Since the lockout has put training camp and all other NHL related activities on hold, some might say that doing projections is pointless right now because the status of the 2012-13 season is up in the air. I will continue to remain optimistic about this situation and say that we will see the NHL resume before the end of the calendar year and since there will be a season, there is no harm in predicting the upcoming year and seeing what kind of production we will get from some of Carolina's players. Over the last week, I went over some of the team's historically similar players based on their yearly scoring patterns but that was only phase 1 of this process. Now is the time where I'll begin to go over every player on the roster and predict their goal/point total using factors such as ice time, teammates, shot rates, shooting percentages and many other factors.
You may remember that I did this same thing last season but it wasn't quite as thorough as I wanted and most of my projections were based on their historically similar players. This year, I will be putting less stock into those numbers and basing it more on the other factors that I listed above. I will also be making use of this chart derived from Eric T. at Broad Street Hockey, which breaks down the different factors that make up a player's point total and applying it to the Carolina players in question. This should help us come up with some more educated guesses about the Canes this season.
To start off this project, we will look at the Carolina captain and top player Eric Staal, who is coming off his seventh consecutive season of recording at least 70 points or more. Despite Staal having his lowest goal total since his rookie season (24), he led the Canes in both goals and points and was the key driving force behind the offense for most of the season. He got off to a very rough start at the beginning of the year, having only 12 points in the first 26 games of the year, but he exploded in the second half and had 45 points in 42 games from January onward. The way Staal finished the year has a lot of people wondering what he COULD have done if he had stayed hot the entire year, while others are wondering if his falling scoring rate is the sign of Staal being on the decline.
Staal is only 27 years old and while his scoring rate is declining from the level it once was, his offensive numbers have still been very good on a year-to-year basis and he still plenty of good years left ahead of him. Is he going to hit the 70 point mark again this year, though? We know that he'll get plenty of opportunities to do so because he will play on the top line all year and play on both special teams units. Having some stronger linemates will also help matters as Staal looks to have a more consistent showing this year.
There are many who say that Staal has another 80+ point season left in him and that the goals will come easier to him this season now that he has some better forward support. I suppose that is a fair assumption but a player putting up 80 points is so rare in the NHL these days (only 9 did it last season) that I have trouble thinking that Staal will get to that plateau just because the Canes improved their forward corps. That and the season is likely going to be shortened so an 80+ point season would be nearly impossible.
After the jump, we will take a look at what some realistic expectations for Staal next season and get a better idea of what kind of numbers he will put up.
To illustrate how things are broken down, here is a flowchart from Broad Street Hockey showing what goes into a player's point total.
We'll start off by looking at each of the even strength components.
Staal has been playing more minutes at even strength every season and he actually reached a career high last year. As I mentioned earlier, he is the team's main catalyst on offense and plays in almost all situations, so it isn't a surprise to see him as the ice-time leader. I would expect this to continue next season since he will remain as the top-line center be he may not be leaned on as much due to the addition of Jordan Staal. Jordan has experience playing the tough minutes in Pittsburgh and should be able to do that in Carolina, as well so that should take some pressure off his brother Eric. His presence will affect the type of situations Eric is used in but I don't seeing it affecting his ice-time that much, especially if Carolina ends up using both on the same line. I still see him getting 15-16.5 minutes a game at even strength.
Even Strength Goals
Staal is still a terrific playmaker but you can tell here that he isn't the goal-scorer that he used to be. His goal-scoring rate has been on a bit of a decline for years now but it took quite a sharp turn downward last season. My initial thought on Staal's low goal total last season was that he was on the receiving end of some poor shooting luck and while that is certainly true, Staal has never been that great of a finisher over the last few seasons. His shot rate at even strength has also been on the decline the last couple of seasons and when you look at where he shoots the puck the most, it's easy to tell he is a "shoot from anywhere" type of player.
That being said, I think Staal can see his goal output improve next season for a few reasons. The first of which being that a player's shooting percentage is one of the most unpredictable things in hockey statistics. A player could get lucky one year and have it go completely the other way the next year. Judging by how the way things went last season, it's possible that Staal could see his shooting percentage rebound to his career average of about 9.05%. That should boost his goal total by 1-3 goals depending on how often he shoots the puck.
Staal hasn't been shooting the puck as much as he used to the last couple of seasons and I think this somewhat correlates with the Hurricanes not being a very good territorial team during those seasons. In those two years, the Canes controlled roughly 48% of the even strength shots and that may have affected how much Staal and the other forwards have gotten to shoot the puck, especially someone who plays tough minutes like him. This is where the addition of Alex Semin comes into play. If he spends most of his time on Staal's wing, then that will definitely improve the Canes territorial game when Staal is on the ice and allow this line to create more shots on goal. Will it happen? I can't guarantee it, but Semin has constantly been one of Washington's top players at getting the puck into the offensive zone and keeping it there. The Caps controlled about 51% of the even strength shots with him on the ice last year.
If playing with Semin and receiving a zone start push due Jordan Staal can improve Staal's shot output to something around 8-8.5 shots per 60 minutes, then I think we will see Staal light the lamp a little more at even strength this year.
Even Strength Assists
This is where Staal has racked up most of his points in the last few years. He is a good enough playmaker to raise the shooting percentage of his teammates by 1.4% and he is typically on ice for a lot of shots per game. Staal typically records an assist on roughly 42% of the even strength goals he is on ice for, so we can use that to estimate how many assists he will record this season. Before we do that, we have to estimate how many shots per 60 minutes he will be on ice for and what the shooting percentage of his teammates will be. This is the part where we hae to guess a little bit, but using Staal's average over the last five years will give us a better idea of what to expect.
