Predictive Value

So, here we are moving into the second round of the playoffs with, in my opinion very few surprises.

The Calgary Flames have to be the David to Anaheim’s Goliath but I’ve been telling you all season that the Flames should NOT be discounted.

I suspect they will have a tough time advancing to the 3rd round just based on Anaheim’s size and skill but, then again, folks who have been trashing Calgary for their inability to show well in the “advanced” stats don’t understand what Calgary is doing, how and why.

I thought it would be interesting to go back and take a look at what the Statzis were predicting this season based on “puck possession” and hold their feet to the fire a bit.

The following graph is lifted from an article on SportingCharts.com and you’ll see pretty quickly how poorly the author performed in predicting how the teams in the WC finished in league standings based on their possession metrics.

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The first thing you’ll notice is that almost half of the teams predicted to finish in the playoffs didn’t even make the post season.

The other striking errors are the Kings finishing 1st in the west and Minnesota finishing 13th.

And therein lies the major problem of using past performance to predict future success or failure using nothing more than a statistical approach without raising your eyes from your spreadsheet to rationally assess how the ever shifting lineups of teams are affected by new additions, injuries, progression by young players, coaching changes and a host of other things that are reflected in the “advanced” stats.

If you’ve been following along, you will know that I have been predicting big things for the Wild all the way back to last season and, despite an early season scare caused by dreadful, goaltending, the Wild have been the best team in the NHL for months.

My being bullish on the Wild has been based on roster makeup, systems execution and coaching.I could go on at great length about those things but I’m going to address them a little later in this post when we look at some predictions for the second round.

Before leaving the Corsi/Fenwick debate behind, I’d like to remind you that there are many devotees of “advanced” stats that will tell you that those metrics can accurately predict who will win in the playoffs and win a championship. Really?

Here are the Top 16 CF% teams in the league from the 2014/15 season…let’s see how predictive of post season success that metric has been:

LAK 55.4

CHI 53.6

DET 53.5

TBL 53.0

PIT 52.8

NYI 52.7

NSH 52.7

WPG 52.5

CAR 52.5

DAL 52.1

STL 51.8

BOS 51.7

SJS 51.5

WSH 51.4

FLA 51.3

MIN 51.0

I think you would have to agree that using “possession ” stats to predict playoff success is pretty much useless and while any fool would agree that having the puck is better than not having the puck, there are so many other moving parts in play, that ignoring them leads to embarrassing moments like the article linked to above.

I’m sure the author was all agog that he was on to something brilliantly insightful but Maggie the Monkey could not have done a poorer job.

So, what about the Flames?

Why have they been so successful despite being 28th this season in CF%?

If you watched the Flames/Canucks series with a critical eye, you will have seen exactly the factors that can overcome or ignore the current “possession” fad a lead a team to win more games that they lose.

Bob Hartley (who should win the Jack Adams trophy hands down) has designed his systems play around the personnel he has and has and has received total buy in from his team.

There are several facets to what he is preaching:

1) Relentless forechecking and puck retrieval.

2) Pounding the opposition D in their own end to wear them down.

3) Keeping opposition shots to the outside

4) Blocking shots

5) A mobile D that turns pucks the other way with accuracy and speed.

5) Speed through the neutral zone

6) Crash the net.

There’s nothing magical about his formula and it only works if executed relentlessly but it doesn’t lead to Corsi success…it overcomes that metric.

Interestingly enough, I think you’ll see that Anaheim plays a very similar style although their personnel are bigger and more experienced.

That likely gives the Ducks the advantage in the series between the 17th and the 28th ranked CF% teams but I expect the Flames won’t go quietly and could upset the Ducks if they outwork them and execute better.

I’ve likely watched about 50-55 Flames games this season and I can honestly say that I have never seen the team take even ONE shift off.

We’re about to find out if they want it more than the Ducks.

Sunrise

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As many of you will know…I’ve long thought that Kevin Lowe was responsible for all that has befallen the Oilers over the past decade and, let’s be honest, he WAS in charge all those years.

