Week 7 of the Nerdy 30: Capped Out Capuano and Rowe-ing Above Water

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AP/Karl B DeBlaker

So it is Gerard Gallant that won this year’s NHL sack race on, almost like it usually does, it happens around the Thanksgiving weekend. This makes sense because all NHL teams have now played one-quarter of the season and that is now considered the time where advanced stats can predict how well a team performs in the future. There is also the case that if your team is off to a bad start, it is quite difficult to see yourself get out of it.

While Florida has been terrible this season, firing Gallant has been considered a drastic move by the mainstream media. After all, Jonathan Huberdeau hasn’t played a single NHL game while Nick Bjugstad is just starting to get back into the swing of things because both are/were recovering from injuries they picked up in the offseason. However, Florida has gotten gradually worse in puck possession throughout the season and there were rumblings of discord between Gallant and the Panthers’ front office. Some members of that management staff include many of the famous analytical minds in the sport such as Josh Weissbock, Rhys Jessop, Ryan McDonald and Cam Lawrence. Surely enough, it has caused another ragaholic debate between the mainstream media and the analytics community for how hockey should be analyzed.

After so many years of seeing the same debates over and over again, it’s a bit shocking how there isn’t enough buzz about how these arguments haven’t been detrimental to the game. The point being is that, whether it is the main stream media or the people that work within the National Hockey League, they are too insulated in thinking the way the game is run and played is about as perfect as it gets. Clearly, that is a complete and utter lie!

Let’s forget the notion that the lack of strong revenue that compares to the other three major sports leagues in the United States. Let’s instead talk about the lack of public data that is being shared and the league’s refusal to believe fans crave for it. Let’s talk about the lack of a public salary cap website without the need for programmers and other really smart and the league’s refusal to believe fans crave for it. Let’s talk about threatening to remove GIFs created from NHL videos from all of social media even though that is among the reasons why the NBA is such a cash cow. Let’s talk about the lack of any smart X’s and O’s writing from a well-recognized journalist the likes of which you see from Chris Brown and Zach Lowe because the edited replays on NHL.com and the access to watching the games beyond your television are utter garbage.

NHL officials, management and coaches can say whatever they want about leaving the game of hockey to the experts, but they better recognize that they are intentionally separating yourselves from the public and not allowing them to enjoy watching the game as much as they do as a result of making such ignorant comments. A decision has to be made that really should have happened since, at the very latest, the internet was invented. Either, they have to open up the game as much as possible for the fans or not. Until then, you will keep seeing verbally violent and ignorant debates going on from everyone involved in the game of hockey and it will keep preventing the sport from ever reaching it’s complete potential.

Until we get that sorted out, we have another team that is eliminated from this week’s edition of the Nerdy 30.

  • 30. Arizona (82-game Standings Points Pace: 74 points, Last Week: 30)
  • 29. Vancouver (Pace: 78 pts, LW: 29)
  • 28. New York Islanders (Pace: 76 pts, LW: 27)
  • 27. Calgary (Pace: 76 pts, LW: 28)
  • 26. Colorado (Pace: 74 pts, LW: 25)
  • 25. Dallas (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 24)
  • 24. Buffalo (Pace: 78 pts, LW: 26)

Plain and simple, what ever happened to the Islanders being the most potent offense in hockey?! It was just two years ago that Jack Capuano’s team had gone toe-to-toe with Dallas as the most fun team in the NHL by generating over 61 shot attempts per hour while at even strength. Since then, that number has plummeted to a league average 54.9 per hour last season and now an 11th worst 53.4 per hour this campaign. Losing Mikhail Grabovski, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo within the forward ranks has really impacted those numbers over the years, but throughout the team, plenty of individuals have seen their individual shot attempt rates plummet.

Let’s start with Ryan Strome, who at 23 years old, is supposed to be a mainstay on the team’s top six. Instead, he’s only generated 36 points in his last 90 games and has seen his shooting rates plummet from as high as 14.7 attempts per hour his rookie campaign to a shocking 9.0 attempts three years later. Along with that, Anders Lee has gone from being a net crashing mountain man to the tune of 16.4 attempts per hour two seasons ago, to just a league average player at 12.91 per hour this year.

