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Hakan Andersson: Detroit's Super Scout

22 March 2015 - 11:37 PM

Great little read by Michael Farber on the Wings' Swedish scout responsible for Datsyuk, Kronwall, Ericsson, Nyquist, and Holmstrom.



Until 2013, Jim Nill had been Holland’s assistant in Detroit for 15 years, overseeing amateur scouting. “You see all kinds of stuff when you fly in Russia,” says Nill, now the Stars GM. “[Once] Håkan and I saw this guy who had a propane bottle right between his knees. Another time there was a guy with a big hunting knife cutting up a sausage.” Russia is not exactly an upright-and-locked-position kind of place, but the country’s lax approach to air travel made an indirect contribution to Andersson’s most celebrated coup.


In the fall of 1997, Andersson and Rockström were both in Yekaterinburg, a city 900 miles east of Moscow. They primarily were monitoring defenseman Dmitri Kalinin, a future Sabres first-rounder, but that night Andersson was gobsmacked by one of his hockey epiphanies. On a Yekaterinburg power play the center, who Andersson says could not have been more than 5' 9" and 140 pounds, backchecked furiously and made an exquisitely timed, all-out lunge to break up a shorthanded two-on-one, sending the puck skittering to the corner. It was Datsyuk. “I saw skill, great effort and the great read on what was going on,” Andersson says. “He was small, and the NHL’s a big man’s league, but that one play kept coming up in my mind. I knew I had to see him again.”


Andersson did see him again and was en route a third time, only now he had company: a Flames scout was on the same plane. They boarded the scheduled 11 a.m. flight and then sat on the runway as a snowstorm blanketed Moscow. A few hours later Andersson was startled by a roar. Outside his window he could see flames dancing near the wings, blown by a fan through a massive circular device on the tarmac. The contraption looked like Paul Bunyan’s hair dryer. “The snow started to melt,” he says, “but those wings are right near the fuel.” Eventually the deicing was abandoned and the flight was canceled, leaving the two scouts stranded and Datsyuk mostly a mystery to the gentleman from Calgary. Andersson figures he might have gotten scooped if not for the snow. Instead, the Red Wings took the young Russian in the sixth round the following summer.





“The odds say 1.5 in seven make it [to the NHL],” he says. “The criticism is I go too much for the home run. Late rounds, I’ll go for pure talent. If a guy makes it, [he’ll probably] be on the top two lines. My joke is Kenny can pick up the phone [any time] and find a fourth-line player or a seventh [defenseman]. So why not swing for the fences?”