The hiring of Peter Chiarelli and, most importantly, his insistence on also being the team’s GM, finally brings the Lowe/MacT cabal that has devastated the team to a merciful end.

I’m still a little worried that both of the villains will still be employed by the team in some capacity but they should be far enough away from the levers of power that they have very little influence on the team’s future.

Some observers have expressed concern that Chiarelli was hired too quickly without an exhaustive search but I believe the Oilers had to act quickly or he would have been hired elsewhere very quickly…likely in Ottawa.

So, where do the Oilers go from here?

With the Ship of Fools now departing the harbour and an accomplished POHO/GM in charge, I expect Chiarelli will set out to balance the team.

He specifically said he said at his introductory news conference that he would not be afraid to trade any of the young starts if he thought he could improve the team and, from my point of view, that was the most welcome thing he said.

The team must address goaltending and their woeful defense and, while the former should be relatively easy to solve through free agency or a minor trade of assets, I don’t believe there is any other currency than one of Hall or Eberle to accomplish the latter.

The Oilers have to find TWO top pairing D and they have to be in the age range of the young cluster.

There’s a bunch of talk over at Lowetide today that the Oilers should look at bringing in someone like Chara but, c’mon, he’s 38 years old and is breaking down quickly.

There is also some hope that the Oilers will jump on cap strapped teams to land a first pairing D but, other than Hall, Eberle or Pittsburgh’s 1st round pick, the Oilers don’t have any assets that would be of interest to those teams unless they want to give up Nurse or Klefbom which, I’m my opinion, is likely not wise.

Be interesting to se if Chiarelli and I are on the same wavelength.

Top Pairing Defensemen

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Where do top pairing defensemen come from?

I was “in conversation” with some Oiler fans last night…pretty much all of whom are counting on Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse to soon be a cheap source of high level defensive acumen while the team spends all its resources on the top 6 forwards it has received via the draft.

That may happen but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Let’s take a look at the best defensemen in the WC and how they got to the NHL.

Anaheim: Hampus Lindholm – Drafted  6th overall in 2012. Spent part of 1 season in the AHL and made an immediate impact in the NHL at the age of 20. (6G 30P +29)

Arizona: Oliver Ekman – Larsson – Drafted 6th overall in 2009. Made an immediate impact in the NHL immediately after being drafted.

Calgary: Here is your outlier. Mark Giordano was never drafted but instead spent 4 seasons bouncing between the Flames, the AHL and Russia before finding his game.

Chicago: Duncan Keith – Another crooked development path as Keith was drafted in the 2nd round in 1983 and spent 2 full seasons in the AHL before becoming an NHL regular. (this was before the salary cap era which pushes teams to have more cheap youngsters on their rosters.)

Colorado: – Erik Johnson – Drafted 1st overall in 2006 and played in the NHL as an 18 year old.

Dallas: Alex Goligoski -Picked in the 2nd round in 2004 but made his NHL debut as an 18 year old.

Los Angeles Kings: Drew Doughty – Picked 2nd overall in 2008 and made an immediate impact in the NHL as an 18 year old.

Minnesota: Ryan Suter – Picked 6th overall in 2003 (again pre-cap) and spent 1 season in the AHL but made an impact in the NHL as a 20 year old

Nashville: Shea Weber  – Picked in the 2nd round (OMG) in the generational 2003 draft. That was the draft that also produced Suter, Burns, Coburn, Phaneuf, Seabrook, Stuart, Klein and Carle who were all taken before Weber. Weber spent part of 1 season in the AHL but was already a beast at 21 year of age.

San Jose: Brent Burns – Drafted 20th overall in 2003 and spent 1 season in the AHL.

St. Louis: Alex Pietrangelo – Drafted 4th overall in 2008. Spent another year in junior but was an impact player as a 20 year old.

Vancouver: Alex Edler – Drafted in the 3rd round in 2008. Spent part of 1 season in the AHL but was an NHL regular at the age of 21.

