If you could sum up Tuomo Ruutu's season in one word, it would likely be "inconsistent." At the end of October, Ruutu had only four points and a lot of people wondered if he was playing through an injury because he didn't look like himself at all. We all knew that Ruutu couldn't continue to play this poor forever and he eventually came around with a solid performances in November and December, and the talk among fans shifted to Ruutu needing to be re-signed or traded for Kings Ransom because he appeared to be the team's best forward at the time.
December remained Ruutu's highest point of the season as he would cool off in January and sustain an upper-body injury in February which kept him out of ten games. His quality of play after returning from the injury was underwhelming to say the least as he struggled to get back up to speed with the rest of the team and found himself in Kirk Muller's dog house for a couple games. This was something that troubled a lot of fans because Ruutu had signed a four-year contract extension worth $4.75 mil. per year about a month prior and getting on the coach's bad side can have some bad long-term effects.
The issue with Muller ended up not being as big of a deal as it was made out to be, but there is going to be a lot of talk about Ruutu's price-tag and whether or not he isn't worth the 18 goals and 34 points he produced this season is worth $4.75 mil. This was Ruutu's lowest point total since 2007-08 and he was just coming off a career high 57 points the year prior, so I think we can expect better boxcar stats from Ruutu next year. He also produced at what is considered a top-six rate at even strength, which is a good sign for next season.
What concerns me the most is that Ruutu's inconsistencies are not only present in his counting stasts, but his underlying numbers, as well. A look at those is coming after the jump.
Tuomo Ruutu 2011-12 Scoring Chances
Average TOI: 16:27
Even Strength Chance% Fwd Ranking: 7/18
Even Strength Chance/60 Fwd Ranking: 7/18
QualComp Fwd Ranking (min. 20 games): 8/12
OZ Start%: 53.6%
Ruutu was playing some of the more sheltered minutes on the team as he was mostly used against middling competition and deployed in the offensive zone frequently. Sutter & Staal eating up most of the tough minutes allows him, Skinner & Jokinen to play in these situations but those three need to produce for this method to work out. One could say that he is being protected but it's mostly because there isn't much need for Ruutu to play defense with Staal and Sutter on the team. This is the type of role he can succeed in and sheltering him actually paid dividends when he was playing with Jokinen and Skinner.
Scoring Chances by Season Segment
|Game #||TCF||TCA||SCF||SCA||Segment%||Team %|
TCF = Total even strength chances for, TCA = Total even strength chances against, SCF = Scoring chances for during segment, SCA = Scoring chance against during segment, Segment% = scoring chance ratio during segment, Team% = Hurricanes scoring chance ratio at even strength during segment
Scoring Chance Segment Line Graph
Ruutu's on-ice shooting percentage was pretty high (9.61%) and so was his PDO (1008) but I actually think that he could have finished with more goals and points than he did this season. Yes, he got off to a horrible start but he was playing some great hockey for a good stretch of the season. He performed above the team average for roughly a 30 games period and producing chances at an extremely high rate. Unsurprisingly, this stretch happened around November/December, when he looked like one of the team's top three forwards and had a six game point streak. It appears that was a legitimate period of great play from him and not just a fluke.
After that Ruutu tailed off quite a bit and it started a little before he got injured. He dropped below the .500 mark and the team average during that time and you can see that he was pretty brutal after he came back from his injury, too. The low percentage is largely due to a small sample size but he did not look good in those games at all. He eventually picked it back up towards the end of the season, though so I don't think there is much to worry about. The slow start is a little concerning, because Ruutu essentially went from being one of the biggest underachievers on the team to one of Carolina's best forwards in the span of two months. Most will point to his injury as something that held him back this season but in reality, it was his general inconsistency. The certain linemates he had throughout the year contributed to this, too.
Ruutu was most successful when he was playing with Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Skinner, this information should not be a surprise to anyone because these three were the Canes' best line last season and that carried over into this year. Ruutu could not stay on this line because the team was starved for top-six wingers and he had to be bumped up to Eric Staal's line to help him out a little. You can see that didn't work out well despite having some modest success with Jiri Tlusty. You can also see that both Staal and Ruutu were a lot better when they weren't playing with each other, so this is just more motivation to find someone to play on Staal's wing next year.
The Ruutu-Jokinen-Skinner line is just too good to break-up at the moment. Although, some interesting information about this line is that Jokinen & Skinner appear to be much less reliant on their linemates than Ruutu, as they managed to have a scoring chance rate above 50% away from Ruutu while #15 was underwater. That's troubling to say the least because Ruutu needs to be able to work with multiple linemates to live up to his new contract's value. Let's just hope the "Skin & Finns" line can stay together for most of next season or Ruutu can find another center who he can develop chemistry with.