Some Thoughts on the Jagr Era

26 February 2015 - 07:01 PM

The Jaromir Jagr era in NJ is one of the more depressing time periods for anyone younger than 35. It really only rivals the short-lived John Maclean-coached era. It began after a 2nd "superstar" in consecutive years left the franchise. It coincided with the awkward end of the Brodeur era. There was little offensive talent. No offensive prospects, horrible free agent signings, a complete inability to win a shootout (16, 17 losses in a row?), and it pretty much ended the day a coach was fired and Adam Oates was brought in (more on that in a bit).
But none of that should be a reflection on Jaromir Jagr. The man is a living legend, one of the ten greatest players in NHL history, and possibly the greatest winger in NHL history (a debate for another day, no disrespect Gordie). I got to see him as a New Jersey Devil. I got to see him score an OT winner live against the Senators this year. But what's so great about Jagr coming to New Jersey, unlike dozens and dozens of past-their-prime, all-but-finished former superstars, Jaromir Jagr was still damn good. I mean really really good.
When I said the other day I felt that Jagr is the most under-appreciated Devil ever, it wasn't just for being dumped into the middle of a ton of suckage. It's because of how good he was for a year-and-a-half, especially his 67 point season last year at the age of 42. A lot of people last year kept saying if only this team had Ilya Kovalchuk. That would have been nice, but as Tri has pointed a number of times, there is no Jaromir Jagr if Ilya Kovalchuk is still in NJ. And after Ilya Kovalchuk left, there is no way that Lou, Pete, and the fans knew what they were getting is someone as good as Ilya Kovalchuk. I'm still not sure people realize that.
Jagr averaged 2.20 points/60 minutes of ES last year. Ilya Kovalchuk averaged 1.55, 2, and a pathetic 1.18 in '11,'12, and '13 respectively.  He was a better 5-on-5 player at 42 than Kovalchuk ever was going to be as a Devil. By the way, his 2.20 points per 60 minutes was higher than in 2 of Parise's last 4 seasons in NJ.
But above being better than Kovalchuk, in playing all 82 games, his 67 points last year were more than the likes of Spezza, Stastny (both recently signing mega deals), Richards, Eberle, Iginla, Staal and Hossa. He was a point or two away from Toews, St. Louis, Kane, Marleau, Kopitar and Duchene. And I can promise you that none of them played with more offensively challenged players than Zajac, Zubrus and Ruutu. The former two being his most common linemates.
Being so close to the players I listed shows 67 points is a big deal for any player in today's NHL. The goalies are as good as ever, systems are stronger, there is less power play time to accumulate points, so the game really is about 5-on-5 hockey. It's not a game anymore where veteran players can survive being hidden on a good PP -- think Messier, Hull, Francis, Oates, and Nieuwendyk, and in the later years to a much lesser extent, Selanne and Whitney. To play now late into your career, you have to be good at ES hockey. Jagr was damn good at it at 42 fvcking years old.
He brought more than good play in a depressing time. He was the first true "character" the Devils ever had. I'm sure there have been some funny guys but Jagr never shied away from being himself. If it was making fun of Zubrus even though his math isn't great; "I got traded (in 2000) from Pittsburgh and had 120 points," Jagr recalled. "They put (Zubrus) on the line and I had 70. So, it was a 50 percent drop. So, it wasn't a good move", and “It’s a long streak for me without a goal,” Jagr said. “Zubie did a great job to shut me down eight games. Finally, I jumped on the ice when he wasn’t there, so I could break the streak. And one more: “He kills every penalty,” Jagr said of Zubrus, before adding, “And he kills all the five-on-fives. He’s just a killer. He’s killing me.”
Or if it was confusing Cam Janssen with Gretzky after scoring two goals quickly after being called up "Gretzky got here" or just making fun of other teammates, hoping to go a full season without a credited hit, reminding anyone that would listen how smart and how much of a physical "freak" he is or singing Meghn Trainor, it was always a riot And of course letting us know he'll be playing hockey forever: “I’ll tell you one thing, as long as I don’t die, it’s not my last year of playing hockey,” said Jagr, who will turn 42 in February. “I don’t know where I’m gonna play. I don’t know if I’m gonna play U.S. or somewhere else. I’m gonna play. I’ll play until I cannot walk. I love the game too much to leave it.”
So in an incredibly long career that hopefully won't end for a while, I'm happy that Jaromir Jagr stopped here in NJ, and we got the fun Jagr, we got to see over power defenseman in the corner, use his big backside, even on a 1-on-1, seemingly pass another legend or break another record nightly, and be the best Devils player at age 41 and 42. We never got the Jagr salute, but he did one better, he made it fun to follow the Devils on a day-to-day basis when it really had no business being fun to follow the New Jersey Devils.

"Transition, not a Rebuild" 15-16 Thread and Beyond

20 February 2015 - 04:43 PM

First, some comments from Lou Lamoriello from Fire and Ice:



“It's a transition, not a rebuild. Rebuild means you're starting right from the foundation.”

And that's not something Lamoriello believes in or thinks is necessary.

“Absolutely. I don't think that's a question,” Lamoriello said. “Where we are today and even if you go back a year, why we're in, why we weren't (in the playoffs), that's the same thing here right now. We never got ourselves on a roll the way you'd like to see it, but I don't think you tear down by any means. That's not the philosophy of this organization nor do I think that's something that can be done in this day and age. You don't simply because of the free agency and the way the draft is. It's almost impossible to do if you think like that.

“That was the decision that was made at the draft a couple years ago when we had the opportunity to acquire Cory Schneider.”