Winnipeg: Tyler Myers – Drafted 12th overall in 2008. Won rookie of the year in the NHL and then struggled. With noting the Jets also have Jacob Trouba who was selected 9th overall in 2012 and spent one year in NCAA  hockey before making an impact in the NHL at the age of 21.

So, that brings us to Klefbom and Nurse.

Klefbom was 19th overall in 2011 and despite showing some promise in 60 games this season at the age of 21. One would think, if he’s going to emerge as a top pairing D, we should see evidence of that next season. If that doesn’t happen, I would think he career trajectory would most likely to be compared to that of Alex Edler who I believe might be the weakest #1D on this list.

Nurse was elected 7th overall in the 2013 draft and is spending another season in junior hockey and may need a season in the AHL before becoming an NHL regular. As you can see from the above, that would be very unusual for a player with his draft pedigree considering most of the players on this list were impact players at the age of 20-21.

Obviously, every player has a different development path that is affected by all sorts of factors but it is also pretty clear that elite defenders emerge very early,

And, almost without exception, you cannot win a Stanley Cup without one.

Dum Luck

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The Edmonton Oilers are likely a much better hockey team today than they were yesterday but they are also a team that is being rewarded, handsomely, for a decade of incompetence.

It is true that the NHL draft lottery exists to give a leg up to teams that have fallen on hard times but the Oilers will now have FOUR 1st overall picks in their lineup and unless their management can deliver a winner in short order, they will deserve every bit of scorn from hockey fans all over the world will heap on them.

With Connor McDavid in the fold, Kevin Lowe and Co. have likely bought themselves more time with fans and, most importantly, owner Daryl Katz but unless they can surround all that young talent with the right veterans (something they have shown little aptitude for), the stakes will be very high.

I would say they have the length of Connor McDavid’s entry level contract to win a Stanley Cup and, if they haven’t, it will be time to blow it all up again.

There are a few reasons for that.

The most important of those is that the Oilers will be in a very tenuous cap position with all of Hall, Eberle, Hopkins and, perhaps, Yakupov earning big dollars and, one would imagine if McDavid lives up to his draft billing, a second contract that far eclipses the $6 million now being paid to Hall, Eberle and Hopkins.

When you consider they have to acquire (and pay) TWO top pairing defensemen and a legitimate starting goaltender, they are likely to have very little remaining cap space to fill out a team with good complimentary players.

Of course, they will likely rely on some of their prospect depth to fill out the bottom of the order but, bear in mind, in 3 years time some of the players will also be needing second (more expensive) contracts as well.

Prudent management I think should already be looking 3-4 years down the road and realize that they need to make some moves now to prevent that situation from developing.

If we assume that two top pairing D are likely going to cost north of $5 million each, you could see a situation in Connor McDavid’s 4th season where the Oilers are paying him $8M, Hall, Hopkins and Eberle $6M each and Yakupov perhaps $5M.

That would be a minimum of $41M to pay 7 players and, depending on where the cap is at, could make it exceedingly difficult to round out a winning roster.

The Oilers can, of course, move any one of those highly paid pieces at any time but, considering they desperately need to fill out they D corp and get solid goaltending, it make a whole lot of sense to start that process right away and get on with trying to win.

Tomorrow just arrived.

Nail Yakupov

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On a personal level, there’s a lot to like about Nail Yakupov.

The kid wants to succeed in the worst way, he’s affable, helps the homeless and seems to have toned down his showboating.

But, today, the Oilers extended Yakupov for 2 years at $2.5M despite him being the worst #1 overall pick since Patrik Stefan in 1999.

Yakupov just completed his 3rd NHL season lets take a look at how the first forwards chosen since 1999 have fared in PP/G in their 3rd seasons.

Stefan – .389

Heatley – .806

Kovalchuk – 1.07

Nash – 1.00

E. Staal – 1.22

Ovechkin – 1.37

Crosby – 1.36

J. Staal – .598

Kane – 1.07

Stamkos – 1.11

Tavares – .988

Hall – 1.11

Nugent – Hopkins – .700

Yakupov – .407

That’s pretty damning especially when you consider Jordan Staal was assigned a 3rd line shut down role in Pittsburgh and still managed to outscore Yakupov by a considerable margin.

