Responding to the Criticism

Aside from death and taxes, one thing Wild fans are sure to suffer from is the ignorance of the national hockey writers.  How many times last year did we have to suffer through advanced stats geeks crapping on the best team in the NHL (in December), who boasted about their predictions which actually explained nothing at all?

So the Wild, you know that trapping team that Lemaire coaches, who play in the great State of Hockey, Minneapolis...they went out and blew $200 million on a couple of free agents.  Why?  Why would a team that was last in the league in goal scoring (actually the worst scoring team in the last nine years), go all in on a pair of free agents?  Just so they could go from bad to mediocre?



$196M and all I got were these two jerseys



First off for the newcomers, let’s start with the basics:

The Wild play in the city of St Paul, which is next to the city of Minneapolis.  They are two cities that form the larger metro area.  That’s where “Twin Cities” comes from.  The state is Minnesota.  Just to be clear.  Mat Dumba can be forgiven.

Jacques Lemaire was a great coach for the Wild, but he left the team in 2009.  He even coached the Devils a couple of times since!  Since then we had Todd Richards, who’s a terrible, terrible coach and Mike Yeo, who actually took the Wild’s AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros, to the Calder Cup finals in 2011 and then helped the Wild lead the league in December of last year before injuries took their toll.  



Still not the Wild's coach.

Neither Richards nor Yeo implemented the passive 1-2-2 system known as the “neutral zone trap.”  Well, technically, any kind of structured team defense could be construed as a trap, in which case, yes, Mike Yeo “traps”, but he sends in two forecheckers and coaches a very aggressive forecheck.  Todd Richards had no discernible system from what I can tell, which is amazing considering the amount of tape he claimed to watch.

Okay, let’s address some of the criticisms of the Wild, by two of our favorite bloggers, Ryan Lambert and Gabriel Desjardins.

Lambert has written a number of troll pieces, and here he lives up to expectations in his “Trending Topics.”

"To me, chasing down this kind of big game seems very much to be the pie-in-the-sky romanticizing of a team that vastly outperformed its abilities in the first half of last season and surged to the top of the league, only to have the terribly convenient excuse of "Injuries!!!" to lean upon when it went 15-24-8 after Dec. 10.
Parise is now the lone hope of a team offense that saw just two players score 20 goals last year (Dany Heatley and Kyle Brodziak), though Devin Setoguchi would have joined that group if he'd played the full 82, as he finished with 19 in 69."

Parise is the lone hope?  What about Koivu, Heatley, Setoguchi, Granlund, and Bouchard?  He conveniently left Latendresse out of that 20 goal group as well.

Yes, the Wild offense was terrible last year.  Because they were injured!  The top six lost a combined 151 games between Koivu, Setoguchi, Latendresse, and Bouchard.  This all mostly happened between December and February, when the team dropped from first to almost last.  How can injuries only be an excuse and not an explanation?

Look at the opening night lineup for the Wild, where they beat Columbus 4-2 despite being outshot 31-26:

Heatley - Koivu - Setoguchi
Latendresse - Cullen - Bouchard
Bulmer - Brodziak - Clutterbuck
Bulmer - Powe - Gillies

Schultz - Zidlicky
Scandella - Spurgeon
Zanon - Stoner

Backstrom / Harding

Now let’s look at the lineup for a magical game where Detroit killed Minnesota 6-0 and outshot them 35-19:

Heatley - Brodziak - Johnson
Clutterbuck - Cullen - Setoguchi
Veilleux - Powe - Palmieri
Ortmeyer - Peters - Kassian

Scandella - Gilbert
Spurgeon - Falk
Prosser - Foster

Harding / Hackett

Koivu’s not in the lineup.  Neither is Bouchard.  Neither is Latendresse.  Zidlicky was gone.  Zanon was gone.  Schultz was gone.  Backstrom was out.  The top six had two third liners and a waiver wire pickup.  The bottom six had five AHL players.  The defense had three AHL players and four rookies.

THIS WAS NOT THE SAME TEAM THAT STARTED THE SEASON.

The writers that laugh off the “injuries” explanation as just an excuse clearly are not familiar with the team and had no idea of the extent of the injuries.  Probably because they didn’t watch the team.  Probably because they already had passed judgment on the team as being a boring bunch of trappers who play terrible hockey.



