WAR! What Is It Good For? Projecting the Metro Division Standings by Expected WAR Standings Point Projections


Photo: Patrick Smith

One of the new, “revolutionary” metrics that hockey statisticians are starting to calculate and track is Wins Above Replacement (WAR). WAR essentially combines all of a player’s contributions statistically into one overall metric. This calculation allows for the comparison of how much value a player provides compared to a replacement level player (which is typically a player with 0.0 WAR). If a player has a negative WAR value, that means that a replacement level player would contribute more statistically to the team than that player. 

Overall, WAR is an interesting addition to hockey analytics. Fans of advanced analytics in baseball are most likely familiar with WAR, since it was introduced with the rise of Sabermetric analytics. WAR is very robust in the MLB metric community, so hockey statisticians are honing in on how they can port WAR into hockey metrics. For more information on how WAR is calculated, visit Hockey-Graphs.com’s series of blog posts here.

Now, let’s get into projecting the Metro Division standings based on WAR projections and expected standings points. One thing to note here: rookies like Kaapo Kakko and Jack Hughes are essentially rated based off of their production at their pre-draft league. If you want to play around with Charting Hockey’s WAR lineup creator/projection tool used in this article, you can visit it here

1. Washington Capitals (107 points, 29.10 Team WAR)

The Capitals come in at the top of the division, according to WAR projections and approximate standings points. If this projection stands, this will be the fifth time in a row that the Capitals were crowned division champions. Overall, these projections seem somewhat accurate, considering that there wasn’t substantial roster turnover, and the addition of Panik, Leipsic, and Hathaway make the team much better defensively. Look for the Capitals to improve considerably in goals allowed and the penalty kill. Although the Caps finished 5th in goal scoring as a team last year, expect that to drop a bit with the departures of Andre Burakovsky and Brett Connolly. 

Expected lines:

LW

C RW Projected WAR     (as a line)
Alex Ovechkin Evgeny Kuznetsov Tom Wilson 3.4
Jakub Vrana Nicklas Backstrom TJ Oshie 7.9
Carl Hagelin Lars Eller

Richard Panik

2.1

Brendan Leipsic

Nic Dowd

Garnet Hathaway

3.2

 

LD RD Projected WAR (as a pairing)
Michal Kempny John Carlson 4.7
Dmitry Orlov Nick Jensen 4.6
Jonas Siegenthaler Radko Gudas 1.8

 

Goaltenders Projected WAR
Braden Holtby 3.3
Pheonix Copley 1.5

 

Total WAR by position:

Forwards WAR Defense WAR Goalie WAR Team WAR
13.22 11.04 4.84 29.10

 

2. Columbus Blue Jackets (98 points, 24.91 Team WAR)

Although Columbus lost elite players in Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky to free agency, the Blue Jackets’ core was still strong enough to project them to finish second in the Metropolitan Division. As mentioned, they’ll lose top end scoring from a player like Panarin, but with the addition of Gustav Nyquist, that’ll sting a bit less. The biggest strength for Columbus is their defensive corps. With a top pairing of Zachary Werenski and Seth Jones anchoring their blueline, they’ll continue to be a defensively sound team under coach John Tortorella.

The biggest question mark for Columbus is their inexperienced goaltending. With Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo as a goalie tandem, expect the defensive-minded Blue Jackets to focus even more on that side of their game.

Expected Lines:

LW C RW Projected WAR (as a line)
Gustav Nyquist Pierre-Luc Dubois Cam Atkinson 8.0
Nick Foligno Alex Texier Josh Anderson 13.5
Eric Robinson Boone Jenner Oliver Bjorkstrand 0.4
Brandon Dubinsky Alex Wennberg Emil Bemstrom -0.1

 

LD RD Projected WAR (as a pairing)
Zachary Werenski Seth Jones 1.2
Ryan Murray David Savard 5.0
Scott Harrington Markus Nutivaara 1.5

 

Goaltender Projected WAR
Joonas Korpisalo -0.8
Elvis Merzlikins 0.5 (estimated since he has no projection)

 

Total WAR by position:

Forwards WAR Defense WAR Goalie WAR Team WAR
17.48 7.69 -0.26 24.91

 

