First Three Weeks of the Nerdy 30: The Jump to Conclusions Mats Might Actually Be a Success (Not!!!)

AP Photo/Jim Mone

AP Photo/Jim Mone

As we get close to Halloween, us hockey fans are really happy to see the game that we love back on the ice. However, some fans want to see oodles and noodles of changes to their respective teams already. Sure, these complaints always happen throughout the entirety of the regular season, but it is at its loudest when certain teams get off to really hot or really cold starts. In the case of the first three weeks of the season, two teams started the 2015-16 NHL season on historical levels and start this season’s edition of my power rankings at the top and bottom, respectively. However, it is important to remind everyone that not only for this week’s piece, but also the next handful of weeks are the most inaccurate to how the NHL season will truly unfold. However, that won’t stop everyone from complaining and moaning about what’s going on with their team this season; especially if you’re an “expert” like Mike Milbury, Pierre McGuire, Nick Kypreos and Doug MacLean.

Remember in Office Space when one employee suggested that one way he can be successful and quitting his boring desk job would be to invent a Jump to Conclusions Matt and sell them like hot cakes? How did his co-workers react to that idea?

So please, don’t invest in such a terrible idea and start jumping on it like a hopscotch course until we get closer to the playoffs. Just embrace that your team still has another 70-75 more games to play until April. On that note, here is the first edition of the Nerdy 30 for the 2015-16 season.

  • 30. Columbus (82-game standings points pace: 36 pts, Last Week: 21)

By losing their first eight games of the season, even if it was almost all due to bad goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky, it was enough for management to get rid of beleaguered head coach Todd Richards. Now as I stated in my preview post, Columbus has always struggled with puck possession under Richards, even if the team was good and even it the team has it’s entire roster hurt. However, the Blue Jackets actually have played a pretty good style of hockey to start the season. According to War-On-Ice, they are 14th in score-adjusted puck possession at 50.7% and are the 7th best team in shot attempt suppression at 49.3 per 60 minutes. Are those numbers good enough to be elite, let alone JUMP to season-ending conclusions? No. At the same time, you know lots of lucky charms are not existent in Ohio right now and starting a season this poorly is enough to be the first team scratched from this year’s nerdy 30 rankings.

It’s one thing to fire a guy like Richards whose process may not come into full view despite an awful resume. It’s another thing to hire a guy who’s resume was already rotting and looking more ancient by the millisecond. John Tortorella’s tenures with the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks were miserable as his teams began to falter in puck possession. One reason to that is his constant berating of his star players (aka an aging Brad Richards, an always injured Marian Gaborik and the aging Sedin twins) by demanding success one every single skating stride despite forgetting that age, health and especially puck luck all play a major role in how successful any hockey player is, let along the best in the world. It can’t be stated enough how much Columbus’ front office messed up with the contract talks of Ryan Johansen. Now watch another young star in Columbus leave for extremely valid reasons if Tortorella doesn’t learn lessons and handle him with patience (a.k.a. give him the best line mates possible) and care.

  • 29. Calgary (Pace: 36 pts, LW: 16)
  • 28. Carolina (Pace: 55 pts, LW: 25)
  • 27. Anaheim (Pace: 36 pts, LW: 2)

Oof. Like the fall of 2011, a Bruce Boudreau team is expected to win a Stanley Cup or else the coach should be fired. Imagine any other business in the world thinking in that mindset. Even if the Ducks made it further than it ever did since their championship in 2007 and were one game away from making it to the Cup finals, the hockey world considered such a season a failure. Now if they performed in a way in which that questioned team can not be sustainable, than it’s understandable to be concerned.

For Boudreau, that may be the case. Since he was hired as Anaheim’s coach on November 27th, 2011, the Ducks have had only 49.9% of their score-adjusted shot attempts go in their favor (good for a measly 16th in the league) and have 8.8% of all their shots-on-goal go in the back of the net (only Tampa Bay’s 9.1% is higher). To put things in perspective, when Bruce was coaching Washington, his teams generated 54.0% of score-adjusted puck possession (3rd in the league) while tying for third in shooting percentage (8.5%) during that span.

Add the reminder that Anaheim was, BY FAR, the best winning percentage team in one-goal games that includes an NHL record 33-1-7 in such games last year (another stat for any sport, let alone hockey, that is difficult to repeat from season to season) and, sadly, there’s proof that Bruce Almighty might be out of touch with the game and with plenty of miles on his coaching resume and age, who knows if it will be that good of an idea for him to coach in the NHL ever again. All I can say is, I feel sorry for a man who brought great joy to my early 20s and made the sport of hockey the most fun sport ever. If he gets fired someday, it will be sad times for the DC Sports Dork.

