Wild Wild West 15/16

wild-west-crispin-delgado

It’s that time of year where hockey pundits and fans try and figure out which NHL teams will have success in the upcoming season.

We’ve been told this is “The Year of “Analytics” in the game so let’s start there and see what we find.

Sporstnet has compiled the predictions, based on analytics, where every team will finished in the 105/16 season.

I strongly recommend you read the entire article linked to above for methodology and context but here’s a quick peek at the results.

westerndeviation

I’ll let you make your own assessment of those stats based “predictions” (holy cow…look at Anaheim!) but I thought i would distill them a bit to see which teams will or will not make the playoffs in the WC based those methods.

Central

Chicago

Dallas

St. Louis

Pacific

San Jose

Los Angeles

Anaheim

Wild Card

Minnesota

Nashville

Close But No Cigar

Calgary

Winnipeg

In the Toilet

Colorado

Vancouver

Edmonton

Arizona

Oh, where to begin!!!

The Stazis have the Sharks making a huge return to relevance, improving from 89 points last season to a Conference Championship with 110 points. This despite another few thousand miles on the odometer for Thornton and Marleau and bringing in a new coach and precious little else. Don’t think so.

They also have the Ducks dropping 10 points in the season(likely based on possession which the team always defies) and are likely ignoring the further maturation of the deep but youthful D the Ducks have deployed)

They correctly in my opinion have identified the Dallas Stars as one of the most improved team in the WC but they totally ignore the turmoil in Chicago which saw the Hawks lose Sharp, Oduya, Saad, among, others and the effect that may have on team chemistry never mind the Stanley Cup hangover that seems to be a real thing.

They also have the Oilers improving by only 8 points which I find very hard to believe considering the radical changes they’ve mad throughout the organization and on the ice.

Those are just a few quibbles so let’s take a look at what I think we’ll see this season.


Central

Dallas

Wins this division if their defensive game and goaltending improve to what they seemed to be in the last 20 games last season (best record in the NHL). The Stars top 6 forward group is the best in the NHL and even though Jamie Benn, Valerie Nichushkin and Ales Hemsky (as well as D John Klingberg and Patrick Nemeth) were injured last season, the Stars were the second highest scoring team in the league.

St. Louis

The Blues were tied for tops in the division last season and I have seen nothing to indicate they will drop back by any significant amount. With Vladimir Tarasenko likely to challenge for the scoring lead and perhaps some less difficult games against Chicago, the Blues are dropping back

Minnesota

The Wild had the second best goal differential in the west last season (+30) and despite a very slow start with sub par goaltending, finished with 100 points, a mere 2 points behind Chicago. They’ll get over that hump this season


Pacific

Anaheim

Virtually every prognosticator I’ve seen is calling for the Ducks to top the WC and most pick them to win the Stanley Cup.

I agree.

The Ducks have added tremendous speed up front in Carl Hagelin, size and grit with Chris Stewart and a veteran presence on D in Kevin Bieksa. Their young D, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Simon Depres and Josh Manson are all going to be better and they have 3 quality NHL goaltenders in the system.

Calgary

I’m going off the board here but I think the Flames have another gravity defying season in them.

The Stazis all insist, based on last year’s possession metrics, that the Flames will do a face plant this season.

I don’t they will since Brad Treleving knows full well his team has to improve in the area and addressed the issue directly by adding Michael Frolik and Dougie Hamilton.

Both are positive possession guys and a closer look at the Flames possession number show the Flames did juts fine when Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie were on the ice. Now that their second pairing has added Hamilton and their second line has added Frolik, they will be significanlyt better in that area.

And lest we forget, the Flames have also added Sam Bennett to their second like which promises to bring a lot more scoring than last season.

If they can get league average goaltending, and they have 3 strong choices in net, I see them finishing 3rd in the Pacific.

Wild Card

Here’s where things get very uncertain where injury, bad luck or a tickle in someone’s throat could decide the last 2 spots in the WC playoffs.

I’ll just rank them in order of what I think the probability is that they could make it.

Los Angeles

Is Milan Lucic a strong enough replacement for Justin Williams?

San Jose

They’ll be playing against tougher Ducks, Kings, Flames and Oilers in their division this season

Chicago 

Lots of changes and a Stanley Cup hangover.

Nashville

Still not convinced they have enough offence and an injury to one centre kills them

Vancouver

The Canucks have added size, speed and youth to their lineup. Keep a close eye on Bo Horvat who looks ready to explode.

