You're all wrong. All of you.

Up until game #23, Michael Ryder was playing his usual role as Saku Koivu's finishing sidekick. In the three previous seasons with this gig he scored 25, 30, and 30 goals. Nothing spectacular, but reasonably good production considering his pedigree.

In the first 23 games this season, Ryder was on the ice for 303 shots directed at the net by Montreal and 242 against in 5-on-5 play (see behindthenet). That's a differential of +2.7 per game, or +7.1 per 60 minutes - the best on the team in both cases.

Ryder's been on for 9 GF and 8 GA. Not exactly Crosbyesque numbers, but try to find another Habs forward in the black. The huge thing here is the 8 GA. That is superb. It's a vast improvement over last year's performance by the first line. Unlike last year, they've frequently been doing it against the opposition's top lines. Well done, Mike. Kudos to the entire top line, up to game #23.

In 5-on-5 hockey, Ryder's been on for 17 penalties committed by Montreal and 35 committed by the opposition. Overall, Ryder has committed 4 and drawn 10 himself (see ontheforecheck).

Up to game #23, Ryder had 70 shots. He was on pace for 250, which would have been a career high.

Overall, Ryder was on pace for a typical Ryder season with one big exception. Um, make that two big exceptions. He's been much better defensively, and his shooting percentage was only 4.3% rather than his career norm of 12%.

Ryder's catastrophically rotten performance? Nothing more than a run of bad luck shooting. On March 10 Sidney Crosby had a shot% of 3.8% over his previous 20 games. If I recall correctly, very few fans called for Crosby to be waived and replaced with an AHL call-up. NHL shooters, like any string of coin tosses, will have cold streaks. It happens.

Unfortunately when it happens in Montreal the entire fan base and sports media join forces to proclaim that the player is bringing shame to the CH by playing so poorly. After all, they're The Most Knowledgeable Fans In The World (tm). Just ask them. Then something really screwed up happens: the coach starts to believe them and then acts on these idiotic assertions. Now we have Mark Streit on the 1st line. I hope you're all happy.

On the flip side, Mathieu Dandenault has escaped the fury of the fan base and media. Clearly because he's big presence, a fast skater and a stand-up guy. It sure as hell can't be due to a good performance.

His Corsi number (a measure of shots directed at the net for/against) is -21.1. That's the worst in the league if you exclude anyone under 10 games played and Eric Boulton. The next worst regular forward in Montreal is the rookie Kyle Chipchura at -9.7. Dandenault has been shuffled from line to line and he's been poison on every one of them, hemorrhaging shots against. He's committed 6 non-coincidental penalties and drawn 2. He's been on the ice for 8 GF and 15 GA, 5-on-5.

There are two mitigating factors for Dandenault: he's been facing tough opposition, and he's a defenseman playing forward. Both of these lay the blame squarely on Carbo. Dandenault should not have his current role.

Same goes for the Ryder debacle. It may sound like I'm blaming the vocal fans and media, but obviously the coach has a responsibility to look a little deeper at a player's performance. If the coach of this team falls for the same foolishness as the raving lunatics on TV and on the message boards, we're in deep trouble.

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Anonymous olibou said...

Now that's a great post!

If he's that good at even strenght, Carbonneau should make him a fixture in the last 10 minutes of every game, no? At least in the first 20 games...

Is there a way to see if that's the case?

12/05/2007 6:22 p.m.  
Blogger Jeff J said...

There sure is - check out timeonice.com.

I should make it clear that I don't think Ryder is the Habs' best forward - he's just the best of a mediocre bunch of options on the RW. I suppose Kovalev might be better, but consensus is that three puck carriers is too many for one line.

An awful lot of Ryder's good underlying numbers come from playing with Koivu and Higgins. Good players are more effective when playing with other good players. Higgins and Koivu are more likely to keep the puck in the other teams' zone with Ryder on the RW than with Streit or Kostoupolos or Latendresse on RW.

