with a puck. Maybe try to get him more space to make some plays on the second unit, or make him net front on the first unit.

For the record, this is Max Pacioretty.

Pacioretty

For those of you who want the Stars to have a shooter, but don’t want Brett Ritchie near the top six, there’s your guy. If only he had been available and attainable at the trade deadline.

Hey, click these:

2/26/18 – Kick The Window Open
The Dallas Stars Need to Trade for Max Pacioretty, and Here’s Why
2/22/18 – David Freese, Brett Hull, and Arby’s
2/21/18 – Carmax, Priorities, and Ben Bishop
2/20/18 – Heiskanen Scored a Goal

2/26/18 – Kick The Window Open

Christmas is here for those of you who like receiving dirty Denny’s plates wrapped in slightly yellowing Dallas Morning News pages from 1996. The NHL Trade Deadline is here on this dreary Monday. It’s the last chance for most people to crank out their 500 word hit pieces detailing any potential trade involving the Toronto Maple Leafs whether real or a figment of the imagination an adult living in their mother’s basement.

I officially feel like a member of the mainstream media now.

The Dallas Stars seem unlikely to do anything with the moratorium rapidly approaching. Should they? Shouldn’t they? Will Jim Nill be fired if they don’t do anything and fail? Will he be fired if they do something and fail? Will be he fired if they get through two rounds and fail? Is the meaning of life written in barely legible sharpie on the back of a bathroom door of a dirty Texaco on 45 in the-middle-of-nowhere-Texas?

Who knows the answers to any of these questions? Twitter and comment sections of various websites will tell you they do in many colorful ways. It seems like these scenarios always evoke the same predictable responses from people. I’m no different. I just used to have a platform to yell from and marginally still do.

I was a spoiled hardish-luck 14 year old when the Stars won the Stanley Cup. In the 18 years since…let me stop this sentence right there. 18 years. I have a student in my class who was born in 2003. Two-thousand-and-three. I have former students graduating from high school who, had they cared, wouldn’t have witnessed a Texas Stanley Cup.

When you’re younger I think you focus on prospects and the hope of the future and wanting the franchise to bide their time until the Right Move presents itself. The attachment can be so strong that you live and die with what they have going on to the point that you feel like you’re part of it.

32 year old me doesn’t receive a paycheck from the Stars. I have two months to get my students ready for the Algebra STAAR exam so they can graduate high school in three years. 32 year old me has hockey as an escape from the realities of real life because real life, often, sucks.

I want to see good fun hockey played by good players that leads to winning games and ultimately another Stanley Cup. When a window is there I want to see the team I follow gun it and go for it as long as it doesn’t hurt the current roster.

When Sean proposed this question I didn’t even have to think about it. Miro Heiskanen is a non-starter, but nothing else on that list makes me bat an eye. I’m as big of a Julius Honka fan as you will find. Roope Hintz will make Martin Hanzal more likely to be out the door I presume. Jason Dickinson could provide value now and in the future. I want to see the Stars pick up a big piece that is ready right now to help lead thing team to success.

You have to give pieces up to get something good. Remind me what the Stars gave up to acquire Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza. Most people will have to look it up outside of Loui Eriksson. These deals have a higher likelihood of looking ugly when you aim low.  Trading for half a season of Kris Russell is more likely to look bad than picking up a star like Seguin or Spezza.

A player like Max Pacioretty fits the bill. Modern Bobby Orr Erik Karlsson does it too, obviously to a larger extent for a higher price. Most deadline acquisitions fit needs, but they don’t really move the needle. Move the needle today and go for a championship. If it doesn’t work out it doesn’t work out, but personally I would rather know I gave Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin a hell of a chance to win the next two seasons than to look back in three years as they’re in or nearing their decline wondering “what if”.

Hey, click these:

The Dallas Stars Need to Trade for Max Pacioretty, and Here’s Why
2/22/18 – David Freese, Brett Hull, and Arby’s
2/21/18 – Carmax, Priorities, and Ben Bishop
2/20/18 – Heiskanen Scored a Goal
2/18/18 – Trader’s Village and Trade Deadlines

2/18/18 – Trader’s Village and Trade Deadlines

I like going to the Trader’s Village occasionally. I know what I’m getting into when I go, but when I go I end up looking at the vinyl record stalls. The Trader’s Village in Houston has two record stalls I remember.

