Roy MacGregor and Bill James are the same age, so it's really inexcusable for MacGregor to be producing the kind of tripe that hit the Globe and Mail this morning (and the crap he wrote roughly a year ago when I last paid attention to him.)
“It has at times been as if all conventional wisdom has been turned on its ear. The disastrous Phil Kessel trade – Toronto giving up two first-round draft picks and a second-round pick to Boston, which went on to win the Stanley Cup without him – now has to weigh the fact that Kessel is leading the league in scoring with 21 points in only 13 games.”
Yes, whether trading Tyler Seguin and Jared Knight for Phil Kessel (and paying Kessel a ton of money) was a net win for the Leafs depends on how many assists Kessel has in some arbitrarily-selected period of time. What if I draw a different sample size? Last 10 games? Hm, Kessel has 13 points. But Kessel has 14 points in the 10 games from February 10, 2011 to March 2nd, 2011. Why didn’t that validate the deal?
If Kessel scores 20 goals in the playoffs this season and the Leafs win the Cup, you can probably say the deal was worth it. But let's keep the lid on the excitement pot that bubbles over every time the Leafs go on a two-game winning streak.
“One month into the 2011-12 season and the Canadiens, supposedly a mature team of high expectations, had but 10 points going into Friday’s match in Ottawa. The Senators, on the other hand, had 14, despite being in such a “rebuilding” phase that fans were urged to have no expectations at all. The Senators had the league’s top power play, somewhat offset by one of the NHL’s weakest penalty killing. In virtually every measurable category, the Montreal Canadiens have been rather unremarkable.”
Every measurable category, huh? Well, Montreal is #2 in the league in 5v4 shots on goal, which is the best predictor of future power-play performance we have. Montreal's penalty-kill is also #1 in the league. Ottawa? They're #1 in the league in 5v4 shooting percentage, a "category" that crashes very heavily to the league-wide average in the future. The irony, of course, is that Ottawa's goal differential is -9 and Montreal's is 0…So Ottawa is extra lucky…
At least Roy didn't beat up the stats straw man this year, but this piece is not worthy of its place in a newspaper that believes itself to be the best in Canada.
Oh, and Roy also wrote this today:
“excessive use of statistics, if not checked, may turn out to be a fatal malady.” It’s certainly getting close.
Pretty ironic given that he also wrote a piece about the minute details of the relative statistical performance of Montreal and Ottawa today. Or maybe he was referring to his own failures as a journalist.