Weeks 16 & 17 of the Nerdy 30+1: Grand Central and Flushed Out Oil

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Codie McLachlan/Canadian Press

Since there were no power rankings last week, I have decided to give you all double the content this time around. And with that, two teams have now eliminated from playoff contention. Now that the All-Star break has come to an end, it’s time to look forward to the Olympics trade deadline and postseason as the season slowly comes to an end. Let’s take a look at where everyone stands in the latest edition of the Nerdy 30+1.

  • 31. Buffalo (82-game Standings Points Pace: 60 points, Last Week: 30)
  • 30. Ottawa (Pace: 69 pts, LW: 29)
  • 29. Arizona (Pace: 53 pts, LW: 31)
  • 28. Detroit (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 27)

Bluntly, I’m in no mood to talk about Ottawa. We all know how terrible their team has been for some time. We all know how much of a disgrace their owner has been for the city and for the sport of hockey.

Instead, I want to talk about Erik Karlsson, because he doesn’t deserve any of this. Rumors have rightfully been flying for him going to other teams this trade deadline, especially with him going to Tampa Bay. And you thought LeBron James going to the Warriors would ruin the sport of basketball…

Brayden Point is considered the biggest chip in such trade rumors and if there’s anything Tampa has had complete pride in over the past half-decade is that they have been the greatest depth in all facets of the rink than any team in the NHL. Chicago has proven that their roster crumbled to dust once the corps group aged miserably or left for salary cap reasons after their 2015 Stanley Cup championship. Pittsburgh has never had the defense that Tampa has built over time. Obviously, having a deep roster doesn’t lead to Championships.

Plenty of that has had to do with the crippling injuries Steven Stamkos and others have had. Remember when the captain couldn’t even play away playoff games in 2016 due to blood clots in his collarbone? Still, the Lightning has bloodbath a first round exit after being discombobulated from the Martin St. Louis trade, a Stanley Cup final appearance and Conference Finals appearance and a possible finals appearance in the past five years. Not many teams have been that consistently good over that span.

If there’s a time to take a risk and pick up the greatest defenseman of his era, you might as well do it now. To say the least, pairing Karlsson with Victor Hedman could rival Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith as the greatest defense pair in the post-lockout era. Now I do understand that trading away Brayden Point and more to get Karlsson could be a massive matchups risk. Ottawa better ask for the house and the car if they are to trade away such a generational talent and thus, it will be a struggle to make the roster better any time afterward if things turned pear-shaped for the Lightning. But somewhere along the line, Jon Cooper and Co. should be rewarded for being one of the greatest franchises this past decade and if it means getting Karlsson to make it happen, so be it.

  • 27. Vancouver (Pace: 77 pts, LW: 28)
  • 26. Florida (Pace: 80 pts, LW: 26)
  • 24. Montreal (Pace: 74 pts, LW: 25)
  • 25. New York Islanders (Pace: 87 pts, LW: 22)

Just when you thought the Islanders were simply going through a long blip when I last spoke about them, you were definitely wrong. Not only have they been one of the worst teams in the league for the past two months (10-15-3 during that span), they have also become one of the least analytically pleasing teams in the league all season.

We already know how bad their scoring depth is, so let’s go ahead and talk about how abysmal they are at defending this time around. Since December 1st, Brooklyn has been the worst team in the entire league at giving up even strength shot attempts to the tune of 67.3 per hour. Their season-long average isn’t that much better at 63.0 attempts against per hour. Add in the fact that Thomas Greiss is having a nightmare of a season and Jaroslav Halak continues to be his usual mediocre self and that’s why the Islanders have given up a league-worst 189 goals this season. Have I had the chance to mention that they still have another 30 games to go?

Along with having no depth at forward, the Islanders have continued to not invest in defensemen since they broke into the playoff picture in 2014-15. During that playoff series with the Capitals, they would go on to lose Calvin De Haan, Lubomir Visnovsky, and Travis Hamonic before the deciding Game 7. This was never the best group of defensemen out there that season, but losing half your starting core is always a massive blow. Fast forward three years later and the only changes made to the blueline beyond banking on not elite prospects coming through was the signing of 38-year old Marek Zidlicky and he only lasted 53 games in the 2015-16 season. Hamonic has been gone since, and we’re still seeing the same group of d-men that have basically gotten older. Somewhere along the line, staleness was always bound to happen.

