With every team now playing at least 41 games, we are officially at the half-way mark of the season which means it's time to see how the Hurricanes have performed up to this point. They have a 15-23-7, have been sitting at last in the Eastern Conference for most of the year and have won only five games on the road, so I think it is safe to say that the Canes haven't lived up to expectations. The worst part of it is that their underlying performance hasn't been good either so their place in the standings is a pretty accurate representation of how they've played. Just to add even more salt to the wound, the intangibles haven't gone in their favor either as both the goaltending and shooting percentages are below what is considered the league average. In other words, the team is playing poorly and they are getting horribly unlucky, which is always a bad combination. They've also been pretty consistent as a poor possession team throughout the year but are things getting better or worse under Kirk Muller? We'll take a look at that, after the jumpno comments
Something troubling me about the Canes modest success under Kirk Muller was the amount of one goal games they were winning. As it turns out, this wasn't as big of a worry as I thought because the Canes are currently 6-6-7 in games decided by a goal and have accumulated only 42.9% of their points that from them. That isn't a very high or low number compared to other teams and the Canes are out of the race which makes this is a moot point. However, it did get me thinking about whether or not winning close games is a predictor of long term of success.
The Canes team that won the cup in 2005-06 won 28 of their games by only one goal, which was over half of their wins (53.8% if you want to get specific) and the 9th most in the league that season. It wasn't as extreme as the Columbus Blue Jackets of that year who had 68.8% of their wins come in close games but still a pretty high number. What about since the lockout? Did other teams who had a lot of wins in close games go on to have success in the playoffs? Can we use this information to predict anything this season?
We'll explore this after the jumpno comments
There seems to be a conflict within the fanbase about Chad LaRose and how he has been used as a top-six winger this season. I've heard a ton of praise and criticism thrown his way. Some people have said that this will be his break-out year and that he's finally showing that he can be a consistent 20-goal scorer. Others have said that he belongs on the fourth line, shouldn't be playing in the top-six and hurts the team more than he helps.
LaRose is on-pace to score 20 goals this year and it's likely that he'll set a personal high in points, but to say that he can consistently be a top-six winger is a stretch. He is almost 30 years old and hasn't scored more than 31 points in his career so that usually means what we're seeing right now is the best that we're going to get. However, to say that he is part of the problem with the Canes is also false because while LaRose is not a top-six forward, he does do a lot of good things for the Canes and has been one of their better players this season. What else do I have to say about #59? Find out after the jump, because there's a lot.no comments
One thing that doomed Carolina in their 4-3 shootout loss to the Islanders was the team giving up two powerplay goals on three opportunities and this has been a weak area for the team all season. The Canes penalty kill is in the bottom-ten in shots prevented and have killed off only 78.2% of their penalties this year. The good news is that Carolina has taken the ninth least amount of penalties this year so they haven't been in this opportunity much, but when they are shorthanded, they aren't doing a spectacular job at preventing shots and goals so what we're going to do here is find out who is taking the most penalties on the Hurricanes. This doesn't matter too much in terms of how effective the penalty kill is, but it will be nice to get a look at who is putting the Canes at a disadvantage by constantly taking penalties.
We'll dig deeper after the jumpno comments
Happy New Year, Caniacs and what better way to bring in 2012 than to recap the Canes performance from the final week? They closed out 2011 with a 2-2-0 record which included a thrilling overtime win and two stinkers against Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, although the latter was not as bad as the score indicates. The only time they got shellacked was against Pittsburgh where they were outchanced 21-9 at even strength and it led to them having a 47.6% scoring chacne ratio at even strength for the week. The Canes did not have one "full 60-minute" effort this week and that's a problem which has been plaguing them all season long, but there were some good performances this week. Their effort against the Devils was very good and so was their game against the Leafs and we'll see them win more games if they can put together more performances like that. The problem is that they seem to make one mistake that leads to them giving up consecutive goals. I expect things like that to happen with a rebuilding team, though and hopefully they will grow out of it soon.
Still, a 2-2-0 record is not too bad of a note to close out the year even if they are struggling against good teams (i.e. Pittsburgh). Seven out of their 12 games in January are at home so that should help things a little bit.