This guy was actually the Wild's top line center for a bit.  Very nice guy though and signed autographs for kids.  But not a top line center, not even in the minors.

Meanwhile, let's not forget that Suter anchors a largely-anonymous defensive corps, with his top-pairing partner being Tom Gilbert...Michael Russo...projects the second pairing will be Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon, combined age: 45.
Largely anonymous because you don’t watch the team or bother to learn anything about them.  Let’s introduce the contenders for next year’s defensive lineup:

Ryan Suter - the new acquisition.  A high end shutdown defenseman who also has puck skills and the ability to contribute offensively.  Some say he could be a #1 defenseman, some say he is overrated and riding on Shea Weber’s coattails.  Regardless, he seems to be highly esteemed because Detroit chased after him to fill the hole left by Nick Lidstrom’s retirement.

Tom Gilbert - a quality offensive-minded defenseman who showed the ability to play over 30 minutes a night towards the end of last season, even as he had to quickly familiarize himself with Yeo’s system.

Marco Scandella - second round draft pick of the Wild in 2008.  He’s 6’2 and 210 pounds, shoots left handed, and has shown both a smart defensive and physical game in his end while having the skills to pass or rush the puck up the ice.  He likely would have played in Houston exclusively the last two years if it weren’t for injuries but ended up playing over 30 minutes a night with Gilbert.

Jared Spurgeon - free agent signing by the Wild in 2010.  A generous 5’9 and 175 pounds, shoots right handed, and has been a surprisingly reliable two-way defenseman despite his size.  He is a smart puck mover who makes good decisions and can chip in offensively.  He was an early call-up due to injuries in 2010 who never left the team.


JARED Spurgeon.  Yes, he needs an ID to buy cough syrup.

Clayton Stoner - drafted by the Wild way back in 2004.  6’3 and 205 pounds, left handed, and a veteran at the AHL level.  He has shown the ability to play a physical, shutdown role but struggled with injuries at the NHL level.  He also has been a plus player at the NHL level every year despite playing on a low-scoring team.

Jonas Brodin - first round pick by the Wild in 2011.  6’1 and a lean 175 pounds, left handed, and a very smart two-way defenseman who models himself after Nick Lidstrom.  Not only has he played two years of pro hockey, he made the Swedish WC team this past spring.  Not the World JUNIOR Championship team (he made that one too), but the World Championship team.  He got high marks from Niklas Kronwall and Daniel Alfredsson, who compared him to Lidstrom with his poise and defensive ability.

This is not a defensive lineup that will win the Cup this year...this is a lineup that will grow together and play for 5-10 years.  And that doesn’t include 7th overall pick Mat Dumba, who will have several years to grow and develop.
So is this a sound investment for this team over the next baker's dozen-seasons? To put it bluntly, the answer almost certainly seems to be "no."
What was the investment?  Money?  Cap space?  What good is cap space if you aren’t a good team?

The Wild have $14M coming off the books with Backstrom, Cullen, and Bouchard next season.  All of them are easily replaceable, unless you’re one of those people who thinks goaltending is extremely important and requires large investments and is independent of team defense (answer: no, no, and no).  The following year, Heatley, Setoguchi, Gilbert, and several others come off the books freeing up another $19M in cap space.  Without Suter and Parise, the Wild would be struggling to reach the cap floor, and would have to overpay several mediocre free agents to do so.


This is a team with Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Zack Phillips, Jason Zucker, Johan Larsson, Mario Lucia, Brett Bulmer, and Erik Haula (among others) waiting in the wings.  This is a highly rated group of prospects.  Adding high end players who are at their prime now and will provide veteran leadership for the next 13 years is not a good investment?

How many years should a team sit on their hands, rush prospects to the NHL, and flounder at the bottom of the standings before adding a quality free agent or two?  Wouldn’t it make sense to add free agents at the prime of their careers without giving up young talent rather than patching holes in an aging roster with a bleak pipeline (cough, Detroit)?

Why are people surprised with Parise and Suter decided to commit to the Wild for the rest of their careers, talking about the young prospects while they do so?  If they wanted to win a Cup with Pittsburgh or Detroit, they would have signed for 5 years, because that’s the window (and it may be generous, considering how quickly Chicago fell back to the pack).  They wanted to compete for a Cup for the next ten years, and they will get that chance.