I can understand the Oilers trying to salvage Yakupov considering they used a #1 overall pick to get him but the reality is he is a marginal NHL player at this point.

I don’t put a lot of stock in plus/minus but it’s also worth noting that Yakupov just won the NHL Green Jacket with a -35 following on the heels of his -33 last season.

You can’t put too much stock in the stat but a career -72 does tell you this player cannot play defensively in the NHL.

Yakupov has two more years to prove he can play in the NHL but, based on his performance thus far…I wouldn’t bet on it.

And, it’s worth noting that Alex Galchenyuk, picked 2 spots after Yakupov, just posted a 20G 46P season (.575 PPG).

 

Nostradamus Redux

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Before the 2014/15 seasons began, I went out on a limb and predicted where the WC teams would finish in the standings and, of course, I had some hits and misses.

I had these as the teams that would make the post season…in this order:

STL

CHI

ANA

DAL

LAK

COL

MIN

VCR

Well, I got only 5 out of 8 right but I certainly over-rated Colorado thinking their your stars would be enough to overcome their defensive deficiencies but, as a group, they underperformed and their season was done.

I believe, if Dallas had received even average goaltending, they would have made the playoffs but one very hopeful sign for the Stars is their 7-3-0 record in the last 10 games. Jim Nill, with a ton of cap space available should be able to shore up his D and G positions and the Stars should be very dangerous next season.

The Kings were sunk, very simply, by an abysmal record in 1 goal games and shootouts (2-8). Reports have surfaced that there is tension between the King’s players and coach Sutter so I think we may see some changes there in the offseason. It would be very amusing if the Kings fired Sutter and replaced him with Todd McClellan if he gets fired in San Jose.

I obviously under-rated the Winnipeg Jets (who didn’t?) but, after having watched them this season, I doubt I or anyone else is going to do that again. Their a big, talented, hardworking team with a bevy of youngsters either breaking in or just a few months away.

No one I saw predicted Calgary would make the playoffs so I’m going to give myself a partial pass for missing that pick because I did manage to frame their issues:

The Calgary Flames

The Flames, as everyone knows, are rebuilding and they are doing it the right way. They’ve shored up their goaltending with Jonas Hiller, they have a legitimate top pairing on D and they now have tremendous centre depth if their two recent #1 picks develop according to their pedigree.

They lost some goal scoring with the departure of Mike Cammalleri but I expect Johnny Gaudreau, Mason Raymond and Sam Bennett will more than compensate.

Sean Monahan produced a 30+ goal season and Gaudreau was even better than advertised but the big surprise was the play of Jiri Hudler with the two youngsters, As you know, Bennet was derailed by shoulder surgery so expect the Flames to look pretty good going into next season if they can wisely use their bounty of cap space to add a couple more big pieces.

I said this about the Nashville Predators:

The Nashville Predators

It’s really hard to know what to expect from the Predators. They have added a lot of potential goal scoring in James Neal and Mike Ribiero as well as a new offensively minded coach.

Their defense and goaltending are stellar and their centre depth is something else so there is potential for them to return to the playoffs.

This likely comes down to whether or not they can adapt to a totally new style of playing so they are a team that could surprise.

Well, they did surprise to an extent but I’m not sure they are as good as their regular season record would seem to indicate.

At the bottom of the heap, here is how I called things:

 The Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers seem to have improved somewhat but there are still tremendous holes in the lineup (what else is new?)

Their centre depth remains the worst in the league, they don’t have ONE top pairing defenseman and their goaltending is questionable.

At centre, they are a RNH injury away from disaster, it appears they will play Nikita Nikitin as a top pairing D (yikes) and have decided Ben Scrivens is as least an average NHL goaltender. Scrivens was very good early in his Oiler career but was very pedestrian as the season wore on.

