FanPost

The Islanders vs. Hockey Prospectus' VUKOTA projections, 2011-2012 Edition

Hockey Prospectus (formerly "Puck Prospectus") has created a projection system, like their more well-known owner Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA, called VUKOTA (yes, after the ex-Isle) to predict how well players in the NHL would do in the future. Before the 2011-2012 season, in the Hockey Prospectus 2011-2012 Annual, HP used the system to project how every player in the NHL (no prospects) would perform and how well each team would do in the standings.

In this post, I'm going to go through the individual projections of VUKOTA at the beginning of the year and see how certain players are exceeding/failing-to-meet expectations and to see really where the Isles would be if not for injuries.

NOTE: The Following Explanation is straight from my last year post on HP Projections. If you want 2011-2012 examples....well hit me up in the comments.

Hockey Prospectus' projects the basic statistics of players as well as its own specialty statistic: Goals Versus Threshold (GVT). GVT is a value statistic: it attempts to take all of the offensive and defensive (and shootout!) and goaltending (where applicable) contributions of a player individually and put an overall value on that performance.

GVT is measured in goals (created) above a replacement player. This is a confusing definition, so let me explain each part separately:

Goals Created: When GVT talks about goals, it's not simply talking about scoring goals, but how the players overall play contributed to that team scoring AND preventing opposing teams from scoring. A player who provides no contribution offensively but whose play PREVENTS an opponent from scoring 4 goals will be said to have created 4 goals. Essentially this part measures goal differential.

Above a Replacement Player: In THEORY, every team can easily find in the AHL or on some other team's waiver wire or free agency a replacement player who they can call up if one of the team's regulars are injured. These players are poor players, such that they're freely available to each team. Thus, in theory, a player who is AT or below "replacement level" can be replaced by a team without a problem. To explain this concept more easily, lets take examples from the Isles two years ago:

For Defensemen, Bruno Gervais is a replacement player (essentially). In other words, every team in the NHL to start the season, barring injuries, can call up from the AHL defensemen able to give the same amount of contribution as Bruno Gervais has this season.

For Forwards, Michael Haley is a replacement player. Once again, this means that every team can easily call up a player who can give the same performance as Michael Haley without any problem.

Now, when we talk about Goals above a replacement player (aka GVT), what we mean is that if you gave both a certain defenseman (or forward) and Bruno Gervais (or Michael Haley) a specific amount of ice time, GVT measures how many more goals would be created by the certain defenseman than the amount created by Bruno. Essentially, GVT basically measures player performance relative to a certain threshold, which is set at a pretty poor level.

Every team overall consists on average of players who are a good bit better than replacement. A team full of replacement level players would be outscored by 123 goals. For comparison sakes, #30 Edmonton last year only was outscored by 70 goals. Replacement players are bad.

NOTE: Those who follow baseball will note that GVT is essentially a hockey version of WAR. That said, there's a key thing to remember when making this comparison: GVT is NOT measured in wins, but in GOALS. If you want to figure out the amount of wins that have been created by a player, divide their total GVT by 6.

On an individual level, GVT has some clear issues, as you'd expect since it's kind of hard to categorize hockey. A goon or fighter for example should theoretically be making his teammates play better, and thus the positive impact he has on a team will probably not be seen in that player's own GVT but in the numbers of his teammates. Similarly, while GVT DOES try to account for in-what-zone players start their shifts, as well as PK and PP minutes, it doesn't take into account how much a player is hindered or helped by having good teammates or by facing tough opponents. So, a D-man who faces the opponents' top lines may have worse defensive GVT numbers simply due to who he has to face. On a team level, these problems go away, but on an individual level they are clear.

That said, it's easiest to compare the VUKOTA projections in GVT, so I'll be doing so from here on in.

OKAY ENOUGH OF THAT, On to the projections. I've colored the players who have beaten their projections in green and those who have disappointed in red. Those who roughly met their projections are not highlighted in the below tables.