Staal was on-ice for an average of 32.5 shots per 60 minutes at even strength over the last five seasons and his teammates shot at an average of 9.22% during that span. The amount of shots Staal is on ice for is subject to change depending on how his teammates perform, but going with the average of 32.5 shots sounds about right for now. As for his teammate's shooting percentage, that's subject to change. Expecting the Canes to shoot at 8.5% when Staal is on the ice is probably the reasonable thing to expect, but that could easily go up if he spends most of the year playing with Jussi Jokinen and Alexander Semin, so you could be a little generous with his shooting percentage, too.
Power Play Time on Ice
|Year||PP TOI||PP TOI/G|
Staal's powerplay time was cut down by almost a minute last season and I think it's partially due to the Canes not drawing a ridiculous amount of penalties like they did in years past. Staal will still get a lot of powerplay time and play on the first unit regardless, so I wouldn't expect too much to change here. The Canes do have a lot of forward options on their powerplay, but I don't think Staal's ice-time is going to be affected that much because of it. I expect him to center the first unit and Jordan to handle the second unit duties.
Power Play Goals
Staal normally scores a lot on the powerplay, but he was the victim of a poor shooting percentage with the man advantage last season, so he saw his PPG total go into the single digits for the first time since his rookie season. His shot rate fell off a little, as well but he was still recording over 10 shots per 60 minutes, so I think it's fair to say that his powerplay shooting percentage will rebound. If he shoots the puck at the same rate and his shooting percentage is closer to the league average (12%), then that should lead to him scoring more on the powerplay.
Power Play Assists
|Year||PPA||PP SF/60||PP On-ice Sh%|
While Staal did not have that many powerplay goals last season, he was involved in setting up a lot of them as he recorded an assist on over 55% of the PPGs he was on ice for. That is a very high improvement over his five-year average of roughly 43% so it does bring into questions of how sustainable that is. Although, one thing of note here is that his teammates shot around the league average with the man advantage when Staal was on the ice but they were on-ice for more shots on goal, which may have helped him have such a high assist total. We could assume that the additions of Semin and Jordan Staal will boost the amount of shots the Canes get with the man advantage but much to some people's surprise, these two weren't heavy hitters with the man advantage as they did most of their damage at even strength instead.
It is probably best to play it safe and expect Staal's powerplay on-ice shooting percentage to stay around the league average.
What do we get when we take all of these factors into consideration? We know that Staal is probably going to lead the Hurricanes in ice-time if he plays the entire season, so the only way he is going to improve his scoring rate this year is for him to get more shots on goal, play stronger territorially and hopefully get some puck luck along with it.
I am going to say that Staal plays a little over 16 minutes a game at even strength (let's go with 16:12 to be specific) along with 3:30 minutes of powerplay time to go along with it. He will also play some short-handed minutes but not as much as before. The additions of Semin and Jordan Staal should lead to Eric getting more shots on goal per game, so I will say that his shot rate improves to 8.5 shots per 60 minutes this season. Staal will start more in the offensive zone and will get more opportunities, so I think that will lead to him having a higher shot rate. If Staal's shooting percentage is closer to his career average of 9.2%, then he should score 17-18 goals at even strength. If he shooting percentage is closer to his 7% mark of last season, then he will have 13-14 goals.
His assist total is a little tougher to predict because we don't know who his linemates will be and how much of an impact they will have. If he plays with Semin, then the number of shots Staal is on ice for will increase but it probably won't be too big of a jump from the 31.75 SF/60 mark he had last season. Either way, Staal typically records an assist on 40-45% of the even strength goals he is on ice for, so if he is on ice for 32.5 even strength shots per 60 minutes, and the Hurricanes score on 8.75% of those shots, then Staal will have 26-27 even strength assists. This is subject to change depending on what his on-ice shooting percentage is, but this estimate is in line with Staal's even strength production over the last few seasons.
Then you factor in his powerplay production, which is where he does most of his damage. I'm expecting better numbers from Staal this year on the powerplay because he is probably going to score on more than 10% of the shots he takes with the man advantage. How many shots he'll have on the powerplay is another question because that's another area where his numbers are declining and he is going to be playing with a few guys on the first unit who want the puck. There's only going to be so many goals to go around with this team, so I don't want to be too generous here, but I'll say that Staal sees his powerplay shot rate go up to something like 11.3 shots per 60 minutes this season, which will give him 7 powerplay goals if he shoots at the league average and 9 if he shoots at his career average.
Staal's powerplay assist total should improve or stay similar to what it was last year, despite him recording an assist 55% of the team's powerplay goals. There is a good chance that the Canes will score more powerplay goals than the 57 they had last season and if Staal is involved with 40-50% of them, then he should see an increase in his powerplay point total. However, I don't think Staal's PPA total will inflate that much because neither Jordan Staal or Semin are heavy contributors on the powerplay in terms of getting shots on goal, so the team's PP SF/60 rate won't be affected too much unless Jeff Skinner has a monstrous season.
If we take Staal's average PP SF/60 & On-ice shooing percentage over the last five seasons, then we can estimate that he will finish the year with 16 powerplay assists. However, this could change depending on how the team's shooting percentage fluctuates, but I'm going to take the conservative route here for now.
In the end, I think Staal finishes the year with 58-75 points in an 82 game season not counting shorthanded points. Around 70 points has been the norm for him lately and this year should be no different.
|Staal 2012-13||ESG||ESA||PPG||PPA||SHG||SHA||Total Pts||PPG|
Stats courtesy of Behind The Net and Vic Ferrari's Time On Ice site