12/05/2007 10:50 p.m.  
Anonymous olibou said...

Hmmm... I meant a consolidated view of the trends over the season. Thanks for the lionk anyway.

The worst aspect of Carbonneau's current line-juggling is that he is repeatedly putting Higgins on the right wing. I just don't know words strong enough (either in french or in english) to state how stupid that is to me.

We all agree (I think) on the fact that Ryder's usefulness is directly linked to his playing on the RW of an offensive line. The game by game splits indicate he generated 20 of those 70 shots on november the 17th (13 shots and 2 assists!) and 21st (7 shots and +1). For better or worse, the coaching staff completely lost faith in his ability to attack the crease consistently.

I mean, the guy is getting a raw deal, that's for sure. But Carbonneau didn't exactly bench him after the second period of the third game of the year... The problem is, they don't have an alternative, so they should, indeed, keep him up there. I mean, Smolinsky? Ye gods...

12/06/2007 2:05 a.m.  
Blogger Kaz said...

Well said, Jeff. But I must say that there are those of us who have defended Ryder. I think that he should stick on one of the top two lines, and neither of those lines should play a defensive role.

To that end, it's good that Lapierre has been brought back and Grabovski sent down. It's not going to be the miracle move, but we need more from our checking lines -- not from our scoring lines. In fact, as you pointed out earlier (on the Theory, I think) Koivu's line has been asked to play too much of a defensive role.

Why this escapes Carbo is beyond me. I used to give him the benefit of the doubt. Now I doubt even Bob's wisdom, esp in not re-signing Bonk and Johnson.

BTW, welcome back. You were sorely missed.

12/06/2007 1:04 p.m.  
Anonymous MathMan said...

Ryder's been getting a lot of shots, but what about shot quality? And I don't mean measured in terms of distance to the net... I've seen him pass up good shots in favor of worse ones. A fair few times he's had a good view for the net and elected to try for a deke-and-backhand rather than simply shoot. Sure he recorded a shot and a point-blank shot at that, but it was also not as good of a scoring chance because it gave the goaltender time to close the angle.

I agree with you that Ryder is more snakebit than anything and far from lazy, and the boo-birds in the Bell are booing down the wrong tree. But even in that case being scratched may not be the worst thing to happen to him; maybe it'll help him settle down, and break this rythm of not scoring, hopefully relax and worry less. A lot of his problem seems to be confidence -- he doesn't seem to think the puck can go in if he just guns it, like he did last year. I suspect Carbo does realize this to a point, which is why he's keeping his lines mostly intact and keeping Ryder's spot warm with Streit or Smolinski, rather than do something like break up the Plekanec line and use one of the AKs on Koivu's RW.

I too am worried about Dandy's statistical performance at even strength though. I see a lot of speed and a lot of hustle to his game, but the end result still seems to be goals against more often than goals for.

12/06/2007 3:05 p.m.  
Blogger Jeff J said...

Shot quality is so difficult to quantify. There have been efforts to do it based on distance, area on the ice, shot type, rebounds etc. Those split second hesitations are obviously impossible to capture.

Alan Ryder's papers on the subject are worth reading, and the Hockey Numbers blog did some work on it. Unfortunately there is no one maintaining an ongoing metric that I'm aware of.

It's hard to imagine M. Ryder having a problem with his game that allows him to get as many shots as usual but have them only be one third his usual quality. Having less PP time is probably a part of it. For a wild-assed guess, I'd throw out maybe a 25% drop in production attributable to problems with shot quality. That there are examples of other players suffering similar slumps leads me to believe it's mostly chance.

12/06/2007 7:16 p.m.  
Anonymous MathMan said...

I'm somewhat skeptical of statistical analyses that rely too heavily on shots, because not all shots are created equal; but yes, there's a correlation between more shots and more offense.

