Week 20 of the Nerdy 30: No Rally’s and Raleigh and Shat-ing on Pittsburgh’s Parade

Eddie Lack, Chris Kelly

AP Photo/Gary Broome

The NHL trade deadline is over, and good riddance to it. Once again, too many past their prime veteran players had to be talked up by media analysts and were only traded away by draft picks. The more these types of trades come about the more it needs to be understood that these type of guys are being given away for free.

Yes, you’ll have the opportunity to draft a solid player, but unless you have a first round pick only, you’re not guaranteed a star player anywhere else. If anything, later round picks are only there to improve the prospect pool in hopes of solid development at the minor league level. That leads to a call up between 22 and 24 years old, which by then, it will be a Christmas miracle if such a player will play over 410 career games (or five 82-game seasons) on your team only: the true definition of how successful a draft pick really is to me. To put things in perspective, Jeff Schultz played 399 career games for the Capitals. That is just barely considered a flop by Capitals management considering he was a former first round pick. Sorry for the high standards, but there has to come a point where draft picks need to be correctly measured and these transactions just scream one dodo trading with another. Until we get true measured value being exchanged, each one of these trades just make me lose IQ points.

With that said, I would like to think you’re not losing IQ points reading these Nerdy 30 posts and I hope this latest version won’t do that as well.

  • 30. Colorado (82-game Standings Points Pace: 49 points, Last Week: 30)
  • 29. Arizona (Pace: 68 pts, LW: 29)
  • 28. Vancouver (Pace: 77 pts, LW: 28)
  • 27. New Jersey (Pace: 81 pts, LW: 27)
  • 26. Detroit (Pace: 81 pts, LW: 26)
  • 25. Buffalo (Pace: 83 pts, LW: 24)
  • 24. Dallas (Pace: 77 pts, LW: 25)
  • 23. Winnipeg (Pace: 81 pts, LW: 23)
  • 22. Carolina (Pace: 81 pts, LW: 18)

There was a moment in time where it looked like the Carolina Hurricanes were finally going to get out of their PDO doldrums and compete for a playoff spot in the cutthroat Eastern Conference. Instead, the team has fallen apart and have been eliminated again from the Nerdy 30 rankings. Since going 21-15-7 after beating the New York Islanders on January 14th, the Hurricanes have gone 4-10-3 and have been outscored 30-55. As they’ve done throughout Bill Peters’ tenure as head coach, Carolina’s luck has been non-existent when they have needed it most as they should have outscored the opposition 50.3-48.8 according to Corsica.

While Carolina’s power play stayed on their pace of 17% efficiency, it’s the penalty kill where things have begun to sputter. While still having one of the best units in the NHL, Carolina has now given up 10 goals in their last 48 shorthanded situations. While they still are among the better units when it comes to shot prevention, Cam Ward still continues to be terrible and given contract extensions in the process. It can not be stated enough how the 32-year old with so much evidence of him being one of the worst goaltenders in the NHL but still got resigned to a two-year deal on a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2009 was the dumbest move of the past summer because how else can this team continue to be the worst PDO team in the last three seasons?!  Surely enough, the evidence continues to pile on Ward thanks to his 87.7% save percentage during Carolina’s bad run of play. Eddie Lack’s season has also been a disaster in all facets thanks to him missing 27 games this season due to concussion issues.

Otherwise, things are starting to teeter when it comes to the strength of Peters’ systems. Usually, the Hurricanes would be one of the better teams when it comes to puck possession and expected goal outputs. Instead, things have been turning for the worse. During the team’s 23-game stretch, they have given up over 61.4 adjusted shot attempts per hour and were expected to give up 3.04 goals per hour at even strength. If those numbers stayed consistent for a full season, Carolina would have the third worst and absolute worst defense in the NHL based on those categories, respectively. In truth, the rankings for Peters’ defense has been 15th, 10th and 17th in shot attempt suppression at even strength and 21st, 23rd and tied for 23rd in expected goal prevention at even strength. On the micro scale, both Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk have been among the worst players on the Hurricanes over the last three years by giving up over 2.7 on-ice expected goals per hour. So maybe this whole time, the Hurricanes have been a bunch of fools gold when it comes to being analytically sound.

That being said, Carolina does have 11 draft picks this summer, including seven in the first three rounds. At least three will have to make an impact in the NHL club in the future, especially on the defensive end. Otherwise, Bill Peters will have no future as a head coach and the Hurricanes will have to rebuild all over again.

