No one can take away what Jeff Skinner accomplished in his rookie season where he netted 30 goals and took home the Calder Trophy, but I had my doubts about him repeating that kind of year because he received such good fortune when it came to shooting at even strength. I was expecting another good year from him, but his boxcar numbers were bound to tail off a little since it's hard to maintain a 15.7% even strength shooting percentage and have your teammates shoot at over 10% whenever you're on the ice. Most players tend to see those kind of numbers regress eventually and it took only a year for regression to catch up with Skinner.
Skinner saw his shooting percentage drop from 15.7% to 10.5% at even strength while his powerplay shooting percentage fell from 14.3% to 9.5%. His on-ice shooting percentage also took a significant plunge from 10.97% to 9.28% during five-on-five play, all of which resulted in Skinner finishing with fewer goals and points last season. However, despite suffering some major shooting regression, Skinner's point-per-game total was still very respectable as he scored at a .687 PPG rate and a large part of this was because his game improved in so many other areas.
One sign of a player having potential long-term success is his ability to control possession at even strength and this was something Skinner excelled at last season. He was getting a bit of a push in zone starts, but Skinner still outperformed the rest of the forwards when it came to driving the play as the Canes controlled 50% of the even strength shot attempts when he was on the ice. On a team that was a sinkhole in terms of possession last season, that is no easy accomplishment. Skinner's ability to keep the puck in the offensive zone led to him getting more shots on goal, recording over nine shots for every sixty minutes he played. Eric Staal had 7.5 shots per 60 minutes last season, so that should give you some perspective on how good Skinner was at creating offense.
His sophomore year may have a black mark on because he suffered a concussion and had a bit of an attitude problem, which resulted in him being sidelined for a couple games by Mr. Shanahan. Outside of that, Skinner had a fantastic sophomore campaign. He has shown the ability to carry a line and is close to establishing himself as the team's best offensive threat (although he's got some competition with Alex Semin coming to town). The only other thing that I would like to see is for Skinner to do what he did last season but without the benefit of protection in terms of quality of competition. He only turned 20 in May, so he has time to be that kind of player but he isn't there yet despite his high-end offensive talent.
My expectations for Skinner this year are a bit lofty given the kind of season he had last year. If he can continue to produce a high amount of offense and see his shooting percentage rebound and stay healthy, then he could have a scoring line more similar to his rookie season. His shooting percentage is obviously one of the x-factors but another is what kind of minutes he is assigned. After the jump, we will discuss that and dive deeper into my projection for Jeff Skinner's 2012-13 season.