Week 16 of the Nerdy 30: Yeozers

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Chris Lee/St. Louis Dispatch

After commenting about how St. Louis needed to change their game plan, the St. Louis Blues front office thought it was best to change head coaches. The days of boring Ken Hitchcock are finally over, but who knows if replacing him with Mike Yeo will make things better. Yeo did lead Minnesota to one of their better seasons in the 2014-15 season, but he surrounded that with mediocre hockey the rest of the way. To make matters worse, the Wild were one of the worst offensive teams in the NHL while Yeo was head coach.

That being said, the way St. Louis is set up with their roster in the long term is no different than how it is with Minnesota during the peaks of his tenure. The Ryan Suter, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise contracts paralyzed Yeo’s teams from ever finding an upgrade during the offseason and the trade deadline just like how the Jay Bouwmeester and Alexander Steen contracts are for his current situation. To top it all off, David Perron and Nail Yakupov have not been perfect like-for-like replacements, statistically, to David Backes and Troy Brouwer. They are cheaper options in the long term and St. Louis still has about $1.2 million to spend at the trade deadline, but I just don’t see how this team can get’s significantly better without having better goaltending and shot generation. With all due respect for the latter, I don’t trust that Yeo can get the job done in that department.

I understand general manager Doug Armstrong’s reasoning for firing Hitchcock. I also completely understand the firing of goaltending coach Jim Corsi as well. However, the blunt truth is that Yeo should have forever been treated as an assistant coach to the team’s upper management and never as the head coach in waiting whenever Hitchcock felt like it was the time to retire. Either this decision should have been made after the season was over since St. Louis still is on pace to hold onto one of the final wild card spots or see if another strong-minded assistant or outsider can get the job done if you needed a “change in culture” midseason. Either way, these are trying times for a once-fun hockey team and I still am hoping for the best of them.

So while one team decided to fire their head coach this season, it’s time to fire another team from playoff contention in this week’s edition of the Nerdy 30.

  • 30. Colorado (82-game standings points pace: 48 points, Last Week: 30)
  • 29. Arizona (Pace: 62 pts, LW: 29)
  • 28. Vancouver (Pace: 84 pts, LW: 28)
  • 27. New Jersey (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 23)
  • 26. Detroit (Pace: 80 pts, LW: 27)
  • 25. Buffalo (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 26)
  • 24. Winnipeg (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 25)
  • 23. New York Islanders (Pace: 91 pts, LW: 24)

You do have to feel for John Hynes’ team this season. He has lost Taylor Hall and half of their usual starting defense corps for a significant amount of games this season and his team has actually gone through some bad puck luck this season.

While going 9-14-3 since December 7th, the Devils have been outscored 53-80 when they really should have been outscored 61.9-74.7 according to corsica.hockey. That is a total of more than 14 goals that should have swung in the Devils’ favor. That’s more than a half-a-goal swing per game during that stretch. Over time, that goal difference could definitely mean a lot of standings points were left on the table and have led to New Jersey being a team that should have had 90-95 points in the standings instead of 82.

That still doesn’t excuse the fact that the Devils are still a lousy hockey team. Overall, they have a -32 goal differential and a -22.2 expected goal differential. Even if you cry “puck luck”, there still isn’t enough to make up for the poor totals that New Jersey has produced for years, let alone this campaign. Like Colorado and Arizona, this is a team in rebuild. The team’s front office better treat it as such and keep drafting and developing their prospects. Otherwise, they will be stuck in mediocrity for another decade.

  • 22. Florida (Pace: 87 pts, LW: 22)
  • 21. Dallas (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 20)
  • 20. Calgary (Pace: 85 pts, LW: 21)
  • 19. Philadelphia (Pace: 92 pts, LW: 19)
  • 18. Nashville (Pace: 93 pts, LW: 13)
  • 17. Chicago (Pace: 104 pts, LW: 18)
  • 16. Tampa Bay (Pace: 79 pts, LW: 16)

I think it’s time to really begin to panic for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Since November 24th, they have gone 9-13-1 and have given up 103 goals in 23 games. That is staggering considering they have given up 50 in their first 21. As a result, their 153 goals against output is massively outpacing their expected goals against output of 129.9.

