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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Pens Initiative Year in Review: 2014

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2014 is almost at an end.  Marking the end of our first full calendar year of being a blog, it marked a big year for us at Pens Initiative.  Let's take a look at our top posts of 2014.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Retire 68 or No? @evil_shero

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Sidney Crosby is to Mario Lemieux as Evgeni Malkin is to _____________?

A) Petr Nedved
B) Marian Hossa
C) Jaromir Jagr
D) Rico Fata

The obvious answer is the immortal Jaromir Jagr.

I hate using the word "polarizing" but Jagr is the epitome of exactly that. You mention his name in Pittsburgh and you are sure to get a strong reaction either way. The question I like to bring up is, "Do you retire 68 to the rafters when Jagr hang up the skates?" I literally get a 50/50 answer of Hell No, and a definitive Yes.

There is no NHL rule for retiring numbers. It's strictly up to the team. There are 122 retired numbers in the NHL with Gretzky being the only one retired league-wide. Wayne Gretzky, Patrick Roy, Mark Messier, Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, and Ray Bourque have their numbers retired by multiple teams; an honor - I think - it's beyond a player like Jagr. In fact, the premisis varies so widely from team to team that Joe Mullen's number is "honoured" but not retired in St. Louis but the Wild retired the #1 for ... the ... fans? I was going to put a video of it below but it's so embarrassing that none exist.

For younger fans, Jagr was drafted 5th in 1990 being the first Czech player to be drafted to the NHL without having the "defect" to North America first. In his first season he netted 57 points and a Cup, then the next year 69 points and another Cup. During his time in the Steel City he won 5 Art Ross Trophies, 8 All-Star appearances, and a Hart Trophy. In fact in 20 years there were only 3 Art Ross winners from 1981-2001 Gretzky, Lemieux, and Jagr. Twenty ...efffing ... Years. There are dozen's of other accolades he earned in Pittsburgh somehow making a name for himself along side of the legendary Mario. He was loved by fans inside and outside of the 412. He made the mullet the preferred hairstyle of my suburban junior high school and even had a peanut butter crafted in his coiffed honor. Jagr and Pittsburgh went hand and hand. When Mario battled cancer and retirement Jagr was always there to carry the team on his freakishly large shoulders. For a decade, Jagr dominated the NHL wearing the black and gold pigeon on his chest. Why all the hatred? Well ...

2000 happened. The Pens were #16 in league attendance the lowest it was for years but with Lemieux coming out of retirement his 5.25m and Jagr's massive 9.8m contract it was clear that salary needed to be shed. Jagr was then traded in a shrewd and horrific trade with the hated rival Capitals for a bunch of jabronis. In the pre--internet days and with no cap geek or twitter, people saw this an an act of treason. It later was reported that Jagr famously said he was "dying alive" in his last year in Pittsburgh and didn't get along with then head coach Kevin Constantine. When they got a Czech coach Ivan Hlinka to appease the pouting star he was still unhappy which was either strategic team spin or Jagr's excuse to go find a huge payday with another team. He got a record setting 77m for 7 year deal with the Capitals, cut his famous mullet, and put on the Capitals sweater. This was really a big deal at the time.

Jagr: "The team went through the tough time with the bankruptcy (in 1999)," Jagr said. "It didn't have a lot of money. I thought it would be easier for the team to trade one guy than let go of three guys. If they would have kept me here, they wouldn't have signed Alex, Marty or Robert. I just wanted to make it easier for the team.

"Plus, there was no reason to keep me when Mario (Lemieux) came back." - Rob Rossi Tribune Review

Jagr couldn't carry the Capitals and Penguins fans delighted not seeing Jagr top the league in scoring and getting eliminated in the playoffs early. In 2003, the Capitals had enough of Jagr already and wanted to trade him away in order to cut salary and rebuild. Glen "Money Sack" Sather who has a long history of paying top dollar for whomever the sexiest available player is of the season worked a deal with Washington to get Jagr on the Rangers where he played the remaining 5 years on his contract. Jagr was back in the (then) Atlantic division and was subsequently booed again by the Igloo inhabitants.

To sum up, after the Rangers deal was up Jagr sojourned to the KHL presumably to get paid unrealistic money to finish up his legendary career in Russia. He played 3 years there and at age 39 had interest in going back to the NHL. The interest turned into a full blown speculation explosion (a speculsplosion (TM)) of where Jagr could go.