Alan Ryder's analysis is mostly based on shot location and distance, which is a huge improvement over nothing, but doesn't really fully encompass timing and situation. Hockey's notoriously fluid and stateless, and there can be a huge difference between a shot from one spot on the ice and a shot taken from the same spot half a second later... and I think that's what we're seeing with Ryder.

I don't have statistics, there are none for this... but I do watch games and while that's fraught with the usual perils of subjective observation (observer bias, etc.) it does seem that the shots Ryder gets aren't quite as good as they were last year. Physically there's nothing wrong with them, but he's hesitant which gives goaltenders more time to react, or he's trying the wrong kind of shot for a given situation.

I don't think Ryder's slump is entirely, or even mostly, due to chance. Bad luck doesn't help, but I do think he's plainly nervous out there. He hasn't turned into suck, he's getting his shots after all, but he still needs to change the way he plays slightly to get out of it. A lot of Ryder's effectiveness his because his shots are sudden and quick, but he hasn't been quite as sudden lately.

That's why I think going to the pressbox may be best for him -- not to punish him, because frankly that's not the point, but to try and change his rythm and get him to apply himself and get that split-second back.

I like Ryder, I want him to succeed and I would like having him with the Habs longer-term (unlike many fans, I guess). But right now he's just not playing as well as he could.

12/07/2007 1:46 a.m.  
Anonymous coutNY said...

Mr. Sisu, you have some points when looking at Ryders year as a whole.

Here is argument for why Ryder show why Ryder Slumping, the fans and Media have the right to be concerned, and altimately his benching was justified.

~Since Nov 17th Boston trouncing, Ryder has scored, wait for it, 0points. Thats right No goals and No assists.

~His Average ATOI for that period 14.49 min. His ATOI for the year 14.50 min. Humm thats funny, same amount of Playing time with even less production from a top line player. Sounds like a slump to me?

~This famous Sid reference: does it also reference how many assists he had during that 20 game skid. I willing to bet it wasn't 7. Spezza wasn't scoring at the beginning of the year but he led the team in assist. Thats what offensive players are suppose to do, put up points. Also Sid skid ended after 20... Ryders seems to still be trending downward and counting.

~Ryder scored over 1/2 of his goals last year on the powerplay with 17. Scored a whopping 1 this year, but in his defense this is where he has scored most of his points (7 out 10 pts).

~But wait, so doesn't that skew this famous CORSI goal diffirential 5 on 5 stat? Well it's all fine and dandy he was on the ice when goals were score, but how does he get created for them only contributed directly in 3 of 9of those situations.

~As for ripping on Kyle Chipchura and Mathieu Dandenault... Ryder got a taste of what their job intails when shipped to their line the last 3 games. His performance doesn't look, so hot in that period again no points and negative 2 +/-. The efforts of Chipchure and Dandenault aren't suppose to be measured or conjured up in statistical values you can see it on the Ice.

Like I have said before Stats can be used in many different ways in the art of disscussion, but don't hang your hat on them as fact or predictor of things to come.

I know is if my Well were to stop yielding water to a trickle for 17 days, than nothing at all for 8... I would have to wonder how long I could survive without trying somewhere new...

12/07/2007 5:18 p.m.  
Blogger Jeff J said...

"Since Nov 17th Boston trouncing, Ryder has scored... 0 points."

I just don't have the time to compile a list of good players who have endured 8 game pointless slumps this year. It would be a long one.

In those eight games, Ryder was on the 3rd/4th line for four of them. He's not going to score without good players around him.

The behindthenet individual 5-on-5 numbers are only up to date to the Nashville game. It's too small a sample to draw conclusions, but Ryder was +2/-4, Higgins was +5/-3, Pleks +3/-3, Koivu +3/-5, Kovalev +3/-5. The mighty Chipchura was +1/-5 mostly against the other teams' scrubs.

"This famous Sid reference: does it also reference how many assists he had...Thats what offensive players are suppose to do, put up points."