Rookie defenseman Ben Hutton was spectacular in the pre-season and brings size, speed and scoring ability to the Canucks D,

Whether or not youngsters Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen can make an impact is still in question but their infusion of youth should help a stale Canucks lineup.

Winnipeg

The toughest team to rank. Big team that may have over achieved last season but, if their rookies take off they could surprise.

Colorado

Their D remains weak and losing Ryan O’Reilly is going to hurt.

Edmonton

I’ve got them down for 10 more wins this season but that will get them nowhere near the playoffs and with a very tough first 20 games, they may be out of the race by Halloween again. Cam Talbot has never played in front of the worst D in the league before. He’s about to.

Arizona

Never mind

10 TO WATCH

detective with magnifying glass

With the exhibition season drawing to a close, it’s time to anticipate some of the story lines I think we’ll see develop over the course of the season.

Here are the 10 top things I’m expecting to emerge over the next 7 months.

  1. Ryan Johansen

Johansen is the oft forgotten graduate of the Class of 2010 that also includes Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko. The 6’3″ 225 centre came close to a PPG last season and, now that he has Brandon Saad patrolling his left wing, I expect Johansen to take another step forward and emerge as a true superstar. Worth noting that Johansen led the NHL pre season scoring with 4G and 12P in only 4 games while his right winger, Nick Foligno finished with 9 points and Saad recorded 8. This is setting up as one of the premier lines in all of hockey.

2. McDavid vs. Eichel vs. Sam Bennett

Most observers expect McDavid and Eichel to be the top two in an outstanding rookie class but it needs to be remembered that both are playing on teams that don’t score much, have huge holes on the blue line and questionable goaltending. None of those things apply to Bennett whose Calgary Flames were 6th in goal scoring last season and promise to be even better this season with a healthy Mark Giordano, the additions of possession darling Michael Frolik and puck moving wizard Dougie Hamilton as well as further maturation of young stars Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. Others to keep an eye on are Artemi Panarinin in Chicago and Nikolaj Ehlers in Winnipeg.

3. Jamie Benn

Benn won the scoring title last season despite playing with two bad hips which he had operated on in the offseason. He’s now healthy and will have Patrick Sharp and Tyler Seguin as line mates. Will he win the Hart Trophy? When asked which player he would build a team around, Sidney Crosby immediately identified Benn as his choice. I don’t disagree.

4. Tyler Seguin

The Yin to Benn’s Yang is Tyler Seguin who emerged last season as a bonafide superstar. Seguin would have easily topped 40 goals last season had he not missed 10 games to a dirty low bridge hit. He may be one of the few players with a legitimate chance to hit 50 this season and I wouldn’t bet against him.

6. Bo Horvat

Horvat was a revelation last season starting out on the 4th line and later in the season centering Vancouver’s 3rd line. In camp this season, he’s already moved up to the Canucks 2nd line C position and there are more than a few observers who believe he will soon make Vancouver fans forget all about Ryan Kesler.

7. Vladimir Tarasenko

Tarasenko is another member of that sweet 2010 draft class that should hit another level this season. After scoring 37 goals and 73 points in 77 GP last season, I expect Tarasenko will soon join Seguin atop the pinnacle of that draft class.

8. Buffalo vs. Edmonton

The Oilers finished 8 points ahead of the Sabres last season and, while adding Connor McDavid, trading for Cam Talbot and signing Andrej Sekera, the Sabres have blown them away in making substantive changes to their roster.

Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, David Legwand, Jamie McGinn, Zach Bogosian, Cody Franson and Robin Lehner trump everything the Oilers have done in the offseason. I expect they’ll improve much more than the Oilers. and….by the way…the Oilers are almost cap strapped while the Sabres have almost $12M in free cap space. 

9. The Detroit Red Wings

This is the season that the Wings finally fail to make the playoffs. It’s not so much that they will decline by a large margin but the hard charging Florida Panthers, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Ottawa Senators all are likely to finish ahead of them.

10. There is always one team that surprises with their success and at least one other that does a face plant. This season, I think the Calgary Flames are going to surprise and will win the Pacific Division. My candidate for the team likely to fall furthest is the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks made the playoffs last season by a mere 3 points and with the changes they’ve been forced make and the surging Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets, they could well finish 6th in the tough Central Division.

Even Strength Scoring

451179950.0

 

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.

 

 

Snap Shots…the Groundhog Day Edition.

