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Vulgar Statistics: The Best Cap-Friendly Team Money Can Buy


Earlier today I got to thinking about how good of a team I could create with players from around the league while still remaining under the cap ceiling…so I went and did it.  Obviously with approximately 600 players at my disposal, I needed to set a few ground rules for myself in order to know where to start.

  • First I needed to decide what I wanted each of my lines to do.  It seems like most coaches go with a Scoring – Two-Way – Shutdown – Grinder model.  Since I was compiling a team of superstars, I decided to modify things to Scoring #1 – Scoring #2 – Two-Way – Shutdown.
  • I also wanted (in Lindy Ruff fashion) to have a well rounded team.  I wanted my scoring guys to be reasonably good defensively, and I wanted my lower guys to be threats to score.  I wanted my defensemen to be solid all around players as well.
  • Finally, I wanted my guys to measure up in advanced stats.  I wanted them to be used to playing a high level of competition, I didn’t want them sheltered with high O-zone starts, and I wanted them to be strong in terms of possession.

All of the above was based on 2011-2012 stats.  These three criteria gave me an initial list of around one hundred players, and from there I went about whittling them down based on positions, salary, and how much I liked them.

When I had the players I wanted, I tinkered with the lines and D pairings a little bit for the following reasons:

  • I wanted to make sure I had a good faceoff guy on every line.  They matter.  How much varies widely depending on the circumstances, but they do.
  • I tried to mix and match distributors and scorers where I could.
  • On the defensive pairings, I made sure I had one offensive and one defensive guy on each pair.


Starting Goaltender: Tuukka Rask

  • W-L-OTL: 11-8-3
  • GAA: 2.05
  • SV%: .929
  • Cap Hit: $3.5M through 2012-2013.

Why: In terms of bang for your buck, there are few better starters (that have established success) than Tuukka Rask.  I’m not sure how much he’ll get paid in his new contract, but right now he’s tough to beat.

Backup Goaltender: Thomas Greiss

  • W-L-OTL: 9-7-1
  • GAA: 2.30
  • SV%: .915
  • Cap Hit: $587.5K through 2014-2015.

Why: Full disclosure, I didn’t really look at advanced stats for goaltenders, and I didn’t care much about the backup.  Like the 2010 Blackhawks, 2009 Penguins, and Red Wings forever, I’m placing the burden on the skaters and hoping the goalies are simply good enough.

First Line: Scoring Line #1

Left Wing: Corey Perry

Key Stats:

  • (GP) G-A-Pts: (80) 37-23-60
  • Corsi Rel. QoC (quality of competition): .905
  • Rel. Corsi (Team shots while on ice vs. team shots while off): +15.9
  • %OZS (Offensive Zone Starts): 48.6%
  • Cap Hit: $5.325M through 2012-2013

Why: Perry was not my first choice, but his goal scoring ability and his fantastic Rel. Corsi made him palatable amid some more expensive players.  That he put up so many goals without having the ice tilted in his favor is a major plus.

Center: Jonathan Toews

Key Stats:

  • (GP) G-A-Pts: (59) 29-28-57
  • Corsi Rel. QoC: 1.011
  • Rel. Corsi: +14.6
  • %OZS (Offensive Zone Starts): 64.7%
  • Cap Hit: $5.275M through 2014-2015

Why: Toews has a great contract that he still has three more years on.  It made him significantly more attractive than a Crosby or a Stamkos.  That he carries less of an injury risk than Sid also worked in his favor.  His 25 giveaways coupled with 82 takeaways didn’t hurt either.

Right Wing: Claude Giroux

Key Stats:

  • (GP) G-A-Pts: (77) 28-65-93
  • Corsi Rel. QoC: .805
  • Rel. Corsi: +6.9
  • %OZS (Offensive Zone Starts): 48.1%
  • Faceoff %: 53.7%
  • Cap Hit: $3.75M through 2013-2014

Why: I have Giroux taking the draws for this line and then sliding over to play wing, which I think is how the Flyers use him (or at least have used him before).  He’s another player that will be criminally underpaid until he gets his next contract.  Those kind of guys are critical to building a cup winning team.

Second Line: Scoring Line #2

Left Wing: Evander Kane

Key Stats:

  • (GP) G-A-Pts: (74) 30-27-57
  • Corsi Rel. QoC: -.028
  • Rel. Corsi: +8.7
  • %OZS: 57.6%
  • Cap Hit: $5.25M through 2017-2018

Why: By the advanced stats, Kane is the worst player on this team.  I thought that the other two players on his line could more than eat his mediocre QoC numbers, and wanted his goal scoring to go with his linemates.  That his contract is attractive, and for a long period of time, sealed the deal.