Lastly, there has to be something said that Matthew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier, two players that should add depth and continue making the Islanders a lethal force for years and decades to come, have generated 0.0 and 9.6 shot attempts per hour this season. That’s right, Matthew Barzal never bothered to throw a single puck with the intended direction towards the net in his 18 minutes of even strength time with the Islanders. Somehow, Beauvillier is now on the top line with John Tavares and Josh Bailey. No pressure kid.

Lastly, Cal Clutterbuck may be generating over 13 attempts per hour at even strength this season. But considering that his career shooting percentage is only at 8.7%, I would not want him to be a focal point of my offense. There’s a reason why the Islanders were a good team while he was on the fourth line and a really bad team while he’s getting over 15 minutes of all-situations time on ice this season.

To put the finishing touches on this subject, consider that 286 forwards have played 200 minutes of even strength time as of the time this post was finished. 219 of those 284 forwards have generated 10 individual shot attempts per hour while the league-median continues to hover between 12 and 13 per hour. The Islanders have four skaters (Strome, Nikolai Kulemin, Jason Chimera and Casey Cizikas) that are 250th or worse!!! In short, the Islanders have forgotten to put tons of shots on net, they have one too many players that are not improving when they should be (Strome, Beauvillier, Barzal and Andrew Ladd) and have a massive divide at forward between who is good (Tavares, Brock Nelson and maybe Josh Bailey (aka Brooklyn’s Marcus Johansson)) and who isn’t. Until that gets sorted out fast, Capuano surely has to get fired sometime soon.

  • 23. New Jersey (Pace: 93 pts, LW: 21)
  • 22. Detroit (Pace: 86 pts, LW: 22)
  • 21. Winnipeg (Pace: 79 pts, LW: 20)
  • 20. Nashville (Pace: 93 pts, LW: 18)
  • 19. Ottawa (Pace: 103 pts, LW: 23)
  • 18. Chicago (Pace: 113 pts, LW: 16)
  • 17. Philadelphia (Pace: 85 pts, LW: 19)

Let’s not kid ourselves. The Chicago Blackhawks have been a lucky team this season. As it was mentioned in this season’s preview, the roster for this team has been a massive downgrade versus previous iterations because of the cap restrictions that have been piled on over time. Their overall shot attempts show it this season. While their defense is quite good at 51.1 attempts per hour, Chicago’s offense has been very poor at 52.9 per hour. If it wasn’t for Corey Crawford, the Blackhawks would be quite mediocre at even strength.

Of all goaltenders that have played 500 minutes of even strength time, only Devan Dubnyk has out-performed Crawford’s 95.8% save percentage. However, it’s a bit astonishing that his save percentage while shorthanded is only sitting at 78.4% percentage. Yes, my friends: that is dead last amongst goaltenders that were in net for 50 minutes or more of shorthanded ice time.

Still, every Blackhawks player outside of a handful of bottom line forwards or reserve forwards (Ryan Hartman, Jordin Tootoo, Nick Schmaltz, Vinnie Hinostroza and Andrew Desjardins) has a PDO of 100 or greater as a result of Crawfords’ performances. The exclamation point behind this topick is the consideration that two of Chicago’s best players, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin, have on-ice shooting percentages well over 12 percent this season. It’s one thing to have great goaltending on your side, but to have your on-ice shooting percentage almost double the league average is just downright inconceivable.

  • 16. Florida (Pace: 86 pts, LW: 14)
  • 15. Edmonton (Pace: 89 pts, LW: 12)
  • 14. Carolina (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 13)
  • 13. Tampa Bay (Pace: 92 pts, LW: 6)
  • 12. Toronto (Pace: 86 pts, LW: 17)
  • 11. St. Louis (Pace: 103 pts, LW: 15)
  • 10. Montreal (Pace: 121 pts, LW: 8)
  • 9. Washington (Pace: 109 pts, LW: 5)

Even though Gallant was fired, the Florida Panthers have actually performed quite well in the analytics side of things. They’re on-ice puck possession was over 50%, but due to the poor goaltending of James Reimer and the declining performances of Roberto Luongo, Florida’s PDO has declined from 102.1 (2nd best in the NHL) to 99.0 (21st best). The lesson, as always, is that puck luck always finds a way to even out over time.