One statistic that has been interesting when discussing Tampa Bay’s goaltending has been looking at both Ben Bishop’s and Andrey Vasilevskiy’s save percentages within certain groups of difficulty. From low to mid to high definition shots, Bishop has ranked 10th (98.4%), 46th (91.8%) and 40th (79.9%) in the NHL in each respective category among the 60 goaltenders that have played over 2,000 even strength minutes in the last three years. Meanwhile, Vasilevskiy is dead last (96.1%), 45th (91.9%) and 14th (82.7%) among the same cohort. More shots always occur from further distances, so Bishop is among the best in taking care of the basic shots on net, but his lack of saving from closer distances is considering the many praises he has gotten throughout his tenure with the Lightning. This season, Bishop’s middle-definition save percentage has plummeted to 90.1%. Of the 34 goaltenders with over 1,000 minutes of even strength play this season, that sits 3rd worst in the NHL behind Semyon Varlamov and Henrik Lundqvist (!!!). Meanwhile, Vasilevskiy is struggling with high degree shots by saving only 79.8% of them this season. While that is only 15th worst out of that same 34-goalie group, his low-definition goaltending is still terrible at 96.7% and that is enough to make his season below average as well.

If Tampa can’t get their goaltending straightened out fast, Tampa’s season may go along with them.

  • 15. St. Louis (Pace: 88 pts, LW: 17)
  • 14. Ottawa (Pace: 100 pts, LW: 14)

Slowly but surely, Ottawa’s chances of being a 100-point team are getting greater. However, they may be dealing with a bit too much puck luck of their own this season. If it wasn’t for Chicago, the Senators might be among the biggest culprits of this case this season.

Since December 14th, Ottawa has gone 11-5-3 and have outscored the opposition 63-49. However, their expected total from corsica.hockey has them outscoring at a 48.8-48.6 pace. This is after starting the season 16-11-3 yet being outscored 70-81. As a result, we’re back to the good old days from two years ago, where almost seven players reached 20 goals during the regular season. Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman and even Bobby Ryan have torn up this past month-and-a-half. Even Zach Smith himself is getting a bad case of the Jason Chimeras with his 12 goals and 12.5% shooting despite being 10.9% shooting during his career.

Knowing how good this team truly is is when lady luck is no longer on their side. They have experienced good goaltending from Mike Condon despite the absence of Craig Anderson and their penalty kill has been among the better ones in the league all season. As usual with the Senators, we really need to know how talented they are up front to truly decide if they are a great hockey team.

  • 13. Anaheim (Pace: 103 pts, LW: 12)
  • 12. Carolina (Pace: 85 pts, LW: 15)
  • 11. Edmonton (Pace: 99 pts, LW: 11)
  • 10. Toronto (Pace: 92 pts, LW: 8)
  • 9. Boston (Pace: 88 pts, LW: 9)
  • 8. Los Angeles (Pace: 90 pts, LW: 10)
  • 7. Montreal (Pace: 106 pts, LW: 7)
  • 6. San Jose (Pace: 107 pts, LW: 6)
  • 5. New York Rangers (Pace: 105 pts, LW: 5)
  • 4. Pittsburgh (Pace: 112 pts, LW: 4)
  • 3. Columbus (Pace: 117 pts, LW: 3)
  • 2. Washington (Pace: 119 pts, LW: 2)
  • 1. Minnesota (Pace: 116 pts, LW: 1)

Speaking of teams that won’t go away, Anaheim seems to keep on winning despite the fact that Randy Carlyle is their head coach. Since December 29th, the Ducks have gone 11-3-2 and have outscored the competition 39-28. However, corsica.hockey thinks they should have been outscored 45.3-46.9 during that span. None of this puck luck screams louder than during

None of this puck luck is more present than in the Ducks penalty kill. While killing off an astonishing 49 of 54 shorthanded situations since December 29th, Anaheim’s expected goals total should have been 13.4. In fact, that expected goal total in 4-on-5 situations has reached a league-worst of 40 throughout the whole season. While the Duck’s might be near league average at 4-on-5 shot attempt suppression at 89.4 per hour, their 26.5 scoring chance rate is only worse than Buffalo’s average at 26.6. If Anaheim were to play more toward’s their overall shorthanded expected goal total, their penalty kill percentage would be sitting at a miserable 77.1% instead of their sixth-best efficiency of 83.8%.

So it should come as no surprise that John Gibson’s 90.7% save percentage in 4-on-5 situations is now the best in the NHL, but eventually everything regresses to the mean. However, the Ducks are in the Pacific Division, so surely anything is possible.

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