Pittsburgh Media dredged up this quote in The Hockey News from 2009 from Jagr when he was asked if he would consider a NHL return:

Jagr: “I was thinking about it and if Mario would call me and say, ‘I’d like you to play for our team,’ I would think about it a lot,” Jagr said in a telephone interview from Moscow where the Kontinental League will hold its inaugural All-Star Game outdoors at Red Square Saturday. “I would play for the minimum salary. I would play for $350,000 just for him because I owe him my hockey life. I want to pay him back because he has made me what I am…besides my parents.” - Ken Campbell

During the 2011 off-season, this was like a mantra to Pens fans as #JagrWatch hit manic levels. Hell, fans all collectively wrote him in on the opening day line-up that season. Somehow fans (me included at the time) thought Jagr owed us something. He owed us by being traded to our rival team, he owed us for playing for a divisional opponent, he owed us for the few years of embarrassing school pictures with majestic flowing hair capes. 

Jagr reportedly turned down a 1 year 2.2 million dollar deal from the ever-frugal Ray Shero and signed with the adversarial Flyers for 1 year 3.3 million dollar deal.  The Flyers ... 

As fans, some of us assumed that it was done intentionally to spite us. That's what fans do though, we internalize the triumphs and pains of our favorite teams and expel in healthy and unhealthy ways. After a year in Philly, Jags bounced around the NHL to Dallas, to Boston, to New Jersey all inconsequential.

Jagr: "Of course, they are going to boo me, maybe 10 times more than before. It’s fine with me. They paid the tickets, they can do whatever they want. But on the other side, I think the fans [who are]going to boo me, they [weren’t] the fans when I played there. A lot of younger guys don’t even know how I [played] over there. They can hear something, but they were probably kids. But, it’s fine with me. It’s okay." - Bob Pompeani CBS Sports KDKA

Jagr's journey in his hockey career is probably considered very untraditional, his tinelessness and and ability well surpass anyone of his peers in the sport. Does he deserve his number retired by the Penguins?

For all the reasons mentioned above, Jagr weaved himself into the fabric of the Pittsburgh sports community positively and negativity. For a decade (more than any time on one team in his career) he was who we loved, cheered, and counted on. The decision NOT to raise 68 from the rafters I would have to believe would be Mario's and his alone. There are plenty of rumors about the two Pittsburgh legends not seeing eye-to-eye but who knows what's true. I think not honoring his number would be ignoring a large slice of Penguins hockey history including the two Stanley Cups in 91 and 92.

Here are the personal records he still maintains on the Penguins leader boards. (as of 12/29/14)

Jaromir Jagr Penguins records: (lifted from wikipedia)

  • Most single-season points by a right wing – 149
  • Most single-season assists by a right wing – 87
  • Most single-season assists by a European-born player – 87
  • Most single-season PP goals by a Euro-born player – 20
  • Most single-season game-winning goals – 12
  • Most single-season shots on goal – 403
  • Most career points by a right wing – 1,079
  • Most career points by a European-born player – 1079
  • Most career goals by a right wing – 439
  • Most career goals by a European-born player – 439
  • Most career assists by a right wing – 640
  • Most career assists by a European-born player – 640
  • Most career playoff game-winning goals – 78
  • Most career power-play goals by a right wing – 110
  • Most career power-play goals by a European-born player – 110
  • Most career shorthanded goals by a European-born player – 9
  • Most career overtime goals – 9
  • Most career game-tying goals – 10
  • Most career shots on goal by a right wing – 2,911
  • Most career shots on goal by a European-born player – 2,911
  • Most career playoff goals by a right wing – 65
  • Most career playoff goals by a European-born player – 65
  • Most career playoff points by a right wing – 147
  • Most career playoff points by a European-born player – 147
  • Most career playoff shorthanded goals by a right wing – 2
  • Most career playoff shorthanded goals by a European-born player – 2
  • Most career playoff game-winning goals – 14
  • Most career playoff overtime goals – 4
  • Most career playoff shots on goal – 461
  • Most career playoff power-play goals by a right wing – 19
  • Most career playoff power-play goals by a European-born player – 19

Being a victim of a team heading for a second bankruptcy is not his fault.
The embarrassing return Craig Patrick got for Jagr is not his fault.
The money the Capitals gave him was not his fault.
His trade to the Rangers had nothing to do with the Penguins.
His quote in The Hockey News was nothing but a kind compliment for the best player in the game not a verbal contract.
The Penguins simply did not try hard enough to acquire him in 2011 as he turned down bigger offers from Montreal and Detroit to go to the team that showed the most interest.

I hope when Jagr decides to retire once and for all the Penguins do the right thing and raise the 68 to the Consol ceiling.

Jagr:"I don't know what's going to happen," Jagr said. "If something happens, it's going to take time. It's not going to be tomorrow." Rob Rossi Tribune Review

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The Impact of Man Games Lost to the Penguins by @ChicksDigHockey

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One player gets healthy… goes on IR. 

