Note: This article was originally submitted as a paper for the 2021 Big Data Cup. Many thanks to Stathletes and the Ottawa Hockey Analytics Conference for the data and opportunity. Power plays provide a great opportunity for teams to create offense. The time and space afforded by the opponent having one less player on the ice allows the power play team to better control the puck and work towards high-danger scoring opportunities.
With the Baseball Writers’ Association of America revealing the 2021 Hall of Fame results this week (or lack there of), I was once again reminded of my own connection to Cooperstown: my great-granduncle, Roger Bresnahan, is considered to be one of the least deserving member of the Hall of Fame. Roger played catcher from 1897 to 1915 for five different teams, winning the 1905 World Series with the New York Giants, but is most famous for being the first MLB player to wear shin guards (and getting made fun of for it).
A hockey trade! The Columbus Blue Jackets and the Winnipeg Jets each bit the bullet this weekend and traded their unhappy forwards to each other. This sort of deal is a rarity in the NHL under normal conditions and pulling it off in the middle of the pandemic is almost unfathomable. Understandably, most of the subsequent chatter has been focused on determining which team came out ahead (see Prashanth Iyer’s grades below) but I instead want to take a look at which player comes out best.
The Blue Jackets entered the 2019-2020 season with several major questions, the most pressing being whether two unproven goalies could replace the consistent, Vezina-level play of Sergei Bobrovsky. Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins responded by providing solid goaltending for most of the season and actually helped improve the team’s Goals Against Average from 2.82 to 2.61. None of this occurred in a vacuum however, and a large part of that improvement can be attributed to the defensive corps in front of them.
The NBA, more than any other major sport, is built around its players, with their unique skills and personalities driving fan interest and league revenues worldwide. It seems odd then that we only focus on team outcomes when analyzing trades. If it’s the players that really matter, then shouldn’t we also try to determine how their futures are impacted? I’ve decided to make an attempt at filling this gap, digging into the data and projecting who won this winter’s blockbuster trade between John Wall and Russell Westbrook.