FORWARDS:

NAME GP Offensive GVT Defensive GVT Shootout GVT

Total GVT

GVT Per 80 Games Projected GVT Projected GVT Per 80 Games Extra GVT above Expectations Extra GVT above Expectations Per 80 Games
John Tavares 78 12.9 3.6 -0.3 16.1 16.51 13.5 14.29 2.6 2.22
Matt Moulson 78 10.7 3.8 0.5 15 15.38 8.6 9.42 6.4 5.96
P.A. Parenteau 77 9.3 2.8 0 12.1 12.57 6.7 7.92 5.4 4.65
Frans Nielsen 78 4.7 4.0 2.6 11.3 11.59 8.0 9.38 3.3 2.21
Kyle Okposo 75 4.9 2.3 -0.5 6.7 7.15 5.8 7.86 0.9 -0.71
Josh Bailey 76 2.2 2.7 0.5 5.5 5.79 4.3 6.32 1.2 0.7
Michael Grabner 74 2.0 2.0 0.0 3.9 4.22 12.2 13.35 -8.3 -9.13
David Ullstrom 29 0.4 0.8 0.0 1.2 3.31 0.0 0 1.2 3.31
Matt Martin 76 -0.4 1.2 0;0 0.8 0.84 0.8 1.1 0 -0.26
Casey Cizikas 15 -0.2 0.8 0.0 0.6 3.20 0.0 0 0.6 3.2
Michael Haley 10 -0.2 0.1 0.0 -0.2 -1.60 0.1 0.22 -0.3 -1.82
Trevor Gillies 3 -0.2 0.0 0.0 -0.2 -5.33 -0.5 -1.02 0.3 -4.31
Rhett Rakhshani 5 -0.3 0.1 0 -0.2 -3.2 1.2 3.84 -1.4 -7.04
Jay Pandolfo 58 -2.8 1.3 0 -1.5 -2.07 0.0 0.0 -1.5 -2.07
Marty Reasoner 57 -2.7 0.3 0.0 -2.4 -3.37 4.2 5.0 -6.6 -8.37
Nino Niederreiter 51 -3.8 -1.2 -0.3 -5.3 -8.31 1.5 4.03 -6.8 -12.34

Table 1: The Current GVT Numbers of Islander Forwards, the Amount expected by VUKOTA in preseason and the difference between the actual numbers and the projections.

TABLE LEGEND:
Offensive GVT: Amount of Goals (above replacement) created on Offense, by a player's play resulting in more goals scored.
Defensive GVT: Amount of Goals (above replacement) created on Defense, by a player's play preventing opponents from scoring goals.

Shootout GVT:
Amount of Goals (above replacement) created in the shootout, by a player's performance in the shootout
Total GVT: Amount of Goals Created (above replacement) in total (OGVT + DGVT).
GVT Per 80 Games: The expected amount of GVT each player would produce if he played 80 games at this pace of production.
Projected GVT: The GVT expected of each Islander by VUKOTA in this amount of games played.
Projected GVT Per 80 Games: The GVT Per 80 Games expected of each Islander by VUKOTA.
Extra GVT Above Expectations: The amount (in GVT) that each Islander has surpassed (or by how much the player failed to equal) expectations.

OVERPERFORMING : Tavares is outperforming his projections, but not really by that much - even VUKOTA realized he was going to be something special this year (Insert Neil Greenberg reference here). More impressive has been the performances of Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau, who have had large improvements on last year despite no longer being in the age group where players tend to improve that much.

Also beating their projections are Frans Nielsen, nearly entirely due to his shootout prowess (which VUKOTA doesn't really try to project), and David Ullstrom, due to the fact that Ullstrom wasn't even projected by VUKOTA in the first place.

UNDERPERFORMING:

3 Players significantly underperformed this year:

1. Michael Grabner, whose ability to put shots toward the net has oddly dropped this year. I think GVT underestimates how good Grabner has been on D (he's had basically the hardest ice time of any Islander this year, something GVT doesn't really consider.). But it is slightly worrisome. Personally, I be he bounces back next year.

2. Marty Reasoner. I got nothing for you guys here - Reasoner was supposed to be an upgrade over Zenon because he provided a solid amount of offense to go with decent D and great faceoff skills. And the O hasn't been there. Hopefully this'll improve next year?

3. Nino Niederreiter, who is having one of the top 10 least valuable seasons in the last 20 years. Worst since the lockout. Clearly he wasn't ready this year, and he probably should start next year in the AHL.