So goes the story of the Pittsburgh Penguins. At any given time this season, between Mump-a-Palooza and injuries, the Penguins have had as many as a dozen players unavailable.  At this writing the list looked something like this; 

Craig Adams, Beau Bennett, Blake Comeau, Steve Downie, Pascal Dupuis, Christian Ehrhoff, Thomas Greiss, Olli Maatta, Paul Martin, Zach Sill, Scott Wilson and Patric Hornqvist.
At a time when everyone wants to quantify and qualify all aspects of the game, I sought out a way to give meaning to the impact of man games lost. In order to do this, I need to familiarize myself with some new terms and clarify some old ones. 

What exactly is a man game lost and do teams report them universally? 

A 'man game lost' occurs when a player who is eligible to play in a game can't play due to illness or injury. It is an official number reported by each team as of their last game. However, some teams include their long-term-injured-reserve (LTIR) players in that report, some don’t. For example, the Bruins count Marc Savard, the Flyers count Pronger, and the Ducks count Souray in their man games lost figures. Additionally, several teams report players as ‘DND’ (Did Not Dress) or ‘DNP’ (Did Not Play) when it’s widely known the player is injured.  Therefore there is a discrepancy between Man Games Lost and Injured counts for some teams.
Thru December 23rd the Penguins reported 112 man games lost (34 games played) *

Next, I wanted to know how I could relate the value of the player lost to the impact his loss has on the team. (I used many sources but by far was the most useful)

Cap Hit of Injured Player (CHIP) and Salary Hit of Injured Player (SHIP) are metrics that attempt to quantify the impact of a player not playing for their team due to injury. Both metrics utilize a player’s cap hit (or salary) under the formula. 

 CHIP = (CapHit x playerGamesInjured)/82. 

The result represents the amount of cap hit or salary lost based on the number of games lost by the player to injury over an 82 game season. 

The Pens’ CHIP is 2722795 while their SHIP  is 2909848 to date. (12/23/14)

Another consideration is the impact the loss of the individual player has on the team. Zach Sill’s injury does not impact the team in the same way Beau Bennett's or Olli Maatta's does. 

Time Missed Impact To Team (TMITT) is a metric that attempts to quantify the impact of a player not playing for their team due to injury. A higher TMITT number equals a higher impact of injured players to the team. TMITT utilizes a skater’s average time on ice (ATOI) or minutes played for goalies, the number of games missed due to injury, the number of games played by their team, and the number of games that the player has played in.

 NHL TMITT = (playerGP x ATOI x playerGamesInjured) / teamGP has developed several TMITT variations to further delineate the impact of the players loss;

TMITT-skater: (as calculated above) Teams with higher TMITT scores are either missing more players, or missing players for more prolonged periods, or are missing players who contribute more valuable ice time for their team. Teams with higher TMITT scores likely have a combination of all three factors 1) more injured players 2) who are injured for a longer period of time, and 3) are players that normally contribute big minutes to the team.
They have applied the same formula to quantify goals, assists and points expressed as TMITT goals, TMITT assists and TMITT points.

Applying these metrics to several injured players helps to better quantify their loss to the team.

Think the Pens have it worse than any other team? We put the Pens head to head with three other teams. The Ducks and Blue Jackets lead the league with most MGL while the Sabres have the same number of MGL as the Pens.

This table* illustrates that not all man games lost are equal. The Pens may not have the most man games lost but the quality of the players lost have gravely impacted the team when it comes to points scored... and by extension, games won.

The next metric I'm going in search of is the one for FGL....Fan Games Lost. You know what I mean! The formula that qualifies the impact of player injuries to marriages, walls punched, livers cirrhosed and twitter accounts blocked. 

* Not including suspensions and DND/DNP

All man game lost metrics via 
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Morning Drive: Best of Radio:PI- Wes Crosby on Radio:PI

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Morning Drive brings you the latest episode of the Radio:PI Podcast Network for easy access.  This morning: The Best of the Radio:PI Podcast Network

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Patric Hornqvist Out For Weeks, Letang Bruised.

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The Penguins announced on Twitter today that Patric Hornqvist would be out an extended period of time with a "lower body" injury.

Also, Kris Letang is dealing with a nasty bruise.

Expect corresponding roster moves to be announced soon.
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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Orpik, Niskanen and Reirden return to Pittsburgh by @ChicksDigHockey

10:00:00 AM 0

Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen  and Todd Reirden all return to CEC today for the first time since the summer of the shake-up.

Reirden was a fixture in the Pens' organization since 2008 when he joined the WBS Pens coaching staff.  He made his way to the NHL behind the bench in 2010 and stayed there until he became part of the collateral damage from Bylsma's firing. The former NHL defenseman worked mostly with the team’s defensemen and power play. He is credited with helping to revitalize Niskanen's career on the blue line.