19 assists, slightly below his 1.06 asst/g average for the year. Ryder's 7 assists as of the time of his demotion (game #23) put him on pace for 25 assists. He put up 25 and 28 assists in his previous two seasons. He was performing exactly at his usual pace. The only difference in Ryder this year is his hard luck shot%.

"Ryder scored over 1/2 of his goals last year on the powerplay with 17..."

Not sure what your point is here. Are you claiming that the Montreal PP is not good?

"But wait, so doesn't that skew this famous CORSI goal diffirential"

The Corsi number is shots directed at the net. That's SOG, misses and blocked shots each way. Using shots directed rather than GF/GA gives you a much bigger sample size and therefore a more accurate picture of how things are going when a player is on the ice. Ryder has generated shots for himself and his teammates and has given up fewer shots against.

"As for ripping on Kyle Chipchura and Mathieu Dandenault... Ryder got a taste..."

Don't be fooled by the hype. On rare occasions, Carbo has given Chipchura serious checking duties. On those rare occasions, it has not been pretty. Chipchura has mostly faced the other team's 3rd/4th lines. He's never anywhere near the other team's top defensemen. It's a credit to him as a rookie that he's keeping even, but you have to keep things in perspective.

The Koivu/Ryder/Higgins line was, for the first 23 games, facing the Sundin, Spezza, Crosby lines the most often and playing them to a stalemate. Ryder knows the tough competition. Chipchura does not, yet.

And Dandenault... yes he's seen some tough competition and he's been utterly blown out of the water. It's plain as day. Ryder/Koivu/Higgins were playing similar opposition and keeping their heads above the water.

"The efforts of Chipchure and Dandenault aren't suppose to be measured or conjured up in statistical values you can see it on the Ice."

You can and should use the same measures you use for any other player. Who are they playing with/against? In what situations? Are they being outshot? How badly compared to other players in the same roles?

I'm not a fool enough to believe that it's Ryder who was responsible for driving the performance of the Koivu/Higgins/Ryder trio. Obviously Koivu is the top dog and Higgins is very talented and improving. Ryder definitely helps that line. They do not perform as well with Streit or Dandenault or Latendresse. It is true that Ryder is not a dominating player. It is debatable whether he should be a top line player. If the Canadiens had a better option, they would be foolish not to use him in Ryder's place. To replace Ryder with a someone worse is sheer madness.

12/07/2007 7:07 p.m.  
Blogger Beeg said...


Interesting post. We're discussing it at Puck This: http://puckthisblog.blogspot.com/2007/12/great-michael-ryder-debate-of-07.html

Keep up the great analysis!

12/07/2007 9:44 p.m.  
Anonymous coutNY said...

9 games in counting... subtract another +/- and played 15 min.

My point was not to bash Ryder, but rather to show that he was slumping.

My point showing it was the last 8 games that justify why the fans and coaching staff have a right to be concerned. "Why we are not all Wrong..." Not including 3 or 4 of games prior to his benching than building an argument to justify why he should remain on the 1st line doesn't hold water because it was those 8 games in a row coupled with already dismal goal production is what had landed him on the 3rd and 4th line and a press box seat.

In those 8 games, Can not argue that Latendresse netting 4 goals, playing much lower average minutes on the power play and even strength situations, should justify him playing more on the upper lines. Is their not an argument that Maybe his Coriso numbers were skewed earlier in the season, that he was playing with "lesser talent" as you put it, because he was designated to 3rd and fourth lines.

Not fooled for a moment that Chip and Dandy play, because their roles and reponsibilities differ from Ryders. These guys haven't played much if any time, if any, on the top lines with scoring roles. They average 5-8 seconds on the PP and over a minute and 1:30 to 2:00 Short-handed .

Pretty hard to argue that playing 3rd and 4th lines have hampered Ryder, but in the same breathe compare him to 3rd and 4th line players??? No doubt he is more talented offensively but these guys’ talents lie elsewhere... but yet they still have put up similar production numbers offensively.