Overall, 3 Islander forwards with significant Ice Time have had a negative value to this team. Basically, that means the team would've been better off replacing Nino, Reasoner, and Pandolfo (Huh, wonder if they're all on the same line) with average AHLers (let's say Dibo, Cizikas, Ullstrom). Whoops.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

DEFENSEMEN:

NAME GP Offensive GVT Defensive GVT Shootout GVT

Total GVT

GVT Per 80 Games Projected GVT Projected GVT Per 80 Games Extra GVT above Expectations Extra GVT above Expectations Per 80 Games
Travis Hamonic 69 1.6 6.6 0.0 8.2 9.51 7.2 8.78 1.0 0.73
Mark Streit 78 5.7 1.3 -0.3 6.8 6.97 9.0 9.23 -2.2 -2.26
Andrew MacDonald 71 1.4 5 0.0 6.3 7.1 5.6 7.47 0.7 -0.37
Dylan Reese 26 0.3 1.6 0.0 1.9 5.85 1.5 3.41 0.4 2.44
Steve Staios 62 -1.1 1.8 0.0 0.7 0.90 2.1 3.94 -1.4 -3.04
Aaron Ness 9 -0.5 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.00 0 0 0 0
Mark Eaton 60 -2.0 1.3 0.0 -0.7 -0.93 2.5 4.02 -3.2 -4.95
Milan Jurcina 62 -1.6 0.0 0.0 -1.5 -1.94 3.7 6.21 -5.2 -8.15
Mike Mottau** 33 -1.3 0.3 0.0 -1.0 -2.42 1.7 -2.42 -2.7 -5.42

Table 2: The Current GVT Numbers of Islander Defensemen, the Amount expected by VUKOTA in preseason and the difference between the actual numbers and the projections.

**NOTE: Mike Mottau's statistics include 4 games with Boston.

TABLE LEGEND:
Offensive GVT: Amount of Goals (above replacement) created on Offense, by a player's play resulting in more goals scored.
Defensive GVT: Amount of Goals (above replacement) created on Defense, by a player's play preventing opponents from scoring goals.

Shootout GVT:
Amount of Goals (above replacement) created in the shootout, by a player's performance in the shootout
Total GVT: Amount of Goals Created (above replacement) in total (OGVT + DGVT).
GVT Per 80 Games: The expected amount of GVT each player would produce if he played 80 games at this pace of production.
Projected GVT: The GVT expected of each Islander by VUKOTA in this amount of games played.
Projected GVT Per 80 Games: The GVT Per 80 Games expected of each Islander by VUKOTA.
Extra GVT Above Expectations: The amount (in GVT) that each Islander has surpassed (or by how much the player failed to equal) expectations.

And here we come to this team's biggest problem. The Isles went into this season with 3 clear top defensemen who were all decent to above average top 4 D-Men. The rest of their D corp was filled with expendable Defensive players who were basically supposed to just hold the fort - just be a little bit better than replacement players.

It didn't happen Staios/Eaton/Mottau/Jurcina have combined to underperform their projections by 12.5 goals. In other words, had they performed as expected, the Isles would've been 2 wins better (Not a lot, but well, they weren't expected to do much). Eaton, Mottau, & Jurcina have been worse than replacement players (average AHL defensemen) this year and Staios might be as well had he not been carried by Mark Streit for a large portion of this year. Oh yeah, and GVT isn't even counting how Eaton/Mottau/Jurcina have been facing the worst opponents all year round.

Meanwhile, none of the Islanders Top-3 outperformed their projections. Hamonic*-AMac basically matched their projections and Streit actually underperformed! Mind you, all three players played at a level equal to an average or better top-4 D man, but none could compensate for how much the bottom 4 performed.

*One quick note on Travis Hamonic: GVT overrates his (and AMac's) defensive performance this year.....it's basically been the same as last year (actually slightly worse) but he's gotten a lot more luck in terms of the performance of the goalie behind him, which makes his performance look better. He's been pretty solid this year and any other team would love to have him, but this was essentially a sophomore slump for Hamonic. And he's still played pretty well despite playing over 270 more minutes of Ice Time this year.

The only positive surprise for the Islanders' D Corp. this year has been Dylan Reese, and the team refused to play him often earlier in the season in favor of the more "veteran" players. I wouldn't count on Reese to keep up this performance next year, but he'd certainly be better than keeping any of Jurcina/Eaton/Staios.

Conclusion:

Clearly several forwards underperformed the Islanders' projections this year, which did not help the team. But the real harm to this team came from the fact that old bottom 3 d-men declined heavily, when they weren't particularly good last year to begin with. It's too bad this team doesn't have any good D prospects in the AHL to replace them next year.

Okay: Snide aside, do take notice that both preseason tryouts who made the team -Staios and Pandolfo - were among the players who underperformed and hurt this team this year. Neither of these outcomes were unpredictable. Garth better not make that mistake again.

<em>Submitted FanPosts do not necessarily reflect the views of this blog or SB Nation. If you're reading this statement, you pass the fine print legalese test. Four stars for you.</em>

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