The word "unnecessary" came to mind when the Hurricanes signed Anthony Stewart to a two-year deal last summer. Stewart was coming off a career season with the Atlanta Thrashers the previous season where he had 14 goals and 39 points in 80 games. Going by that alone, one would think that Stewart had top-six potential and and might succeed in a third line role with the Hurricanes. However, Stewart's scoring line last season was incredibly misleading and I was a lot more skeptical about this signing than others were.
Stewart might have had good counting stats with the Thrashers last year, but his underlying numbers painted a much bleaker picture. Whenever he was on the ice, the Thrashers were getting outshot badly at even strength and that was with him starting 54.5% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Stewart was also never a huge point producer in the AHL and his previous career high in the NHL was 7 points in 59 games. AHL success doesn't always translate to the next level but players who don't produce in the minors generally don't go onto be productive scorers at the NHL. This, along with the fact that 10 of Stewart's 14 goals last year came during the first half of the season, made me think that Stewart's 39-point campaign was an aberration and that he wouldn't be anything more than a fourth liner on the Hurricanes.
This is why I felt that signing him was unnecessary. He isn't good enough defensively to play on a checking line or in a shutdown role and he doesn't have the skill set to play on one of the top two lines either. All the Hurricanes could do was give him 6-10 minutes of soft ice-time per night and hope that he didn't hurt the team. That is exactly how the Hurricanes used him for most of the year and Stewart may have scored nine goals, but a closer look at his numbers show that he probably wouldn't be in the NHL on a good team. A look at those numbers is coming after the jump.
Anthony Stewart 2011-12 Scoring Chances
Average TOI: 8:08
Even Strength Scoring Chance% Fwd Rank: 17/18
Even Strength Scoring Chance Diff/60 Fwd Rank: 17/18
QualComp Rank: 11/12
OZ Start%: 56.6%
Stewart played a protected/fourth line role. He played about eight minutes a night, started regularly in the offensive zone against other team's fourth lines. There were times when he was used in the top-six due to injuries to other players but for the most part, he was kept to the fourth line. The coaches basically used him inthis role in hope that he could benefit from soft minutes by driving possession and add some tertiary scoring. With nine goals and 20 points, he did the scoring part, but he spent most of the time drowning in his own end while surrendering a lot of shots and scoring chances. He managed to put up points because he had the highest shooting percentage of his career (14.4%) and the Hurricanes shot at 9.88% at even strength when he was on the ice. All signs point to Stewart not having much sustained success, as little ofit as there has been so far.
Scoring Chances by Season Segment
|Game #||TCF||TCA||SCF||SCA||Segment%||Team %|
TCF = Total scoring chances for at even strength, TCA = Total scoring chances allowed at even strength, SCF = Scoring chances for during segment, SCA = Scoring chances allowed during segment, Segment% = Even strength scoring chance percentage during segment, Team% = Hurricanes even strength scoring chance percentage during segment
Scoring Chance Segment Line Graph
Ugly. Stewart controlling scoring chances at a rate lower than the team average in every segment and didn't have one segment where he was on ice for at least 20 Carolina chances. He had a couple strong segments during the middle of the season but for the most part,he performed at a rate that would be considered to be around replacement level. Remember, this was with fourth line minutes against other team's weaker lines. He was given easier minutes and failed miserably when it came to driving the play forward. I know that not every team can roll fourth lines but I think that the fourth line should serve some purpose instead of being a liability that can only play so many minutes. Stewart was a big reason why this line rarely got any minutes.
The fact that he scores a decent amount and sticks up for his teammates could make Stewart somewhat valuable to some teams, but that goes out the window when you factor in that most of his scoring is driven by unsustainable percentages and his inability to get the puck out of the defensive zone. This is why Stewart was put on waivers in February and why he was in the press box for more than a few games during the latter half of the season. The Hurricanes, as a team, are not good at driving possession and Stewart wasn't helping things even though the coaches gave him some of the easiest minutes on the team. The question is, do the Hurricanes hope to replace him next year or just hope that this was a bad season and hope he'll rebound. Well, replacing him shouldn't be too hard since fourth liners are easy to come by and Stewart's contract is easy to bury or trade if he continues to be a possession sinkhole.
Stewart had moderate success when he was playing with stronger linemates like Eric Staal and Chad LaRose but was horrible when he played on the fourth line, especially with the likes of Tim Brent. Some interesting information here is that while Brent & Stewart were awful when playing together, Stewart actually played well when he was away from Brent. Maybe it's a sign that Brent could have been dragging the fourth line down just as much as Stewart? He performed much worse away from the fourth line than Stewart did. Both of them performed poorly territorially but I do wonder how much of Stewart's problems are related to playing with Brent. According to the chart above, that might have been it.