  • 21. Tampa Bay (Pace: 86 pts, LW: 22)
  • 20. Florida (Pace: 90 pts, LW: 19)
  • 19. Philadelphia (Pace: 87 pts, LW: 21)
  • 18. Calgary (Pace: 93 pts, LW: 20)
  • 17. New York Islanders (Pace: 92 pts, LW: 17)
  • 16. Ottawa (Pace: 98 pts, LW: 16)

So it turns out it’s been quite a while since I have written about the Philadelphia Flyers. The last time I have checked up on them, they were finishing up a nine-game winning streak that was going to kick-start them to becoming Washington’s first round opponent. Instead, the Flyers have gone 11-16-4 since December 17th and have only scored 54 goals in the process. Now, giving up 88 during that same span is pretty bad too, but their expected goals against is not that far from reality (79.8) than what their expected goals for total is (81.6).

The truth of the matter is, this is the second straight season where the Flyers don’t have a clue how to score goals. Not bringing in a veteran this past offseason was a smart move because the Flyers always can’t help but pay such people too much money. However, the reality is that Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn are the only forwards that can be counted upon every single night. That is a dark place when you consider that Giroux will be turning 30 next season, Simmonds and Voracek are not that far behind and everyone hates Schenn for his awful possession numbers and his current cap hit. That left Hextall with little choice but to get Valteri Filppula in return of trading Mark Streit to Tampa Bay, along with receiving a fourth and seventh round pick.

Immediately, everyone on social media trashed this trade considering that Filppula is 32, has a no-movement clause that will be protected from the Las Vegas expansion draft and has a $5 million cap hit that will go into next season. Along with that, Filppula’s individual corsi rate at even strength has been an abysmal 6.55 attempts per hour at even strength. In fact, only Mike Ribeiro and Henrik Sedin have generated less shot attempts per hour among forwards that have played 2,500 even strength minutes in the last three seasons.

That being said, players with low individual shot attempt rates tend to be good passers and Filppula’s top-40 rate of 0.72 primary assists per hour at even strength during that same span is a positive sign. With him starting his Flyers career on a line with Voracek and Schenn could end up working out for everyone as Voracek and Schenn can do what they do best by crashing the net and cashing in on Filppula’s passes. It also pushes Couturier down to a checking third line with Matt Read and Nick Cousins while Jordan Weal, who along with Taylor Leier, has been one of the lone bright spots in the forward ranks in AHL Lehigh Valley, is given a chance along the top line with Giroux and Simmonds. Once Michael Raffl returns from injury, you can have him and Couturier together on a third line that could be absolutely lethal defensively.

Still, it doesn’t completely solve the problem that Philadelphia is still a team that needs to lose some to gain some. Yes, general manager Ron Hextall has as many as 12 draft picks to work with this summer, but only four of them are within the first three rounds. Along with that, the Flyers will have roughly $13 million in cap space to work with assuming the salary cap doesn’t change, but some of that money will go towards resigning Cousins and Shayne Gostisbehere. That leaves Hextall with roughly $8 million towards two defensemen, one goaltender and one forward. If all those spots are filled by rookies on entry level contracts, you can guesstimate that $4 million is left to sign towards a veteran player or four. Anthony Stolarz, Robert Hagg, Travis Sanheim and Samuel Morin will certainly compete for roster spots next season with half of them almost being guaranteed to play the majority of the 2017-18 season. Still, will that really be enough to make the Flyers better instantly?

It may come down to trading away an expensive contract like Read’s or Raffl’s and/or possibly joining in on the T.J. Oshie, Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog sweepstakes in order for the Flyers to immediately become better offensively. Otherwise, this rebuilding project that Hextall has in mind will continue to get longer.

  • 15. St. Louis (Pace: 87 pts, LW: 15)
  • 14. Anaheim (Pace: 97 pts, LW: 14)
  • 13. Nashville (Pace: 94 pts, LW: 12)
  • 12. Edmonton (Pace: 97 pts, LW: 10)
  • 11. Chicago (Pace: 112 pts, LW: 13)
  • 10. Los Angeles (Pace: 87 pts, LW: 11)
  • 9. Montreal (Pace: 101 pts, LW: 9)
  • 8. Toronto (Pace: 90 pts, LW: 8)

Just as soon as Toronto became this fun hockey team with players like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner being put on notice throughout the hockey world, the team has stagnated and are being challenged by Boston and the New York Islanders for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff races. Since January 19th, the Maple Leafs have gone 7-9-6 and have been outscored 62-70. It has been no secret all year that the team has no clue how to defend despite being better with overall talent and system play.

