NHL Week in Review (October 8-11)

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The NHL season is underway as teams have taken their first steps to the ultimate goal but that is still far away. Right now teams are just concentrating on getting off on the right foot and starting out the season with some wins. Getting off on the right foot is extremely important but that doesn’t mean wining every one of the first few games. Instead it is just making sure that your team competes in every game and that you take a few wins to start the season. Nothing is worse than starting the season with a losing streak and beginning with a panic. Teams that can’t seem to get going at the start of the season can find it hard to get out of the funk that they are immediately in. It not only puts them far behind other teams in the standings but can also bring negativity to a locker room that can fester and become the story of the year for the team. Starting off well is an important part to the season and every team continues to run through the first section of the season where they get to test themselves against other teams for the first time. As every team looks to test themselves at the start of the season they are all looking for that little edge that can push them over the other teams. It could be anything that one team has found and started to use before the rest of the teams in the league. Many times that one thing is a flash in the pan and does not last but every now and then that one thing sets a trend in the league. That is what the Toronto Maple Leafs are trying to do this year as they came into the season as the first team to hire an analytics team. The move resembles that of another league that has seen an analytics revolution. The MLB depended largely on scouts and how they felt about a player. Many times that could include if they likes the family the player was from and what they judged on the players play. That could lead to a lot of missed opportunities as a judgement call is never a sure thing. To change that and to stop spending money on players that weren’t worth it the league began to turn to analytics to find the diamonds in the rough through new statistical categories. Started by Billy Beane in Oakland the Athletics were simply looking for the cheapest team with the best quality and since then it has become a must in all MLB teams. The Leafs are now trying to do the same thing in the NHL when they hired their analytics department. The Leafs have not had the most successful run of things lately but on paper they seem like a solid team. After years of being unable to make the playoffs or make any noise in the playoffs the Leafs are looking for changes. They have always had a group of very good skill players that can never seem to put it all together to win games. So the management has turned to something else that they will hope is the edge they need to end their long cup drought. It is still unknown how exactly the department will affect the team but it is likely to come into play in trades and roster moves that may seem strange to some but will be backed up by stats that many have not heard of. The move was likely spearheaded by new assistant GM Kyle Dubas, who at 28 years old is the youngest executive in hockey and is clearly bringing in new thoughts and ideas to the team. Analytics have never been widely accepted when they are first started so the Leafs must stick with it if they hope to have any type of success with the new idea. There will be plenty of detractors inside and outside of the organization and if the Leafs let them influence the decision analytics will never work for them. If they stick with it there may not be an immediate payoff but as baseball has shown eventually the system could work and could give the Leafs that edge. The new department is still a massive question mark for the Leafs but it is sure to have an impact at some point this year as the biggest team in baseball tries to lead the charge into the new age of sports.


(Extra Thoughts on this week in hockey)

Coaching Challenge Debate
It has been one of the most debated topics in the NHL over the last few years and already one week in the debate has started all over again as multiple missed calls have made many wonder when NHL coaches will get a challenge

Pronger with the NHL
Chris Pronger is technically still a player in the NHL and is being paid by the Philadelphia Flyers which makes is appointment as a part of the NHL’s player safety department a strange one despite the fact that he might know best about what players go through when injured

Halting NHL Expansion
With plenty of talk heading into the season about NHL expansion the NHL felt it necessary to clear things up with Gary Bettman claiming that there are no plans to relocate or expand in the near future

Coyotes Sold Again
It wasn’t the most publicized sale that the Arizona Coyotes have been a part of but it was another sale as Andrew Barroway has purchased a 51% stake in the Coyotes after joining the group that owns the team making it a sale within the same ownership group



Key Scores:
Montreal Canadiens 4 – 3 Toronto Maple Leafs
– Opening up the season is a habit for these two legendary rivals and they did it once again this year in a thrilling back and forth game that saw the Leafs take the loss in their home opener and the Canadiens taking bragging rights for now

Pittsburgh Penguins 6 – 4 Anaheim Ducks
– The Pens have high expectations this year and they got off to a fast start when they beat another team with high expectations as Sidney Crosby got in on the act early scoring twice on the way to a win

Ottawa Senators 3 – 2 Tampa Bay Lightning (OT)
– On a busy night in the NHL every team was in action and there were plenty of good games including this one with the Sens coming out on top of a very good Lightning squad in a shootout to get the surprising win

Vancouver Canucks 5 – 4 Edmonton Oilers (SO)
– The Canucks and Oilers fought it out in one of the feature games of the night with the Canucks coming out on top but it took them a shootout to get past the Oilers who battled to the end to try to get the win


Next Week:
Colorado Avalanche vs. Boston Bruins (Monday October 13th; 1:00 pm ET)
– The Avalanche have not started their season off the way they had hoped but they will try to get back on track against a good Boston squad while Jarome Iginla returns to the team that he helped to the playoffs last year

New York Islanders vs. New York Rangers (Tuesday October 14th; 7:00 pm ET)
– The battle of New York gets to work early this year as the Rangers and Islanders are looking for city-wide bragging rights as the Rangers host the Islanders and look to get on track early in the year

Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens (Thursday October 16th; 7:30 pm ET)
– The rivalry is a long-lasting one and is strengthened by the hate that exists among division rivals as the Bruins and the Canadiens face-off once more looking to take the first shot in this season long battle

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings (Saturday October 18th; 7:00 pm ET)
– Two Original Six teams face off in what is quickly becoming a good divisional rivalry as the Maple Leafs take their poor start to the season into Detroit where the Red Wings try to continue a good start

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