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Over at NHLNumbers.com (a great site by the way), Gabriel Desjardins, who runs Behindthenet.ca (another great site), and one of the leaders of the advanced stats geeks, wrote a cute little hit piece that also misses the point.  The delightfully-titled “Minnesota Wild Spend $200M to Remain Below-Average”:
In general, unrestricted free agents get paid $3M per win.  We can assume that neither one of them took much of a discount to go to Minnesota, so it's safe to say that neither player is worth more than 3 wins per year.  
You could assume they didn’t take a discount, and you’d be wrong.  But it’s good to know there’s a perfect correlation between salary and wins, even though he fails to back this up with any evidence whatsoever.
All of that optimism puts the Wild at 90-95 points; a bit of pessimism would put the downside at 85 points.  Even with these additions, Minnesota is still only 50/50 to make the playoffs.
Effectively, you argued that the Houston Aeros were a bad team.  The Minnesota Wild, who were relatively healthy during their run to the top of the league, where a great team.  The Aeros who filled in were not.  But you don’t want to mention that, because it doesn’t fit in with Corsi and VORP and what not.  

Also, a “pessimistic” view of this season would be two wins over last season?  You’d have to have Koivu, Bouchard, Setoguchi, Granlund, Suter, AND Parise all injured.  What team in the history of the NHL has suffered that many injuries?  That’s not pessimistic, that’s just misleading.

AND IF those guys all got injured, we can look forward to replacement players named Coyle, Phillips, Zucker, Bulmer, Larsson, and Brodin.  None of whom were available last year.
...this is not yet the kind of team that we should expect to win a playoff series and they now lack the salary flexibility to make themselves any better.
Desjardin should click around on NHLNumbers.com a bit more, because they have $33M coming off the books over the next two years.  How is that lacking salary flexibility?  Yes, they lack flexibility this year.  Pro tip: Parise and Suter signed 13-year deals.  You might want to check out the other dozen years before blogging about the salary flexibility.
If everything went perfectly, Minnesota would have had 84 points last year.
If everything went perfectly the Wild would have had 1.5 more wins?  Everything perfectly?  Did you miss 151 man games lost in the top six alone?  Are you telling me that Koivu, Setoguchi, Bouchard, and Latendresse being in the lineup for 82 games would not even have two more wins?  That’s just absurd.

And that’s why we can comfortably ignore the stats geeks.  They are so adamant that they can predict success and failure by stats alone that they reject anything that does not support their hypothesis.

If you go on to read the comments, you’ll see they mention value over replacement player, but fail to mention the negative value of AHL’ers like Peters, Ortmeyer, Taffe, Almond, McMillan, Falk, Prosser, etc.  Those aren’t average NHL’ers.  They are AHL’ers, and they made up half the Wild’s lineup for a huge portion of the year.

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To make a very long story short, it’s ridiculous to think the Wild didn’t make the right decision to sign Suter and Parise.  They make the team better right away and for the next 10 years.  It cost nothing other than the owner’s money (i.e. no picks, prospects, or players).  It revitalized a fan base and market that had nothing to cheer for since 2003.  It allows prospects to develop as players and people without having to step in and save a franchise as a teenager.  It puts Minnesota back on the map nationally.

And soon enough, once these people actually sit down and watch some Wild games, maybe they’ll start writing pieces of substance rather than flimsy pot shots.

45 comments:

  1. Bravo. I'm amazed at how many national writers have seized on the "they have no cap flexibility" narrative without seeing the MASSIVE cap flexibility the team actually has. I think someone mentioned they have FOUR player signed for more than 3 years right now.

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  2. Uh... Latendresse played 27 games over the last two seasons since scoring 27 goals in his first year with Minnesota (2 came with the Habs). I think it's pretty fair for Lambert to leave him off the list of 20 goal scorers LAST SEASON.

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  3. Fucking awesome piece!!!!!

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  4. "They make the team better right away and for the next 10 years."
    Can't argue against now, but it's pretty foolish to think 38 years old Parise and Suter will make the team better.
    "It cost nothing other than the owner’s money"
    Incorrect. It cost them cap space and roster space. Both could become cumbersome in the future.
    "maybe they’ll start writing pieces of substance rather than flimsy pot shots."
    Nearly every criticism of the Wild prior to their fall from the top was based on statistics and the improbability of maintaining top spot with so many negative statistical trends against them. Nearly every argument was based on "Oh yeah? Look at the standings! We're number 1!" Your article itself provides very little in the way of substance and a lot of feel-good hope and bs instead of facts.