This season, their adjusted expected goal rate in all situations is the fifth worst in the NHL at 3.00 per hour. During their 22-game stretch, that total has increased to 3.19 expected goals per hour. While it is not a significant jump, it is enough to sway the percentages against Toronto’s favor, especially if any part of Toronto’s offense begins to waver.

As a result, Brian Boyle and Eric Fehr were acquired at the transfer deadline to improve the depth along the bottom six forward lines and to improve the team’s shot prevention. Among the 230 forwards that have played over 5,000 even strength minutes since the 2007-08 season, Boyle ranks 110th in on-ice shot attempts against per hour, but is tied with Dustin Brown at 64th in goals against per game. His offense will not be there, but that is ok if Boyle is deployed in fourth line situations. As for Fehr, the former Capital is hoping for a career revival after two miserable seasons in Pittsburgh. Fehr fits into the top-100 in both defensive shot attempt and goal prevention categories at even strength throughout the “behind the net” era.

Even with the addition of these two aging veterans, they still won’t help the fact that Frederik Andersen may be starting to tire out. The former Duck is 34 minutes off his career high total in minutes played and is on pace to play 68 games this season. That will be 14 more games than he played than his previous career high set in 2014-15. During Toronto’s 22-game skid, Andersen’s save percentage has started to drop to 91.0% during that span. While his quality start percentage of 57.7% is still quite respectable, it’s not near the 60.4% and 64.9% marks from the past two seasons.

With Jonas Enroth waived as a result of a ghastly 3.94 goals against average, the Leafs have turned to Curtis McElhenney to be the team’s backup. While the former Blue Jacket has posted a 92.3% save percentage in seven games, don’t expect that to last. While his quality start percentage is at 66.7% this season, that is well beyond his career average of 45.2%. In fact, of the 84 goaltenders that have played over 100 games since the 2007-08 season, McElhenney is 79th in this department. Here’s hoping the Maple Leafs see a new and improved McElhenney all year, otherwise Babcock will have no choice but to run Andersen to the ground.

One other thing that is a bit interesting is the Maple Leafs is that they are 6-14 in all games that need to be decided in overtime or a shootout, including winning only once in their last seven instances. If even four of those 14 overtime losses turns into wins, that’s an extra four points in the standings at a time where they become so valuable towards the season.

  • 7. San Jose (Pace: 108 pts, LW: 7)
  • 6. Boston (Pace: 92 pts, LW: 6)
  • 5. New York Rangers (Pace: 108 pts, LW: 4)
  • 4. Pittsburgh (Pace: 112 pts, LW: 3)
  • 3. Columbus (Pace: 114 pts, LW: 5)
  • 2. Minnesota (Pace: 116 pts, LW: 1)
  • 1. Washington (Pace: 121 pts, LW: 2)

While every NHL team was going after aging stars whose talent may or may not be recreated in the span of two months, Washington decided to go all in and get the best player available on the trade market.

I’ll get to St. Louis later this month because it is nothing short of embarrassing what Doug Armstrong has done to his team since they have hit the brink of becoming a Stanley Cup contender. For now, though, let’s celebrate how Washington decided to go all in for the first time in franchise history without giving up a ton.

Washington will miss their first round pick because that will mean the 2017 NHL Draft will be a waste of general manager Brian McClellan’s time. The team will not start making picks until the fourth round (what up Mike Weber trade?!?!) and will by far have the least amount of picks to work with. Along with that, the Capitals could be without a second round pick until 2020 if they make it to the conference finals for the first time since 1997 thanks to the Lars Eller trade.

Clearly, if this rebuild were to happen within the next two years, it will hit the Capitals hard. Jakub Vrana and Ilya Samsonov are the only bonafide prospects that should be able to step into the Capitals lineup smoothly. Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom can lead lines all on their own while Marcus Johansson and Alex Ovechkin can score consistently when playing with the correct linemates. Beyond that, who knows.

What scares me about the Kevin Shattenkirk trade is that Barry Trotz, in all his three years of coaching this Capitals team, still doesn’t have the definitive answer as to who should play in defense for this team. He took a while to realize that Matt Niskanen is the team’s most well-rounded defenseman and had to wait until December of this season, a full season and a half too late, to realize he is at his most utilized while playing with Dmitry Orlov (56.5% puck possession while the two are together in the past three seasons), the team’s best puck possession defenseman from a season ago, instead of Karl Alzner (51.0% puck possession while together). That sorts out the team’s top pairing right there.

