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Midseason Grades: Forwards

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At the halfway point of the season (approximately), who's getting it done, and who's not? Phunwin takes a look at the forwards and applies an updated version of Goals Versus Salary to do it.


The problem with a "grades" article is methodology. Do you grade a player's performance against what you expect of them, i.e. grading on a curve, or do you simply grade them against a replacement player? Grading on a curve subjects players to the tyranny of low (or high) expectations. You might well give Daniel Paille an A and David Krejci a C, but which player is more valuable to the team? On the flip side, it can't be denied that different players on a team have different roles.

In an attempt to span that bridge, I'll use one of Puck Prospectus' many fine inventions: GVS, aka Goals Vs Salary. This allows us to curve for expectations and compare performance against replacement level players. In other words, it tastes great AND it's less filling. Given the shortened season, I had to make some modifications, but you can (and should) read about Robert Vollman's original formula at the link. Given the shortened season, and the changes in the salary cap, the formula for this season would be GVT - 0.585 x (salary in millions - 0.5). If you don't care about the math, here's the bottom line: high numbers good, low numbers bad. Anything below zero means that the Bruins would be better off with a replacement level player in that spot. That's easy, right? So if you don't want to know how those numbers came about, just skip the next paragraph.

If you do care about the math and are actually reading this, then hi TomServo42! Vollman's traditional formula was GVT - 3 x (salary in millions -0.5). This reflected the fact that the cost of a replacement player was about $500K, and put salary in millions so we weren't dealing with ridiculous looking numbers. The multiplier of 3 was premised on the idea that a team of 20 replacement level players would cost, theoretically, $10 million, leaving $40 million in cap space. An NHL team should have 120 GVT over the course of a season. Divide that 120 by 40 and you get 3. However, we are halfway through a shortened season. And the salary cap has gone up since that time. Now, that same team of replacements would leave $60 million in cap space, meaning that 120/60 = 2. The season is 48 games, not 82, so we take 48/82 * 2 = 1.17. THEN we cut that in half to reflect the fact that we're halfway through the season (remember that GVT is a counting statistic), and we get a multiplier of 0.585. Q.E.D.

Standard warnings about GVT apply: yes, it's an imperfect statistic, yes, it does a questionable job of grading defensive players, and it arguably overvalues goaltending. Be that as it may, it's a useful catch-all for this exercise, and using it in this context allows us to balance a player's overall production against their salary and will give us some insight as to who is, and is not performing to expectations. We are, of course, making the radical assumption that higher salary means higher expectations. This assumption may not necessarily apply to the Rangers or Flyers.

Patrice Bergeron - GVS 5.2

To absolutely no one's surprise, Bergeron has been near the top of the GVS heap for the Bruins. He's practically a point per game player who provides stellar defense, wins faceoffs and plays in all situations. Easy call here. Grade: A.

Chris Bourque - GVS -1.4

Gone, but not forgotten. Unfortunately. Bourque was basically a minimum salary player and still scored the lowest number of any forward. In other words, he wasn't just worse than a replacement level player, he was significantly worse. That's damn hard to do. Grade: F.

Greg Campbell - GVS 1.3

Campbell is in the black, but not by a whole lot. He's emblematic of the struggles the fourth line has been having most of the season. Still, he's providing some value, and it looks like he's been trending upward of late, so we'll be a bit generous here. Grade: C.

Nathan Horton - GVS 1.4

The Bruins' top line has taken some grief, but all three of them were in the black. Horton's the best bet for a huge bounceback in the second half; his shooting percentage is five full points below his career average. Some good puck luck will see this number rise quite a bit. Grade: C.

Chris Kelly - GVS 0.9

There's a fair argument to be made that Kelly and Rich Peverley have been weighed down by the 170 pound bag of suck that was on their left wing for most of the year, but as I pointed out last week, their poor play isn't all on Chris Bourque. There's a decent chance that Kelly isn't going to get a chance to improve this ranking, alas. Grade: D.

David Krejci - GVS 2.6

There have been more than a few Chowderheads (that's what we call ourselves here, right? No? Well, can we start?) who have looked to trade Krejci, and I'm certainly not innocent of that. But he's been almost a point per game player who avoids penalties and has carried a pair of underachieving linemates. Grade: B+

Milan Lucic - GVS 1.1

Looch doesn't have lousy puck luck to explain away his poor start. He's shown some rather surprisingly good passing skill this year, but that's about all to commend his performance. He's practically allergic to taking shots (1.5 per game), and spends too much time in the box, though to his credit, he seems to have calmed down a bit. Grade: C-

Brad Marchand - GVS 8.2

Ladies and gentlemen, your leader in GVS among forwards. Marchand has been Boston's best forward this year any way you slice it. And rather impressively, he has just 10 PIM, a miniscule number for a player with his reputation. Grade: A.

Daniel Paille - GVS 3.0

Paille has shown some impressive skill this year. It's naive to think he's suddenly found a new level of play; he's 28, about to turn 29, and has been in the NHL for 8 years now. But it's been fun so far. Grade: A.

Rich Peverley - GVS -0.6

One of three minus forwards so far in GVS, Peverley, as noted above, has the Chris Bourque argument, but that only goes so far. About the only thing Raptor Jesus has been doing so far is winning faceoffs. He's probably getting a new set of linemates for the rest of the season, so with Bourque gone already, he's running out of excuses. Grade: F.

Tyler Seguin - GVS 5.8

Seguin's stats are even more impressive considering his slow start. He's almost a point per game guy right now, and is on an absolute tear. Best of all, it appears to be sustainable; he doesn't have the Marchand-esque insane shooting percentage in his favor. Grade: A.

Shawn Thornton - GVS -0.4

When I looked at the GVT numbers, it appeared they were a couple games behind, so I don't think it captured Thornton's recent goal scoring binge, so his adjusted number is probably in the black. Hopefully the Thornton of the last week is the one we'll get going forward, but I suspect it's probably the one we saw for the first 2 months of the season. Grade: D-.

Ryan Spooner, Lane MacDermid, Jay Pandolfo - Grade: Incomplete. None of these guys have played enough that their numbers are of any real value to us, though Pandolfo has managed to avoid totally embarrassing himself, no mean feat for a guy who was dragged out of retirement to play a bottom six role.

In looking at this, it's interesting that where Boston has had a lot of success over the last few years by rolling three legitimate scoring lines, they are really being carried by the Bergeron line, and, to a lesser extent, the performances of Paille and Krejci. But from a top-down view, it's a positive development that the Bruins only have three forwards in the red. A positive number for GVS means that a team is still getting value from that player vis-a-vis their contract. Perhaps not as much as they'd like, but they're getting value. It may be easy to dog guys Lucic or Horton, but in the big scheme of things, the Bruins could certainly do much worse than what they've gotten so far.