Digging into Regina GM's Past - Did He Leave the Tokyo Cupboard Bare?

Bison GM King ran the Tokyo Tsunami franchise for 3 seasons, before abruptly quitting after 2002-03. Did he quit because the team was bad? Let's see...
by Geoff King | February 14, 2023, 9:49 PM ET

The Legacy

The Tokyo Tsunami finished the 2002-03 season 7th in the World Conference, with a .500 record (39-39-4) for 82 points, despite a poor -28 goal differential (216 GF, 244 GA). They bowed out in 6 games to the second seeded Chicago Cardinals, bringing to an end King's first franchise operation.

Let's look at the key players and prospects he left behind.

Pro Roster

Top 9 Forwards (LW-C-RW)

1st: Luc Robitaille - Craig Conroy - Valeri Bure

2nd: Daniel Briere - Jason Arnott - Scott Mellanby

3rd: Jason Chimera - Chris Gratton - Trevor Linden

Top 4 Defensemen

1st: Pavel Kubina - Kim Johnsson

2nd: Richard Matvichuk - Colin White

Starting Goalie

Martin Brodeur

Notable minor leaguers / prospects who will appear in future seasons:

Olli Jokinen, Ales Kotalik, Joe Corvo, Vesa Toskala, Michael Leighton, Alexander Semin, Rick DiPietro, Colby Armstrong

The Premise:

If King had stuck around and kept all the above players / prospects, let's see how the team might have performed. We'll assume no players will leave or be acquired by the franchise from now on.

2003-2004 Season

Notable:

Jokinen jumps from 1st line C in the GHA to 1st line in the SICHL, potting 43 goals in his first full season. 4 other forwards pot 20 or more (Mellanby, Briere, Robitaille, & Conroy), and Brodeur is solid in net (2.44 GAA, .908 Sa%) while rookies Toskala and Leighton share backup duties.

Stats:

250 GF, 220 GA. +30

Pythogorean Expected Winning % (PeW%): .564 => 92 pts for 5th in the World Conference and a 1st round match-up with 4th place Cleveland Puck Hounds (bumping 8th place Prague Knights out)

2004-2005 Season

Notable:

Valeri Bure leads the team with 30 goals, and 6 other forwards (Jokinen, Robitaille, Arnott, Briere, Conroy, Linden) score 20 or more (plus Mellanby on 17) for incredible depth of scoring attack. Kubina and Johnsson pot 15 each from the blueline, with Ric Jackman jumping from the GHA to add 10. Brodeur's numbers take a hit (2.75, .895) with the young backups still learning, for an increase in goals conceded. This is a high event team.

Stats:

284 GF, 250 GA. +34

PeW%: .563 => 92 pts for a tie for  6th/7th in the World Conference with the Louisville Thunder and Prague Knights and an unknown first round matchup depending on tiebreakers; it would bump the 8th place Hamburg Gladiators out (sorry alternate universe Henry!)

2005-2006 Season

Notable:

Bure's final SICHL season sees him tops for Tokyo again, this time with 38 goals; Tsunami draftees Kotalik and Semin make their presence felt with 24 and 18, respectively, and Briere, Jokinen, and Arnott also pot 20 or more.Veteran Luc Robitaille manages only 9 in his final season. Rearguards Kubina, Johnsson, and Jackman also notch 10 or more. Brodeur's numbers are essentially flat (2.73, .888) but DiPietro debuts and Toskala improves to give the veteran some welcome relief.

Stats:

269 GF, 228 GA. +41

PeW%: .582 => 95 pts for 3rd in the World Conference and a first round series vs. 6th place Hamburg (bumped down from 5th); 8th place Helsinki Hawks knocked out.

2006-2007 Season

Notable:

Jokinen bounces back after some so-so seasons and again leads the way with 43. Bure's and Robitaille's departues open up top 6 winger icetime for Briere who lights the lamp 31 times, and rookie Colby Armstrong, who jumps to the first line and scores 29 in his rookie season. Kotalik adds 24, but Semin jumps to the SIKHL, and no other forward gets 20. The blueline scoring also drops, with Kubina, Johnsson, Jackman, Joe Corvo and Jon Klemm each notching 5 or 6. The trio of Brodeur (2.74, .901), DiPietro (2.65, .895), and Toskala (3.24, .877) provide solid netminding again, but can't compensate for the drop in scoring.