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    1. You act as if they were the lowest scoring team while on top... that simply wasn't the case. Same goes with the PP, PK, and goals against.

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    2. Oh lord, another stat head....a little butt-hurt they didn't go to your team, Boboar?

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  5. Check out the link in the first paragraph. I already addressed the stats WITH STATS.

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  6. Nice try counting Guillaume Latendresse as one of those 20 goals scorers (which he's only done once in his career). Given that he's just as likely to have an anvil fall on his head that he flung from a mail-order-catalog catapult, you should hope he can even DRESS for 20 this season...

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  7. So what you're going on about... in 2 years 4 of your 6(minus 1 for parise being added in) in your top 6 will be "easily replaced" and you wonder why people who look at the situation with objectivity are raining on your parade? You're toating on about D that are essentially unproven/fringe NHL players minus Suter, and that in years to come that will magically fix itself? No wonder people say Suter/Parise signed for the money, by the time the Wild fix the glaring problems in their lineup Suter and Parise's contracts will be in the non prime years if even then.

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  8. Latendresse is with Ottawa right now. Not thrilled with the decision. I do think he'll put up 20+ goals this year.

    Gilbert isn't a fringe defenseman...and Scandella/Spurgeon aren't fringe NHL players. They just aren't top pairing guys like they had to be last year.

    The Wild aren't an awesome team by any stretch but they have a bright future WITH cap flexibility AND solid players right now.

    I don't buy that you can mathematically call them a first round exit next year, or a fringe playoff team. That's ridiculous. Especially when you're ignoring the effect of mediocre AHL players making up half your lineup.

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  9. "AND IF those guys all got injured, we can look forward to replacement players named Coyle, Phillips, Zucker, Bulmer, Larsson, and Brodin. None of whom were available last year."

    "Look at the opening night lineup for the Wild, where they beat Columbus 4-2 despite being outshot 31-26:

    Heatley - Koivu - Setoguchi
    Latendresse - Cullen - Bouchard
    Bulmer - Brodziak - Clutterbuck
    Bulmer - Powe - Gillies"


    If Bulmer wasn't available how was he in the opening night lineup?

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    1. Sent back to CHL after his 9 game stint. Not all that uncommon for 19 year olds.

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    2. Bulmer was up for 9 games before being returned to Kelowna so that his contract wouldn't start. After being returned to the WHL (Bulmer was only 19), he couldn't come back due to the NHL-CHL agreement.

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    3. Whoops I had him in twice, should be Nick Johnson on the fourth line. He was actually our top line right winger for much of the year playing with Heatley and Brodziak...

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  10. Don- Well the Wild finished 15th in GAA with largely the same D core last year. A bunch of young guys(Scandella, Falk, Spurgeon all under 23) and Gilbert/Schultz proved to be about average. Now they add Suter as a number 1, which allows Gilbert to be a 2 and the young guys to take up rightful positions as 3-6ers while all having another year of experience. Not sure what NHL your watching, but very few D peak at 23 years old. Not to mention adding a top 10 pick in Brodin. There D is fine.

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  11. Pens window is 5 years? Sid, Geno, Fleury, Neal, Letang, etc will keep the Pens in Cup contention for a lot longer than that!

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    1. don't talk common sense to a half-wit. you are wasting your time.

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    2. Malkin, Letang, and Fleury are UFA's in the next couple years. How long is that window open again? What kind of prospects do you have in the pipeline? Where's that winger for Crosby (who's my favorite player in the world by the way).

      This ain't about this season or the next...it's about the next decade.

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    3. Only if they can resign them all. Also look at the D corps of the Pens, not that strong IMO. Also Fleury is a bit over rated in my books, very good but not elite. If the Pens had signed Parise they would be even more hamstrung by the cap hit than the Wild. Are the Pens good? Yes but Crosby might enter PMB concussion territory. That you can not deny and is scary for any UFA potentially signing there.

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  12. yeah "awesome" read, alright. you pee and moan about injuries and how incompetant the replacements were, yet tell us that the future is bright with these wonderful prospects you have. and also that the guys in your current top 6 are soon to be gone and easily replaceable. yep, the wild are set for the next decade, lmfao!!!!!!!!!

