Frozen Tools Forensics: Cold Starts from the Defense
Perhaps looking at defensemen this week will provide some of these players with the Campbell bump like it did for a few forwards from last week’s article. Dobber’s Frozen Tools has an excellent report under Recent Trends that shows the coldest players currently by position and/or team. I am focusing on some notable defensemen who I consider cold for the season so far.
Mark Giordano is not surprising to see listed, as he had 74 points last season after two seasons of 38 and 39 points before that. Most of us assumed there would be some reversion, but I still thought he’d be well over 50 points, and he might very well be by the end of the year. Unfortunately, he is on pace for 10 goals and 38 points after his first 30 games this year. Most of his metrics have decreased, which was bound to happen at the age of 36. His 5-on-5 shooting percentage is 7.03, which is more than three percent lower than last year and second lowest of his career. His overall shooting percentage is down to 5.3, which is not low for defensemen but it is low for Giordano. The big three on Calgary should get it together and improve and this should help Giordano get into the 45-50-point range by the season’s end.
Tyson Barrie was showing signs of coming out of his season-long funk when Mike Babcock was fired. Sheldon Keefe was hired and put Barrie up on the first power play unit. Barrie responded with four points in his first two games, and his season was looking like it was well on the way to recovery. Four games later, in which Barrie had no points and was a minus-5, there are some concerns again. His power play time is decreasing slowly once more and he is now on pace for eight goals and 33 points after his first 30 games. His PDO of 94.7 and 5-on-5 shooting percentage of 5.06 are still very low and should indicate that Barrie was on the right path and should at least get up to 40-45 points this year.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is on pace for six goals and 30 points after his first 30 games this year. His points per 60 minutes is 0.9, which he hasn’t been down to since his rookie season in 2010-2011. He has been one of the most consistent 40-point defensemen in the NHL for the past eight years while scoring 12 goals or more in seven of those seasons. There is cause for concern around his production as his power play TOI (55.5%) is decreasing to the lowest it has been since his sophomore season. He has only generated three assists with the man advantage so far in 2019-2020, and in the last game Arizona played, he was on the second unit. Unless he gets back on track on the power play, his season will continue as it has.
Ryan McDonagh isn’t so much having a cold start, as having the year he probably should have had for the past two seasons. He’s on pace for three goals and 25 assists, which would be his worst output since 2010-2011. Since he has been in Tampa Bay, he has seen little or no power-play time and still managed to get 46 points last year. His PDO was high last year at 103.2 and his 5-on-5 shooting percentage was high at 10.69, so this shouldn’t be a shock for most that he might not be a safe bet for even 35-40 points this year.
Erik Gustafsson had 60 points last year and I was fairly confident he wouldn’t exceed 50 this year. He is on pace for nine goals and 21 assists, which is half his point total of last season. Other than still being on the first unit of the power play, there aren’t many indicators that he will even improve upon this start after 27 games played. His 5-on-5 shooting percentage is actually higher (10.78) than last season (9.09) and he had 42 points at even strength last year. His shots on goal has plummeted to 1.52 per game compared to 2.02 last year. If Adam Boqvist is ready next season, I’m not sure if Gustafsson will still be in Chicago as he becomes an unrestricted free agent next July.
John Klingberg has struggled to remain on the first unit of the power play because of his inability to put up points and the great play of Miro Heiskanen. Klingberg has averaged 10 goals and 48 assists over the past three seasons but this year is on pace for seven goals and 24 assists. His PDO is fairly low at 98.1 and his 5-on-5 shooting percentage should come up from 5.74 and get back to his average above eight. If not for the presence of Heiskanen, I would have little doubt that Klingberg could bounce back to over 55 points, but I think he will struggle to get 40-45.
Matt Dumba has struggled this year after being injured for most of 2018-2019, in which he still put up 12 goals in 32 games. I’m sure most people had him slotted in for at least 12-14 goals and 25-35 assists this year but after 29 games he has only three goals and six assists. His power play time is very similar to the prior three seasons but he has not been a big point producer with the man advantage before (12 points, four seasons in row), although that does include last season where he only played 32 games. As long as he is still on the first unit of the power play, he should see his overall shooting percentage improve from 4.5 to seven or eight as he has had in each year he has played. It’s not likely he can break 40 points after his start, but he is more than capable.
Charlie McAvoy has remained healthy so far this year, which is the most important thing for him after missing 47 games over the past two seasons. He hasn’t had the start he wanted, with no goals and nine assists in his first 29 games. I’m starting to think that 42 or 43 points might have been above what he should be producing and that this year is normal for him at around 30. Looking at his first two seasons, his overall shooting percentages were quite high at around nine, but he peaked at 1.46 shots per game in 2018-2019 and is even lower this year at 1.10. He just doesn’t shoot the puck enough to consistently have a chance to get more than 10 goals in a year.
Shayne Gostisbehere has not rebounded from a sub-par season in 2018-2019 where he still managed 37 points. The first-unit power play in Philadelphia really struggled at the start of this season. Gostisbehere was a victim of that lack of success and was taken off the unit for an extended period for the first time in his career. He was also a healthy scratch for the first time as well recently, but in his four games since returning to the lineup he had two goals and one assist and has seen time back on the first power-play unit. There is hope for a resurgence, but for Gostisbehere it will need to be on the power play as his ice time is diminishing still. Currently, he is on pace for eight goals and 20 assists, but could match or exceed last year at the very least.
P.K. Subban has not had a great introduction to New Jersey. He is on pace for only six goals and nine assists and has gone without a point for the past 15 games. He has not been as advertised, but at the same time, things should get better. His PDO is very low at 94.9 and his 5-on-5 shooting percentage is very low as well at 5.36, but I’m not sure how big an increase in production this could lead to. The team is struggling alongside Subban and he is not seeing much power play time. The best case for Subban is an increase in power-play time — if pucks start bouncing for him, he might see 10 goals and 25 assists.
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