Stats:

235 GF, 234 GA. +1

PeW%: .502 => 82 pts for a tie for 7th/8th in the World Conference with the Stockholm Cougars and Las Vegas Aces, who are still around today. Maybe Tsunami get in on goal difference [TOK (+1) vs STK (-11) and LV (0)] but maybe head-to-head results see Tokyo slip to 9th. The first close call for the bizarro Tsunami.

2007-2008 Season

Notable:

Jokinen continues to pace the attack with 44 red light specials; Briere is not far back on 36. Semin chooses Yen over Rubles and returns to the SICHL to score 32, Arnott adds 29, and Conroy also tops 20. Armstrong and Kotalik both slump to under 15. Corvo leads the defenseman with 9, and Kubina (7) and Johnsson (6) continue to provide steady but unimpressive scoring. The three-headed goalie monster is terrific though as Brodeur (2.24, .913), DiPietro (2.60, .906), and Toskala (2.37, .905) throw up brick walls on a nightly basis.

Stats:

243 GF, 197 GA. +46

PeW%: .603 => 99 pts for 2nd in the World Conference behind only the Moscow Reds, earning a first round match-up vs. none other than the Philadelphia Fire Ants (down to 7th from 6th) and GM Norm Donovan, who was employing King as Director of Scouting during the actual 2007-08 season. The St. Louis Spartans drop out of the playoffs.

 

2008-2009 Season

Notable:

The wins start to dry up now, as retirements take their toll. Mellanby, Klemm, and Jackman don't return for this season, leaving Tokyo with 10 rated forwards and 5 defenseman. Arnott takes charge up front, scoring 42 to lead the team, while Jokinen (34), Kotalik (29), and Semin (28) still put up good numbers, but Briere slides to 21. Kubina, Johnsson and Corvo compensate somewhat, with at least 10 each. The goalies can't quite recreate the magic of last season, though Brodeur (2.69, .908) is his usual reliable self, DiPietro slips a bit (2.86, .887), as does Toskala (2.72, .881) in Vesa's final SICHL season. The team posts its first premised negative goal differential.

Stats:

220 GF, 226 GA. -6

PeW%: .487 => 80 pts and there's no question about it this time, the Tsunami would miss the playoffs in 9th, behind the Fire Ants on 85 pts.

2009-2010 Season

Notable:

Trevor Linden departed along with Vesa Toskala, though Michael Leighton steps in as 3rd netminder. Still, the slide picks up downhill speed from bunny hill to black diamond quickly: Semin scores 38, Briere and Arnott 28 each, and Jokinen and Kotalik also crest 20, but there's no depth in scoring as prior years. Corvo shocks with 20 from the back, and Kubina (12) and Johnsson (9) contribute, but it's not enough to overcome the loss of defensive minded players. The goaltenders don't get enough help and their numbers blow up: Brodeur (3.09, .873) posts probably his worst pro season, and DiPietro (3.80, .866) and Leighton (3.55, .866) can't unseat King Marty from his perch.

Stats:

231 GF, 284 GA. -53

PeW%: .398 => 65 pts, which is shockingly only 5 pts behind the 8th place Reykjavik Riders, as the top-heavy World Conference and strengthening Canadian teams greedily hoover up points from a number of weak teams.

 

2010-2011 Season

Notable:

Ain't no stoppin' us now would be the theme for the team's plummet now: with no reinforcements, the team is getting long in the tooth, and the few draftees can't keep it going. Semin has a career year with 45 goals, but only veterans Arnott (27) and Briere (22) join him over 20. Jokinen, Conroy, Armstrong and Kotalik have already peaked and are winding down. Colin White (!) leads the defensemen with 5 goals. Brodeur bounces back (2.69, .914) but the secondary goaltending from DiPietro (3.27, .897) and Leighton (3.15, .906) can't quite match - the netminding is improved, but not enough to offset the black hole of offense.

