Thursday, December 18, 2008

Burning Leaves

They smell nice, don't they? I'm hoping to catch a big whiff of some Leafs gettin' torched tonight by the red hot Bruins when the Caveman and I take in the game from some balcony seats. We've come a long way in a hurry from the early days of 2007 when craigslist could supply you with a gameday pair of seats for under 30 bucks a pop. Two measly balcony seats ran us 50 a piece today. Woah. Good sign that people are paying attention though.

As i prepare to don my Kessel jersey for the trek down to North Station, an interesting thought was placed in my head by a good friend who has finally stopped calling the team "Bonesaw's Bruins" and now refer's to them as his own.

A year ago, Kessel was the subject of trade rumors aplenty. It was no secret that the Bruins had some talent and it was no secret that they needed goal scoring. The team was being setup with defense and goaltending at its core, and the peter schaeffer's just weren't panning out for goal production. With Kessel a blue chipper who's potential was still unclear, but who's promise was universally agreed was the obvious thought if immediate production was to be had. And you can't blame management for thinking about this long and hard. The last time we had a speedy young winger with an offense first style and a wheeling disposition, we also had Joe Thornton. The guy i'm referring to was supposed to be the Robin to Thornton's Batman (not Chris O'Donnell you moron). As my buddy aptly reminded me this morning, Phil Kessel has now become, well, Phil Kessel; because at this time last year, he was Sergei Samsonov; version 2.0

This prompted me to compare the early years of these two guys, both of whom were first round picks (Sammy went 8th overall in 1997, Kessel 5th in 2005). Remember, Kessel is now in his third full season, when you typically start to find out who a player really is.

Not suprisingly, Sammy's Year 1 and 2 stats were a tad better than Kessel. Given the games played and Kessel's rehabbing from Cancer and the ensuing surgery, this shouldn't suprise us, because Phil had to build up strength following the chemo. In addition, Phil started his career one year younger (18 vs. 19).

Here's a look at the first two years for each player (Samsonov, then Kessel).

81 22 25470.58


Over this time, Sammy started +3 collectively, and Kessel -18. We all know that one of the hot topics for NESN broadcasters this season has been the defensive competition between Phil and Savard. This has resulted in a +12 this year for Phil, so it's safe to say he's making strides there (Sammy, btw, went -6 in year 3). Now overall, these trends aren't suprising, or really meaningful. Both players stayed healthy, improved year over year, and were contributing early in their career's.

There's a statistic called Goals Created. Yes, we're entering hockey's version of sabermetrics. Here's how hockey defines Goals Created.

"Goals created; calculated by adding goals scored to (assists divided by (team assists divided by team goals)), then multiplying by 0.5. Here is an example. In 2006-07, Sidney Crosby had 36 goals and 84 assists. The Penguins as a team had 267 goals and 468 assists. Thus Crosby is credited with 0.5 * (36 + (84 / (468 / 267))) = 42.0 goals created. Note that the sum of player goals created is equal to the sum of player goals scored for all teams."

In years one through three, Sammy had GC of .23, .25 and .23 respectively. This is nothing special. Here's what is. Only three guys (Lemiuex, Gretzky and Bossy) ever had a career GC of higher than 0.51. The active leader among players who qualify is Joe Sakic, of the Avalanche, who chimes in with a 0.443. While his first two seasons were throw aways in this department, Phil Kessel's GC for 2008-09 is 0.43. He's averaging more than a point per game. THAT's telling.
Already having tied his career high in goals at the 30 game mark, Phil is becoming a totally different level of hockey player right before our eyes. Now he'd have to rally off about 15 years more hockey to really enter into the same air of discussion as the guys i just mentioned, but point be made, he's jumping up a level right NOW. This is no Sergei Samsonov we're seeing.

One other fun fact about Sergei. He may not have panned out the way we hoped here in Boston...but he indirectly contributed in a BIG way to the team we know and love today. On March 9th, 2006, the Bruins traded Sammy to Edmonton for two guys who suck and Edmonton's 2nd pick in the 2006 Entry Draft. That pick? It was used to take Milan Lucic. Thanks Sergei!

And hey...Keep voting for Timmy. Despite being left off the All-Star ballot this season (he made the fucking team last year!?!), Timmy has now racked up over 70,000 votes from write in according to Way to be Timmy. Way to be Bruins fans.

As always, a haiku - maybe even a drunk one - will follow tonight's game.

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