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    1. "you pee and moan about injuries and how incompetant the replacements were, yet tell us that the future is bright with these wonderful prospects you have. and also that the guys in your current top 6 are soon to be gone and easily replaceable."

      Yeah, I make two good arguments that you can't respond to because you have no knowledge of the situation. In my face? lmfao

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    2. The AHL replacements last year are not the future prospects that are rated #2 in the NHL. They just happened to be the ones available last year. Granlund, Coyle, Phillips, Bulmer saw no NHL time last year (except for Bulmer's first 9 games).

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  13. One thing I would love to see from the stat geeks out there is to show me how a team performed when it lost 3 of its top 6 forwards for half the year. or even more specifically the top line center and winger and a second line winger. I would like to see a statistical comparison between that team and the 11-12 Wild. If you can show that the other team was fine and experienced only a slight down ward trend than I will take their statistical take on the Wilds 11-12 performance more seriously. As one who enjoys statistical models and the art of crafting them I recognize that many are simplistic and do not take all of the variables into account when being crafted. Therefore before you point a number and scream 42 is the answer to life the universe and everything let me see the question.

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    1. The stats I've seen that I trust, having run the numbers, is goal differential. That's the standard IMO. It's close to 85% accurate in terms of predicting win percentage post lockout. Not even strength road shot differential with a full moon or whatever. I'm sure that's got an effect, but goal differential is king.

      And you can't tell me that dropping Koivu, Latendresse, and Bouchard for guys like Peters, Taffe, and Ortmeyer isn't going to cost more than two wins. That's ridiculous.

      But if you're going to run that hit piece (which incidentally required signing up to comment, unlike this where you can comment as a guest), let's see some backup.

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    2. 85 % accurate? Call me when its 100% accurate. Shit happens. How were the Kings slated to due? I bet few people were thinking they were going to win the cup, right?

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    3. The thing you have to understand about the prospects. . . is that none of them were available to play in the NHL last year (after Bulmer's 9 game stint). They were all in the CHL or Europe (or NCAA where the Wild do not try to take kids out mid-year), where they could not be recalled.

      So our ability to back-fill for whatever injuries we do have this next season is vastly improved.

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  14. I think Todd Richards get a little too much criticism from the locals. He was brought in to play up-tempo but never given the horses. He dealt with injuries(pmb played 1 game in 09-10 and latendresse played 11 in 10-11), Havlat, and Burns acting like a chicken with no head 2/3 of the time in his two years with the Wild. Complain about his lack of a system all you want but he finished with a better record both seasons than Yeo had last year without the benefit of Heatley and Seto. I know Yeo says the right things and I hope he succeeds but he has a lot to prove imo.

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    1. I can see that, but when you look at the day to day things a coach had under his control: line matchups, managing ice time, scheduling days off or extra work, when to lean on the guys vs when to take the heat, providing answers and accountability to the media, Yeo was just head and shoulders better than Richards.

      IMO goal scoring is highly dependent on your talent, and the Wild the last few years have had so little talent, and so many injuries to talented players, that it explains the lack of offense.

      It's the goals against that's indicative of the team's defensive structure and commitment. Under Richards, it was 2.87 and 2.74. Under Yeo, it was 2.59. That's more a reflection of the coaching than the goals IMO.

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    2. Richards deserves much of the criticism. If you look at a lot of the effects of coaching, he had no discipline within the team. He never had a grasp of what went on on the ice. How many times did we hear he needed to see the tape? He just didn't know how to run the team. Perhaps most telling was his home vs away record. He did better as a road coach because he didn't need to match lines, or make home team decisions.

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    3. I remember him busting Havlat down to the third line more than a couple times and the infamous bag skate. Whether that was a good idea or not it was an attempt. I don't want it to sound like it's a Richards vs Yeo thing with me and I'm not trying to say that Richards was a genius but imo he did about as well as anyone could have with what he was given in those two years.

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  15. I think you lack a basic understanding of the concept of regression towards the mean, which explains why you still think that the regression of the Wild was purely due to injuries and that the statistics were meaningless.

