Evaluating the Sabres’ 2012 Free Agents
Not long after the Sabres’ 2010-11 season ended in Game
6 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at the hands of Ville Leino James van Riemsdyk, I wrote a series on my personal blog wherein I evaluated the worth of their free agents. I looked at some simple statistics and ranked each free agent based on the results. While the use of advanced statistics would be best used to determine a player’s worth, I feel that using simple statistics is much easier for everyone to understand. While I have slightly modified my analysis this season, the results were essentially the same as those using last year’s statistics. When the Amerks season has concluded (hopefully after a Calder Cup championship!) I will also evaluate the RFAs (Restricted Free Agents) and UFAs (Unrestricted Free Agents) on their roster. Nevertheless, I give you my take on who the Sabres should and should not re-sign. Not that I have not included playoff statistics for any of these players.
To begin I will explain the notation used in my spreadsheets. Most of the abbreviations should be obvious, but there are a few that can be slightly confusing.
- GP: Games Played
- PGP: Possible Games Played*
- %PGP: Percentage of Possible Games Played
- A: Assists
- APG: Assists Per Game
- G: Goals
- GPG: Goals Per Game
- P: Points
- PPG: Points Per Game
- Tot FO: Total Faceoffs taken
- HPG: Hits Per Game
- GvA: Giveaways
- TkA: Takeaways
- TA/GA: Takeaway to Giveaway Ratio
- GAG: Giveaways Per Game
- TAG: Takeaways Per Game
- BkS: Blocked Shots
- BSG: Blocked Shots Per Game
Below in Figure 1 you will find the list of the Sabres’ RFAs and UFAs. Note that I have left Alexander Sulzer off of this list, as he was the only free agent defenseman on the NHL roster. I considered comparing him to the Sabres’ UFA/RFA defensemen from last season, but ultimately I decided that it was not worth analysis. When I discuss my final thoughts on who should be re-signed I will include Sulzer.
As I did last season, I will award points for winning each category. My point distribution is shown in Figure 2, below.
As you can see in Figure 3, the tabulated results are color-coded to show winners, losers, and ties.
I first looked at the offensive, defensive, and miscellaneous statistics from this season. (Click images to enlarge.)
I see little need for further discussion of the above results, as the numbers clearly speak for themselves. To eliminate the possibility of the 2011-12 season being an aberration I then looked at the career numbers of each player while playing for the Sabres.
It is important to note that there is some issue with the statistics for both Hecht and Boyes. Since I used the NHL website to obtain my statistics, the non-offensive statistics are skewed. The NHL website provides season statistics regardless of how many teams a player was on during the season. So if Boyes had 1 hit for the Sabres and 9 for the Blues, it would not differentiate where his 10 hits came from in the 2010-11 season. I therefore disregarded all of the non-offensive statistics from the 2010-11 season. In the case of Hecht the statistics for blocked shots, hits, giveaways, and takeaways were not recorded during the 2003-04 season, so there is some error associated with his numbers as well. It is therefore likely that both players could be ranked slightly higher. Offensive statistics, however, were still available for both players.
The above is all well and good, but where does each forward rank when all of the results are tabulated?
To answer this question I will first tabulate the results for the 2011-12 season.
The results of Figure 10 should not be very surprising. Hecht’s poor season can mostly be attributed to his concussion issues, thus justifying the use of a broader statistical database.
As you can see above in Figure 11, using a broader statistical database (relatively speaking) gives a clearer picture of where each player stands statistically. As we all know, however, statistics are not the end all be all when it comes to addressing a player’s value. I will therefore elaborate more on what I think of each player before I make my final decision
I am not really sure what to say about Boyes. His rough season is mostly due to the fact that he was relegated to the third or fourth line for most of the season. With that said, a good player should be able to overcome those issues and play well regardless of who they are playing with. Then again, when someone plays with offensive juggernauts like Matt Ellis one should not expect much production. My thought is that he will likely end up being allowed to walk on July 1 if they do not try to trade his rights away before. I do not think there is really a place for him on a team coached by Lindy Ruff.
The statistics show that Ennis has the highest value of any of the Sabres’ free agent forwards. Despite his season getting off to a rough start and then being followed by injuries, he was a very integral part of the Sabres’ heroic run to 9th place in the Eastern Conference. That is not to devalue the contributions of Marcus Foligno and Drew Stafford, of course. His defensive game (not only defense as defined by my statistics) has continued to improve since his spectacular rookie season. If he can improve his faceoff percentage, he could easily be a good #2b center to Cody Hodgson. There is little doubt in my mind that the Sabres will be re-signing him. I dare say I expect them to give him a Tyler Myers type deal, at least in terms of length.
Hecht has spent the majority of his NHL career with the Sabres and has stated that he wishes to remain in Buffalo for the duration of his career. His career statistics show that he definitely has value, but the big question is whether or not he can play another season. As you saw in the season statistics he was the lowest valued forward, likely due to his concussion issues. Personally I think those concussion issues are enough to say that he should retire. Concussions are a peculiar thing, as you could feel perfectly fine one day and then the exact opposite the next. I know that Lindy Ruff will want to bring him back**, but I think it might be best for both sides if he does not return to the organization.
Statistically speaking Kaleta has the lowest overall value. That is not to say that he has no value whatsoever, however. He has the highest defensive value of any of the forwards I have considered. Even in today’s NHL you still need a few guys to agitate*** opposing players and draw penalties. Kaleta can do both of these, although he does take more than his fair share of dumb penalties. His one downfall is that he has the lowest %PGP of any of the forwards I have considered. That means that either he is spending a fair amount of time in the press box, or he is often injured. Of course, it is mostly the latter in this case. Everyone loves the hometown boy, but I think there are guys who can do what he does in the system. Those guys do not have his reputation and history of boneheaded play. I do not see anyone trading for him or his rights, so my thought is that the Sabres will re-sign him. If Matt Cooke can clean his play up, so can Patrick Kaleta.
As I previously mentioned I did not consider his statistical value in my analysis. The player that was originally seen as an add-on to cover the tremendous cost of losing Marc-Andre Gragnani turned out to be more valuable that most people thought. His defensive play was a considerable upgrade over that of Gragnani’s and he manged to play reasonably well in the 15 games in which he saw action. Most believe that he has certainly earned consideration for a new contract. While I do not necessarily disagree with that sentiment, I would like to point out that there are guys already in the system that may very well render this discussion moot. I would be surprised if TJ Brennan and Brayden McNabb do not complete for spot on the starting roster next season. While I realize that Brennan is an RFA after this season I do not see the Sabres moving him. I could see the Sabres signing him to be a 7/8 defensemen, but he is not really high on my list of priority signings. If I am Darcy Regier there are guys in the AHL that are higher on my list of priority signings than Sulzer.
So who are my priority signings? I think I will allow Figure 12 to speak for itself. Note that concussion concerns were the only reason I ranked Kaleta ahead of Hecht.
So there you have it folks, my thoughts on the Sabres’ 2012 free agents. Stay tuned for the Amerks addition when their season is officially over.
*Possible Games Played is a statistical measure of the possible games a player could have played during their career. For example, a player who has spent 2 full seasons in the NHL could potentially play 164 games. In the case of a player getting call ups during previous seasons I simply added those games to their PGP. For example, Ennis has played two full NHL seasons in addition to 10 games as a call up so he has 174 PGP.
**It should be no secret that Hecht is one of the players that Ruff absolutely loves. It is definitely a close race between Hecht and Derek Roy for which player Ruff loves more.
***Note that I said agitator and not goon.