Other than men turned out in top hats scaring the crap out some mangy rodents, we have a few other Groundhog Day observations.

1) It’s certainly Groundhog Day for the Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers. The Canucks are suffering another late season swoon that could soon see them looking up at a playoff spot. They’re playing a bland, boring style of hockey that sees them having great difficult scoring and, oddly enough, they’re much better on the road than at home. The Leafs, of course, are doing their annual face plant and, they’re goal scoring is even worse than the Canucks. Meanwhile, the Oilers are playing a little better but, as in years past, only when it doesn’t matter.

2) Speaking of the Oilers…Elliotte Friedman was on a Calgary radio station this morning with some thoughts on Taylor Hall and why the Oilers can’t win.

“And those guys in Edmonton, they don’t know how to win. And again, some of it is their own fault because when you’re the best players, you have to be the ones who say, ‘We’re going to do whatever it takes to get there.’ And I don’t think those guys have. But when you lose and you lose and you lose, nobody teaches you how to get there either. And that’s what I see with this team. They don’t know what it takes to be winners in this league.”

 

3) The trade deadline is exactly 1 month away and there is lot’s of smoke but, so far, no fire. Don Maloney was on several radio shows over the weekend telling everyone who would listen that he has hung out the For Sale sign on his Arizona Coyotes roster with the only untouchable being Shane Doan. Antoine Vermette, Martin Hanzal, Z. Michalek, Keith Yandle, Martin Erat and, presumably Oliver Ekman-Larsson may find new homes by the 1st of March and Maloney should be sitting with a fistful of picks or young prospects. Since I also expect Arizona to win the lottery, they can then start building around Connor McDavid.

4) One GM who should have Maloney on speed dial is Craig MacTavish. If the Oilers are ever going to turn the ship around, they absolutely have to find a top pairing D and the only way they’re going to get one is to move at least one of their “core pieces”. Since the Oilers have no forward prospects of note, I would consider Taylor Hall for OEL and call it a day.

5) With both the price of oil and the Canadian dollar in free fall, it’s entirely possible the salary cap next season could be flat and that’s going to be a major problem for several teams. Jonathan Willis has a piece up at Bleacher Report which details how a low cap will affect the Chicago Blackhawks. But the issue will also have a major impact on teams like the Bruins, Rangers and Kings.

6) As I’ve mentioned several times, the Calgary Flames have the lowest payroll and the most cap space available in the offseason so are perfectly poised to take advantage of teams that have to offload salary. Imagine what the Flames D would look like if they were able to add Brent Seabrook and Keith Yandle in one off season. Jeebus!

7) Had a chance to watch the Dallas/Winnipeg game on Saturday and came away even more impressed with young (22 years old) defenseman John Klingberg. Klingberg, who was chosen as the NHL Rookie of the Month for January, was dominant, scoring 2G 2A and now has 9 goals and 24 points on the season in only 35GP. The 5th round pick in 2010 is very much like Erik Karlsson although Klingberg appears to be better defensively.

8) No surprise that Alex Ovechkin has taken over the goal scoring lead with 31…exceeding the 30 goal mark for the 10th straight season. Rick Nash (29) Tyler Seguin (28), Steven Stamkos (27), Patrick Kane (25), Vladimir Tarasenko (25) and Joe Pavelski would seem like the only players who could challenge for the lead.

9) Interestingly enough, the only Oiler player who protects to score 20 this season is Jordan Eberle who is on pace to score 21. Since David Perron was traded to Pittsburgh he has been on a predictable tear, recording 6 goals and 9 points 12GP. At that rate, he will easily score 20 while his replacement in Edmonton (Benoit Pouliot) won’t come close.

10) The flip side of that coin is that the Calgary Flames have 4 players on pace to score 20+, Gaudreau, Hudler, Monahan and Wideman with Giordano also having a decent shot at 20.

 

Snapshots

Snapshots-logo

 

1) Whatever you do, try to avoid the current flu bug that’s going around. I’m now into day 4 of absolute misery with no end in the sight. Chills, sweats, swallowing razor blades are all features of the current bug.

2) The Minnesota Wild lost again Saturday afternoon. They outshot the Nashville Predators 37-27. It’s their 4th straight loss and comes after games in which they outshot Chicago 44-20 and outshot San Jose 31-26. The Wild are outshooting the opposition by an average of 5 shots/game and yet they are 12th in the WC and sinking like a rock. No surprise what’s going on there…goaltending has been dreadful…Kuemper .902…Backstrom .893…Curry .826

3) There’s a little ray of sunshine in Oilerland after the Oilers beat the Blackhawks  But let’s remember the Oilers have 2 wins and 3 losses in the their last 5 games and then…there is this.

