This may sound like blasphemy to some people, but Chad LaRose was one of the Hurricanes better forwards last season. No, he doesn't have the best skillset, never puts up dazzling numbers and was probably over-slotting in the top-six but he did a lot of good things for this club that got overlooked. LaRose is never going to be known as a goal-scoring threat or a top forward but an area that he managed to excel in last season was being able to create a lot of offense and drive possession at even strength for the Canes. Oh, and he managed to be one of the few Carolina players who was able to do this while taking the majority of his even strength shifts in the defensive zone and be matched up against tough competition. On a team that was beaten so badly territorially at even strength, that says a lot.
Unfortunately, LaRose's hard work has never led to much success in terms of boxcar stats. He has a couple of 19 goal seasons under his belt but his career high in points is only 32, which really isn't a lot for someone who has spent time in the top-six. LaRose did miss 15 games last season and was on the receiving end of some bad puck luck (he had the 34th worst PDO in the NHL) so you could make the case for him having a better season if he was healthy and had a few bounces go his way. While that might be true, I still don't think LaRose's ceiling is that high. Injuries are one thing but LaRose has always had a low shooting percentage over his career and neither has his on-ice shooting percentage. A low shooting percentage in one season can be blamed on bad luck, but there comes a point to when you start to believe there is something more keeping a player back when it happens on a yearly basis.
Outside of Eric Staal and some of the teams other top forwards over the years, LaRose is usually among the Canes shot leaders but has struggled to score on a consistent basis and it wouldn't surprise me if this relates to him having somewhat of a limited skillset. We'll discuss this in more detail later, but I think most Canes fansd know what to expect from Mr. LaRose by now. He's the type of player who will work hard every shift, give you 12-19 goals in a season and play any role that the coach staff asks him to. Last season, he was utilized throughout the lineup and played on just about every line at least once. The Canes had a lot of forward depth issues and LaRose was able to help out by being somewhat useful in just about every role.
Now that the Canes project to have a much stronger top-six and forward corps in general, where does LaRose fit into the equation? His ability to drive possession and hold his ground against tough competition makes him a top candidate for the third line and with the lockout ruining training camp, he may have less competition for that spot whenever the season starts. A third line role is pretty much an ideal situation for a player like LaRose, but what kind of impact will it have on his numbers? We will take a closer look at that after the jump.
|Year||ES TOI||ES TOI/G|
Only Staal, Skinner and Sutter played more minutes per game at even strength than LaRose last season, which is kind of surprising at first but makes sense when you consider how much time he spent in the top-six. With Semin and Jordan Staal now in the mix, my thought is that LaRose will see fewer minutes per game because he'll be spending most of his time on the third line. I would still expect him to get some decent playing time, though because the coaching staff seems to like him and even third-liners on this team play 12-14 minutes per game sometimes. Sutter and Dwyer did last season, and see no reason why LaRose can't play at least 13 minutes per game at even strength this year.
In case you didn't know, LaRose likes to shoot the puck. A lot. So much that he he shoots the puck more at even strength than any other player on the team and had over 10 even strength shots per 60 minutes last season. LaRose shooting the puck more has led to good things as he even strength goal total has gotten increasingly better in the last three season and his shooting percentage last season was at its highest point in three years. Yet despite those improvements, LaRose still had a below-average shooting percentage and had a relatively low goal rate.
Some say that this is because he is a "shoot from everywhere" type of player, but a look at his shot locations shows that 58% of the total shots he took last year were in the scoring chance area. So we know that LaRose wasn't "shooting from everywhere" like some would lead you to believe. Perhaps there is something that can be said about the quality of shots he is getting off but in the end, it probably doesn't matter much since those factors usually have little outcome on success. LaRose just has never been that good of a finisher throughout his career and it doesn't matter how many shots on net he records or where he shoots from. My belief is that it relates to his skillset but I don't want to get into that right now.
What we do know is that LaRose is going to get a lot of shots on goal no matter where he plays but a very low proportion of them will end up being goals unless the hockey gods decide to shine on him and his shooting percentage. Last year was actually a good year for him in terms of shooting luck at even strength, so I'm interested to see what happens this season.
|Year||ESA||ESA/60||ESSF/60||ES on-ice Sh%|
Despite being on ice for a lot of shots, LaRose has never been one to record a lot of assists. His career high is 17 and you can see from the chart above that was aided by a strong shooting percentage and even that was barely above average. LaRose obviously has no control over how well his teammates shoot so it's easily to put the blame here on bad shooting luck from his teammates, but LaRose has always had a low on-ice shooting percentage at even strength. Much like his low personal shooting percentage, there comes a time when you have to believe that it's more than just bad luck if it happens on a consistent basis.
There is some hope that LaRose can top his assist total from the previous season, however, since he always seems to be on-ice for a lot of shots on goal and his five-year average is much higher than the numbers he posted over the last couple of seasons. I'm not sure how much playign on the third line is going to affect the amount of shots he is on ice for, though. On one hand, he could become one of the driving forces of that line and continue to be on ice for 30+ shots per 60 minutes at even strength but playing with weaker linemates could also have a negative impact on his ability to drive the play. Considering we don't even know who the third line center is and whether or not Jiri Tlusty or Patrick Dwyer will be playing the other wing, it's hard to estimate just how many shots LaRose's line will produce.
LaRose's ability to drive the play has improved the last couple of seasons but is he good enough to carry a line on his own? If his linemates can't pick up the slack, this is something we'll find out this season.
|Year||PP TOI||PP TOI/G|
Last season was the first time that LaRose was heavily featured on the powerplay as he got significant time on the second unit. This relates to the team's lack of talent at the wing position since they really didn't much talent there and had to rely on players like LaRose to pick up the slack. There is no doubt that LaRose enjoyed the extra powerplay time as he scored three of his goals there, but the addition of Semin might completely bump him off powerplay this season. If that's the case, then I would expect him to still get some powerplay time but probably less than a minute per game.