    Here's a non-hockey example: flipping a coin has a 50/50 chance of coming up heads or tails. Over a small sample of flips, I might hit heads 5 times in a row, but continuing to hit heads more often than tails is an unsustainable outcome. Was the coin more talented or "flipping better" during the run of heads? No, it was simply the luck involved with each flip, which are statistically independent outcomes. However, as my sample size grows and I flip more and more, the average will eventually regress back to where it should: 50/50. In order for this to happen, at some point I will have to hit a run of tails, even though statistically each flip has only a 50/50 shot.

    In the specific case of the Wild (and from your own analysis), they were consistently outshot and had consistently poor Corsi/Fenwick ratios. Statistically speaking, we would expect a team that is consistently outshot and consistently puts up poor stats to lose more often then win, but for sufficiently small sample sizes we may see them perform in a way that doesn't reflect the underlying statistics (using the coin analogy, we might see them get lucky or unlucky). For a time, they were able to win despite their poor stats, but just like the coin they eventually regressed.

    Regarding your entire "statistics-based" rebuttal that you link to in your first paragraph, it revolved around the fact that the team's stats got better but the team became worse, as though this somehow invalidates the usefulness of statistics as a whole. Yes, the stats became better, but only marginally. By your own analysis, they improved very little and ultimately remained VERY BAD. Through their losing streak, the team continued to be outshot and continued to have bad stats ratios, similarly to during their winning streak (though not identical). This is where the regression comes in: In the winning streak, they were bad statistically but managed to win anyway. During the losing streak, they were still bad statistically, and lost accordingly. Just like with the coin analogy, they may have lost more than the underlying stats would have predicted, but that is how they ultimately regressed to EXACTLY WHERE THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN, which is to say they regressed to having an almost mediocre record.

    Did the injuries do the Wild any favours? Of course not.

    Could the injuries have contributed to the Wild's freefall in the standings? Certainly.

    However, from a purely statistical standpoint (which from a mathematical perspective you have yet to disprove in any way), if they had kept the same lineup all year but continued to be outshot and outplayed from a statistical point of view, they still would have eventually regressed.

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    1. Perhaps - but not to the degree it happened. A regression to the mean (which I still wonder, what is the "mean" of a hockey team full of competitive human men?) from 1st Place in the NHL, would probably have landed them in 6-8th place in the West had injuries not compounded your regression theorem.

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    2. Stats in hockey are pointless. In baseball, where its pitcher vs batter, go for it. When its a TEAM game, get the Fuck out.

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    3. Actually Ken, from your description here, it's pretty clear the only one who fails to understand a regression to the mean is you. You see, a regression to the mean occurs not because a low probability event [i]must[/i] be offset by an equally low probability event in the opposite direction (which is what you've erroneously claimed). Instead, a regression to the mean occurs because given a large enough sample size, the sheer volume of high probability events will outweigh the effects of outliers.

      The issue here, then, is that the '11-'12 Wild were doubly vexing to you. You see, not only did the Wild's hot start defy the advanced stats that you're foolishly trying to shoehorn into a predictive model (when they're clearly extremely far away from having any statistically significant predictive value) but the Wild's extremely poor finish to the season did it again.

      If you know [i]anything at all[/i] about statistics, you would know that a meaningful analysis here requires that each event be independent of those which occur before and after it. To use your coin flip example, if I flip heads 10 times in a row (a remarkable 1 in 1024 feat) the next coin flip has the exact same odds of being heads as it does tails. Unfortunately for your analysis, you're trying to claim not that 10 head flips in a row will be followed by a 50% probability of heads, but you claim that it must be followed by an equally unlikely scenario of 10 tails flips in a row. That's simply not true, and any analysis like yours should never be given even the 2 minutes it took for me to type this post because a statistician who fails to understand this behavior can never have anything even remotely intelligent to say.

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  16. As for a couple of non-stats points...

    You included Backstrom in your "there were so many injuries, so it wasn't the same team!" argument, but you then go on to label him as easily replaceable in your cap-space argument. If he's easily replaceable, it doesn't matter that he was injured.