3. Pittsburgh Penguins (92 points, 21.8 Team WAR)

Interestingly enough, the Penguins are still projected to be a playoff team in the 2019-20 season, even after trading away Phil Kessel and Olli Maatta. Unexpectedly, though, even adding Phil Kessel back into the projection tool in place of Alex Galchenyuk only resulted in one more standings point. It’s tough to count out a team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

The Penguins have a pretty top-heavy forward group. With Hornqvist regressing with age, their bottom six does not look quite as formidable as it has in the past. Compared with their troubling blue line, Pittsburgh is going to be a fringe 3rd place, possibly a wild card team at the end of next season. The third pairing in this article will assume that Riikola and Gudbranson will be paired up, since that results in the better points projection, but if Jack Johnson and Erik Gudbranson end up skating together on a third pairing, they’ll come in below replacement level.

Expected lines:

LW C RW Projected WAR (as a line)
Jake Guentzel Sidney Crosby Dominik Kahun 7.8
Alex Galchenyuk Evgeni Malkin Jared McCann 2.5
Bryan Rust Nick Bjugstad Patric Hornqvist 2.4
Brandon Tanev Teddy Blueger Zach Aston-Reese 0.8

 

LD RD Projected WAR (as a pairing)
Brian Dumoulin Kris Letang 4.8
Marcus Pettersson Justin Schultz 1.5
Juuso Riikola Erik Gudbranson 0.1

 

Goaltender Projected WAR
Matt Murray 3.0
Casey DeSmith 1.6

 

Total WAR by position:

Forwards WAR Defense WAR Goalie WAR Team WAR
10.84 6.33 4.63 21.80

 

4. Carolina Hurricanes (91 points, 21.07 Team WAR)

Here’s the most surprising projection of the list. Carolina, fresh off of a Eastern Conference Finals appearance, is projected to be the fourth best team in the Metropolitan Division. I expect the Canes to finish higher than this projection, likely in second or third place in the division. The biggest loss for the Hurricanes was Michael Ferland leaving for free agency, but they added Ryan Dzingel as a free agent, and acquired Erik Haula from Vegas. Carolina’s forward group is probably the next deepest compared to the Capitals, and this projection does include Justin Williams re-signing with the team.

Overall, I think the baseline metrics for projecting the WAR for these players aren’t necessarily accounting for Warren Foegele or Jordan Martinook’s contributions on the ice, especially after what was seen from them in the playoffs. 

The biggest question mark for this team is their goaltending without Curtis McElhinney. In fact, if you replace newly acquired James Reimer with McElhinney, the Hurricanes’ standings points estimation jumps to 96 (which hops them over Pittsburgh), and their team WAR goes up to 23.69. Reimer is rated at exactly 0.0 WAR, so he’s the absolute definition of “replacement level player”.

Expected Lines:

LW C RW Projected WAR (as a line)
Andrei Svechnikov Sebastian Aho Teuvo Teravainen 4.0
Ryan Dzingel Erik Haula Nino Niederreiter 4.0
Brock McGinn Jordan Staal Justin Williams 3.0
Warren Foegele Lucas Wallmark Jordan Martinook 0.1

 

LD RD Projected WAR (as a pairing)
Jaccob Slavin Dougie Hamilton 1.5
Haydn Fleury Justin Faulk 4.5
Trevor van Riemsdyk Brett Pesce 2.2

 

Goaltender Projected WAR
Petr Mrazek 4.0
James Reimer 0.0

 

Total WAR by position:

Forwards WAR Defense WAR Goalie WAR Team WAR
8.83 8.21 4.02 21.07

 

5. New York Islanders (85 points, 18.36 team WAR)

After an impressive (and surprising) 2018-19 season, the Islanders are projected to finish in the bottom half of the Metro division. The Islanders’ forward corps is pretty solid, and is a good mix of veteran and young players. Their forward corps is the highest ranked group in terms of projected WAR, but their goal scoring will still remain a question.

Also, they have some questions to answer during and leading up to next season. Is Johnny Boychuk still good enough for a top four role? Will Semyon Varlamov remain healthy enough to really replace Robin Lehner? And in the case Varlamov goes out for an extended period of time, is Thomas Greiss good enough to hold down the starter’s net? We’ll see. We can also expect Barry Trotz to get the most out of his team, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up pushing into a wild card or division playoff spot.

