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Marian Hossa's analytical agent...

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I got a few questions about this piece that appeared in various newspapers about the process by which Marian Hossa's agent (Ritch Winter) selected his potential destinations after last season.  Hossa was trying to find an elite team, which: 

"Winter defines elite as a 100-point team"

Let's see what percentage of 100-point teams won a given number of playoff series since the lockout:


2005-10 2006-10
Win 3 Series 17.5 20.0
Win 2 Series 30.0 33.3
Win 1 Series 57.5 63.3


2005-06 had some surprises, so I've shown series for all five seasons and just for the last four.  Whether 100 points makes a team 'elite' depends on your definition of elite - I count only three truly elite teams over the last three seasons.

Ironically, Marian Hossa played in the Stanley Cup finals for two of these teams and against the third.  Perhaps his agent has some idea how to figure out which teams are elite:

"Winter, with help from mathematical advisers, has determined exactly how many points a contending team needs from its top-six forward group and top-four defencemen, and the save percentage required from a goalie to become a 100-point team. For example, if all thresholds are met from the defence and goalies, a team that gets at least 143 goals from its top six forwards will record 100 points. According to Winter, that number has stayed true every year since the lockout. He has calculations like that for every position."

So, as usual, we get a little look at the secret sauce, but not enough detail to determine whether the methodology is bogus. But let's try a little reverse-engineering:


G Top 6% Total G
Top 6G 143 67.0 214
Top 4D 25 73.1 34
Total 168 248


Over the last decade, top 6 forwards have scored 67% of all goals by forwards - so your entire forward crew needs to score 213 goals.  Top 4 defensemen obviously score way less, but by the same methodology, we find that the entire team needs to score 248 goals to break the 100-point barrier.  Of course, 248 goals isn't a guarantee - the 2008-09 Toronto Maple Leafs scored 250 goals, gave up 293, and missed the playoffs. 

Hence the save percentage requirement - a 248-goal team needs a goaltender with a .918 save percentage to be a 100-point team.  If you've read my past goaltending analysis, you'll know that I don't think there are a lot of goalies with that level of skill.  If you want to ice a league-average goaltender, you'll need to score 265-270 goals...Or find a way to suppress your opponents' shots like Detroit did in 2007-08 and 2008-09.

Once you set these limits - 250 goals for and an all-star goalie, or 270 goals for and an average one - there are very few teams that can meet the criteria:

"When it came time to narrow down Hossa's possible destinations, there were only four teams that matched the criteria."

There are only five teams that got 143 goals from their top 6 forwards in 2008-09 and had 100 points: Detroit, Chicago, San Jose, Washington and New Jersey.  (Philadelphia missed by one point.)  Detroit was already out for financial reasons, and Pittsburgh, which should have been included on the list, was presumably out for karmic reasons.  Any one of these teams would have been a good pick on Hossa's part - though Chicago was probably the best of the four last season.  It's Hossa's good fortune that he finds himself in the Stanley Cup Finals again.

One thing we don't know about this system is how well it determines a player's true talent - if you use actual goals scored and actual save percentage to estimate a player's value, then a team like the 2008-09 Boston Bruins, with a high shooting percentage and some good luck for Tim Thomas in goal, looks like a winner. 

For all of the time spent on fancy modeling, 30 seconds looking at 5-on-5 shot totals could have told Hossa to pick between the same five teams.