Sunday, September 25, 2005

Thinkin' 'bout Markkanen

There seems to be a lot of hand-wringing going on in regards to Ty Conklin's performance so far in the preaseason (I'm not terribly worried, given that it's the preaseason and a lot of goalies are getting shelled, though it is mildly disconcerting that no one seems to be dressing their top players against us, but they're still scoring like we pulled my dad out of the stands and asked him to strap on the pads), which makes it all the more unfortunate Jussi is out with a collarbone thing for the entire preseason. I've never been all that sold on Conklin, though perhaps it's because he was just steadily developing under the radar while some flash-in-the-crease career minor-leaguer would get a one-game call-up, do decent, then get released and go flounder in some other club's farm system for the rest of his life (Valiquette did this last season, but we've also had our share of Tim Thomas and Mike Morrison—who, by the way, is still around camp for some reason), somewhat obscuring Conklin's perceived value in our system.

Whatever the reason, though, I've always thought Markkanen had a chance to be a really solid number one, if anyone ever stopped looking at him as a career back-up; he's the type of guy, in my mind, that an expansion team would pick up in the draft and plunk in as their everyday starter, and he'd shine for a few years because of it. Though everyone talks about them splitting duties, I really do believe it'll be Jussi who steps up and becomes the one we turn to when we need the win, and even, if he recovers quickly, will probably play in the better half of a 50-30 split, more or less playing every game in the inevitable stretch drive in March. Though Conklin did fine last season (even if he was sort of shaky in Europe last year), Markkanen has some unbelievable stats in really limited duty on bad teams (including us) over the last four NHL years. His lifetime NHL save percentage is .916 (though as an Oiler it's always hovered around .930), and he averages one shutout every 10 games—that's better than people like Theodore and Joseph, and on par with Brodeur, who's spent his entire life behind a trap—which is even more amazing when you consider that's more or less exclusively in a back-up role, and as such can't really get a rhythm or streak going.

What's more, he had some amazing stats in Russia last year: 54GP 3157MIN 63GA 11SO 1.2GAA (No SV% available, unfortunately). Now, first, it should be explained that these numbers come with a caveat: his team last year, Tolyatti Lada, is obviously one of the best defensive teams in the Russian Elite League. In 2002-2003, for instance, the only let in a soccer-esque 1.4 goals per game (the best NHL team that season, the Devils, let in just over two, to give that some perspective), and they've consistently been among the lowest, if not the lowest, goals against team in the league over the past seven years or so (I didn't bother looking farther back). So there's a decent chance those numbers are at least partially inflated thanks to a tight defensive system—which makes it even shittier that I can't find a save percentage—so don't start calling for the Hall of Fame just yet. Regardless, though—or irregardless, if bad grammar is your thing—those are some damn impressive numbers (and, actually, the team's GAA was about 1.5, so Jussi had some say in keeping goals out of the net), and Markkanen was impressive enough to play 51 of 60 games for a team that presumably already had some solid goaltending.

European numbers aren't everything, of course, but if you look at them in the context of the other stuff he's been doing, I think Markkanen clearly has the stuff to hold the number one slot, no question marks remaining. I just wish we could see him play a few under these new rules before I draft him for my pool.

Oh, and one last thing: does anyone know if shootout goals are going to count towards regular goals this year in terms of players' stats? I'd assume not, but then, that would sort of be like saying that OT goals wouldn't count towards regular totals, because the player had an extra five minutes to score them. But anyway, if they do count, I imagine it's a factor to consider in pools—a second-liner who sees regular shootout time will probably have a decent amount more goals than one who's on the bench after OT.


Chris! said...

From what I understand shootout goals will be a separate statistic for both skaters and goaltenders, which makes sense to me. Though, come to think of it, would a shootout goal that won a game be counted as a GWG on a player's stat sheet? Hmm.

Hot Rock Camaros Rock said...

Must I forever be factchecking your posts???

In a shootout, shots don't count, goals don't count, goalie and player stats aren't affected. I believe they will create a goal category "team" or some such to make everything add up, but OFFICIALLY none of it ever happened.
That doesn't mean that this won't be tracked by others, and made reference to over and over again (Player X is 67 per cent in shoot outs), which will only add to the confusion.
Also, a goalie is credited for a loss on the sheet but that doesn't carry over to his record (23-17-5 the 5 is now OT and SO losses combined).

