For as long as professional sports have existed, there have been athletes who are simply regarded as “winners”. This concept of “winners” seems to be a staple of any discussion pertaining to the building or re-building of any sports franchise. In the NHL, this primarily applies to the opening of free agency, the entry draft and the trade deadline. These “winners” are categorized by experts, insiders and armchair general managers as the final piece to the elusive Stanley Cup puzzle.
Now, in many ways, these labels are completely illogical. After all, Mike Keane has three Stanley Cups. Larry Hillman has six. Between them, Gilbert Perreault, Marcel Dionne, Phil Housley, Mats Sundin, Pavel Bure, Jeremy Roenick, Darryl Sittler, Mike Gartner, Adam Oates, Dale Hawerchuk and Peter Stastny have zero.
Feel free to pick the “winners” you’d want on your team off that list.
But, in hockey-mad markets, there is no shortage of in-depth analysis and statistical evidence to support any imaginable off-beat theory.
As a result, we’ve discovered that there are certain players whose presence in a team’s lineup seemingly correlates with success.
In February 2007, 26 year old Sean Avery was dealt from the Los Angeles Kings to the New York Rangers in multi-player deal. Avery would finish the season with 20 points in 29 games, and re-sign with the Rangers to a one year contract in August 2007.
Avery would put up solid numbers again in 2007-2008, finishing the regular season with 15 goals and 33 points in just 57 games. But while those numbers were impressive, there was another intriguing figure at play.
During Avery’s stint in New York, the Rangers went 51-23-16 when the pesky forward was in the lineup. For those without a calculator, that’s a winning percentage of .689.
Without Avery, the team went 8-10-3, for a winning percentage of just .444.
While those numbers may be purely coincidental, it can certainly be argued that they were at least partly responsible for the 4 year/$15.5M contract Avery would sign with the Dallas Stars in July of 2008. Accordingly, it can be argued that they were largely responsible for the Rangers’ waiver claim of Avery in 2009 in the aftermath of his infamous “sloppy seconds” comment.
Reasonable or not, the numbers seemed to indicate that with Avery in the lineup, the Rangers were a better team. Experts and general managers may have disagreed, but the numbers said otherwise.
And that brings us to Vancouver…