I have already said a lot about Carolina's special teams and how they weren't good at all last season and I've focused a lot on the powerplay, mostly the acquisition of Tomas Kaberle but what about the penalty kill? You know, the one that was arguably the second worst in the NHL. I took a look at how the Canes PK unit did last year in terms of scoring chances and determined that a big problem was them relying on two defensemen to do about 35% of the penalty killing by themselves and putting too much of a workload on them. Chad LaRose and Eric Staal also did not have good seasons when it came to penalty killing, and Staal has never really been that great of a penalty killer anyway so there's another problem. What's been done to fix this, though? I said in my post on Southeast Division forwards that Carolina brought in a couple defensive minded players up front to help out but how much is that going to improve the Canes penalty kill? What about the defense? There's a few adjustments that can be made to hopefully fix Carolina's PK unit.
More after the jump...
Five Ways To Improve the Canes Penalty Kill
1) Bryan Allen
The team's acquisition of Bryan Allen at the trade deadline last season is something that I've had mixed views about. On one hand, he could be the steady big-minute defenseman who is good in his own zone, something he has been at one point in his career. However, he could look like the 31-year old defenseman who is about to be three years removed from knee surgery and has seen his effectiveness decline....which is what he looked like the last couple of seasons. I am hoping that we can at least get him to play some tough minutes on the penalty kill to replace Corvo. Here's how he compares to Carolina's other heavy lifters on the PK:
Allen usually plays about two and a half minutes on the PK per game and surrenders around the same amount of shots that Gleason and Corvo did. However, he was on-ice for less goals but there is some luck involved with that as he had a .939 on-ice save percentage 4-on-5. So from the looks of things, he should replace Corvo's role but it doesn't look like he is a huge improvement now and there's a good chance that him and Gleason will see the majority of the team's penalty killing again.
2) Alexei Ponikarovsky and Tim Brent
Both of these two were very good at preventing shots 4-on-5 last season for their respective teams and Carolina's forwards were pretty bad at penalty killing last season aside from Brandon Sutter and Erik Cole. Brent is not that good of a player at even strength but if he can kill penalties like he did in Toronto then that should help this team out a bit. Same goes for Ponikarovsky but he has seen a little less time 4-on-5 than other forwards.
3) Less Eric Staal
Refer to the penalty kill scoring chance post that I linked earlier and look at Staal's numbers there. Now take a look at his 4-on-5 shots allowed per 60 mins numbers from Behind The Net. Those aren't good numbers at all. I know Staal's regarded as a two-way forward because of his defensive abilities but he just isn't that good at preventing chances when playing with the man down. Reduce his PK ice-time and let him focus more on scoring instead.
4) Jay Harrison playing a bigger role
This says it all. I'm beating a dead horse at this point...but I'll just reiterate myself here. He's a good defensive player and can really help this team's blue line....if he starts playing against tougher competition. That goes for the penalty kill too but his role there was bigger than it was at even strength.
5) Better season from Chad LaRose
LaRose can usually be depended on to be a great two-way forward and be trusted to kill penalties but he was just awful at the latter last season. Refer to the scoring chance post and his stats from Behind the Net. He gave up the most chances per 15 minutes and saw his shots allowed per 60 minutes jump from 43.5 to 54. That's going from being an above average penalty killer to an awful one in a short span of time. I am a pretty big fan of LaRose so his performance on the PK last year disappointed me and I'm hoping for better results next season, especially with the role he usually has on the PK. If he continues to struggle then someone like Jussi Jokinen may have to step up on the PK a little more.
The point here is that adjustments are going to have to be made if Carolina wants their PK to improve because they simply give up too many shots with the man down to be successful.