Oilers Hackathon: Question 4: The Value of Special Teams

The finish line to the Oilers Hackathon contest is within sight. This is the first of three posts on the fourth and final question.

Conduct a predictive analysis of your choice on some dimension of potential value to the Oilers. The analysis must be testable in the upcoming season and judged on its difficulty, accuracy, clarity, and value.

The fourth question will be submitted online, but will take the form of a PDF executive summary. The summary will be limited to one page of 10 pt font text that outlines the problem solved, data used, methodology, and predicted results. The methodology and predicted results must be sufficiently clear that the judges can replicate and/or verify the results. In addition to the one page executive summary, the Entrant may include up to four pages of annotated visuals or charts further describing their method and results. The source of any outside data must be clearly identified and publicly available.

The fourth question will be judged on four dimensions:

  • difficulty/novelty – how difficult and new is the analysis attempted by the Entrant

  • accuracy – how accurate were the predictions made by the Entrant

  • clarity – how clear is the reasoning, methodology, and results/implications. This includes both the written portion and any visuals in the submission

  • value – how valuable is the findings in helping the Oilers achieve their goal of becoming a perennial contender.

This post walks through the initial analysis I did to support my question #4 response to the Oilers. Today I look at the league on a year by year basis. Next up will be a post looking team by team. The third post will be my actual response to question #4. I should have that all done and on the site by the middle of next week. Continue reading

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Oilers Hackathon: Question 3

I am now three quarters of the way through the Oilers Hackathon contest questions. I received an email last week letting me know that I am competing against almost 500 other entrants. The deadline of February 15th is subject to change pending the resolution of the CBA negotiations. Translation: we might cancel the contest!! That would be a nice piece of PR for the Oil.

One interesting piece to the email was an indication that the 10 winners would be required to sign the confidentiality agreement before receiving their prize. The implication is that we aren’t subject to the CA at this point in time. I am going to revise my post on question #1 and discuss the nature of the players in Appendix A and what I think the Oilers are doing. I will hold off on actually listing the players for now.

For questions #3, I will outlay exactly what I did and include my predictions for each team. Below is question 3.

Predict the goal differential per regular season game ((goals for less goals against) divided by games played) for all thirty teams for the upcoming season. Continue reading

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Oilers Hackathon: Question 2

Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours answering question #2 of the Oilers Hackathon.

Predict next season’s even strength save percentage of the goaltenders listed in appendix A

My approach to this question was to keep my analysis fairly short and simple. I give the illusion of precision, but the reality is a bunch of guesswork. A goalie’s save percentage has a lot to do with luck and his teammates, and a bit to do with his skill and his age. Continue reading

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Oilers Hackathon: Question 1

My thanks to mc79hockey for the retweet of the link to my first post on the Oilers Hackathon contest. It has been awhile since this site has had a bunch of folks stop by.

Over the last couple of days, I tackled the first of the four questions that make up the contest.

  1. Predict next regular season’s points/game for the players listed in appendix A.

My interpretation of the confidentiality acknowledgement precludes me from listing the players in appendix A. In my original draft I had characterized the list of players and wagered a guess on what the Oilers were trying to accomplish. My lovely wife, holder of a law degree, kindly informed me that I ought to reconsider.

So I will leave that out for now. Should Appendix A end up in the public domain, I will edit this post and add those two cents. Continue reading

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Edmonton Oilers Hockey Hackathon

The Oilers announced the second running of their contest to allow amateur stat-heads the opportunity to play around with their proprietary data. Up for grabs are 10 prizes, ranging from signed jerseys to a chance to work with the Oilers’ analytics group.

From the confidentiality acknowledgement.

“I have and will learn confidential or proprietary information relating to the past, existing and contemplated operations of RSC and the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club (the “Oilers”), including but not limited to personal, business, hockey, financial, strategic, statistical and investment information about RSC and the Oilers, their respective employees, subsidiaries, parent companies or affiliates, and the websites containing the information in the Hackathon package (the “Websites”) (collectively, the “Confidential Information”).”

I signed up for the contest. I thought it would be an interesting chance to get a sense of how the Oilers use advanced stats to manage their business. To accompany my entry, I am going to post a few blogs outlining my experience. Continue reading

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Blockbuster trade in Toronto. Next stop the playoffs?

Sports teams are out to sell hope and provide a nice distraction from our otherwise dull lives. Elite teams move beyond hope and sell expectations to their fan bases. For the Yankees, Patriots and Lakers of the world, anything other than the league title is a wasted year.

For the vast majority of teams, they are in the business of selling hope. Hope that this year is the year they finally win it all. Hope that the team will make the playoffs this year. Hope that in a couple of years, the team could be really good. I tend to cheer for teams in the third category (Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Bills). Sadly that can of hope usually comes with a bitter taste and leaves me hugging the toilet. 

