The NHL Elite

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For many years, I have considered an elite offensive players as one who could post more than a point per game played. But, as score g has declined since the last lockout, there are fewer and fewer players who are able to hit that mark causing me to reassess what we should expect from an elite player in the NHL.

As recently as the 2013/14 season there were 13 players who finished above the 1.00 mark.

In 2014/15, that number has dropped to 8 and this season is much the same although there are another 4 players within the range.

TOP P/PG Players 2015/16

  • Patrick Kane – 1.29
  • Jamie Benn – 1.10
  • Connor McDavid – 1.03 (small sample size)
  • Tyler Seguin – 1.03
  • Evgeni Malkin – 1.02
  • Sidney Crosby – 1.02
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov – 1.01
  • Erik Karlsson – 1.00

  • Johnny Gaudreau  – .99
  • Joe Thornton – .97
  • Joe Pavelski – .97
  • Niklas Backstrom – .97

At, .94, Alex Ovechkin doesn’t make the grade but with 41 goals on the season I think we can give him a pass and declare him an elite player.

Moving the Goalposts

Obviously, 1.00 P/GP in the current NHL is too high a bar since you will note, of the 12 players listed above. 3 play for the Washington Capitals, 2 for the Dallas Stars, 2 for the Pittsburgh Penguins and 2 for the San Jose Sharks leaving only 3 players on other teams in the league.

It appears that, if we move the goalposts to .80 PPG in the modern NHL, we may have the issue surrounded.

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And?

There are really no glaring omissions from this ranking but there are a few noteworthy items.

A very slow start to the season has impacted Jakub Voracek in very dramatic fashion. Last season, Voracek scored .99 P/GP but it should also be noted that he has been climbing higher in the scoring rate for the past couple of months.

Two seasons ago, Taylor Hall posted 1.07 P/PG but since then is .72 and .80. Has the league figured him out and knows he will just rush up the left side and fire a generally harmless low percentage shot on goal?

Seeing Johnny Gaudreau at .99 P/GP  after a .80 in his stellar rookie season is a revelation. Despite playing on a team that is near the bottom of the standings, Gaudreau has emerged as the premiere LW in the WC outside of the dominant force that is Jamie Benn.

Patrice Bergeron is quietly having an exceptional season. After posting .68 P/GP last season and winning the Selke Trophy, he’s kept up his defensive dominance and his scoring has jumped to .90 and he looks like a sure bet to score 30 goals and 70 points this season.

And finally, I can’t say enough about what Jaromir Jagr is accomplishing in Florida and his golden years.

His .82 P/GP on a low scoring Panthers team is remarkable at his age and it appears he has the ability to play a few more seasons at a very high level.

All hockey fans should hope so.

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.

 

Don’t Look Now…

Don't_Look_Now_Titlecard

 

As of this writing…the Toronto Maple Leafs are playing the Montreal Canadiens.

If they lose, as expected, they’ll be a scant 3 points ahead of the Arizona Coyotes (pending the Coyotes home game against the Rangers).

Carolina is 5 points back of the Leafs but have 3 games in hand so it’s entirely reasonable to assume the Leafs will be in 3rd spot in the draft lottery a week from now.

The Sabres and Oilers are so bad it’s highly unlikely the Leafs can out suck them but I would imagine a team like the the Leafs that is about to blow things up could start a “down to the wood” rebuild with the 3rd overall pick with a decent shot of getting Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

Worth mentioning that McDavid, a Toronto boy, has expressed a great deal of interest in being drafted by the Leafs.

The most highly touted hockey prospect since Sidney Crosby delivered music to the ears of Leafs Nation this weekend.

“That would be an absolute dream come true,” Connor McDovaid told Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun when asked about the possibility of becoming a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. “It’s pretty crazy to even think about.”

“I’m from Toronto. You have to be a Leafs fan,” McDavid said in the article. “So, of course, I was. Of course. My dad was a Leafs fan. Every Saturday night watching Hockey Night in Canada would be my favourite time.”

Toronto is the most important franchise in the National Hockey League. It leads the league in revenue generated, in appreciating franchise values and I would wager that Gary Bettman is tuned into what’s transpiring in Toronto in a major way.
Don’t be surprised if the Leafs officially start their rebuild by drafting the best player since Sidney Crosby.

