25 September 2014
This could be a doozy, so we'll jump right in, because there's a lot I want to cover.
Most of the regression talk with the Avs comes in three forms: Goaltending/sv%, Corsi/Fenwick, and Shooting %. There's a couple more areas I don't thik have gotten a lot of ink, so I'm going to talk about them, but I'll start with Shooting %:
Shooting %: Shooting % is a stat that really goes all over the place, from year to year for nearly every team. It's a touchy subject, because the Avs (and pretty much every team who has a solid sh%, really) make the claim they are taking better shots. The Avs were 2nd in the league at 8.77% shooting percentage (5v5 close), and many stats folks have that coming down.
But there is some evidence that the Avs actually do have some shooting % skill. They have some elite offensive shooting talent (Duchene, MacKinnon, O'Reilly, and Tanguay) and there's some numerical evidence too: they appear to be good at Zone Entries, which lead to better quality shots.
I think they will regress some, but maybe not as much as predicted. For a reasonably optimistic (and to avoid contraversy) let's say they don't regress here.
One-Goal Games - The Avs had a +30 goal differential last season but 112pts. +30 is normally reserved for teams in the 100 point range, not so much in the 110 point range. This led me to believe the Avs had some fortune on when they scored goals too. Sure enough, the Avs were a league leading 27-4-8 (.700) in 1-goal games last season. That's a ridiculous record (and completely unsustainable). [The image in that link is broken, but I think the r^2 of .05 makes the point] (Here's another link with a broken link to the really good stuff). (One more link on one-goal games)
If the Avs fall to a .500 record in 1-goal games next season that would be similar to Carolina (20-9-11). That's 51 points rather than the 62 the Avs got last year, an 11-point drop, which, isolating all other affects, would put them at 101 points instead of 112. Much more typical of a team with a +30 GD.
That's a fairly significant point: The Avs could do everything the same as last season and still drop 11 points (or more, if they get some bad luck) just on when their goals happen to come, i.e. when they are able to pull out a 1-goal win.
If you're counting at home, I've put down 7points to goalie regression & 11 to 1G game regression. That's down to 94 pts without shooting regression.
Injuries - I've seen people say "don't forget, Tanguay is back too" when discussing the Avs forwards corps, but really I think the Avs had a very fortunate spell on injuries last season. Here's GP for the Avs top 9 players:
Duchene - 71
Landeskog - 81
MacKinnon - 82
O'Reilly - 80
Stastny - 71
Erik Johnson - 80
Barrie - 64
Parenteau - 55
Varlamov - 63
The Avs basically had 2-3 important injuries last season. Among the Avs most important 7 players (Stats, Duchene, MacK, ROR, Landeskog, EJ, Varlamov) they suffered two minor injuries (Duchene and Stastny) and no major ones. Among their second tier of plyers they did have some significant injuries (Barrie, PA, and Tanguay missed time, and Hejda played injured). That no major pieces of the team were injured, and there was only one really devestating injury, a 3rd liner, is incredible luck.
And injuries are terrible, because they affect everything. An injury to the best player, say Duchene, affects possession and sh%.
It's possible the Avs can go another season without injuries to top guys. (After all, the injury dice have no memory), but do I think it's likely? No.
Which brings us to:
The Avs have young players who will likely get better: Duchene, O'Reilly, MacKinnon, Landeskog, EJ, & Barrie. Now maybe one of those guys stalls a little but yes, they are going to get better. This should really help the Avs possession, and these guys, as stated above, are the Avs key players.
But the Avs are really counting on some old guys too. Iginla, Stuart, Briere, Hejda, Tanguay are not the most important players, but they are pretty important players. They are all on the wrong side of 33, and injury is a big risk with these guys. But so, too, is regression. In fact all of these players have shown signs of regressing already, and one or two may fall off the cliff this season. Regardless, if we're prognosticating young players getting better, it's fair to prognosticate old players getting worse.
Again, the older players are not counted on as much as the young players, and the young players growth will probably is better than the old guys depreciation, but both need to be taken into effect.
Honestly, I don't think Conf III is as good as being projected. Chi is still great. StL limped into the post season, possessionally, and is going with Allen & Brian Elliott as their goalies (Picking up Stats & Gunnerson helps them a lot). .i not convinced. Dallas seems legitametly better (& good). Minnesota had miserable possession numbers, too, last season (worse than the Avs). Preds are the opposite Avs - killer top 3 D , 1 forward (Neal). And Winnipeg still has Pavelec.
The only team in the west who I think is not getting the credit they deserve is Vancouver, who isn't what they were, but were also unlucky last season (and were saddled with Torterella. How'd Alan Vigneault's team do?). The Cali teams are good.
So, my predictions: Top 7 spots in the west:
Chi, Dal, StL
Last WC: dogfight for the 8-seed with Minnesota, Nashville, Phoenix, & Col.
I think COL is the better of those 4, but not by a lot. A bad shooting season or a really significant injury & the Avs fall below all 3.
Going into this preview i was thinking COL-88pts... but i don't think the West is that good outside the top 6 and the Avs should improve.
Final prediction: 94 pts & a 1st round exit to the Hawks.
(I wrote a good portion of this on a tablet, with no spell check. Please forgive any typing or spelling errors)