Even though I missed posting last week’s edition of the Nerdy 30, I was able to tweet out how the teams would have ranked. Feel free to take a look at them for historical reference. Until then, almost every team has played 20 games this NHL season. That means that we have passed another 14th-mark and another NHL team has to be eliminated from the rankings. This time, it is a team that all advanced stats nerds, like myself, saw their downfall coming from miles away.
30. Calgary (82-game Standings Points Pace: 66 points, Last Week: 28) 29. Columbus (Pace: 60 pts, LW: 30) 28. Colorado (Pace: 66 pts, LW: 29)
So much for Hartley Magic. It shouldn’t be shocking at all to see that Calgary is one of the worst teams in the NHL. Under Bob Hartley, the Flames have always been a negative possession team and last season, a team that was hoping to rebuild for the long haul rode a penalty differential of +71 and above average special teams to make it into the playoffs. This season, that penalty differential is at a -2. Calgary is still young and has a bright future with the correct amount of patience and decision making, but there is dead wood that shouldn’t play in the NHL ever again. Case in point goes to everyone that is playing a shutdown forward role for this team (what’s up Matt Stajan, Joe Colborne and David Jones?), followed by the Dennis Wideman-Kris Russell pair. Along with that, the top line of Jiri Hudler, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are seeing red in relative possession as Hudler has predictably regressed from his scorching form last season. Even if T.J. Brodie is back and Derek Engelland is in the black in terms of relative possession, that’s still not good enough to develop a strong blueline that could contend for the long haul. I proposed over the summer that the Flames would be the perfect destination for Mike Green. Yes, his heart was probably in Detroit all those months before he signed with the Red Wings, but one must wonder what would happened if Green’s hometown team ever called and wanted to pull the trigger.
- 27. Philadelphia (Pace: 74 pts, LW: 24)
- 26. Buffalo (Pace: 70 pts, LW: 21)
- 25. Anaheim (Pace: 70 pts, LW: 22)
- 24. Carolina (Pace: 70 pts, LW: 27)
So what’s it like for Flyers fans to know that they have no choice but to watch Nick Schultz and Mark Streit as the teams shutdown D-pair? What’s it like to watch Brayden Schenn and Sam Gagner, career puck possession nightmares, eternally play key roles on a scoring line? What’s it like to see Ryan White still play in the NHL? What’s it like to watch R.J. Umberger and Vincent Lecavlier play hockey the way zombies are to the main characters in the Walking Dead; wishing they wouldn’t exist anymore? What’s it like to have a head coach with an unprecedented track record before making it into the NHL, and I am not saying that in a good way? Philadelphia knew how deep of a hole they were in and it is positive to see that management finally notices it. Now if they could just win the the month of November…
- 23. Ottawa (Pace: 103 pts, LW: 26)
- 22. Edmonton (Pace: 59 pts, LW: 23)
- 21. Toronto (Pace: 71 pts, LW: 25)
- 20. New Jersey (Pace: 94 pts, LW: 19)
Yes, the Senators are winning hockey games to go back to the playoffs this year, but something is just not right in Canada’s capital. While having the third worst unadjusted possession rating at 46%, Ottawa is also giving up 61.1 shot attempts per 60 minutes at five-on-five. Only Colorado has given up more shot attempts and the margin isn’t that far apart. The Senators’ biggest need this summer was to get better in defense and they have not done anything to fix it. While Erik Karlsson is over 50% in puck possession, nobody else along the blueline is having over 48.2% of the shot attempts go in their favor.
At forward, the top line of Kyle Turris, Mark Stone and Clarke MacArthur has been great, but those three forwards are the only ones to generate an on-ice shot attempt percentage over 49.5%. Bobby Ryan and Mika Zibanejad have been so bad in the puck possession department that they would be perfect on last year’s Maple Leafs or Sabres. As long as the depth along the blue line is continuously terrible, there is no point in bringing up a shut down forward line as they are awful too. If there’s anything Senator’s fans should be thankful for is that Craig Anderson and Co. are saving their behinds with the second best 5-on-5 save percentage in the NHL. Head coach Dave Cameron better sort out the play of his team fast, though, as up-and-coming teams in the Atlantic will be hoping to take their spot in the standings really soon.
- 19. Pittsburgh (Pace: 98 pts, LW: 17)
- 18. Florida (Pace: 78 pts, LW: 10)
- 17. Arizona (Pace: 86 pts, LW: 13)
- 16. Winnipeg (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 15)
At first, the Winnipeg Jets seem like a fine hockey team. Their puck possession is sitting over 51% and they are in the top ten at even strength shot generation and shot suppression. However, there are things that make the Jets look really poor as well. Once again, referee’s have not been kind to the men from Manitoba as they have the league’s worst penalty differential at -20. Add the fact that their shot suppression on the penalty kill is at a mediocre 99.2 shot attempts per 60 minutes and you have a defense that could be quite leaky. It’s not so much that Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson have been super terrible like they have been in years past. This is more to do with bad discipline and a defense corps that might need an upgrade fast. Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers are in the red in relative puck possession and Mark Stuart just can’t help being his usual terrible self. With rumors of Dustin Byfuglien possibly leaving for free agency this summer, Winnipeg might be getting worse before they ever had the chance to build something out of their one playoff performance last year. With the vast amount of prospects expected to come in, that is a darn shame, but such is life as a Central Division hockey team.