  • 26. Colorado (Pace: 51 pts, LW: 27)
  • 25. Edmonton (Pace: 49 pts, LW: 28)
  • 24. Detroit (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 5)
  • 23. New Jersey (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 26)
  • 22. Philadelphia (Pace: 103 pts, LW: 22)
  • 21. Toronto (Pace: 41 pts, LW: 29)
  • 20. Tampa Bay (Pace: 98 pts, LW: 1)
  • 19. Pittsburgh (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 8)
  • 18. Buffalo (Pace: 55 pts, LW: 23)
  • 17. Boston (Pace: 92 pts, LW: 20)
  • 16. Minnesota (Pace: 118 pts, LW: 6)
  • 15. New York Islanders (Pace: 118 pts, LW: 3)
  • 14. Ottawa (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 19)
  • 13. New York Rangers (Pace: 115 pts, LW: 10)
  • 12. Arizona (Pace: 90 pts, LW: 30)
  • 11. Vancouver (Pace: 100 pts, LW: 24)
  • 10. Los Angeles (Pace: 109 pts, LW: 9)
  • 9. Dallas (Pace: 128 pts, LW: 13)
  • 8. Florida (Pace: 100 pts, LW: 17)
  • 7. Chicago (Pace: 109 pts, LW: 4)
  • 6. San Jose (Pace: 103 pts, LW: 14)
  • 5. St. Louis (Pace: 133 pts, LW: 11)

Enough sadness for now. Let’s talk about the league leader in Don’t Tell Me About Heart’s expected goals data (more might come about this ground breaking research soon)!!! For those not in the know of what an “xG” is, these are goals that teams and players are “expected” to be generated based on many factors that determine the quality of each shot attempt. By elite programming skills tracking each and every data point, shooting percentages for each type of shot (from 10 feet, from 40 feet, wrist shot, off a deflection, etc.) are generated and expected goals are determined.

Remember how much criticism Ken Hitchcock was getting after the Blues exited out the first round of the playoffs last season? Welp, all they’re doing is sitting in the top five in puck possession and the talent of this team is mostly clicking on all cylinders like usual. Even Troy Brouwer is joining in on all the fun (let’s ignore that his PDO is 103 right now while Mr. 1-point David Backes is sitting at 96). Colton Parayko seems to be a diamond in the rough in defense and could be a vital top-four pair for the always awful Carl Gunnarsson this season while Robby Fabbri is certainly living up to his skillful hype, even if it is understandable that he doesn’t stick with the big club. In short, the Blues should be fine and anyone with sanity should know that Ken is such a good coach that he is the best Hitchcock since Alfred. Now let’s settle down and watch Vladimir Tarasenko’s quest to 100 points this year.

  • 4. Winnipeg (Pace: 100 pts, LW: 12)
  • 3. Nashville (Pace: 133 pts, LW: 15)
  • 2. Washington (Pace: 141 pts, LW: 7)

I don’t want to talk about it!

  • 1. Montreal (Pace: 148 pts, LW: 18)

Ah yes. The team with the best start to any NHL season is sitting on top of this week’s rankings. Should that shock anyone? Maybe someone who is looking for a catch for Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge. To be honest though, there aren’t that many. Sure, these guys hold the third highest PDO (103.7) and save percentage (95.2%) at even strength, but I am more focused on the 53% score-adjusted shot attempt percentage. Remember, we’re talking about a team coached by Michel Therrien, a man infamous for making skilled teams look timid and forcing them to play a defense-first game.

So far, the top line of Max Pacioretty, Thomas Plekanec and Brandon Gallagher could be the hottest line in hockey; constantly scoring goals and dominating puck possession despite being the only line on the team that is above league average in quality of competition according to War-On-Ice. One thing to watch out for is the fact that Montreal’s bottom six may not be that great. Remember Thomas Fleischmann who had one foot out of the NHL and Torrey Mitchell who (along with line mate Brian Flynn) was a member of those talent-deprived Buffalo teams? Both of them are averaging over a half-a-point per game at even strength and yet have PDOs over 104 and are getting smashed in puck possession despite easy competition. Interesting times for the most successful team in NHL history.

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