With another week that has passed, another team is eliminated in the latest installment of the Nerdy 30.
30. Columbus (82-game Standings Points Pace: 41 pts, Last Week: 30) 29. Colorado (Pace: 60 pts, LW: 26)
- 28. Calgary (Pace: 56 pts, LW: 29)
- 27. Toronto (Pace: 55 pts, LW: 24)
- 26. Carolina (Pace: 66 pts, LW: 27)
- 25. Philadelphia (Pace: 71 pts, LW: 25)
- 24. Anaheim (Pace: 71 pts, LW: 28)
- 23. Ottawa (Pace: 93 pts, LW: 20)
Let’s just get away from the obvious of what is wrong with Colorado for this week and talk about the big picture here. First, for the second straight year, everyone in the Central Division but the Avalanche is, at minimum, a few lucky bounces away from being a Stanley Cup contender (and yes, I am including last year’s Dallas team that missed the playoffs) and are built to win now. Colorado, thanks to Matt Duchene, Tyson Barrie, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan Mackinnon, should be built to win now too. At the end of the day, management is simply not good enough to allow that to happen. Is it cruel to describe them as incompetent because Joe Sakic and his vision have only been around since 2013, sure. But it goes to show how disgustingly behind the eight ball this team has been since the turn of this decade, whether it not being able to find the correct head coach with the most analytically advantageous system, draft and develop the most high end talent in the NHL, find like-for-like replacements for Paul Stastny and Ryan O’Reilly and/or sign free agents that will guarantee them the most return for their dollar.
At the end of the day, Mikko Rantanen has to work. Nikita Zadorov has to work. Most importantly, Mikhail Grigorenko, probably the biggest named prospect mutilated by management in the last five years, has to work. Every one of them has to make a positive impact, playing over 70 games and changing a flawed system that will get their puck possession into, at worst, the high 40s instead of the shockingly low 42 percent that they are in right now. Things will turn around in Colorado, but the light at the end of this tunnel is also the smallest out of any team in the NHL.
- 22. Edmonton (Pace: 55 pts, LW: 23)
- 21. Buffalo (Pace: 77 pts, LW: 19)
- 20. Tampa Bay (Pace: 77 pts, LW: 22)
- 19. New Jersey (Pace: 93 pts, LW: 21)
- 18. Detroit (Pace: 93 pts, LW: 18)
- 17. Boston (Pace: 88 pts, LW: 15)
- 16. Pittsburgh (Pace: 105 pts, LW: 13)
This is not where Tampa wants to be right now. For a team that was supposed to contend for a Stanley Cup, there is not a single analytical category that is going in their favor right now. After finishing in the top ten in both shot generation and shot suppression, the Lightning are currently 17th and 11th respectively. While the defense is not as bad as it is, it is pretty clear that in the latest Vollman usage chart that Victor Hedman and Anton Strallman are carrying the load a little too much on the blue line. Meanwhile, it’s as if Jason Garrison, Braydon Coburn and Matt Carle all turned into pumpkins as soon as last year’s Stanley Cup Finals ended. This was clearly Tampa’s need for improvement heading into this season and if no progress is made from last year, this team will not win a Stanley Cup. It seams like a bigger hole has been created there already.
Meanwhile, head coach John Cooper needs to sort out his top forward line fast. Ryan Callahan has been a disaster defensively; allowing almost 57 shot attempts per 60 minutes while on the ice (six more than the team average). Also, Steven Stamkos has been non existent in the shot generation department. After almost putting up 16 shot attempts per 60 minutes last year off of his own stick, that number has plummeted to 9.39; good for only 320th amongst forwards playing 100 even strength minutes this season. All this is going on with Ondrej Palat in the lineup. Now that he is out for almost two months with an injured left leg, Cooper will have more incentive to reconfigure the lines to best work for Stamkos. Could that mean breaking up the most successful second line in the NHL to put in the top line? Could that mean adding someone like Brian Boyle, always and individual shot generator to add some muscle and free up Callahan and Stamkos from heavy lifting? No matter what, changes might have to come for a roster that is seeing some surprising wear and tear.
- 15. New York Islanders (Pace: 97 pts, LW: 14)
- 14. Minnesota (Pace: 114 pts, LW: 16)
- 13. Chicago (Pace: 93 pts, LW: 17)
- 12. Florida (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 3)
- 11. San Jose (Pace: 77 pts, LW: 11)
- 10. Arizona (Pace: 93 pts, LW: 10)
- 9. Vancouver (Pace: 97 pts, LW: 12)
From one shocking surprise to the next, Vancouver doesn’t seem to be slowing down as the main pieces of their roster get older. Some will argue that is due to the youth movement along the Canucks’ forward lines with Jared McCann, Jake Virtanen, Bo Horvat and Sven Baertchi. However, it is only Virtanen that has generated positive puck possession while he was on the ice and while Horvat has a PDO at 97, the rest of the young forwards are not turning around the Canucks at even strength.
What has been a major improvement has been the goaltending performances of Ryan Miller and the increased shot generation on the power play. With that added spark on the man advantage, Vancouver might steal Calgary’s mantle as having the best special teams units in the NHL. Yes, they’re power play conversion rate of 13.7% is not ideal, but that is all due to shooting only at 10.4%, which is the 9th lowest in the NHL. As for Miller, his save percentages are all over 90% in each situation, including 93% at even strength. Vancouver should experience some drop off soon, but until Anaheim reclaims the Pacific Division or Los Angeles ever feels like winning regular season championships, no team seems worthy of taking it in convincing fashion. The Canucks clearly have a shot of making it back to the playoffs.
- 8. Nashville (Pace: 114 pts, LW: 7)
- 7. Los Angeles (Pace: 98 pts, LW: 8)
- 6. Winnipeg (Pace: 92 pts, LW: 9)
- 5.Dallas (Pace: 123 pts, LW: 5)
- 4. St. Louis (Pace: 126 pts, LW: 6)
- 3. New York Rangers (Pace: 131 pts, LW: 4)
- 2. Washington (Pace: 114 pts, LW: 2)
- 1. Montreal (Pace: 138 pts, LW: 1)
I would like to right about the Rangers in great detail, but the always wonderful Pat Holden seems to have beaten me to the punch. His latest piece (which I extremely recommend reading) greatly shows that despite New York’s massive goal differential, their league-leading amount of lucky charms should run out really soon. To get into one specific, there is not a single skater on the Rangers who’s PDO is below 100. The other is the nature of how my weekly rankings have turned into. As mentioned in last week’s post, two statistical categories are used to figure out each week’s rankings in a PythagenPat percentage: goals for percentage and event, score and venue adjusted (or ESVA) corsi for percentage. If I were to use my previous puck possession metric of only using score-adjusted corsi for percentage, the Rangers would certainly be ranked much lower since they only have about 49% of the shot attempts go in their favor. However, their ESVA percentage improves dramatically to 53.7% based on puckon.net. What the duece? It is certainly the greatest improvement from one puck possession metric to the next. Whether the Rangers have cracked the code or not, I am not sure, but it is certainly something to take a look at as the season continues.