With yesterday’s mammoth pending trade with the Miami Marlins, the Toronto Blue Jays have an early start on next year’s message of hope. Perhaps 2013 is the year the team races into the post season for the first time since winning the World Series in 1993.

The Blue Jays added Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerle, a backup catcher and a speedy utility player, They gave away Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez, a backup catcher and three prospects. 

The question is whether or not to buy what the Blue Jays are selling? Is this a team that will contend for the playoffs? In the American League last year, it took 93 wins to make the post season. In the National League it was 87 wins. That translates to an additional 14 to 20 wins over 2012. In 2011, the Jays were 81-81 which leaves the team short 6 to 12 wins from the playoffs.

In losing Escobar and Henderson, the Jays give up 2.6 wins above replacement (“WAR”) from their 2012 roster according to Baseballreference.com. In return they get back 7.7 WAR in Reyes, Johnson and Buerle. My math skills aren’t what they used to be but that is only 5.1 wins added, significantly short of what they need to kick through the door. 

I am feeling generous, so let’s assume the former Marlins each equal their most production season. That would be 5.6 WAR for Reyes back in 2006, 6.8 WAR for Johnson in 2010 and 5.9 WAR for Buerle in 2007. That sums to 18.3 WAR, net 15.7 when I back out Escober and Henderson.

An additional 15 or 16 wins should get the Blue Jays into the post season, but we are probably living in fantasy land here. The likely scenario is that the Jays will be better in the short term with the new additions, but they will stay at best third fiddle to the Yankees and Rays.  

This is ok. All the Blue Jays are trying to sell at the moment is hope. Without expectations, hope is as simple as a big trade on a snowy afternoon.

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Impact of new NHL CBA on mega length contracts

The upcoming NHL season is about to be held hostage by the NHL owners as they push for some significant concessions from the players. The Collective Bargaining Agreement is up for renewal and the owners have fired the first shot.

The significant asks as I understand them are a reduction in the players share of revenue from 57% to 47%; a 22% rollback in player salaries; a five year maximum contract term; a delay in free agent eligibility and some changes to the salary cap structure.

I obviously have no idea how things will play out over the next few months. The NBA and NFL players associations agreed to a 50% revenue cut. I think that 50% number will have a pretty firm gravitational pull to the negotiations. A drop to 50% would likely bring with it an accompanying roll back in players salaries to fit into the revised, lower salary cap number.

I was thinking of these potential changes on this summer’s free agency proceedings. Did Minnesota offer Ryan Suter and Zach Parise the moon thinking that the ultimate outlay would not be anywhere near what was agreed to? Did Nashville step up and match Philadelphia’s offer sheet to Shea Weber with the hope that the new CBA would reduce the dollars, the term and potentially the signing bonus structure? It would be a dangerous game of poker to play, but it might prove to be a winning hand.

Below, courtesy of capgeek.com, are tables detailing Weber’s deal and the identical deals of Suter and Parise.

My understanding is the signing bonus forms part of the NHL salary and acts as a mechanism to satisfy the 100 percent rule of the recently expired CBA (please comment and correct me if I am incorrect here). The year one non-bonus portion of the contracts is $1 million and $2 million respectively, which makes the $1 million salary in the final years of the contracts kosher.

Below are adjusted tables that simply assume the NHL owners are successful in gaining a 22% rollback in salaries.  For the cap hit, I have shown it three ways: no restriction on contract term; a seven year maximum contract terms; and a five year maximum term.

The math likely works pretty well in terms of revised cap hit over the full contract length under the owners’ first offer.  Weber’s $110 million contract becomes an $85 million deal; still monster cash, but it probably a lot easier for a team to stomach if their share of revenues goes up to 50%.  The Wild still have $152 million tied into two players, with Suter’s ultimate value without Weber as a partner is still to be determined.

The columns with the seven year and five year terms illustrate an issue that will need to be dealt with should the owners be successful in capping contract lengths and that restriction is applied retroactively. The resulting annual cap hits likely won’t fit into the revised maximum salary caps.  Some sort of fancy math is going to be required to make that work.

This annual cap hit issue illustrates just how complicated the CBA negotiations will be. In addition to gaining common ground on the dollars involved, both sides are going to need to agree on all the resulting implications on their salary cap world.

I hate to be a pessimist, but it is going to take a fair while to get both parties in agreement. The owners hold most of the cards, while the players have a real stubborn SOB in Donald Fehr to lead them. Fehr famously led the baseball players association through a lengthy strike without giving in on key negotiating points. It will be interesting to see what points, if any, the players concede to in the next month. The September 15th lockout date is going to hit players and fans before we know it.

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