Center: Ryan O’Reilly

Key Stats:

  • (GP) G-A-Pts: (81) 18-37-55
  • Corsi Rel. QoC: .891
  • Rel. Corsi: +12.4
  • %OZS (Offensive Zone Starts): 50.0%
  • Faceoff %: 52.8%
  • Cap Hit: $5.5M through 2016-2017?

Why: First off, I had to do a little guesswork here.  I had read that Colorado was refusing to pony up $5M per for five years.  To be on the safe side I bumped that up a little bit.  Secondly, I’m not just saying this because I want to see him in a Sabres uniform.  Even at $5.5M, he has a very affordable contract, and his advanced stats are great on a bad Colorado team with no defense and questionable goaltending.  Oh right, he had 34 giveaways, and 101 takeaways last year too.

Right Wing: Daniel Alfredsson

Key Stats:

  • (GP) G-A-Pts: (75) 27-32-59
  • Corsi Rel. QoC: .280
  • Rel. Corsi: +13.4
  • %OZS (Offensive Zone Starts): 58.3%
  • Cap Hit: $4.875M through 2012-2013

Why: Affordability, experience, and talent.  He doesn’t have the greatest QoC numbers, but they’re good, and I’m not asking him to square off against the best of the best anyway.

Honorable Mentions: Steven Stamkos, Jason Spezza, Sidney Crosby, Brad Richards, Marian Hossa, Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk, Anze Kopitar, Zach Parise, Patrik Elias.

Why: Mostly I needed to cut costs, and there were cheaper players that put up similar or better numbers.  I would have liked to take either Crosby or Stamkos for a scoring line, but the two that hurt the most to leave off were Kopitar and Hossa.  They’re among the best all around players in the game right now.  Problem is, you pay for it.

Third Line: Two-Way

Left Wing: Gabriel Landeskog

Key Stats:

  • (GP) G-A-Pts: (82) 22-30-57
  • Corsi Rel. QoC: .911
  • Rel. Corsi: +15.0
  • %OZS: 54.8%
  • Cap Hit: $3.575M through 2013-2014

Why: Cost and possession, but also I just like the guy.  His 219 hits didn’t hurt him, especially when matched with his other winger.

Center: Joe Pavelski

Key Stats:

  • (GP) G-A-Pts: (82) 31-30-61
  • Corsi Rel. QoC: 1.633
  • Rel. Corsi: +11.1
  • %OZS (Offensive Zone Starts): 48.6%
  • Faceoff %: 58.7%
  • Cap Hit: $4.0M through 2013-2014

Why: I’m not sure there’s a more favorable contract in the league right now based on what Pavelski brings to the table, and who he does it against.  That he can put up those numbers against the best of the best and coming from his own end is astounding.

Right Wing: David Backes

Key Stats:

  • (GP) G-A-Pts: (82) 24-30-54
  • Corsi Rel. QoC: 1.158
  • Rel. Corsi: +5.6
  • %OZS (Offensive Zone Starts): 46.0%
  • Cap Hit: $4.5M through 2015-2016

Why: I was putting Backes on this list regardless of what it took to get him here.  That said, his $4.5M, good for three more years, isn’t exactly prohibitive.  Plus having him run around and destroy people with Landeskog (226 hits) is a great thought.

Honorable Mentions: T.J. Oshie, Ryan Kesler, Mikael Samuelsson, Sean Bergenheim, Ryan Getzlaf, Patrice Bergeron, David Legwand, Jordan Staal, Frans Nielsen.

Why: Most were either a touch too expensive, or just not productive enough.  When you’re building a well rounded line, I’m not sure you can beat the above.

Fourth Line: Shutdown line

Left Wing: Jason Chimera

Key Stats:

  • (GP) G-A-Pts: (82) 20-19-39
  • Corsi Rel. QoC: .734
  • Rel. Corsi: +4.6
  • %OZS: 48.4%
  • Cap Hit: $1.75M through 2013-2014

Why: While his point totals last season might have been somewhat flukey, Chimera is a solid shutdown player who can provide a bit of offense.

Center: Marcel Goc

Key Stats:

  • (GP) G-A-Pts: (57) 11-16-27
  • Corsi Rel. QoC: 1.140
  • Rel. Corsi: +9.2
  • %OZS (Offensive Zone Starts): 38.2%
  • Faceoff %: 51.6%
  • Cap Hit: $1.7M through 2013-2014

Why: Goc was another player I was certain I wanted on this list.  His advanced stats numbers are superb, and he is an underrated offensive player.