For the team’s second and third pairs, Trotz also took too long to realize that Nate Schmidt is a defensemen that needs to play 82 games a season before the Shattenkirk trade. Now that Shattenkirk is on the team, Schmidt is now unbearably and ignorantly scratched out of the lineup in favor of Brooks Orpik. Orpik’s possession numbers have been surprisingly solid during his tenure with Washington, but he has to be with the right partner for him to better utilize his 35-year old style of play. Of the three defensemen that have played 10% or greater of Orpik’s 2,958 even strength minutes together over the past three seasons, Schmidt is the one that best utilizes Orpik’s strengths. Together, Orpik’s puck possession is at an astonishing 55.4% versus the 49.8% when he is not playing with Schmidt. Meanwhile, John Carlson holds a steady 50.2% puck possession while playing with Orpik, but the two see their puck possession greatly improve while they are apart. In those situations, Orpik’s puck possession increases to 51.5% while Carlson’s improves to 50.8%.

That leaves with Carlson having to play with Shattenkirk, but since both defensemen are right-handed, that is considered the great cardinal sin in hockey coaching these days, so that pairing will never happen. I’d go with Niskanen-Orlov, Carlson-Orpik, Schmidt-Shattenkirk as my three defense pairs in the playoffs. That’s right, I’m leaving off the soon-to-be-free agent Karl Alzner.

As much as Alzner has been a great servant for the Capitals and has played well over 500 consecutive games in the NHL, Alzner just doesn’t bring anything unique to the table anymore as an NHL level defensemen on a possible Stanley Cup Champion. He’s the worst puck possession player on the team during Trotz’s tenure at 49.4% and the with you-without you data is so evident that he hinders the team more than helps them. While playing with Niskanen, Alzner is so clinging towards his talents that Alzner’s puck possession without Niskanen is a horrendous 44.7% while giving up 62.2 shot attempts per hour. In other words, Karl Alzner might as well be an Arizona Coyote or a Colorado Avalanche player while away from Matt Niskanen.

Meanwhile, the “Carlzner” pairing has been a regional embarrassment. The two have an unsightly puck possession of 45.4% while playing together while giving up 61.8 shot attempts per hour. While apart, Carlson’s puck possession climbs to 51.5% while Alzner’s is at 50.2%. Along with that, Carlson’s free flowing style increases dramatically as his on-ice shot attempt generation rate goes from 51.5 per hour while playing with Alzner to 59.3 per hour while playing away from him.

Some will argue that Alzner’s role on the penalty kill alone is solely why he has to play for the Capitals every night and I will continue to counter with Brooks Laich as to why arguments such as these must always be eternal garbage. Just like Laich’s conundrum, Alzner leads all defensemen in penalty kill minutes throughout his tenure with Trotz at just over 580 minutes. However, his shot suppression during those 580 minutes is at 95.3 attempts per hour. While that is highly respectable (59th out of 140 defensemen with over 200 penalty kill minutes in the past three seasons), that is barely above the team’s average of 95.4 attempts per hour. Consider the newly acquired Shattenkirk is 6th out of that same 140 player pool in 4-on-5 shot suppression. Along with that, our good friend Schmidt is on this ice for 89.4 shot attempts against per hour while only playing 142 minutes shorthanded in that same span.

Last time I looked, Schmidt is 25 years old. He is not a little boy anymore and is old enough to know what it takes to play NHL caliber defense at the highest level. If it weren’t for hockey, my favorite sport to follow these days is rugby union. One of my favorite analysts to follow is Sir Clive Woodward, the former head coach of England when they won the World Cup in 2003 and his 59 wins and 83 test matches coached are still a national team record. His quote when he was head coach I think should ring true for every sport, including hockey: “95% of all coaching is selection”. In other words, almost all of your coaching should come from picking the best team. Sadly, I still think Trotz has not been able to do that all the time, which is sadly the standard you should expect from every head coach. Him playing Mike Weber instead of Schmidt in that infamous game four overtime loss to Pittsburgh in last season’s second round series is the greatest example of that and should forever be the counter-argument for anyone who goes around and states that “hey, Barry Trotz won 700 games, leave him alone!”

Yes, it is one game, but that’s how much any playoff series can turn on it’s head and that’s how long it could take for a player to be counted upon in certain situations. Remember, that Mike Weber example was the only game in which Kris Letang was suspended and that Pittsburgh’s lineup was at it’s most compromised as a result. McClellan made the call to go all in. Now is the time for Trotz to prove me wrong, stop playing favorites like every head coach in this ignorant sport does and do the same.

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