I predict that in two weeks every hockey fan, player, coach, reporter, statistician, etc, etc, will be enraged about how stupid and complicated this is.

At the Flames Hawks game the other night the official score sheet came out -- with the NHL stamp of approval -- stating that a 4-2 regulation win turned into a 5-2 win after the flames won the exhibition shootout. I ask you, had the Hawks lost 3-2 in regulation, then won the shootout (which theoretically shouldn't have taken place), would it have gone down as a tie? But ties no longer exist.
It' a frickin mud-puddle, and I don't think they know how it will work. If they do, they should tell their game day officials, then us.


Pleasure Motors said...

Some people are ideas people, some people are pedants. And Albert Einstein said that imagination was more important than knowledge. Furthermore, laziness is a mark of genius. Therefore, yes, you are going to have to constantly fact-check my posts. Until MS Word invents a hockey stat tool, that is.

Also, I posted this over on the Gateway blog, but I kind of like and it ends up being hockey related, so I thought I'd share it here. Yep.

As a last thing, I just finished reading Rheostatic Dave Bidini's book about his experiences in the Exclaim! Cup and chats with former NHLers about wacky things that have happened to them, The Best Game You Can Name . Though there are some interesting stories in there from a gaggle of ex-players, I recommend it to none of you. Matter of fact, knowing that most of you can write, I recommend you join a beer league team and document your experiences, to be published in novel form. Just try to stay away about writing about your band in your hockey book.

Mike P said...

I think the key phrase in your post is "has a chance to": Markkanen has yet to prove that he can start regularly in the NHL. He's done extremely well as a backup, and played very well in Europe, but Dopita proved that the latter means nothing, and there's tons of goalies who did ok without the pressure on, but crumbled when they were The Man.

I'm optimistic though.

Fist of Rock pumps Rock said...

Fact Checking? Turst me, I'm not your guy in the proofreading spot. I'll direct you to any number of former employers who'll back me up.

Dave Bidini? It appears that he's bucking for a CBC gig. A kind of Vinyl-Cafe-meets-Slapshot sort of thing. Sad.
Rheostatics? Fine and beautiful!
Edmonton in the autumn? Likewise, but courageous also.

Conklin? Markkanen? You really have to wonder how they're going to run this.
Conklin -- who played 11 games for the Wolfsburg Grizzly Adams (?!?) in Germany last season -- played 39 games in 2003-04, but also had a broken hand (maybe?) and Salo's descent into madness to deal with.
The Oil traded to get Markkanen, age 31, back from the Rangers, though I don't know what that's worth. He might have been a toss in. Anyway, let's not be looking for the next Kipprusoff, diamond in the rough, here.

Also: watch for deals and minor league goalies. The Oilers only have 14 AHL spots this season, perhaps none for goalies, thanks to the repulsive Roadrunners experiment and their signing deals with Dallas and the Habs for American Hockey League slots.

Also, as well... Robbie Schremp? Making the team. I got some inside dope on this -- I think you know what I mean -- and, yeah, the kid will likely stick. It would be nice to see the Oilers have a one-touch scorer again; just don't expect the world of him.

Furthermore...My car? Totally destroyed. I totaled it in Calgary on Friday night. I'm fine, but airbags are not as cuddly as we've been led to believe. They're full of poison gas!

--RY in the Mizzo Hey-izzo

Colby Cosh said...

I one billion percent agree with this posting. I have been known to grab strangers by the lapels on the LRT and scream "MARKKANEN! MARKKANEN!" at them.

mike w said...

Hopefully, Markkanen will distinguish himself from Conklin, forever leaving the chrysalis of "Conkkanen" behind.

The only knock I've ever heard was that he wasn't consistent in long stretches with the Rangers. Maybe his year in Russia is a sign that he can be top dog in the Oilers net. I like his poise though; he's cool as a cucumber, which is a welcome contrast after watching Salo's slow motion meltdown for two years.