Right Wing: Jeff Halpern

Key Stats:

  • (GP) G-A-Pts: (69) 4-12-16
  • Corsi Rel. QoC: .303
  • Rel. Corsi: +2.9
  • %OZS (Offensive Zone Starts): 39.2%
  • Faceoff %: 58.4
  • Cap Hit: $700K through 2012-2013

Why: This is where I ran out of money and had to skimp.  I would have liked to use someone like Chad LaRose that is more reliable in hitting double digit goals, but I couldn’t afford the million it would take to get him.  Halpern is a solid player with some positives and playing with Goc and Chimera will mask his offensive deficiencies.

Honorable Mentions: Chad LaRose, Mikael Backlund, Brian Boyle

Why: Cost.  I could have taken Backlund at $725K, but I chose to go with Halpern’s experience.

Defensive Pairing #1

Defense: Brent Seabrook

Key Stats:

  • (GP) G-A-Pts: (78) 9-25-34
  • Corsi Rel. QoC: 1.522
  • Rel. Corsi: +1.7
  • %OZS: 61.5%
  • Cap Hit: $5.8M through 2015-2016

Why: I wanted Chara here, but I just ran out of money.  Seabrook measures up in most categories though and his strong competition numbers can’t be denied.

Defense: P.K. Subban

Key Stats:

  • (GP) G-A-Pts: (81) 7-29-36
  • Corsi Rel. QoC: 1.266
  • Rel. Corsi: +6.3
  • %OZS (Offensive Zone Starts): 46.3%
  • Cap Hit: $2.875M through 2013-2014

Why: I wanted my top pairing to be two guys that players just hate playing against.  I think Seabrook and Subban fit that bill nicely.

Defensive Pairing #2

Defense: Dan Girardi

Key Stats:

  • (GP) G-A-Pts: (82) 5-24-29
  • Corsi Rel. QoC: 1.653
  • Rel. Corsi: +2.1
  • %OZS (Offensive Zone Starts): 44.2%
  • Cap Hit: $3.325M through 2013-2014

Why: A punishing hitter (211 hits), Girardi also faced strong competition last season.  (Actually considering that he finished second in the league in icetime, he played a lot of competition period.)

Defense: Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Key Stats:

  • (GP) G-A-Pts: (82) 13-19-52
  • Corsi Rel. QoC: .817
  • Rel. Corsi: +6.4
  • %OZS (Offensive Zone Starts): 55.8%
  • Cap Hit: $1.75M through 2012-2013

Why: Coming off a great season and facing a manageable contract for one more year, Ekman-Larsson was a good fit on the second pair.  He’s free to drive the play knowing Girardi is behind him covering up the back end.

Defensive Pairing #3

Defense: Alex Pietrangelo

Key Stats:

  • (GP) G-A-Pts: (81) 12-39-51
  • Corsi Rel. QoC: .721
  • Rel. Corsi: +7.8
  • %OZS (Offensive Zone Starts): 52.8%
  • Cap Hit: $3.167M through 2012-2013

Why: I had envisioned Pietrangelo for the third line, but I didn’t know if the numbers were going to work out.  I’m glad they did.  The only downside is his contract is going to expire and he’s probably going to get Tyler Myers money.

Defense: Andrej Sekera

Key Stats:

  • (GP) G-A-Pts: (69) 3-10-13
  • Corsi Rel. QoC: .878
  • Rel. Corsi: +7.3
  • %OZS (Offensive Zone Starts): 48.9%
  • Cap Hit: $2.75M through 2014-2015

Why: I’m sure when people were wondering if a Sabre would make this list, they weren’t picturing Sekera.  A large part of it is his extremely favorable contract, probably the best one the Sabres have and perhaps the only one that is a real bargain.  Sekera’s advanced numbers are great, especially if he doesn’t have to face such strong competition.

Honorable Mentions: Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Dan Boyle, Erik Karlsson, Kimo Timmonen, Zdeno Chara, Victor Hedman, Fedor Tyutin, Henrik Tallinder.

Why: Most of them were just paid too much, or in the case of Tallinder, just not as good as the names I included.

Final Thoughts:

Ice time.  Based on last year’s numbers, the team has about 4 minutes too much ice time per game…per player.  And the team is handcuffed somewhat by the number of contracts expiring within the next two years.  This summer I think you can handle losing Alfredsson to free agency or retirement and can probably convince Halpern and Greiss to come back for similar money.  Alfie’s spot can be filled by one of the guys on the third line, and you can plug in a rookie.  Then you have to decide which of Rask, Perry, Ekman-Larsson, and Pietrangelo are worth keeping around.

I’d be curious to see what people can come up with using different criteria, perhaps leaning more heavily on scoring, or ignoring advanced stats altogether.

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