    You take issue with Lambert's "largely-anonymous defensive corps" comment (don't get me wrong here, I dislike Lambert's writing immensely) and claim that he must not watch the team. Did you watch every NHL game played this year? No. Did you watch every team? Perhaps, but then again so did Lambert because it's kind of his job. You've seen other teams play the Wild just as Lambert's seen the Wild play his favourite team(s). Now can you name the top D-men from other teams that you don't watch? I'll bet you can, because many other teams (but not all) have top D-men that aren't "largely anonymous". The fact that you needed give a detailed bio on each D-man to explain why they're not anonymous undercuts your entire point, because most hockey fans would not need a bio to recognize names like Doughty, Johnson, Lidstrom , Yandle, Phaneuf, Chara, Garrison, or Weber.

    PS: I'm actually a big fan of the signings for the Wild and think they will improve the team significantly for some time. What I disagree with is most your analysis (both qualitatively and quantitatively), which I feel has been done through homer-made, rose-coloured glasses.

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    1. I think the argument regarding Backstrom is a matter of maturity for his replacements. At $6m/yr, and with Harding signed for 3-yrs, there is a good chance Backstrom does not return - or at least not at that amount. So, yes, that $6m is coming off the books one way or another.

      Harding is maturing to become his backup, but is not the starter now for a reason. Although oft injured himself - which leads me to include Hackett as a future option in net who found himself starting in NHL games last year that he should not have been starting in yet.

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  17. For the record I actually never wrote about Backstrom's injuries, since I don't think he's all that important.

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  18. Please stop trying to re-argue that last season didn't happen, and that they're the best team in the world minus the injuries. It reads like sour grapes. The Wild did well at the beginning of the season, then didn't. Injuries were a part of it, but they weren't all of it by a long shot.

    That said, I think the coming season will prove this to be a good team. The big 2 signings do make them more competitive, and I think they've got a good shot at finally making the playoffs. I also think Mitchell's a great addition, and someone who needed a big change of scenery and could really excel. There's a lot to be excited about for the Wild and it's about time. Minnesota deserves a great hockey team.

    Let's just see what happens.

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  19. I'll write again next week, but I don't think they're the best team in the world, don't think it was only injuries that caused problems last year. Just that the people writing off the Wild already are way too premature, just as much as anyone who thinks the Wild are Cup contenders.

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  20. "unless you’re one of those people who thinks goaltending is extremely important and requires large investments and is independent of team defense (answer: no, no, and no)"
    -Goaltenders are EXTREMELY important, they do not have to be expensive, and defense helps a lot but are not make/break to a goaltender.

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  21. I fully think these signings make the wild better for at least the next 4-5 years, but this piece is full of hypocrisy...

    You write off the tanking of a season on injuries to top 6 forwards, and then write off those top 6 forwards as "easily replaceable" when indicating that cap flexibility will come up when they come off the books?

    Every team has a number of top prospects on the books (though not many as surefire as Granlund for sure), but you really can't gamble with them as chips in the puzzle until they come out to play. Let's all take a look at Cody Hodgson's career again.

    I'm fully willing to eat crow on this in the next few seasons, but honestly I don't see this as being something that magically turns a non-playoff team into a contender. I think this should bump the Wild into a playoff team (and anything can happen once you make it - see 2012 LA Kings), but I really don't think that they're going to be "elite" because of two very good players committing for 13 years. The Flyers had two very good players commit long term there, hasn't really propelled them into a perennial contender either.. And those two players are long into their decline now.

    In any case, hockey is about as volatile a sport as they come, so may the best (and healthiest) team win. Bon chance.

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    1. Its not hypocrisy to say that the injuries to the top 6 derailed the season and that they are easily replaceable in the future. Last year there was no one to replace them except for the Warren Peters career AHLer types. This year, and in the coming years we have offensively talented player in our AHL system and still in college and Juniors(Lucia, Haula, etc). Its also completely different replacing in the offseason and at midseason.

      The door also isn't closed on bringing Backstrom, Cullen, Heatley and PMB back. But for every single one of them bringing them back will be at a lesser salary, so your replacing them with themselves but gaining cap space.

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    2. There wasn't a single guy in Houston last year to be excited about. Not a single guy you'd even project as a Top 6/Top 4.

      Now the Wild have seven prospects that could play in the NHL this next season (and years to come) that all have a shot at that, and will be available to be called up to back-fill on injuries (which they weren't last year).

      Not all will make that come true, but that's what volume of quality prospects does for you. . . if you don't know which 3-4 will be the cream that rises to the top, at least you can be pretty sure that there are 3-4 there that will.

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