Expected Lines:

LW C RW Projected WAR (as a line)
Anders Lee Mathew Barzal Jordan Eberle 3.0
Anthony Beauvillier Brock Nelson Josh Bailey 2.6
Michael Dal Colle Casey Cizikas Joshua Ho-Sang 4.9
Matt Martin Leo Komarov Cal Clutterbuck 0.5

 

LD RD Projected WAR (as a pairing)
Nick Leddy Ryan Pulock 2.2
Thomas Hickey Johnny Boychuk -1.1
Devon Toews Scott Mayfield 0.9

 

Goaltender Projected WAR
Semyon Varlamov 2.0
Thomas Greiss 5.6

 

Total WAR by position:

Forwards WAR Defense WAR Goalie WAR Team WAR
8.82 1.97 7.57 18.36

 

6. New Jersey Devils (82 points, 16.6 Team WAR)

The Devils had an eventful off-season, to say the least. After landing Jack Hughes with the 1st overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, they made another splash, trading for PK Subban. On top of that, they signed gritty power forward Wayne Simmonds to a prove-it deal. Ray Shero and the Devils are definitely a team on the upswing, but they still have some questions on their roster to answer before they’re even remotely considered a contender. For one, they need quality goaltending. Corey Schneider is a shell of himself, and MacKenzie Blackwood is relatively unproven as a starting goalie.

Look for New Jersey to really push towards an extension for Taylor Hall this season. I’m sure they’re hoping that the addition of Hughes and Subban help convince him that the Devils are trying to contend. They’re still a year or two out from a playoff appearance at this point. That being said, they’ll be a fun team to watch.

Expected Lines:

LW C RW Projected WAR (as a line)
Taylor Hall Nico Hischier Kyle Palmieri 8.7
Jesper Bratt Jack Hughes Wayne Simmonds 1.0
Miles Wood Travis Zajac Blake Coleman 1.6
Pavel Zacha Kevin Rooney Joey Anderson 1.2

 

LD RD Projected WAR (as a pairing)
Andy Greene PK Subban 0.1
Will Butcher Damon Severson 2.5
Ty Smith Sami Vatanen 0.4

 

Goaltender Projected WAR
Corey Schneider 0.9
Mackenzie Blackwood 2.7

 

Total WAR by position:

Forwards WAR Defense WAR Goalie WAR Team WAR
9.95 3.04 3.62 16.60

 

7. Philadelphia Flyers (78 Points, 14.51 Team WAR)

Here’s another team that you could probably expect to finish a lot better than these projections. The Flyers have a lot of young talent on the blue line that can pan out to be high caliber assets, like Provorov, Gostisbehere, Sanheim, and Myers. Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun really weigh down the top two pairings’ WAR, since they’re both coming off of a down year.

The Flyers are likely better than this projection. Carter Hart is a real difference maker in net, and their top six is pretty strong. Their first line is one of the best in the division (in terms of WAR). The only thing to consider in the future is how overpaid Kevin Hayes is. It’ll be interesting to see if he can live up to his cap hit.

Expected Lines:

LW C RW Projected WAR (as a line)
Claude Giroux Sean Couturier Jakub Voracek 7.1
James van Riemsdyk Kevin Hayes Travis Konecny 3.3
Oskar Lindblom Nolan Patrick Joel Farabee 1.6
Michael Raffl Scott Laughton Tyler Pitlick -0.1

 

LD RD Projected WAR (as a pairing)
Ivan Provorov Matt Niskanen 0.1
Shayne Gostisbehere Justin Braun -1.0
Travis Sanheim Philippe Myers 0.9

 

Goaltender Projected WAR
Carter Hart 3.4
Brian Elliott 1.5

 

Total WAR by position:

Forwards WAR Defense WAR Goalie WAR Team WAR
9.46 0.11 4.93 14.51

 

8. New York Rangers (74 Points, 12.75 Team WAR)

Although the Rangers had an eventful summer, they still round out the bottom echelon of the Metro division. Even after signing Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba, as well as drafting Kaapo Kakko, they still have depth issues. Their total forwards group only accounts 5.20 WAR, mainly due to the first line of Panarin, Zibanejad, and Kakko.