Plenty of that has to due to the supposed lack of cap space after signing Andrew Ladd, Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas and even Johnny Boychuk to contracts that they never had any business to deserve. And I have mentioned all this without taking into account that Matthew Barzal has been an absolute revelation this season. He will have to continue to improve even further next season because who knows if John Tavares and Josh Bailey will be on this team next season, along with Halak, De Haan, Nikolai Kulemin and Thomas Hickey. If Garth Snow is smart, he’ll either trade away Kulemin or Bailey for a guaranteed top-four defenseman or he’d blow this whole thing up. Otherwise, the repercussions will be detrimental for years to come. After all, it’s not like Islanders fans haven’t experienced that before.

  • 23. Edmonton (Pace: 79 pts, LW: 21)
  • 22. Washington (Pace: 105 pts, LW: 23)
  • 21. Columbus (Pace: 93 pts, LW: 20)

Speaking of miserable fan bases, I think your team deserves to be eliminated from playoff contention when someone thinks it’s a good idea to leave a jersey in a urinal of Rogers Place. I just really don’t know what to say about this Edmonton team from an underlying numbers standpoint. They are doing a lot of things right at even strength by generating 61.5 shot attempts per hour and having 51.2% of the puck this season. However, they have the tenth worst PDO in the league at 99.3.

Cam Talbot is having a terrible season thanks to a 43.6% quality start percentage and a career low 90.1% save percentage in all situations. And to the surprise of no one, Ryan Strome has been a complete downgrade to Jordan Eberle. In fact, only five players are on pace to reach 40 points or better for this team. Plenty of that has to do with the poor shooting that comes from a bad PDO at even strength, but Edmonton is even worse when it comes to special teams.

With a combined efficiency while on the power play and while shorthanded at 85.9%, no other team in the NHL is anywhere as bad as Edmonton in manpower situations. If you want more numbers to paint an ugly picture, consider that the Oilers get outscored 49-26 in such events. But it’s not like things are that bad from an analytical side of things.

If anything, Edmonton generates a seventh best 112.8 shot attempts per hour while on the man advantage. But at 8.1% shooting in those situations, no other team in the league comes within 1.25% nearly as bad as the Oilers. Plenty of that could be due to the lack of spacing that the Oilers present when setting up for their 1-4-1 formation. That’s not an indictment on the players as much as it is towards assistant coach Jay Woodcroft. He’s been the architect of great units of the past with Detroit and San Jose in the past 13 years, but his tenure with Edmonton may prove to be the beginning of the end for him if he doesn’t improve his tactics dramatically.

Like the power play, the penalty kill has also shown great shot attempt numbers, but the data visualization literally paints not only a different picture but a giant crater that is forming from point-blank range of Talbot’s crease. Again, that’s on coaching more than anything else. You would like to think that head coach Todd McClellan can simply hire new assistants and be done with it, but I highly doubt that it is that simple. McClellan has known Woodcroft and defense coach Jim Johnson for a long time. Also, Edmonton has suffered enough en masse coaching changes long enough. Eventually, stability has to be in place, especially considering that Connor McDavid will be starting his massive seven-figure per year contract next season.

  • 20. Anaheim (Pace: 95 pts, LW: 24)

Meanwhile, just what in the Wide World of Disney is going on in Anaheim? Whatever Randy Carlyle is giving to the Honda Center press box to convince themselves that he is always a good coach I would like to have because this seriously is a hockey team that has no business being this good.

Then again, only two points separate their current standing in the Pacific Division and fifth place Calgary. Plenty can happen by season’s end. Still, it just can not be stated enough how much of a disgrace this defense corps is. I just refuse to understand how Francois Beauchemin is still in the NHL after the misery he gave Colorado Avalanche fans a season ago and his underlying numbers have shown that not much has changed about him. Also, Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry are struggling to generate even 46% puck possession. That’s not going to cut it with two of Anaheim’s best players at all, regardless of what injuries they are still recovering from.

That all being said, John Gibson has been brilliant this season and so has Ryan Miller in relief. Together, Anaheim sits eighth in the league with a 92.9% save percentage at even strength and a 65.4% quality start percentage. At a minimum, this is a complete upgrade to whatever James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier ever gave to Carlyle during his time in Anaheim.