However, that still doesn’t cover the be-all end-all to why Florida is so bad. Some hidden measurements have shown that the Panthers’ forwards have shot from the second farthest distance than anyone else in the NHL. Also, of the 34 highest time-on-ice per shift players in the NHL, nine of them belong to Florida. Reilly Smith, Alexander Barkov, Jaromir Jagr and Jussi Jokinen will eventually need to start scoring goals again. Also, the Panthers might need to get somebody above average to play left-handed defensemen with Aaron Ekblad because Keith Yandle, Mike Matheson and Jakub Kindl aren’t the answer. Still, not much needs to be changed from a roster that still should be good enough to make enough noise during the NHL season.

  • 8. Los Angeles (Pace: 96 pts, LW: 10)
  • 7. Anaheim (Pace: 93 pts, LW: 11)
  • 6. Minnesota (Pace: 93 pts, LW: 7)
  • 5. Pittsburgh (Pace: 103 pts, LW: 9)
  • 4. Boston (Pace: 89 pts, LW: 3)
  • 3. San Jose (Pace: 92 pts, LW: 4)
  • 2. Columbus (Pace: 109 pts, LW: 2)
  • 1. New York Rangers (Pace: 113 pts, LW: 1)

Guys, Randy Carlyle is working his magic all over again. Don’t be fooled by it. It’s like Donald Trump convincing you that he can be a good president because everyone else is a scumbag. Like Trump too, there is so much buzz about him being a bad coach that just creating noise is enough to keep getting his name noticed and increase his chances of getting the jobs he wants. Like Trump too, he is competing in a pool that should be considered the worse in the history of his profession (the Democratic and Republican candidate pool for Trump and the Pacific Division for Carlyle), so their victories should mask how disgraceful they really are.

Consider that after the 2011-12 season, Toronto was generating about 55 shot attempts per 60 minutes at even strength. The next three years saw the Maple Leafs generate 52 or less attempts per hour while under all or some of Caryle’s watch up until his firing. This season is no different with him being under the bench at Anaheim. This season, the Ducks are generating a miserable 51.5 attempts per hour. That is the sixth worst rate in the NHL.

The main focal points behind the demise have been Antoine Vermette, Rickard Rakell and Kevin Bieksa. For Vermette, his acquisition has led to Anaheim’s third line being mostly ineffective this season. While Vermette has been on the ice, the Ducks have seen only 46.2% of their shot attempts go in their favor. Carlyle might have solved this problem by having Nick Ritchie as his linemate. The two have had 51.0% of their shot attempts go in their favor while on the ice together versus 44.0% while Vermette is away from him, but that leaves a gap in the team’s always concerning weakness at first line left wing.

Since Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have been together, it has been a struggle to find a consistent third forward to play with them. Ritchie seemed to be the answer last year, but now Carlyle is using the on-fire Rakell (8 goals and 12 points in 13 games) to play with them instead. While that seemed like a good idea on the surface, Rakell’s on-ice numbers are a disaster to the tune of only a 45.1% shot attempt for percentage at even strength. Also consider that when Rakell and Perry have played together for almost 124 minutes of even strength ice-time, the two have only had 48.9% shot attempts go in their favor. In the over 216 minutes of even strength time away from Rakell, Perry is a world beater with 57.9% of the shot attempts going in his favor. Yes, my friends: that is a 9% increase.

Lastly, Kevin Bieksa is the usual veteran presence that is a bit more veteran than he is a presence. Consider that his 378 minutes of even strength ice time are only behind Cam Fowler for most amongst Ducks’ defensemen. However, he has not had a single partner that has played over 100 minutes of even strength ice time with. Among those that have played even 50 minutes of ice time with Bieksa at even strength, only Korbinian Holzer has had a worse on-ice shot attempt for percentage without him than with him. Than again, we are talking about Korbinian Holzer here!!! Otherwise, rookie Shea Theodore is a full 19% better in his on-ice shot attempt for percentage without him than with him and Hampus Lindholm has his percentage increase by 9.1% without playing with Bieksa. If this doesn’t scream that Kevin Bieksa is a waste of space on this team, I don’t know what does?

Then again, and it will always bear repeating, the Ducks are playing in the Pacific Division. Odds are, none of this will matter as the season goes along.

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