The Oilers don’t score much and they are dreadful defensively (although they should improve somewhat) and the addition of some mid level defensemen, some cast off wingers and a couple of more rookies are NOT the answer.

Man…I called that one perfectly…except for the part where I said “improved somewhat”. They were actually worse.

 The Arizona Coyotes

There is word tonight that the NHL is trying to find a new buyer for the Coyotes. Source

The current owners reportedly lost $24 million last season (who could have seen that coming?) and need to bail.

At some point, the off ice activity has to have an effect on the on ice performance and I’d guess that it going to happen this season.

The Coyotes lost their two top scoring forwards in Mike Ribiero and Radim Vrbata and replaced them with Martin Erat and Kyle Wellwood Sam Gagner.

The previously defensive stalwart Coyotes sprung some leaks last season and unless Mike Smith has a Vezina level performance this season, this team is doomed.

Nailed it again.

Constant Craving

K.D. Lang Makes Her Debut Performance In "After Midnight"

 

Although it seems like forever…it was about 3 seasons ago I identified the Oilers major needs as:

1) An above average NHL goaltender.

2) TWO top pairing defensemen

3) A #1/#2 C

Well, here we are and the needs are exactly the same and the Oilers are no closer to getting this pieces than they were then.

The bet that Craig MacTavish made on the Scrivens/Fasth combo has turned out pretty much like then you go all in with a pair of 8s before the flop. Boom!

In similar fashion, MacT bet on a bevy of journeymen defensemen who didn’t really fill much of a need since the team was already chok a block with bottom 4 D…they just have more of them now.

I like Ryan Nugent Hopkins as a hockey player but anyone who is being honest with themselves would have to concede he does produce offence befitting a #1C taken 1st overall the draft…he just doesn’t.

Here’s a look at the production in year four of #1C’s taken 1st overall in the past 10 years:

2005 – Sidney Crosby – 1.34 PPG

2008 – Steven Stamkos – 1.18 PPG

2009 – John Tavares – .979

2010  – Tyler Seguin – 1.05 (Seguin wasn’t selected 1st overall but he should have been)

2011 – Ryan Nugent Hopkins – .736

There are those Hopkins apologists who will try and tell you that he can’t produce at a higher level because the Oilers are so bad or because they don’t have a D corp that can move the puck but that could also have been an excuse for some of the others noted above.

At this point in his career, Hopkins is an exceptional 2 way second line centre who may find another gear but if the Oilers are to be successful, he is going to have to score at the same rate as the other big centres in the Pacific Division and he has a very long way to go:

P/60 5V5

Seguin – 2.58

Schwartz – 2.58

Getzlaf – 2.50

Toews – 2.50

Carter – 2.39

Ribiero – 2.34

Backes – 2.34

Thornton – 2.30

Duchene – 2.27

Steen – 2.17

Wilson – 2.17

Bouma – 2.13

Bonino – 2.13

Fisher – 2.05

Couture – 2.01

Sedin – 2.00

Nugent Hopkins – 1.85

Can Hopkins improve on those number? Sure he can when the Oilers are a better team and he is sharing some of the load with another centre but it should also be remembered he is getting a huge Ozone push (63%) and is not currently delivering the goods based on his draft pedigree and 4 years experience.

For comparisons sake…Sean Monahan in Calgary is scoring slightly less than Hopkins at evens but he is only starting 46% of the time in the offensive zone. (and he just turned 20)


 

Craig MacTavish says he’s likely going to bring in a defenseman next season but I’m not sure he will get what the Oilers really need…at least one top pairing D. They just aren’t easily available and, unless you think Nurse or Klefbom is going to turn into one if the next 3 seasons, we may be having this same conversation in 2018.

The only answer is a trade of one of Hall, Hopkins or Eberle in a package to attain one and I don’t think he’s prepared to do that.

 

Snipers & Their Shooting Percentages

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It’s rather amazing….although not surprising….that Oiler fans, despite all the evidence to the contrary, cannot allow themselves to entertain the notion that the young players on other teams are clearly superior is some ways to the Hall, Hopkins, Eberle, Yakupov group that is little more than pedestrian considering their draft pedigrees.