It wasn't much of a surprise when Niskanen signed with the Caps this summer without even first visiting the team. Reirden was there.....and the Caps extended him the most lucrative contract to be offered on the first day of free agency. He would have been a fool not to accept.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Morning Drive: Best of Radio:PI- Mayor Bill Peduto on Radio:PI

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Morning Drive brings you the latest episode of the Radio:PI Podcast Network for easy access.  This morning: The Best of the Radio:PI Podcast Network

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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from @PensInitiative

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From our family to yours, we hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pens Call Up Forward Dominik Uher

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The Pens have recalled forward Dominik Uher from Wilkes-Barre Scranton.  Uher, a 21 year old player from the Czech Republic, is a left-handed shot on the left wing.

The website Hockey's Future has this to say about Uher:
Uher is a Czech forward who plays a game that is equal parts skill, grit, and agitation. He is tough along the boards and wins a lot of battles in the corners. He is not the tallest player on the ice but possesses a strong, wide base and is difficult to knock off the puck.
Uher has good hands in tight and can score and distribute the puck well enough to contribute offensively, but his game really shines when he is engaging opposing players physically. If playing his physical game, Uher is capable of distracting opposing players from their assignment.

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Let's Stop Awarding the Loser Point in the NHL by @ChicksDigHockey

9:00:00 AM 2

The 2005 lockout did a lot to change the face of hockey today.  Changes that were instituted include  removal of the two-line pass, increasing the offensive zone, addition of the trapezoid, and most significantly, the elimination of ties.

The 'loser point' and the shootout were born.

The shootout: one shooter, one netminder. One chance for the shooter to get the puck past the netminder. Best out of three wins. We all know it isn’t that simple.  (think of the recent Caps/Panthers shootout, which took 20 rounds to complete) The shootout was the league’s attempt to get rid of ties altogether. However, since the post-lockout introduction of shootouts in 2005-06, overtime games have been on the rise.

You would have to go back over 15 years to find the reason behind the shootout. In 1999, the NHL introduced the concept of an overtime loss.  Teams that made it through regulation would earn a point regardless of the outcome of the game.  The idea was to encourage teams to go for a win in overtime, though games could still end in a tie and be decides by shootout. What happened was, ties increased as teams focused on just getting to overtime to earn a point…unaffectionately known as ‘The Loser Point’.

I have no problem with the eventuality of deciding a regular season game based on the shootout. I oppose the loser point. 

The problem with awarding a point for a tie at the end of regulation is that some weaker teams have been able to leverage that to their advantage. An often cited example of this is the 2011-12 Florida Panthers. That season, the Panthers set a league record with18 overtime losses while winning the Southeast Division.  Three teams that missed the playoffs that season actually had more wins than the Panthers. Instead of playing to win, they played to not lose…and they were rewarded for it.
The reward needs to come from winning.

Before I go any further, let me say I’m not advocating going back to a tie nor do I think the NHL ever would. Though controversial, the shootout is very popular among hockey fans.

How do you fix it? How do you solve that some games end in a tie yet hold on to the on-the-edge-of-your-seat excitement? There are some proposed solutions.

Lengthen 4-on-4 overtime. Make OT sudden death but as long as 10 minutes. Award no points at the end of regulation because there is no winner. Award 2 points to the OT winner. Would we see teams play more aggressively as the clock wound down in regulation knowing no point would be rewarded for simply surviving regulation? Likely.
4-on-4 hockey is very exciting. Many think that, given 10 minutes, more games could be decided without the shootout. If the team doesn’t get it done by that time, there would have to be a shootout and a 2pt/1pt awarded but there would be a lot fewer loser points to impact the overall standings.
That proposal preserves the 2-point game system. Some advocate going to a 3-point system.
In 2013, National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) modified its point system with regard to overtime and shootout wins: 
“Each conference game will be worth three points. Three points will be awarded to any team that wins a game in regulation or within the five-minute sudden-death overtime period. One point will be awarded to each team in a game that remains tied at the conclusion of the overtime period. One additional point will be awarded to the team who wins the shootout, giving that team two points total for winning the game in a shootout. A team that loses in regulation or during the five-minute overtime period will receive zero points. [NCHC Hockey]”
This approach also puts more of a premium on regulation wins by rewarding the teams that actually play to win, instead of trying not to lose.

The NFL doesn’t give points when there’s a tie at the end of regulation and moves to OT. MLB simply goes to the top of the 10th and on from there. Should the NHL continue to reward a loss or find a way to place the premium on winning the game? What do you think?
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