More after the jumpno comments
As of last Monday, the Canes have a new goal-scoring leader and his name is Tuomo Ruutu. With 14 goals and 22 points in 40 games, Ruutu is having a very good season and is on-pace to break a personal record for goals in a season. Ruutu is also set to become an unrestricted free agent once the season is over and with the Hurricanes out of the playoff race, it has many wondering if we should deal the 28-year old Finn. I'm not a huge fan of the whole "the team sucks, trade everyone for peanuts" mindset because if the team is going to give up Ruutu, then they better make damn sure that we get something of value back in return.
Ruutu is one of six regular forwards on the team with a positive scoring chance rating, is playing on (arguably) the team's only scoring line and has been a key part to the team's offense. If we do lose him then it will have a negative effect on the rest of the team this year. There are plenty of good reasons for dealing Ruutu, though. For one, he is on pace for his highest goal total since he is pushing 30, his value right now might be higher than it ever will be. He could fetch a solid return at the deadline for the Hurricanes to work with and it is better than letting him walk for nothing this summer.
In my opinion, the only time you should trade a player is in the following circumstances:
1. He is a pending unrestricted free agent and the team he plays for is in rebuild mode.
2. The potential free agent market is very thin and said team will have to overpay to sign him.
3. This player is at the point where his value is at its peak.
The first two are true, but is Ruutu's value at its highest point right now? When it comes to re-signing players, Jonathan Willis of Oilers Nation looks for things called "red flags" which are reasons why committing years and money to a free agent might not be worth the risk. Are there any "red flags" with Ruutu? We'll look into that after the jump.no comments
Derek Zona of Copper and Blue recently looked at the Oilers blocked shot leaders in a new way, which shows how many shots a player blocked relative to how many he was on ice for. Why is there a need for this? Because while blocking shots is a skill, it also shows that a player has been on ice long enough for the opposing team to have a shot attempt, which does not speak well of their defensive abilities. A better skill would be the ability to suppress shots and prevent chances because that allows possession to go more in favor of their team. Blocking shots is also a necessary skill but it does not always indicate that a player is good defensively because it shows that they are also spending too much time in their zone and have to resort to desperation plays. So yes, shot blocking is a necessary attribute but there are a lot of players who are blocking a lot of shots because they are getting pinned in their zone too much and need to make plays like that.
Players on the Canes who are lauded for blocking shots include Tim Gleason, Patrick Dwyer and Brandon Sutter...but neither of them are blocking the most shots relative to the amount they give up. Who leads Carolina in that category? Find out after the jump.no comments
The phrase "we were playing good until the third period meltdown" has become a common fixture around these parts with the Hurricanes being unable to close out games in a respectable fashion this year. Not including empty net goals, they have been outscored 45-33 in the third period this year. If that wasn't bad enough, they've also been outchanced by 22 in the third period alone and have a scoring chance percentage of 46.1%. If you're a regular on this blog (or have been following the Canes) then you probably know that the team's been getting plastered at even strength all year. How much worse can they be playing in the third period? Brutal goal differential aside, they are actually playing only a tad worse in the third period than the first two (about a percent lower) and believe it or not, they have been playing slightly better in the final frame than they were earlier in the year.
An idea recently cooked up by Gabe Desjardins at Arctic Ice Hockey were game-by-game shot charts showing a team's shot and goal rate over the course of the season. Teams with low shot rates but high goal rates can expect their good fortune to fizzle out in due time and vice versa, so tables like this provide an easy-to-use chart for seeing how good a team really is. Going off the same idea, I decided to make a similar chart for the Hurricanes, only using their third period data instead to see how terrible they've really been in that frame.
First, a little decoding. The blue line is the Canes scoring chance percentage, the red line is their shot percentage and the green line is their goal percentage. You can see that they have been sub-.500 in scoring chances and shots in the third period for the entire year, which shows that Carolina's third period woes have been a yearly problem. It reached a new low around game 11 or so (I am pretty sure that's the game at Philadelphia where they coughed up 4 in the third) and a collapse like that was just waiting to happen when you look at their other rates here. They were consistently bad at creating scoring chances and shots in the third period, but they got some good luck and were scoring more. Then our old friend regression kicked in and they were stuck in a chasm of third period meltdowns for the next few weeks. That's what happens when you can't control possession, sadly.