Anyway, Carbo only has a few options Playing time and line combinations. He must try to motivate and play people that produce to win games. He's exhausting his options. He needs to win to keep his job... he does not have salary caps, No-trade clauses, or CBA to protect his position.

12/10/2007 11:29 a.m.  
Blogger Jeff J said...

"Not including 3 or 4 of games prior to his benching than building an argument to justify why he should remain on the 1st line doesn't hold water..."

Every point I made was based on the first 23 games of the season because Ryder was mostly on the 1st line for that period. It is not an arbitrary number, like your 8 game sample. It's on the basis of the first 23 games that Carbo benched/demoted him. Bitching about Ryder not scoring while he's playing with Chipchura and Dandenault is asinine. You can't compare his 3rd line time to your usual expectations of Ryder.

"In those 8 games, Can not argue that Latendresse netting 4 goals..."

I can complain about him surrendering more goals against than Ryder. I can also complain about the team's performance as a whole since Carbo's shake-up. In case you hadn't noticed, the team has been worse. By far.

The goal totals of Ryder vs. Chipchura and Dandenault that you seem fixated on are a red herring. I presume you're trying to say that since Dandenault and Chipchura are 3rd/4th liners, they play tough checking assignments. You didn't get it last time so I'll say it again: Chipchura has played against weaker opponents than Ryder. Even strength TOI so far this season,
Ryder vs. Sundin: 16:16.
Chipchura vs. Sundin: < 5:00.
Dandenault vs. Sundin: 17:58.

Ryder vs. Heatley: 16:50.
Chipchura vs. Sundin: 9:36.
Dandenault vs. Sundin: 16:50.

Ryder vs. Phillips: 27:26.
Chipchura vs. Phillips: 5:52.
Dandenault vs. Phillips: <6:00.

At even strength, Ryder faces tough forwards and tough defensemen. Granted, Dandy faces tough forwards but he also sees soft defensemen. Chipchura faces tomato cans all around. Ryder helped the top line keep even at ES. Dandenault is being outshot worse than any forward in the league, which will inevitibly turn into one of the worst +/- numbers in the league. Chipchura, bless his heart, is doing well for a rookie playing against vets but is still costing the team way more GA than Ryder.

If their 'talents' are in the defensive arts, why are they being outscored worse than Ryder at even strength while facing softer opposition?

12/10/2007 2:00 p.m.  
Anonymous coutNY said...

Your right Jeff, Ryder's 5 v 5 goal differential is the most important stat in hockey.(in your opinion at least) Carbo should have just waited out this 27 game "bad luck" with scoring streak, even after their entire 1st lines production seemed to dried up in the waining months of November. Ryder not being on the 1st line is the reason we're not winning. His presense is what was missing all along.

Your right, winnings games, in the first 23 at least, had nothing to do with our Power play nearly producing at around a 35% effiency(mostly Kovalev and Markov).
And Scoring empty net goals doesn't make a difference, especially in the waining secondsof games. Also, 4 on 4 goals don't make a difference either, not normal hockey situation...

This team doesn't win like normal teams, so I think specail teams do matter. Most teams, no, but in the Habs case it seems to make all the difference.

Anyway, I am sure we could argue stats all day. Your right I could spend hours refutting your arguments and you counter refutting mine.

12/10/2007 3:18 p.m.  
Anonymous olibou said...

It still is the most entertaining thread of the season, IMHO.

Oh boy, Dandenault on the first line tomorrow? Ryder with Chipchura and Latendresse?

Oh hum...

12/10/2007 3:42 p.m.  
Anonymous coutNY said...

Carbo I wasn't Arguing for Dandenault on the Top Line? LOL These were ficticious senerios only to be used for entertainment purposes only!

12/10/2007 4:44 p.m.  

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