Chad LaRose is one player who I've spent a lot of time defending this season because while he doesn't always make the best decisions and isn't an ideal top-line winger, he simply got the job done when it came to generating scoring chances and possession. He isn't a star player and will probably never score more than 35 points, but he can be used just about anywhere in the lineup and is at least passable in whatever role he plays. LaRose showed a lot of that this season as he was used on every line at least once and played a considerable amount of time on both special teams units. Something else that might be overlooked is that this season was LaRose's strongest in the NHL.
I know that 19 goals and 32 points doesn't look like much, but the latter is a career-high for LaRose and his strong possession numbers show that it wasn't a fluke. Spending a lot of time in the top-six and on the powerplay probably helped, though. The truth about LaRose is that he isn't a pure-goal scorer and probably isn't suited for a top-six role. However, he is an excellent third liner and was one of Carolina's better players this season.
After the jump, we will take a look at LaRose's underlying numbers from this year and how much he benefited the team. It might be a lot more than you think.
Chad LaRose 2011-12 Scoring Chances
Average TOI: 16:45
Even Strength Chance% Forward Ranking: 5/19
Even Strength Chance Diff/60 Ranking: 5/19
QualComp Forward Ranking: 5/12
OZ Start%: 45%
LaRose drifted around the lineup a bit this season, so it's tough to pin down what situations he played in for most of the year, but he finished with an offensive zone start rate of 45% and was in the top half of the team in QualComp. What that means is that he played relatively tough minutes compared to the rest of the team, which makes his possession numbers even more impressive. His counting stats, however, aren't great for someone getting top-six minutes but the Canes didn't have much choice but to use him in that role. It's hard to complain about getting 19 goals from him, though.
Scoring Chances by Season Segment
|Game #||TCF||TCA||SCF||SCA||Segment%||Team %|
TC = total chances, SC = segment chances, Segment% = scoring chance percentage during segment, Team %= Hurricanes' scoring chance percentage during segment
Scoring Chance Segment Line Graph
LaRose had a very strong start to the season and eventually came back down to Earth after a few months. He did have a couple bad stretches in the middle of the season which was around the time that he had three different "upper-body injuries" and missed a total of 15 games. Still, he performed above the team average for the majority of the season and the Hurricanes were controlling at least 50% of the scoring chances at even strength when he was on the ice. Factor that in with the tough minutes he played, and it's hard to say that he didn't have a great season. The only bad stretch he had was during the 41-50 game mark.
I am probably a beating a dead horse with this point, but the Hurricanes haven't been a great team at controlling possession and scoring chances this year, which makes players like LaRose extremely valuable. No, he is never going to be a big goal scorer, but he can at least get the play moving in the right direction despite playing tough minutes and score a little on top of that. Every team has players like this and it isn't abnormal for them to get top-six time. Think Sean Bergenheim from the Florida Panthers or Jason Chimera for the Capitals. LaRose isn't terribly different from those players in terms of production and playing situations and LaRose could have topped 20 goals had he stayed healthy this season.
Something else that's a bit overlooked with LaRose is how he improved almost any line he was on.
With the exception of Brandon Sutter and Jeff Skinner, every forward saw their underlying numbers improve when LaRose was playing with them and the fourth-liners in particular received quite a jolt. The most interesting player on here is Eric Staal the general consensus is that his linemates usually leech off his performance, but he and LaRose were equally dependant on each other according to this. Very different from last season, that's for sure.
The main point behind all of this is that LaRose was a positive influence on just about every line he was on and he was extremely effective at generating chances on the second line with Jokinen and Skinner. The one line that he didn't seem to work out on was the third line with Brandon Sutter as those two seemed to get pinned in a lot and were a lot more successful away from each other. This could show that LaRose has issues playing the toughs even though his overall numbers suggest otherwise.
I am intersted to see how LaRose is used next season after being used in a multitude of role this season. Will he be used as a third-liner or drift throughout the lineup again? We will just have to wait and see.