Jonathan Willis @JonathanWillis · 1h 1 hour ago

#Oilers 5v5 SH% and SV%:
– 2014-15 Eakins: 6.5%, 0.902
– 2013-14 Eakins: 7.7%, 0.913
– 2014-15 Nelson: 12.6%, 0.951

Jonathan Willis @JonathanWillis · 2h 2 hours ago
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always liked Todd Nelson as a coach, but he didn’t just double the effectiveness of #Oilers shooters and goalies.

4) Interesting trade between the Flames and Panthers this week as the teams swapped centres with Drew Shore going to Calgary and Corban Knight going to to Florida. Shore, who seems to be NHL ready, was blocked in Florida but Calgary is absolutely loaded at C as well with Backlund, Stajan, Monohan, Colborne, Jooris, Byron, Bouma, Reinhart and, of course, Sam Bennett. Gotta think there is another move coming.

5) I see Ryan Nugent Hopkins has been chosen as the Oilers representative at the All Star game. So, we’ll have to endure the fanboys touting his all star credentials for a few years. Important to note that Hopkins is currently 43rd in scoring among centres and not only is that NOT all-star rated by performance but it is also not what you would expect from any 1st line centre. Hopkins is nothing more or nothing less than a very good 2nd line centre.

6) The Vancouver Canucks remain a riddle. For a while they are among the highest scoring teams in the league but everyone on the team has gone stone cold and they are in danger of dropping out of a playoff spot. The surprising Jets, the Flames and the Kings are right on their heels although the Canucks have multiple games in hand.

7) It appears the Colorado Avalanche are don’t yet. After winning 7 of their last 10 games, they are surging toward the playoffs and are now only 4 points out. The WC playoff race is going to be barn burner.

8) As I predicted weeks ago, the Florida Panthers are methodically making their way up the EC standing…now only 3 points behind Boston but with 4 games in hand.

9) Checking the scoring race…I see Tyler Seguin has cooled off over the past few games and is now tied with Rick Nash for the goalscoring lead with 26 and is 2 points behind Jakub Voracek for the overall points lead. Two other players to keep an eye on are Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane who have both been very hot lately.

10) It appears the Buffalo Sabres are reverting to form and will likely occupy the 30th overall spot in the league in the very near future and both Edmonton and Carolina are still very much in the running while Arizona also looks like they’re going to tank. I still expect the league will be “managing” this draft very carefully to ensure that Connor McDavid doesn’t end up on a team that will fritter away such a valuable league asset.

The Russians Are Coming Part II

Red Army

 

A fairly quiet night in the NHL with only 1 game on the schedule…San Jose at Winnipeg in a battle of WC wild card teams.

I thought it might be a good opportunity to update the performance thus far of the Russian players in the NHL since a few of them are having spectacular seasons and at least one is on a fast track to nowhere.

1) Evgeni Malkin is, as you might expect, leading the way with 17G and 43 points which for him is an average season.

2) Following very close on Malkin’s heels is budding superstar Vladimir Tarasenko whose 22 goals puts him on pace for 56. The 16th overall pick in the 2010 draft is looking like he might change the post-mortem of that draft, now 5 seasons in, by season’s end.

3) Another revelation sitting in 3rd spot is Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning with 17 goals and 39 points. That Kucherov was drafted 58th overall in 2011, makes the 29 other NHL teams look a little silly. Interestingly, Tampa used its first 3 picks in that draft on Russians, also picking up Vladimir Namestnikov in the 1st round and D Nikita Nesterov in the 3rd round. Namestnikov has 3 goals and 7 points this season while Nesterov has also played 2 NHL games this season. and, by the way, yhe Lightning also picked up Andrej Palat in that 2011 draft…all he has done is score 93 points in 122 NHL games.  Wow, what a draft.

4) Alex Ovechkin seems to have needed a bit of time getting used to the new coaching regime in Washington but has been coming on lately with a total of 19 goals and 34 points. I wouldn’t be the least surprised if a strong second half sees him come close to 50 goals.

5) Pavel Datsyuk makes #5 on this despite only playing 28 games due to injury. His 13 goals and 28 points in those 28 games is testament to his sublime skills.

6) Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov comes in at # 6 on this list with 5 goals and 19 points which is a pretty average season for him.

7) Veteran checking winger Nikolai Kulemin has helped propel the New York Islanders to near the top of the EC standings although at 6 goals and 14 points is a far cry from the 30 goal 57 point season he recored with the Toronto Maple Leafs back in 2010/11

8) 22 year old centre Evgeny Kuznetsov might be deemed a slight disappointment here with only 4 goals and 14 points. But the former 1st round pick is not playing a feature role with the Washington Capitals so perhaps there is still some hope he can break out.

9/10) 2 defensemen, Dimitri Kulikov and Alexei Emelin round out the top 10 with identical 1 goal 11 point seasons.

There are 4 Russian players in the NHL this season who must be considered disappointments. Slava Voynov remains suspended while facing domestic assault charges, Alex Semin, with his 7 million dollar contract has managed to produce all of 1 goal and 4 points in his 22 GP, while Valeri Nichushkin has missed all but 4 games due to injury.

The 4th disappointment has to be former 1st overall pick Nail Yakupov who continues to fly around the ice with wild abandon accomplishing almost nothing…managing to post only 4 goals, 9 points and a league worst -19.

As an upcoming RFA, I would imagine there’s a better than even chance that Yakov is traded but the Edmonton Oilers for a used tissue or returns to play in Russia.

The last 1st overall pick who failed in such spectacular fashion was Patrik Stefan who scored 7 goals and 23 points in his 3rd season after being drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers in 1999. He would top out in the NHL in 2003/04 scoring 14 goals and 41 points for the Thrashers and finished his career with Bern in the Swiss league in 2007/08.

 

Snap Shots

Snapshots-logo

 

1) Winnipeg Free Press writer Gary Lawless has an interesting post up about the disposability of NHL head coaches and has some particularly harsh comments about the Edmonton Oilers.

Dallas Eakins, Pete DeBoer and Paul MacLean have all been fired this season by organizations with either no plan or the lack of strength to support one.

The Oilers hired Eakins to be part of building a winning program in Edmonton, but fired him after little more than one season. GM Craig MacTavish stood in front of the media following the firing and claimed to have “blood all over his hands,” for his role in assembling a terrible lineup.

MacTavish hired a rookie head coach to work with a young team but panicked when the growing pains became too much.

Everything that transpired in Edmonton was predictable, from a meddling owner to a GM submitting to pressure and casting aside his top lieutenant. Edmonton isn’t a coaching-change away from improvement. MacTavish knows this and firing Eakins was disingenuous. Oilers fans should have been insulted at the flimsy ruse.

Most GM’s get only two head coaches in their tenure so it will be interesting to see how much rope Craig MacTavish has in Edmonton.

2) The Florida Panthers continue their march up the EC standings, going 6-2-2 in their last 10 GP and now sit only 2 points behind the Maple Leafs with 3 games in hand. They have a positive shot differential and are getting all star level goaltending from Roberto Luongo (.923) while emerging star Nick Bjugstad is on pace for a 33 goal season and appears to be gaining confidence with every game. Rookie Defenseman Aaron Ekblad has been noting short of a revelation….the 18 year old has 5 goals, 21 points and leads the team in plus/minus at +8.

3) The Toronto Maple Leafs are currently the highest scoring team in the league at 3.23 G/G. If they ever figure out that defense thing, they could be dangerous.

4) The same might apply to the Dallas Stars who are 28th in the league in GA/G. The Stars, though, are on an 8-2-0 run in their past 10 are are making a belated push for the playoffs. GM Jin Nill continues to try and shore up his D, picking David Schlemko off waivers this morning but I doubt that will be enough to stem the tide.

5) Speaking of the Stars…Tyler Seguin has cooled off a bit of late but remains on pace for a 57 goal 100 point season. In the meantime, it appears Taylor Hall has become “indifferent” in Edmonton and is on pace for 23 goals 53 points.

6) 5 years on from the 2010 draft, things are starting to get a little clearer. Seguin has passed Hall in GP, goals and points, despite playing his first 2 seasons in a sport role in Boston while Hall was top dog in Edmonton. But, to me, one of the most fascinating stories of that draft is Russian sniper Vladimir Tarasenko. The Russian, picked 16th in the draft by the St. Louis Blues, is in his 3rd NHL season and is on pace for 47 goals.