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet noted in his weekly “30 Thoughts” segment today:

– Players who’ve scored 30 goals at age 20 in the 21st century: Alexander Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jonathan Toews, Evgeni Malkin, Anze Kopitar, Patrice Bergeron, Marian Gaborik, Evander Kane… and Sean Monahan. 

Last night, over at Lowetide’s blog, I happened to note Monohan’s accomplishment and the reaction was immediate, predictable and hilarious in its logical vapidity.

The jist of the argument seems to be that, since Monahan’s shooting percentage is above league average, it MUST regress to the mean.

That, of course, is absolute nonsense, and, in fact, the Lowetidians said exactly the same thing last season when Monahan’s shooting percentage was 15.7%.

Well, here we are a season and 78 games later and Monahan’s shooting percentage is 16.4%

NHL average shooting percentage for forwards hovers around 11% although it has been declining since peaking at over 15% in the “scoring glory” days of the mid 80’s.

Quant Hockey has some great breakdowns for those interested, here.

Now, let’s bear in mind that, to reach an average, some players will be below average and some will  be above average…it does not mean that ALL players are average…they aren’t.

The question then becomes…are there players in the contemporary NHL who have career shooting percentages in the 14% – 16% range which seems like it might be Monahan’s established level of ability.

The answer is….YES.

In the discussion over at Lowetide last night, I cited Alex Tanguay as one example of a player who has maintained a shooting percentage well above league average for many years…but he is far from the only one. (source)

Alex Tanguay – 18.97

Steven Stamkos – 17.17

Brendan Morrow – 15.97

Jonathan Toews – 14.92

Mike Ribiero – 14.93

Milan Lucic – 14.71

Curtis Glencross – 14.66

Thomas Vanek – 14.56

Dany Heatley – 14.50

Sidney Crosby – 14.45

Troy Brouwer – 14.43

Pavel Datsyuk – 14.43

Jordan Eberle – 14.00

The last name on that list is interesting because Oiler fans think of Jordan Eberle as a pure sniper…something I can agree with but I wonder why Oiler fans aren’t calling for him to “regress” to the mean.

Perhaps it’s because he’s a more talented goal scorer than average just as it is entirely possible that Monahan is actually a better sniper than Eberle as all the available evidence suggests he is.

In his second season, Eberle had an 18.9% shooting percentage and there were more than a few who correctly predicted that was not sustainable since, if it was, he would have been among the best snipers in modern history but, 3 seasons later, Eberle is still well above average and I can’t think of any reason why that will change.

In fact, Eberle apparently had wrist issues early in the season which likely means his current season percentage would be higher than it is currently.

Having said that, there is always a chance that Monahan’s percentage will dip in future seasons but to insist it must regress to the mean is a logical fallacy of immense proportions.

And, finally, here’s something else to consider….Monahan got off to a very slow start to the season…scoring only 2 goals on 27 shots in his first 10 games for a shooting percentage of only 7%.

He’s been lights out ever since and I would wager his shooting percentage will remain well above average in the future.

Even Strength Scoring

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This is Tyler Johnson.

Johnson was an undrafted free agent who may be the biggest steal in the NHL in the past couple of decades.

If you’re unfamiliar with Johnson…here’s a bit of info:

2009-10: Johnson was the second-leading goal scorer for WHL Spokane and participated in his second world junior tournament. Johnson scored 36 goals with 35 assists and was +14 with 32 PMs on a Chiefs team that finished two points behind US Division champion and WHL playoff runner-up Tri-City. He scored 11 of his 36 goals on the power play. In seven playoff goes he scored 3 goals with 5 assists and was -1. Johnson scored 3 goals with 2 assists and was +4 with 25 PMs in seven games for gold medal-winning USA at the 2010 U20 World Junior Championship.

