The Canes special teams struggled a lot last season and I've already dissected the powerplay a bit the past few weeks but improving the penalty kill may be a more serious issue. The Canes penalty kill might have been 20th in the NHL last season in terms of efficency (which still isn't that good) but they were next to last in terms of shots surrendered. Only the Phoenix Coyotes had a worse penalty kill than Carolina and their's was horrendous. That shows a real cause for concern so I'm going to look deeper into the Canes penalty kill similar to how I dissected the team's powerplay by looking at the team's top penalty killers and which ones gave up more chances than others. Seeing how many chances were surrendered on the penalty kill should tell us if the Canes were really as bad a man down as the numbers indicate.
First, we'll take a look at the forwards who saw a lot of time on the PK for Carolina.
Note: PK TOI = Penalty-kill ice time, PK SCA = Penalty kill scoring chances against, PK SCA/15 = Penalty kill scoring chances against per 15 mins, SA/60, Shots allowed per 60 minutes
Brandon Sutter may have had a rough season at even strength but he was the team's best penalty killing forward by far, he was also the most used on the PK. He gave up the least amount of chances relative to his ice time and the amount of shots he gave up on the PK is around the league average. His most frequent partner, Patrick Dwyer also struggled at even strength and was slightly worse than Sutter on the penalty kill. He also gave up more chances in less ice-time. On the flip-side, Chad LaRose was torched on the PK as he gave up more chances relative to his ice-time than any other forwards. Might be why he was pulled off the PK in favor of Erik Cole who was a lot better when paired with Staal. Speaking of which, these numbers are making me think that Staal's penalty killing abilities are slightly overrated. Yikes. Jokinen did not play enough on the penalty kill for his stats to have much meaning while Kostopolous and Carter and only spent part of the season with the team so I would not pay much attention to their stats either. What we have learned here is that the two heavy-lifters on the PK (Sutter, Dwyer) were not the problem but the guys on the second unit (Staal and LaRose) got shellacked. Maybe we should decrease Staal's minutes on the PK and give someone else a chance? Jokinen did not play bad in limited ice-time last year so I would look into giving him time on the PK to replace Cole, but I have a feeling that it will be LaRose playing there instead even though he did not perform well on the PK last season.
Let's see how the defense corps fared.
Allen, White and Joslin were only on the team for a couple months so their numbers do not mean much here.
Take a quick guess at which defense pair was used the most on the PK. Go ahead, it shouldn't be hard. Gleason and Corvo did not come out as terrible as I thought they were here but these two were ridden like pack-mules on the PK last season while guys like Joni Pitkanen, Jamie McBaiin and Ian White did not receive that much PK duties in comparison. The only other defenseman who contributed significantly on the PK was Jay Harrison and it's hard to judge how he did because no other defenseman on the Canes received similar ice-time to him. However, I would guess his numbers would end up being around the same as Gleason and Corvo's if he played the same minutes they did, which would put him ahead of Pitkanen and McBain in terms of penalty killing as they gave up a similar amount of chances in less ice-time as their PK SCA/15 indicates. It's a shame that I couldn't use Allen's data only with Carolina here because it would be nice to see how good of a penalty killer he really is....but his shots allowed per 60 minutes don't indicate good things. Either way, I'm expecting the Gleason, Harrison, Allen and one of Pitkanen or McBain to get the main PK assignments next year, and I'm hoping for some more balance instead of having two defenseman carry most of the load. That may have been the reason why Carolina's PK gave up as many shots as they did.
So, Carolina's main struggles on the penalty kiill resulted from not having a consistent 2nd forward pairing and having to rely heavily on only two defenseman to do the majority of penalty killing. How is this issue looking for next season? Well, Cole is gone and he was one of the better penalty killing forwards but we signed Ponikarovsky, who is a solid defensive forward for the most part. I would like to see Staal get less time on the PK after how bad he did last season but considering that the options to replace him are Timmy Brent and Tuomo Ruutu, I don't know if it will happen. On the back-end is where more trouble lies, because someone is going to have to replace the minutes that Corvo played, but perhaps this is a chance to give more balance to our penalty killing unit and spread the ice-time among the defenseman on the roster. I'm not sure if Harrison or McBain can handle that kind of workload, Allen is on a decline and penalty killing isn't really Pitkanen's best asset. Needless to say, at least one of these guys is going to have to step up if Carolina's PK wants to see any improvement.