7) Before the season began, I predicted the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks would be battling for a wild card spot at the end of the season and that certainly looks like a good bet. They’re currently tied with 45 points apiece and will likely have company in that battle with the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames.

8) As the season winds down, teams’ record against their own conference becomes more and more important as they wrap up their season series against the other conference. Some notables in the WC vs. WC:

Vancouver – 13-7-2

San Jose – 13-6-3

Calgary – 15-7-1

Nashville – 17-5-1

Edmonton 2-18-2

9) Since Edmonton will have to climb over at least 7 teams to get to the playoffs, how deep is the hole they’ve dug? I don’t think you can even see the bottom from here.

10) And finally, how ’bout them Nashville Predators? As of this writing they are leading the Los Angeles Kings 5-2 mid way through the second period. And, worth noting, Mark Arcobello who was traded by Edmonton to Nashville for spare centre Derek Roy, just scored his 8th goal of the season…Roy has 1 goal on the season and only 1 assist in his 3 games as an Oiler. Of course, Roy is  1 inch taller than Arcobello so there is that 🙂

 

 

Top 3

top3

 

When you spend a lot of cash and cap space on the best 3 players on your team, you had better be getting a massive return on your investment or you’re not likely to be very successful.

I thought we would look at the top 3 players (by cap hit) on all the WC teams to see which teams are getting an adequate return on their investment.

Anaheim – Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler:

$23 million cap hit – 35 G 84P

Arizona – OEL, Doan, Yandle:

$16 million cap hit – 17G 51P

Calgary – Hudler, Wideman, Giordano

$13.2 million cap hit – 31G 80P

Chicago – Kane, Toews, Sharp

$18.5 million cap hit – 31G  81P

Colorado – Duchene, O’Reilly, Landeskog

$17.5 million cap hit – 22G 54P

Dallas – Spezza, Seguin, Benn (note Horcoff actually has a slightly higher cap hit than Benn but is only getting paid $3 million this season)

$18. 2 million cap hit – 37G 88P

Edmonton – Eberle, Hall, Hopkins

$18 million cap hit – 22G 56P

Los Angeles – Doughty, Kopitar, Brown

$22.6 million cap hit – 15G 42P

Minnesota – Parise, Suter, Koivu

$21.7 million cap hit – 18G 56P

Nashville – Weber, Neal, Fisher

$17 million cap hit – 19G 42P

San Jose – Thornton, Marleau, Couture

$19.3 million cap hit – 35G 82P

St. Louis – Statsny, Pietrangelo, Steen

Cap hit $19.0 million – 18G  40P

Vancouver – Sedin, Sedin, Vrbata

Cap hit $19 million – 25G 75P

Winnipeg – Enstrom, Wheeler, Kane

Cap hit $16.5 – 15G 44P

Some observations:

  • Anaheim is forking out the most dough but they’re getting full value for it.
  • Calgary is getting HUGE value from their best paid players.
  • The Kane and Toews contract extensions next season are going to whack the Blackhawks.
  • The best “top 3” in this study is Spezza, Seguin, Benn and, if Dallas gets its D together, watch out.
  • Edmonton’s “top 3” are very disappointing.
  • The Kings 3 highest paid players are severely under performing and the standings show it.
  • Nashville’s highest scoring players, Forsberg and Ribiero have a combined cap hit of less than $2 million.
  • Likewise, the Blues’ top 3 scoring forwards, Tarasenko, Schwartz and Lehtera have a combined cap hit of $5 million.

Now a list like this doesn’t indicate which team will have the most success but teams that aren’t getting good value from their best paid players are likely not to have any long-term success.

the 2010 NHL Draft

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Conventional wisdom is frequently wrong but I tend to agree that it takes 5 years to assess the players taken in a draft and we are coming up to the 5 year mark for the players selected in the 2010.

Now, we still have 2/3 of a season to play so things could change bit but I thought an update would be an interesting exercise.

Goaltenders and defensemen will be excluded since both can take much longer to develop so we’re left with 21 forwards.

5 years is a good marker since it tends to allow for differences in how the picks were handled and developed and brings into pretty clear focus how the players are performing NOW.

For example, Vladimir Tarasenko and/or the Blues opted for the Russian sniper to play 3 more seasons the KHL before coming to North America. And, of course, NCAA players like Charlie Coyle tend to arrive later if they decide to stay in college after the draft.