Stats:

169 GF, 242 GA. -73

PeW%: .328 => 54 pts, and a trip to the basement of the World Conference behind the KC Krunch who had 56. The 8th place Stockholm Cougars with 85 pts aren't even in the pictureof the fading waves of the Tsunami.

 

2011-2012 Season

Notable:

The results are nonsensical from this point on, as the number of rated skaters drops, so goals scored diminish rapdidly while goaltending theoretically holds up (though how could it when there are <9 forwards and <5 defenseman?). Regardless: Briere scores 22, nobody else has more than 17, and the death knell sounds for the team. Energizer Bunny Brodeur (2.92,.907) keeps going while DiPietro takes a season off and Leighton barely appears.

Stats:

127 GF, 232 GA. -105

PeW%: .231 => 38 pts. Any seasons from now with TOK not in last by at least 10 points will be a shock. KC nearest at 60 pts so no surprise here.

2012-2013 Season

Notable:

Jokinen (22) and Semin (21) are the bright-ish spots up front. Kubina scores 6 in his final season. Brodeur does Brodeur things (2.19, .930) and the goal differential actually improves a little year-over-year, but the PeW% doesn't.

Stats:

114 GF, 206 GA. -92

PeW%: .238 => 38 pts. Umm. So this must be the weird stat season cause the top teams (hi Hamburg, Philly, London!) have ridiculously high +GD and the bad teams got cratered. Theoretically TOK is 12th with 38 pts in the post-expansion World Conference, ahead of Stockholm (35pts), Miami Makos (30pts), and the new New York Empire (17pts).

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2013-2014, 2014-2015, 2015-2016

These are the last 3 seasons any of the Tsunami players put up numbers, but the GF are so low that it makes calculating PeW% and points irrelevant - we're talking -200 GD, and then 2015-2016 no goalie so -infinity GD.

Notable:

Semin finishes strong: 21, 31, and then 25 in his retirement year. Jokinen has a decent 10, 18, 12 to close out his career. Briere notches 20 then crashes to 5 and 1. Corvo scored a couple more. Brodeur kept the GAA about 3.00 and Sa% close to .900 through 2015.

Summary of 13 Seasons of Tsunami Players Post-Tsunami Dispersal

I knew I left some good assets like Jokinen, Semin, Kubina, Johnsson, Brodeur, DiPietro, and Toskala behind when I left, but I didn't realize the scoring potential of Briere, Arnott, and Corvo especially. WIth only 3 entry drafts and a mixed bag on my research I left insufficient depth of prospects to be able to carry the team longer than 5 seasons. Though I'm impressed we could have been competitive with just "tinkering" for those 5 seasons. The risk of course is that I would have traded away someone like Corvo before he made his mark, or Arnott or Jokinen or Briere on a down season. And of course I would've lost players in UFA, and maybe not signed comparable replacements. Yet, I expected a lot worse. So I'm kind of proud. :)

Forward Scoring Leaders

Jokinen: 335 Goals in 13 Seasons

Semin: 287 G in 11

Briere: 272 G in 13

Arnott: 240 G in 10

Conroy: 149 G in 10

Kotalik: 149 G in 9

Defenseman Scoring Leaders

Corvo: 77 G in 12

Kubina: 70 G in 10

Johnsson: 66 G in 8

Season Results (~10 Completed Seasons):

FIrst 5 seasons:

1281 GF, 1129 GA

492 GP, 460 pts, .561 W%

4 definite playoff spots including a Conference 2nd, and 1 TBD tie for 7th-8th-9th. So 4.67/5 = 93.4% playoff appearances in 5 seasons leaving the team on "cruise control".

Last 5 seasons:

861 GF, 1190 GA

492 GP, 275 pts, .335 W%

5 definite misses, though 2 of them only by 5 pts. 0% playoff appearances.

Combined:

2142 GF, 2319 GA

820 GP, 735 pts, .448 W%

The GF cratering in later seasons really drags down the PeW%, as 2 goalies are sufficient to maintain the GA, but I didn't have depth to backfill skaters' retirements.

 

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