The good news is that the Hurricanes appear to be getting more shots on net in the third period and while their scoring chance rate hasn't picked up that much, it's shown a slight improvement and the team's goal rate has gone up along with it. If the team can continue to out shoot their opponents in the third period then we should begin to see less meltdowns and more comeback wins. The shot rate is getting close to hitting 50% so that's always a good thing. Just have to hope that more of those shots are scoring chances so they will eventually turn into more goals and, soon enough, more wins.no comments
One positive thing the Canes have (or "had" I should say at this point) was the emergence of Bryan Allen and Tim Gleason as a shutdown defense pairing. When these two were paired together, they took over 60% of their draws in their own zone, were constantly matched up against the opposing team's top lines and had 50% of the team's scoring chances go in the Canes favor. That pairing has since been split up with Allen being regulated to third pairing minutes (for whatever reason) but the Canes are going to have a big decision coming up within the next year as both players contracts are expiring and they might be forced to keep one or the other. Both are having great seasons and could have solid trade value in a few months for a team looking for a shutdown defenseman but the idea of losing these two is very troubling when you consider how big of a role they play.
That's when it hit me. Just how much is the going rate for a shutdown defenseman in this league? Even better, just how hard is it to replace a shutdown defenseman? I'm talking about guys who are more one-dimensional because guys like Drew Doughty, Nicklas Lidstrom, Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara are signed to large contracts due to their great play at both ends, but what about a guy who is more of a defensive stud who contributes little offense? That description fits Allen and Gleason to a T and it made me think that replacing these two may not be as big of a hassle.
Whenever I think of the Gleason/Allen situation, I'm reminded of when Mike Komisarek was set to become a free agent after the 2008-09 season and appeared to have suitors all over the league looking to ink him to a big deal. However, a hockey mind that respect mentioned that he would not pay Komisarek big money because he believed that a stay-at-home defenseman like him could be found in other places for half the cost. An alternative option was Greg Zanon. Komisarek was a stud that year with -1.1 corsi rel. with a 39.8% OZone rate while Zanon had a worse -11.7 corsi rel with 42% of his draws coming in the offensive zone. Komisarek signed with the Leafs to a contract worth $4.5 mil per season while Zanon signed with the Minnesota Wild for about half that. Since then, Zanon has continued to play in a shutdown role for the Wild while Komisarek was hurt for the majority of the first year of his contract and was used in a lesser role in the second year. The Wild signed Zanon to play the same role as Komisarek was supposed to play on the Leafs for half of the cost. What is even more interesting is that the Leafs had guys on cheap contracts like Keith Aulie, Luke Schenn and Carl Gunnarsson play the shutdown role and make Komisarek expandable, making his contract look like an albatross.
Is this just a one time thing or are other teams replacing their highly-touted shutdown defensemen for less money? What does this mean concerning the future of Allen and Gleason? We'll explore things further after the jump.no comments
One of the most misleading stats in hockey is powerplay and penalty kill percentages because they are driven by variable stats like save and shooting percentage, which regress over time. For instance, a team might have a powerplay that's generates only 1-2 scoring chances per game total, but they are clicking at a 25% efficiency because most of the shots they take end up being goals. That last sentence should tell you that they are getting lucky and how that plays a big role into how "good" or "bad" their powerplay may be. On the penalty kill, you could have a unit that manages to not allow any shots for a minute and fourty five seconds, then a harmless looking wrist shot from the point sneaks past the goaltender and the penalty kill gets tagged for a goal allowed despite doing just about everything right.
The goal of a penalty kill is to prevent as many shots and chances against as possible, which is why I look at those numbers instead for determining how good a team is in that area. Carolina appears to have the 26th ranked penalty kill with a 78.4% success rate according to this metric, which indicates that the PK hasn't improved that much compared to last year. General observation tells you otherwise, which is why we need to dig deeper into the Canes PK to see how "bad" it really is. In terms of shots allowed per 60 minutes, Carolina has the 12th worst PK in the league surrendering about 53 shots per 60 mins. and while that isn't good, it is a hell of an improvement from last season when they were the second worst penalty killing team in the NHL.
Defensemen are generally considered the main players on the penalty kill but forwards play a big role as well. It's their responsibility to win battles along the boards, block shots, win faceoffs and clear the puck which are all critical when killing penalties. Outside of Brandon Sutter and Patrick Dwyer, just about all of Carolina's forwards struggled at killing penalties last season so I wanted to look at their performance so far this season. There are also some personnel changes that have taken place over past year, so going deeper into the forwards performance on the PK will show how much of an effect they've had. The results may surprise you.
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