So, let’s take a look at the P/60 5V5 this season of the forwards taken in the 1st round of the 2010 draft:

Vladimir Tarasenko – 3.54

Tyler Seguin – 3.34

Jaden Schwartz – 2.67

Nick Bjugstad – 2.62

Jeff Skinner – 2.41

Brock Nelson – 2.35

Ryan Johansen – 2.24

Beau Bennett – 2.15 (only 7 GP due to injury)

Kevin Hayes – 2.15 (drafted by Chicago but signed with the Rangers)

Taylor Hall – 2.13

Nino Neiderreiter – 1.90

Riley Sheehan – 1.89

Charlie Coyle – 1.77

Emerson Etem – 1.18

Mikael Granlund – 1.14

Brett Connolly – 1.11

Evgeny Kuznetsov – 1.02

Alexander Burmistrov – (playing in the KHL)

Joey Hishon (side lined by a series of concussions and may never play in the NHL)

Quinton Howden (also a concussion victim)

So, what does it all mean?

1) St. Louis just killed the 2010 draft. They drafted Schwartz at 14 and took a flyer on the Russian at 16. Getting 2 of the top 3 even strength scorers in one draft is larceny.

2) Tarasenko and Seguin are easily the class of this draft class.

3) Taylor Hall is having a really bad 5th season or he ain’t all that.

4) I would keep an eye on both Nino and Coyle playing for the Wild. Both have been showing much improvement this season.

5) Nick Bjugstad is coming on hard with the offensively challenged Panthers. I’d wager both he and Brock Nelson of the Islanders are going to make this interesting.

 

Snipers

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Scoring goals is the hardest thing in hockey. When you have a sniper, you hang on to him. (with some exceptions)

When you don’t…well…you’re pretty much fucked.

Elite goal scorers get paid…they get paid a lot…because they’re worth it.

Some players get paid a lot…but aren’t worth it.

In the 2014/15 NHL season, these are the top 20 goal scorers.

I’m going to rank these on a GPG (minimum 10 GP) basis since there are still some pretty big disparities in the number of games played by some of these shooters. (e.g. Corey Perry has the mumps)

1) Corey Perry .85

2) Tyler Seguin .71

3) Rick Nash .71

4) Phil Kessel .61

5) Steven Stamkos .61

6)  Vladimir Tarasenko .59

7) Patrick Hornqvist .56

8) Nick Foligno .56

9) Taylor Hall .55

10) James Neal .53

11) Gustav Nyqvist .50

12) Michael Raffl .50

13) Filip Forsberg .47

14) Alex Ovechkin  .47

15) Clarke MacArthur .47

16) Marcus Johanssen .47

17) Brock Nelson .47

18) Joel Ward .47

19) Tyler Toffoli .44

20) Max Pacioretty .44

20) Blake Wheeler .44

Now, this list remains pretty fluid at the bottom end since there is a legion of players who could easily crack it with a good game or two but it does give us some sense of who’s had early season success and, by omission from the list, who is not off to a great start (John Tavares .41) at least by their own previous standards.

We get a somewhat different picture, though, when we look at players who are scoring well despite more limited minutes.

From Behind the Net we can suss out goals/60 at even strength and there are some surprises:

5V5

Rick Nash 3.36

Mike Hoffman 2.42

Michael Raffl 2.34

Frans Neilson 2.21

Blake Wheeler 2.20

Mason Raymond 2.16

Tyler Seguin 2.09

Corey Perry 2.08

Nikita Kucherov 2.05

Alex Tanguay 2.04

Tanner Pearson 1.99

Vladimir Tarasenko 1.99 

Nick Bonino 1.96

Marcus Johansson 1.93

James Neal 1.84 

Phil Kessel 1.83

Mike Cammalleri 1.77

Chris Terry 1.76

Zemgus Girgensens 1.63

Max Pacioretty 1.63

We see a few players (bolded) who make both lists and there are certainly a few surprises. Mason Raymond (currently injured) had a great start but was riding a very high shooting percentage to those lofty totals.

Nick Bonino has been an even strength revelation for the Canucks, more than replacing Ryan Kesler’s production on the second line.

And…what’s up with Girgensens?

The question then becomes, which players can keep up the pace for the entire season.

Can Tyler Seguin actually score the 58 goals he’s on pace for? I think he just might.

Are the Russians for real? Tarasenko and Kucherov have been giants thus far and I don’t see any reasons they won’t keep getting better.

And…will Ovechkin break out of his funk and defend his goal scoring title?