This is really just one valid year of powerplay info since LaRose was used so sparingly there in the previous seasons but judging from last season, LaRose was decent on the powerplay. He had three goals, his shot rate was pretty good and he scored at a pretty high rate compared to the rest of the team. There were a lot of players who out-performed him, though so I wouldn't expect him to be a staple of the powerplay next season. This probably means that his goal and point total could be any number from 0-7 at the end of the season.
|Year||PPA||PPA/60||PP SF/60||PP On-ice Sh%|
LaRose had four assists on the powerplay last season and was in the bottom half of the team in creating shots on goal during five-on-four play. Again, last season is really the only sample of valid data we have here so we're just going by that for now. Even with that, it's tough to make a prediction for next season because LaRose is probably going to be use sparingly on the powerplay this year with the Canes forward corps undergoing a bit of a revitalization. Expect his shot rate & on-ice shooting percentage to bounce around a lot.
LaRose will spend most of this season on the third line but continue to receive at least 13 minutes a game at even strength. The Hurricanes sort of had a "top-nine" approach last season in which their first three lines all received some pretty solid minutes. I think Brandon Sutter being the third line center had a huge role in that, but the team appears to be pretty high on college free agent Jeremy Welsh and he could have the 3C job once the season starts. If Dwyer played at least 13 minutes a game as a third liner last season, then I see no reason why LaRose can't this year.
LaRose playing fewer minutes probably means that his even strength shot on goal rate will go up based on sample size alone, since he had over 10 ESSOG/60 last season while missing 15 games. Now, LaRose does shoot the puck a lot but I'm not sure any player can sustain that kind of shot rate unless they are elite. With that along with the fact that he could be playing even tougher zone starts in mind, I believe LaRose will have a lower shot rate than normal. The guy always seems to get the puck on net, though so I think he'll still shoot at a high rate compared to the rest of the team. I have him pegged for 8.7 ESSOG/60 minutes, which is still a pretty high rate but lower than last season and around his five-year average. I'm not sure if he'll be able to do this if the third line still plays a shutdown role, but I don't think that will be the case next year anyway. It seems pointless to throw a line which could be centered by a rookie into that kind of situation when you have a more experienced player in Jordan Staal on the team.
Back to LaRose, if he has 8.7 shots on goal per game, he would have about 157 in an 82 game season. Depending on what his shooting percentage is, that would give him 10-19 goals in a full-year. Considering that LaRose's average shooting percentage over the last five years is 8.6% at even strength and that's what he shot at last season, I think the safe bet is to expect this not to change much. Therefore, I'm projecting LaRose to have 13 even strength goals in an 82 game season.
With LaRose still shooting the puck at a high rate, this would lead one to believe that he will continue to be on ice for a good amount of shots at even strength. LaRose's own ability will definitely keep his ESSF/60 rate up a little but he is going to play with weaker linemates next season, and that will likely bring his overall total down just a little bit. Then again, we don't know who his linemates are going to be next season so it's hard to say whether or not his ESSF/60 rate will decrease. Hell, if LaRose has worse linemates but plays an easier role then his shot rate could even go up for all we know.
Regardless, I have LaRose being on ice for fewer shots next season based on his shot rate declining and him no longer receiving top-six linemates. That should have a negative impact overall but not so much that it will destroy LaRose's own abilities. Expecting him to be on-ice for something like 29.7 shots per 60 minutes at even strength is reasonable enough. It's a decline from last year but LaRose's own production should be able to keep his line afloat. This would put him on ice for about 539 total shots, which would project him to be on ice for 39-50 goals depending on how his teammates shoot. Unfortunately, LaRose's on-ice shooting percentage has always been very low (five-year average is about 7%) so he will probably end up towards the bottom-end.
This is something that could end up going either way depending on who he plays with. If LaRose spends most of the year with Tlusty, his on-ice shooting percentage will be higher than it would if he plays with someone with little offensive upside like Patrick Dwyer. I'm projecting the Canes to shoot at about 7.3% with LaRose on the ice, which would put him on ice for 39 goals. Since LaRose has recorded an assist on 33% of the even strength goals he was on ice for over the last five years, him continuing that trend would give him roughly 13 even strength assists on the season. He's recorded an assist on 32-33% of the even strength goals he was on ice for the last three years, so this is a reasonable expectation.
LaRose's powerplay production is very difficult to project because he probably isn't going to be used there much. I still have him scoring one powerplay goal next season and recording a couple assists because a few injuries will likely happen and he is going to be one of the first players to be called upon when that happens. He still won't be used heavily but he should get some time there regardless and how many points he scores is anyone's guess. The same goes for his shorthanded production which is a crap-shoot with every player.
82 Game Projection
|LaRose 2012-13||ESG||ESA||PPG||PPA||SHG||SHA||Total Pts||PPG/82|
The reduction in minutes and third line role will probably result in LaRose's even strength goal production decreasing, but I still have him scoring more even strength points than last season due to the team's shooting percentage improving. I might be a little too optimistic here but even if LaRose isn't the best offensive threat, I don't expect the Canes to continue shooting at 5-6% at even strength when he's on the ice. He may end up scoring a couple more goals if he's slotted into a bigger role and actually gets some shooting luck but I don't think he will get over 17 on the year.
All in all, I think this is a pretty standard year for LaRose. He's 30 years old now so we pretty much know what to expect from him now and 29-31 points is pretty much what he gives you every year. I set his ceiling at 40 points but I only think he gets that if he plays more minutes and receives some better puck luck at even strength. Neither of those things have ever happened in the same season but a man can hope, can't he?