Along with that, Anaheim’s puck possession has actually been quite good of late. Their defense has even given up an eighth-best 55.1 shot attempts per hour at even strength since December 21st. With Kesler returning to the lineup and the acquisition of J.T. Brown in place of rookie Kevin Roy, Anaheim is a much deeper squad up front that can play both sides of the rink. This also comes with the fact that Adam Henrique has been brought on and is now part of Anaheim’s top six. If anything, Andrew Cogliano has suffered the most as a result of making way for Henrique.

Now the Ducks have $3.4 million to work with to keep making this team better. If they can be able to make a move or three, which is what they should do considering the number of players that are on the last years of their contracts, the complexion of the Ducks can be completely different than what they are now.

  • 19. New York Rangers (Pace: 88 pts, LW: 17)
  • 18. New Jersey (Pace: 98 pts, LW: 10)
  • 17. Calgary (Pace: 93 pts, LW: 14)
  • 16. Chicago (Pace: 88 pts, LW: 13)
  • 15. Philadelphia (Pace: 90 pts, LW: 12)
  • 14. Los Angeles (Pace: 95 pts, LW: 16)

At first, New Jersey was looking like the breakout team of the season thanks to their acquisitions over the past couple of offseasons. However, things have been hitting a bit of a tailspin since the beginning of the calendar year. Until their last two wins, the Devils were in a 2-7-3 rut in which they gave up 42 goals during that span. New Jersey sits mid-table in even strength shots against, but their 91.8% save percentage is quite alarming. Things aren’t helping that Corey Schneider has been dealing with nagging lower-body injuries most of the season.

Up front, life isn’t looking too good when Kyle Palmieri has been struggling to get back on track due to a broken foot and when Marcus Johansson has played only 29 games due to multiple concussions and lower body injuries. Still, you simply can’t have three rookies (Jesper Blatt, Nico Hirschieranyoneand Will Butcher), Taylor Hall and some dude named Brian Gibbons rounding out your top five in scoring. Miles Wood may be good for the long run, but are we sure Pavel Zacha isn’t a poor man’s Nail Yakupov?

Overall, this team still has a long way to go before they ever become a consistently elite team, but the pieces are starting to be in place. Along with that, there is confirmation that John Hynes can coach and that Ray Shero can generally manage…well. Whether or not this project can progress any further is anybody’s guess.

  • 13. Carolina (Pace: 88 pts, LW: 14)
  • 12. Pittsburgh (Pace: 94 pts, LW: 18)
  • 11. Colorado (Pace: 98 pts, LW: 15)
  • 10. San Jose (Pace: 100 pts, LW: 6)
  • 9. St. Louis (Pace: 101 pts, LW: 7)

Sure, this team is above average in goals for. But with a shooting percentage of just 7.1% and a power play that is only converting 16.2% of their chances, the Blues simply aren’t hitting their ceiling. It’s quite strange to say that Vladimir Tarasenko is having a down season with 21 goals, but this is what happens when only three of them have come on the man advantage instead of his usual eight to twelve.

Could this all be due to the fact that St. Louis’ power play is too predictable? After all, Brayden Schenn has been brought in to crash the net and improve the scoring depth in all situations. However, he has only been able to generate 18 individual shot attempts per hour in comparison to the 24.7 per hour that he averaged in his final year with Philadelphia. Is that due to the over-reliance on Tarasenko and the metronome-like bombs that Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko unleash every night? Does getting Patrick Berglund more involved end up becoming one of the solutions? Either way, St. Louis’ current formula isn’t working and something needs to change.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t worry too much about this team coming into the postseason. There may be a goaltending controversy due to Jake Allen playing just meh while Carter Hutton has been brilliant. Otherwise, the defense continues to be consistently solid and there hasn’t been a ton of injuries to worry about sans Robbie Fabbri and Zach Sanford. Still, it will be fascinating to see if Doug Armstrong makes a move this trade deadline. It just always feels like the Blues are a player or two away from really being a guaranteed title contender. But with the team they got present, they can still find their way towards June if the match ups go their way as well. If only you couldn’t say that to so many teams already.