When I asked Lamoriello if we could see more young forwards after the deadline, he replied, “Possibly”, but he suggested the solution to the team's age problem up front won't come only from players already within the organization or even the draft.

Free agency and trades are two options Lamoriello will have to explore and made it clear that he team has the salary cap space to do so with a host of players on expiring contracts.

“I don't think that's something you can actually have a formula for, but, it's not only young players, it's additional players or through trades,” Lamoriello said. “If you look at the different teams right now with cap situations and cap problems, I think the good thing for the New Jersey Devils right now also from a financial and cap situation going forward, they're in great shape.”




I'm a little confused what Lou is saying. In the first quote box, he says that he doesn't think you can totally rebuild because of free agency and the draft? So, he thinks free agency is an element that gives every team a chance to get good players? In the second, it really seems that the Devils having cap space will be very important for the Devils in free agency. Like free agency, will be a huge help to fix the scoring issues?


Maybe I am reading into it poorly, but how after everything that's happened, does he think Free Agency is the answer. Really good players aren't making it to free agency, They aren't holding out hope to be signed by the New Jersey Devils come July 1st. The Devils will have a good amount of cap space opened up this off-season. What does it mean for them? Mike Fisher? Antoine Vermette? Justin Williams? Chris Stewart? Thomas Fleischmann? The answers are not there to save this franchise?


Here's the first question I have: If Lamoriello is still the GM, and I 100% expect him to be, what can he do to get this team in the playoffs next season. Although, he never says it, I'm assuming that would be his goal. I'm having a hard time seeing his way there.


You can always punt 2015-2016, hope to have another top draft pick, and chase after a hopefully better free agency class in 2016, but isn't the cap predicted to rise much higher. There are going to be other teams with cap space.


Either way, there are a lot of threads discussing a lot of different teams, why not have a thread dedicated to the direction of the franchise, possible scenarios, ways to improve the team, etc as the last two months play out.



When Does Lou Leave the Bench?

05 February 2015 - 10:21 AM

Do you think he actually knows the answer? How much more information does he need to gather about personnel that he can't get stepping back? The coaching staff transition seems to have gone well enough. If he doesn't think Oates and Stevens can handle it from here on out, then he hired the two wrong people. From all reports, Lou is basically a cheerleader and motivator out there.


Less than a month to the trade deadline, and Lou, specifically, needs to get a good look at teams around the league, prospects in the AHL, and since I don't see assistant GMs that are actual hockey people in the organization, it kind of bothers me. This is a big trade deadline for the team, and I'm of the belief the team would be better off getting some bodies than just draft picks. 


The team needs Lou the GM a lot more than a back patter. 


Yost on the Devils

03 February 2015 - 02:07 PM

Travis Yost was an excellent banalytics blogger before being hired by TSN.ca to write for them. Here he is on the 2014-2015 Devils, and it is quite an interesting read, especially on the defensive end.



When an entire team is struggling, it’s difficult to pinpoint just what line or what pairing is specifically getting beaten up. In New Jersey’s case, everyone has taken a step back, so comparisons against last year’s 5-on-5 numbers are going to be gory across the board. What if we compared to expected numbers based on league norms, though, and broke those comparisons down by line and pairing? The disparities may highlight what players are playing reasonably well, and what players are struggling.

What I’ve done here is sorted each forward and defensemen by ice time, then compared the respective player’s Corsi% against the league average player in that role (e.g. first line forward, second-pairing defender – with HockeyGraphs supplying the “expected” numbers). Who stands out?



We have talked about Jaromir Jagr being a timeless masterpiece before, and for good reason. It’s amazing to still say this, but even as a 42-year old, he’s a bona fide first-line forward. We know this because he’s out-performing most first-line forwards by Corsi% standards at an age where most players’ production has long fallen off of a cliff.

The problem with this is that he hasn’t had much help. Zajac’s been OK, and Elias has been good, but limited at times due to injury/illness. New Jersey’s ‘second line’ is really where they’re getting annihilated. Adam Henrique, Dainius Zubrus, Mike Cammalleri, and Michael Ryder are all getting territorially pummeled. And, the bottom-six isn’t helping things along either, generally underperforming even their limited expectations.