Speaking of the Oilers, there’s lots of blather on Lowetide and other Oiler fanboy sites about how the team has “turned north” under Todd Nelson.
Nonsense, of course.
The Oilers are 9-10-2 under Nelson with their 6 remaining games in February against Winnipeg, Boston, Minnesota (twice), Anaheim and St. Louis.
I would be surprised if the Oilers win 2 of those games.
Also worth noting is that, if the Oilers played at a season long pace of 9-10-2 over 82 games, they would still finish in 13th place in the WC.
You can’t see north from here.

Tough break for Tyler Seguin and the Dallas Stars after the Star’s centre will be out for 3-6 weeks with a knee injury after being low bridged by Dmitri Kulikov.

That ends any thoughts of Seguin winning a scoring title and likely is also the end of the Stars’ playoff hopes since Ales Hemsky and Patrick Eaves were also injured in the same game

Left Wing Lock

 

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Tonight we get the luxury of watching the two best left wingers in the NHL. Taylor Hall has four goals and he’s become the clear-cut emotional leader of the team. It should be very entertaining to watch him and Ovechkin go head-to-head.

This is Jason Gregor spewing nonsense over at Oiler Nation.

Taylor Hall is NOT one of the best two left wingers in the NHL. Not even close.

Hall isn’t even the best LW in the WC of the NHL.

In fact, there are several players who I would take over Hall on my team if I had to win a game or a playoff series. Hockey Canada and the people who voted for NHL All Star teams also happen to agree with me.

Gregor was, of course referring to Alex Ovechkin as the other “best left winger in the NHL” but the second or third best, at least, is not Taylor Hall.

Likely the best LW in hockey is Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars.

14 players voted on who they would pick to build an NHL franchise around, and Sidney Crosby picked Jamie Benn: “He just does everything pretty well,” Crosby said. “Two-way guy. He’s big and strong and tough. He does a lot of good things. And he’s young. He’d be the guy right now.”

Benn, who turned 25 in July, led all LW’s in the league last season with 34 goals. (Ovechkin played RW last season and scored 51G albeit in the easier EC)

Hall finished the season with 27 goals and 80 points (1 more then Benn) but, as usual, Hall gave up way more than he scored finishing the season at -15 to Benn’s +21.

But let’s drill a little deeper.

I think we can agree that the best measure of a player is his ability to produce at even strength since  PP points are more rare and serendipitous. Here is how the top 10 LW finished in 5V5 P/60 last season.

1) Jamie Benn – 2.95

2) Taylor Hall – 2.91

3) Gabriel Landeskog – 2.57

4) Thomas Vanek – 2.57

5) Phil Kessel – 2.52

6) Milan Lucic – 2.35

7) Joe Pavelski – 2.32

8) Chris Kunitz – 2.29

9) Patrick Maroon – 2.29

10) Max Pacioretty – 2.26

Pretty heady company and Hall looks pretty good here but now let’s take a look about 200 feet down the ice.

Being an “outscorer” is critical to success in hockey because it doesn’t much matter how much you score if you give up even more.

5V5 +-/60

1) Dustin Penner – +1.79 (I KNOW!)

2) Milan Lucic – +1.58

3) Chris Kunitz – +1.36

4) Joe Pavelski – +1.34

5) Ondrej Palat – +1.33

6) Jamie Benn – +1.32

7) Loui Eriksson – +1.24

8) Patrick Maroon – +1.19

9) Gabriel Landeskog – +1.19

10) Valeri Nichushkin – +1.03

55) Taylor Hall – -0.36

Now, some context is required here. For example, Chris Kunitz is being pulled along but the best player in hockey and Milan Lucic benefits from playing in front of an outstanding back end but that doesn’t account for how dreadful Hall is at outscoring.

Mason Raymond is better.

Those were the numbers for last season and it’s early days in the 2014/15 season, but at the moment Jamie Benn is ranked 10th at +3.61 while Taylor Hall is 83rd at -1.31.

Something to keep and eye on before proclaiming Hall “one of two best LW in hockey”.

He isn’t…not even close.