Konecny was having a fantastic breakout season with 11 goals and 28 points in 30 games, doing so while playing just 16 minutes a night. As always with concussions, there’s no telling how long he’ll be out but let’s hope this isn’t too long. He’s an exciting young talent that the game needs.
Jordan Kyrou has been recalled by the St. Louis Blues.
Since the start of the 2018 season, Kyrou has 58 points in 63 games as a 20/21-year old in the AHL. He has nothing left to prove at that level. In the past, injuries and a loaded St. Louis forward group helped prevent Kyrou from establishing himself as an NHL regular. A loaded forward group is certainly not the case this year so let’s hope they give Kyrou every opportunity in the top-6 to establish himself.
Tampa Bay started Monday night’s game against the New York Islanders by putting Steven Stamkos on what would I guess be called the third line? With Cirelli-Killorn-Conacher on the second line. We’ve seen some weird line combinations out of the Bolts this year but this is probably the worst among them. I guess the reasoning being they want to keep him away from the tough matchups the Islanders have? But the Lightning were at home, so…
It couldn't hurt them, could it? Well, Ross Johnston actually scored:
this goal looks even better in 𝓼𝓵𝓸-𝓶𝓸 pic.twitter.com/2gAO1UEjNX
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 10, 2019
Anyway, the Islanders handed the Lightning their lunch to the tune of a 5-1 win. Brock Nelson had a pair of goals, his 10th and 11th of the season. He’s now well on his way to breaking his personal best of 26 goals back in 2015-16. Anders Lee added a goal and an assist to his season’s total, but with just eight of each on the year, he’s well off what we’ve been expecting from him for several seasons now.
Noah Dobson was in the lineup for Nick Leddy but only played about nine minutes.
Nicklas Backstrom returned on Monday night for Washington and assumed his traditional role as Alex Ovechkin’s centre, pushing Evgeny Kuznetsov to the second line. This probably is for the best as Kuznetsov-Ovechkin-Wilson had been performing pretty poorly at even strength, with the team’s depth and special teams carrying the load for the last half-dozen games. This also means the end of Top Power Play Jakub Vrana, and it was fine while it lasted. Again, this guy has a very high fantasy ceiling, but he won’t get there until he gets those minutes consistently.
Columbus laid the wood to Washington 5-2 in Backstrom’s return to the lineup. The game wasn’t as close as it seemed as the Jackets handily tossed around the Capitals until the third period, but it was too late for Washington at that point.
Oliver Bjorkstrand scored the fourth goal and had seven shots in total. He now has 101 shots in 30 games on the year. The raw point totals might not be there at the end of the year because of how inept this team is offensively (whether it’s the players or the coach, I’ll let you guys decide), but we’re seeing the upside this kid has. The next Cam Atkinson?
Speaking of Cam Atkinson, he has been largely removed from the power play and he responded with a pair of goals in this one, bookending the game with his tallies. Anyway, he wasn’t going to shoot five percent all year (probably) so good on anyone that managed to get him from panicking owners.
As of Monday afternoon, Red Wings defenceman Filip Hronek was sitting with 14 points in 29 games, averaging over two shots per game, adding basically a hit and block per game along the way. For those in leagues with plus/minus, he’s sitting with a minus-13, and that hurts a lot. He probably will end up close to minus-30 this year, and that’s going to kills his value in those formats. Other than that, though, it’s not a bad season thus far.
Let’s keep in mind how bad Detroit is. Even with league goal scoring per game the highest it has been since 2005-06, the Wings are scoring just 2.12 per game, a distant last in the league. For a reference on how pathetic that is, the lowest scoring season in the NHL since that 05-06 season was 2015-16, and this year’s Wings teams would be last in that season as well. It’s truly an utterly embarrassing performance.
(Just a sidebar: this performance from the Wings this year is entirely predictable and intentional. They have a ton of cap space coming off the books, including Trevor Daley, Jimmy Howard, Mike Green, and Jonathan Ericsson. This season will also, presumably, produce one of Alexis Lafrenière and Quinton Byfield in June. This is an awful, awful team, but it’s with the intention of adding another gamebreaker while freeing up over $16M in cap space. That this was also the long-term vision of former general manager Ken Holland, though, is something Oilers fans should keep in mind).