  • 8. Winnipeg (Pace: 109 pts, LW: 5)
  • 7. Nashville (Pace: 112 pts, LW: 19)
  • 6. Minnesota (Pace: 98 pts, LW: 11)

So here’s the thing about Minnesota. Even though they are on pace to have more points in the standings than Los Angeles by season’s end, the Wild would be struggling to get one of the lower seeds in the playoffs because they would sit fifth in NHL’s central division and the Kings would be third. It is an indictment that L.A. is worse of a hockey team and that North America time and again has such predictable and unfair situations hit them right in the face when it comes to determining who qualifies for the postseason to which we only shrug emoji our way through such controversies.

However, it is not an indictment that the Kings are terrible. If anything, it just goes to show how much of a blood bath the Central Division has become. Yes, my friends, 98 points in this cohort isn’t good enough anymore and someone is going to have the pay the price for it. To put things into even bigger context, Philadelphia and Carolina are duking it out for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and they are only on pace for 90 points.

Now the Wild do have flaws of their own. Zack Parise hasn’t fully recovered from his back surgery just yet while Charlie Coyle is just getting back into the swing of things after a broken leg. Somewhat predictably, Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno haven’t brought that much on the scoresheet. Lastly, it’s a bit perplexing to see Mikko Koivu with only six goals in 50 games with a 5.1% shooting percentage.

On the other hand, Eric Staal is continuing his career resurgence while leading the team in scoring with 43 points. Along with that, Jason Zucker is having a career season with 20 goals, 2.54 shots per game in all situations and a +4.9% in relative puck possession. And even though the Wild continue their trend of being among the worst teams in creating shot attempts, their net crashing continues to be above league average to the tune of 11.0 high definition attempts per hour.

That is why their shooting percentage hovers in that area as well and that their offense isn’t worse than what it should be. The same goes for their defense in which they are the ninth worst in overall even strength shot attempts but the second best when it comes to their high definition chances against. And while Devyn Dubnyk has had better seasons, he hasn’t played so poorly in that he has cost his team victories. Also, Alex Stalock has been quite solid backing him up as well.

I still want to see Minnesota get younger and more talented up front before I take them any more seriously, however. After all, are we sure we can count on Staal, Parise, and Koivu produce at such prominent roles in the postseason? Also, what happens if Nino Neiderraiter does not come back from his lower body injury and produce like his normal self. Like Washington, Minnesota has a lot of things going for them, but a lot of things go against them if any one jenga piece falls down.

  • 5. Toronto (Pace: 101 pts, LW: 8)
  • 4. Dallas (Pace: 98 pts, LW: 4)
  • 3. Vegas (Pace: 116 pts, LW: 2)
  • 2. Boston (Pace: 114 pts, LW: 3)
  • 1. Tampa Bay (Pace: 117 pts, LW: 1)

Just when you thought the Maple Leafs were at a point of crisis, the team has won four in a row and has outscored the opposition 16-3. The hype train is truly on for 26-year old rookie Justin Holl thanks two his two goals in two games, but don’t discount Travis Dermott and his 55.5% puck possession and four points in ten games. Until proven otherwise, these two have to be given jerseys over Roman Polak and Ron Hainsey from here on out. If that were to happen, not a single Maple Leaf defenseman will have less than 50% puck possession.

Up front, Mitch Marner is back and collecting points. Because Mitch Marner should never be considered a healthy scratch. However, Jake Gardiner has been brilliant with five points during this four-game stretch. He has always been a solid presence on the back end, but he has done well as team’s number one in place for the injured Morgan Reilly.

The question for the Leafs, however, is if this run of form and their current roster good enough to surpass Boston or Tampa Bay anytime soon. If anything, their offense has been their greatest strength all season long as nine players on pace to reach 40 points or more. If anything, the defense still needs to find a way to get better in shot suppression as they have consistently given up over 59 shot attempts per hour.

Last season, Toronto used their third line to match up against the opposition’s two best forward lines. However, that game plan has seemed to backfire this season with Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov giving up over 62 shot attempts per hour. If anything, it has been the latter who has been having a terrible season while on the last season of his contract. Almost every major linemate he has played with has performed better without him than with him. Can Toronto find a way to get an upgrade from Komarov or is it simply a matter of giving Kasperi Kapanen his full-time status at the NHL level? Questions like these need to be answered for them if they ever want to improve past where they are in the Atlantic Division and the rest of the league.

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