- 15. Detroit (Pace: 94 pts, LW: 12)
- 14. Minnesota (Pace: 108 pts, LW: 16)
- 13. Vancouver (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 9)
- 12. Nashville (Pace: 103 pts, LW: 3)
Speaking of the Central Division, one week you look like a Stanley Cup contender. The next week, you couldn’t score a single goal for an entire week and questions are asked about your “character”. If anything, this should be a little blip out of a team that hopes to find a way to knock out Chicago or Dallas in the first round of the playoffs. So far, the Predators are one of the best shot generation teams in the league by barely missing the 60 shot attempts per 60 minutes mark at even strength and their shot suppression is sixth best in the NHL. Their suppression on the penalty kill also sits among the top ten and if Pekka Rinne can avoid having his career start to plateau, the Predators have a shot at the Conference Finals, at least.
To show how good of a coach Peter Laviolette has been this season, Cody Hodgson has gone from Public Enemy #1 in Buffalo to being among the team leaders in individual shot generation with over 19 shot attempts per 60 minutes. Also, remember when us Caps fans feared for the second line’s safety when Mike Ribeiro was on the ice? In Nashville, his puck possession is over 56% while he’s on the ice. The bottom lines have not been good, but unlike last year, Laviolette has not placed them in difficult assignments. If Nashville were in any other division, we would be talking about them as a Cup contender. Instead, they’re just another good team in the Central Division.
- 11. Chicago (Pace: 94 pts, LW: 6)
- 10. Tampa Bay (Pace: 78 pts, LW: 18)
- 9. Boston (Pace: 94 pts, LW: 20)
- 8. San Jose (Pace: 102 pts, LW: 14)
With the Atlantic Division not being so strong at the top, Boston has been fortunate to bounce back and start the season in contention for a playoff spot. However, it has not been their play at even strength that has made them better. At shot generation while a man up and at shot suppression while a man down, the Bruins are amazingly sitting second best in the NHL in both categories. Usually a weakness throughout the Claude Julien era, the power play unit is now run completely on the individual shot generation of Torey Krug with David Krejci, Brett Connolly, Ryan Spooner and Patrice Bergeron being complete benefactors. Amongst all defensemen playing over 25 minutes on the power play this season, only Justin Faulk has a higher individual shot attempt rate than Krug’s 38.4 per 60 minutes.
Time will tell as to whether or not this will be the driving force to make Boston better this season. At evens, you have to have a last name of Miller (Kevan and Colin) to be a defenseman for the Bruins, play over 150 minutes of ice time and have positive relative puck possession. Amongst the forwards, it is great to see Loui Eriksson producing to his usual best after two subpar and injury-plagued years, but the rest of the Bruins that don’t have top line skill aren’t showing much in terms of good possession.
- 7. St. Louis (Pace: 112 pts, LW: 11)
- 6. New York Islanders (90 pts, LW: 8)
Let’s be blunt about this. Trading Travis Hamonic will make the New York Islanders worse, no matter what. Until there are more definitive reasons as to why Hamonic wants to leave, I really don’t know what to make of the situation in Brooklyn. Until then, weeks have already passed since the trade rumors started flying and for every millisecond that passes the lesser the chances are for general manager Garth Snow to get a like-for-like replacement for Hamonic or guaranteed anything of equal return.
Or, the Islanders can use this to grab as many NHL-ready assets because the whole team hasn’t been playing well this season. However, by average opponent’s expected goals percentage based off of Don’t Tell Me About Heart’s data, the Islanders have had the toughest strength of schedule in the NHL at 51.8%. That said, the once Red Bull-like offense has been reduced to a league average imitator, shooting only 54.6 shot attempts per 60 minutes at even strength. Even worse, the power play is only generating 84.3 shot attempts per 60 minutes, bad enough to be the fifth worst in the league. However, their penalty killing could be the best unit in the NHL, limiting opponents to 77.8 shot attempts per 60 minutes. Fortunately, the Metropolitan Division has not been as strong as it has been in year’s past, so there is time to sort their predicaments out. Otherwise, add Jack Capuano (again) to the list of NHL coaches that should be expected to be fired very soon.
- 5. Washington (Pace: 119 pts, LW: 4)
- 4. Los Angeles (Pace: 102 pts, LW: 7)
- 3. New York Rangers (Pace: 133 pts, LW: 2)
- 2. Dallas (Pace: 133 pts, LW: 5)
- 1. Montreal (Pace: 127 pts, LW: 1)
Until things dramatically chance, the top five on this list throughout the first seven weeks have started to separate themselves as among the best teams in the NHL. Los Angeles and Montreal each have the best score-adjusted puck possessions in their respective conferences. Dallas is the most fun team in the NHL thanks to Tylie Benguin and the Rangers are taking advantage of mathematics going in their favor, as well as Henrik Lundquist turning into an alien because he refuses to age…ever.
My Washington Capitals? Again, I really don’t want to talk about it.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!