Let’s review Hronek’s season so far, whether he can maintain this, what his ceiling might be, and what to do next year as the team’s rebuild really begins in earnest.
It’s easy to point to Hronek’s shooting percentage and assume regression. It’s a good bet, by the way, as he’s shooting over nine percent at all strengths and over eight percent at 5-on-5. Last year, only three defencemen shot over eight percent at 5-on-5, so Hronek doing it this year is unlikely. It’s not impossible, by the way, as guys like Matt Dumba and Shea Weber have been able to maintain high shooting percentages over multiple seasons. Whether Hronek ends up being a guy like that remains to be seen. We need many years of a defenceman performing in this manner to determine that they’re this kind of guy. The failure rate is just too high among blue liners, and Hronek’s expected goal rate is about average for regularly-used d-men. The elite are at the top as expected: Hamilton, Werenski, Josi, Carlson, and Trouba are the top-5. Hronek actually scoring as much as Trouba, then, is a problem for Hronek’s sustainability.
The problem for Hronek isn’t that he might end up with 11 goals this year instead of 15, it’s about what his team is doing around him. His on-ice goal rate is 1.84 per 60, which is, unsurprisingly, in the bottom-20 percent of the league. The team is shooting about six percent with him on the ice at 5-on-5, which is considerably lower than the 9.1 percent league average. If his team shooting at even a league-average rate, we could add four points to his current total, and close to 10 points in total by the end of the year. And that’s just at 5-on-5!
Then we move to the power play. Most of the year, Jeff Blashill has been using Dennis Cholowski on the top PP unit – Dylan Larkin has under 23 minutes at 5-on-4 with Hronek but over 67 minutes with Cholowski. Now, we have to say that Blashill has been correct in the usage here as the top PP unit has generated far more shots and goals per minute with Cholowski than it has with Hronek. That’s a serious problem for Hronek, though. It’s all well and good that he takes a lot of shots, but he has to do the things necessary to get other players scoring. He can’t be the focal point of the power play (which, to be fair, I understand given the lack of talent on the second PP unit), he has to enable others.
That’s been an ongoing concern for Hronek to this point of his young career. He has put up respectable-to-good numbers when it comes to limiting opposition shot quality – at least according to Evolving Wild’s RAPM charts – but hasn’t done much to drive offensive shot quality (or quantity, for that matter).
This is a case where certain numbers tell one story while others tell another. His offensive impact numbers are extremely poor (from Hockey Viz):
In a small sample, though, his shot-assist numbers – the rate at which he finds teammates for shots in the offensive zone – are high. It’s encouraging that he can do that, because that’s a skill that can transfer to the power play. Now, whether he can maintain that over a large sample is another matter, but at least there is a sign of encouragement.
At this point, there are still far too many moving parts here to make a determination on Hronek’s long-term value. This team, as currently constructed, is an affront to the hockey gods but is sure to get better in the next couple seasons. Will Hronek get better with them? He’s only 22 years old with less than a full NHL season under his belt. Considering that he might put up 40 points this year on this team is a glimpse into his future.
While writing about Hronek, a thought popped into my head: how many players have NHL careers wasted because they arrived to a team going through a downturn in the franchise, the team didn’t improve for years, and the player’s numbers suffered as a result? In turn, they couldn’t establish themselves as an NHLer and found themselves out of the league after 200-300 games?
I say this because I look at Michael Amadio, and he’s not a guy we’d peg as a goal scorer, but he has shown some good playmaking tendencies. Unfortunately, he arrived in Los Angeles a couple years ago, as the glory years were starting to wind down. The team really doesn’t have much on the roster, Tyler Toffoli is sure to be traded, and guys like Kopitar and Carter are only getting older. There hasn’t been much for Amadio to play with, and even with good underlying impacts, his limited ice time in conjunction with the lack of line mates leaves his box stats much to be desired.
Is Amadio capable of playing a third-line centre role on a good team? I don’t know. What I do know is he won’t look like that on this team and it’s a wonder of how many guys like (or better than) him have been wasted over the years.