When it comes to quickly comparing players in the NHL, there’s probably no better resource than Dominic Galamini’s OwnThePuck – a site containing relatively easy-to-use tools to “provide a cursory look at the performance of skaters using modern statistics”, as its founder puts it. Regular readers of this site might notice OTP’s HERO charts in a lot of our work when we want to quickly get a rundown of a player’s role and pace on both sides of the puck.
As of yesterday, OwnThePuck includes a “Lineup Creator” that Galamini has been developing recently. It’s a spreadsheet tool that allows you to plug players into an existing lineup and optimize a number of even-strength metrics, along with an overall points projection over an 82-game season.
You can see how something like this would make viewing offseason transactions through a critical lens quite simple, but what’s stopping us from plugging in some potential moves right now? Tinkering with the Leafs’ roster and inserting some names that have popped up trade rumours and free agency is always a good time, so let’s give it a whirl.
First off, this is how the existing Leafs lineup looks in OTP’s new gadget (Soshnikov is in for Kapanen in this example because there is cut-off of 400-minutes-played):
That’s a middle-of-the-pack lineup, and the expected points through 82 games reflects that at 96.3. The model assumes average goaltending and perfect health – both of which the Leafs more-or-less maintained this past season. Considering the real-life Leafs landed at 95 points, that’s a nice way to pass the sniff test.
Now let’s see how we can elevate this group into a potential division-winner.
First off, I’m going to knock Hyman off that top line because, while he’s a fine play-driver, the poor guy has such a difficult time contributing to the score sheet. Let’s put in another player who can push the puck in the right direction, but has a little more finish. Justin Williams is a free agent, and might not command an other-worldly salary, so I’m shooting my shot and adding him to try and create a contender. Hyman moves to a better fit on the fourth line.
Next, we’re bringing Jumbo Joe home. Bozak is out (maybe as part of a trade for defensive help), and Thornton distributes between two elite offensive wingers in JVR and Marner.
Lastly, we’re doing some work on the blue line. The Zaitsev and Rielly pairing stays intact, while Gardiner gets a big boost in the addition of Josh Manson, who most believe can shake loose from the Ducks as a result of the Vegas draft. Carrick is lost to the Knights in that draft, so we fill out the bottom pairing by bringing in Brendan Smith as a free agent, and adding a Marlies player or other cheap depth.
How’s this going to look?
It’s unsurprising that adding a bunch of strong puck-possession players (including a Hall of Fame center) to an already talented group brings the team up a few steps. The projected 105 points would likely be enough to contend for the Atlantic division, as Montreal just wrapped it up with 103 this past season. Adding players like Manson and Smith to the back-end does a lot to bring down that Corsi Against column, which is obviously what we’d expect if the Leafs were successful in bringing in that kind of help this summer.
Of course, this is really just a fun exercise for the armchair general manager in all of us. Toronto hasn’t done particularly well in free agency in the last number of years, and the market for a defenceman like Manson (or Brodin, Dumba, Tanev, and so on) will be absurdly competitive in the coming months. So this dream team of mine is exactly that. We don’t know what the going rate will be on all these players, either in terms of dollars in free agency, or trade cost.
But this a great way to visualize how upgrades to the roster can fit in, and should be a great tool to utilize when the Leafs actually do something this offseason. Maybe they are successful in getting one of those players mentioned, or someone else comparable.
The plug-and-play nature of this model makes it easy to use and the outputs digestible for anyone, which is basically the hallmark of Galamini’s work to date. If you want to give it a spin, go to OwnThePuck.com and grab the Excel file, then get to work.