One is air conditioned (a detail worth reporting about a flea market) with a wide selection of new and old records plus t-shirts, posters, and other things I don’t really need. I once saw a newer pressing of Hotel California for sale for 70 dollars.
Hotel California

The other one smells like the dusty and slightly mildew-y home of a 70 year old hoarder with no surviving relatives and like 20 cats. It’s fowl. I start coughing within ten minutes if I don’t find what I’m looking for quickly despite there being no stall door and the stall being the dimensions of a cheap apartment garage. I had to tie the last record I bought there to the roof of the car on the way home to get the stench out.

When I went there last time I found a five dollar original pressing of Master of Reality by Black Sabbath. I immediately went to test it on his record player only to hear the unmistakable sound of a warped beyond repair record. The owner flung the record to the back of the stall, said “well, fuck it”, and put the record sleeve on the wall as a display.

You have to simultaneously watch your back against getting ripped off and check your merchandise if the deal looks too good out there. Logic gets stripped away and the person with the currency to spend has to be very careful or they head to their car more pissed off than even the average Trader’s Village customer which, again, is saying something.

The beauty is that everything is for sale for a price and both proprietors will look you in the eye with a smile while they reach for your wallet to Help You Out.

I’m not saying Pierre Dorion, Marc Bergevin, Peter Chiarelli, Jason Botterill, or Jeff Gorton fit the stereotypes of either business owner, but I’m not saying they don’t either. The Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers (haha), Buffalo Sabres, and New York Rangers all appear to be open for business on some of their top guys with a week to go until the NHL Trade Deadline.

The first three are marks if you want to make a trade they will eventually regret, but I don’t have much of a read on Gorton or Botterill.

Mike Hoffman of the Senators, Max Pacioretty of the Canadiens, Evander Kane of the Sabres, and both Rick Nash and Michael Grabner of the Rangers names are out there and have been connected to the Stars.

Deadline

Grabner is a name Mike Heika floated. He makes sense because of how little money he’s owed, but that shooting percentage and lack of shots seems like a dangerous combo to bank on in a trade. To paraphrase a famous man who once looked incredibly silly: do the things he does well lead to a high shooting percentage? He’s shooting 17.4% over the last two years and gets buried in Corsi and expected goals. Just play Jason Dickinson.

Rick Nash and Evander Kane are fine players. The prices seem to be exorbitantly high for two guys who are about to waltz into free agency. They could help for sure, but the cost becomes unreasonable quickly. Reportedly the Rangers are asking for the moon in return for Nash, and the Sabres have been asking for comparable for Kane. Neither guy moves the needle enough for a team that is already good like the Stars to be reasonably expected to pay up at the current high rates.

Mike Hoffman comes with a second year of control at a reasonable salary. He has a good shot and plays for a mediocre Senators squad. He’s been putting points on the board, but the underlying numbers aren’t great. You’d be banking on his skill set playing up with the Stars, which isn’t a bad gamble.

The problem with Hoffman is the Colorado Avalanche. I guess Pierre Dorion or Eugene Melnyk are the real problems, but now the Avalanche come into the fold. They own the Senators first round pick after the incredibly short-sighted Matt Duchene acquisition. If you’re the Stars and you pick up Hoffman you’re increasing the odds of the Avalanche moving up higher in the lottery to get an even better prospect.

If there are other trade options this has to play a little bit into your thinking. Then again, maybe it doesn’t because you figure someone is going to try to acquire him regardless. At the very least it’s an interesting wrinkle for the Stars.

This entire path really only leads you to Max Pacioretty. I’m not entirely sure why Montreal would trade him, but I also have no idea why they traded P.K. Subban. He’s the best player on this list. He’s the most productive in counting stats over the last two years and has easily the best underlying numbers. The contract is just icing on the cake.

If you’re the Stars Pacioretty is easily the best option without the context of price considered. With his salary and age you almost don’t even worry about the cost unless it’s just stupid high. As much as I love Julius Honka, I don’t bat an eye at including him in a deal for Pacioretty with the increasingly imminent debut of Miro Heiskanen on the horizon. Jason Dickinson becomes available since Pacioretty soaks up more of those minutes.

I’ve advocated for going for This Thing for two years now. You don’t have many more years to just floor it with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin at their peaks. Nill went for it this offseason. Add American Hero Pacioretty to this already dangerous lineup and the Stars are one of the Stanley Cup favorites this year and next year.

Hey, click these:

2/18/18 – Sundays With Miro, Game 3
2/17/18 – Another Night With Miro Heiskanen
2/16/18 – Jeep’s Blues
2/14/18 – An Evening With Miro Heiskanen, Day 1
2/13/18 – Quote or Content: What Drives a Story?