 

2010-11: Johnson skated for the Minnesota Wild in the Traverse City tournament and attended Wild camp but was not signed to a contract and returned to Spokane for an over-age season. Johnson led the WHL with 53 goals and was named to the WHL First All-Star team as a 20-year-old. In 71 games with the Chiefs he was +27 and had 62 assists. His 115 points were one behind WHL-leader Linden Vey (LAK). In fourteen playoff games for the Chiefs he scored 7 goals with 7 assists and was +3 with 9 PMs. Johnson signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Tampa Bay in March, 2011.

 

2011-12: Johnson was the third-leading scorer for the Lightning’s AHL affiliate in Norfolk in his first pro season. He scored 31 goals with 37 assists and was plus-17 with 28 penalty minutes in 75 games. The Admirals captured the AHL’s Calder Cup championship in the playoffs after finishing first in the East Division. Johnson had 6 goals with 8 assists in 14 playoff games and was plus-eight with 6 penalty minutes.

 

2012-13: Johnson made his NHL debut with the Lightning in March after leading Tampa Bay AHL affiliate Syracuse in scoring in his second pro season. Johnson provided a spark to the offense, scoring 3 goals with 3 assists and finishing +3 with 4 penalty minutes in 14 games with Tampa Bay. In 62 games for Syracuse he scored 37 goals with 28 assists and was +26 with 34 penalty minutes. The Crunch finished first in the East Division and reached the AHL Finals against Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids.

 

Johnson went undrafted because of his size…5’8″ 165…and is making 29 NHL General Managers looking like fools because he leads the NHL 5V5 P/60 with 3.15

I’ve always thought the measure of a player is how effective he is at even strength.

There are some players who feast on the power play but those points are subject to the vicissitudes of power play opportunities and success which goes up and down like a widow’s nightdress.

Now, when you consider that Johnson’s line mates Andrej Palat (2.96) and Nikita Kucherov (2.95) are 3RD and 4TH in the league at evens, it’s no wonder the Lightning are one of the best teams in the league.

Looking over the top 25…a few names stand out…some for who is on the list and some who aren’t.

Rick Nash has been a beast this year at 3.09 and seeing Vladimir Tarasenko (2.83) in 6th spot portends his future superstardom.

The Dallas Stars have 2 players, Jamie Benn (2.58) and Tyler Seguin (2.48) in the top 25 so, if the Stars ever sort out their goaltending, they’ll be tough to beat.

But perhaps the most surprising name on the list is Jiri Hudler (2.68) in 8th place. Hudler is having a fantastic season mentoring two young players in Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau and was actually the league’s leading scorer in the month of March edging out the Canucks Radim Vrbata.

For the Oiler fans who frequent these parts…the news is dreadful.

The Oilers best even strength scorer is Benoit Pouliot at 2.14 (63rd on the list) while Taylor Hall (1.99), Jordan Eberle (1.89) and Ryan Nugent Hopkins (1.85) are not scoring anywhere near the rate their draft pedigree would warrant.

It’s no surprise that the Oilers are 26th in the league in GF/G.

 

 

The Wild Wild West III

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As I expected, and predicted, the Minnesota Wild are poised to clinch a playoff spot in the near future.

Sports Club Stats has them sitting at a 98.8% chance of making the playoffs going into tonight’s game at home against the Kings. A win would out them at 99.8% and with 95 points they would have a death grip on a wildcard spot and would be, in fact in 3rd place in the Central Division although the Blackhawks would have 2 games in hand.

The game tonight, though, also has tremendous implications on the playoff hopes of the Calgary Flames who now trail the Kings by 1 point.

Calgary still has 3 was to make the playoffs…finish ahead of the Vancouver Canucks in the Pacific Division…finish ahead of the Kings in the Pacific Division or grab the final wild card spot if any of Vancouver, Los Angeles or Winnipeg fades down the stretch.

I’m really hoping all of Vancouver, Winnipeg and Calgary makes the playoffs since that would enhance the chances of a Canadian team winning a cup…something that hasn’t happened since Christ was a cowboy.

It’s not that I don’t like the Kings or appreciate how good they can be but it would be refreshing to have a different dynamic in this years’ playoffs.