Other questions still linger about the Rangers going into the 2019 season. What does their defensive corps look like? Is Henrik Lundqvist going to be better than last season? Is Kakko ready to play top line minutes?

Ultimately, the Rangers fast-tracked their rebuild. They’re a few depth pieces and a highly touted goalie prospect away (they have Igor Shestyorkin, who’s widely considered one of the best goalie prospects in the league) from competing for a division title spot.

Expected Lines:

LW C RW Projected WAR (as a line)
Artemi Panarin Mika Zibanejad Kaapo Kakko 5.0
Chris Kreider Brett Howden Pavel Buchnevich 2.2
Filip Chytil Ryan Strome Vitali Kravtsov -0.5
Brendan Lemieux Lias Andersson Jesper Fast -0.2

 

LD RD Projected WAR (as a pairing)
Brady Skjei Jacob Trouba 2.1
Marc Staal Tony DeAngelo 0.5
Adam Fox Kevin Shattenkirk 0.0

 

Goaltender Projected WAR
Henrik Lundqvist 2.5
Alexandar Georgiev 2.4

 

Total WAR by position:

Forwards WAR Defense WAR Goalie WAR Team WAR
5.20 2.65 4.90 12.75

 

Recap:

This is going to be an interesting year for the Metro division. Based on these projections, we could see the Capitals run away with their fifth straight Metropolitan division championship, but projections like these are bound to be wrong in some way or fashion.

Expect there to be a ton of movement in the standings from last year to this year. It’s very possible you see a surprise team squeak into the playoffs, similar to how the Islanders performed last year. It’s best to keep in mind that these are projections based off of what we already know, not necessarily how players will develop or perform in the future.

By Justin Trudel

About Justin Trudel

Justin is a lifelong Caps fan, with some of his first memories of the sport watching the team in the USAir Arena and the 1998 Stanley Cup appearance. Now a resident of St. Augustine, FL, Justin watches the Caps from afar. Justin graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Political Science from Towson University, and a Master's of Science in Applied Information Technology from Towson University. Justin is currently a product manager at a non-profit in Jacksonville, FL. Justin enjoys geeking out over roster construction and cap management.
This entry was posted in Data and Analytics, News and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to WAR! What Is It Good For? Projecting the Metro Division Standings by Expected WAR Standings Point Projections

  1. Day One Caps Fan says:

    War! Huh! Good God, y’all!

    Thanks Justin Trudel for the excellent WAR explanation, and analysis of the NHL Metro!

    Back some years when the Caps made the sea-change from the McPhee Administration to Brian MacLellan & Co., there was a bitter MacLellan critic and rival who made some public statements to the DC NHL press. He accused Mac of being lazy, and perhaps one of “the laziest” in his field.

    Whether or not that criticism is justified, the results of GMBM’s tenure have been profoundly positive and successful.

    The Caps’ personnel management brain trust obviously uses the very latest “analytics” and does so with great skill. Thus we have all those great “WAR” numbers with the Caps looking VERY good in analytical comparison with their nemeses in the METRO Division, on the eve of the 2019-20 season. I bet the Caps’ WARs look really good in the past four seasons as well.

    Anyone remember who the GMBM critic was? Ca. 2014?

    Like

  2. Anonymous says:

    Baseballs WAR? Bc I use like Im sure most everybody does hockey reference and they dont have a “WAR” They have a Point Shares, NHLs version of WAR.
    Baseball uses WAR&Baseball Reference&Fangraphs have WAR.

    I Prefer point shares when talking hockey bc thats what they use, not WAR.
    WAR is a convoluted stat

    You dont need WAR to know Caps have a bunch of great and very good players and should compete for Metro title again

    Like

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with a lot of what you are saying. WAR is indeed a convoluted stat, that can be shaky at best. What are you meaning when you say “point shares”?

      Like

  3. Pingback: Part 2: WAR! What Is It Good For? Projecting the Atlantic Division Standings by Expected WAR Standings Point Projections | NoVa Caps

  4. Pingback: Part 3: WAR! What Is It Good For? Projecting The Central Division Standings by Expected WAR Standings Point Projections | NoVa Caps

  5. Pingback: Part 4: WAR! What Is It Good For? Projecting the Pacific Division Standings by Expected WAR Standings Point Projections | NoVa Caps

Leave a Reply to Day One Caps Fan Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s