Ramblings: Sutter and Lombardi Fired, Playoff Performers, and More – April 11

by Michael Clifford on April 10, 2017

Sutter and Lombardi fired; Recent playoff performers; Seasonal stats

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The Kings laid waste to the non-roster side of things on Monday night. That means gone are general manager Dean Lombardi and coach Darryl Sutter. Rob Blake has been named the new GM with Luc Robitaille as the new president. Alrighty then.

Dobber's take can be found here

Sutter apparently “lost the room,” whatever that means. Anze Kopitar had a quote recently that alluded to a new coach being brought in. Maybe he lost the room. Maybe he didn’t. No one knows what is going on in that dressing room besides the players, coaching staff, and management. For a coach that “lost the room,” he got his team to post the fifth-best scoring chance differential in the league. Every team in the top-10, except Los Angeles, qualified for the playoffs. Carolina is the only other team in the top-15 not to make it to the postseason. Via Corsica, their expected goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five was 2.61, better than Boston or the Rangers. Their actual goals per 60 minutes? Fifth-worst at 2.03.

Does Sutter’s style lend itself to lower-quality shots? Well, their high-danger shot attempt rate was higher than Washington’s. Did he lose the room? Maybe. I would definitely not say that with any degree of certainty.

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Every year, there are playoff performances that pop some eyes. Some of them are simply established superstars doing what they do best, but sometimes there are lesser-established players that turn some heads. Last year, Jonathan Drouin had a season marred by “controversy,” and then posted 14 points in 17 playoff games. The year before, Jakob Silfverberg was over a point-per-game player before being bounced out in the West Finals. The 2013-14 playoffs introduced the larger hockey world to Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli. Yes there are others – stand down, Matt Murray fans – but it’s just a few examples of guys thrusting themselves into the spotlight at the most important time of the year. Here are a few I’m keeping an eye on.

Kevin Fiala – He was in and out of the lineup all year, but was second on the team in shots per minute, and third in goals per minute. He played 15:46 over the final five games of the season when Nashville was still jockeying for playoff positioning. He may not be in a spot where he can carry a team for a series like some others in previous seasons, but don’t be surprised if he has standout games, either.

Dmitry Orlov – With John Carlson suffering from a lower-body injury, we could see Orlov logging some heavier minutes. The 25-year-old posted a career-high in assists, points, shots, and minutes this year. He is still clearly fourth, at best, on the depth chart for the Caps blue line, but if he gets a bigger role, how he performs should be of interest to fantasy owners.

Shea Theodore – It is no secret that Anaheim’s blue line is ailing. Cam Fowler looks like he’s out for at least the first round, and Hampus Lindholm returned for the season’s finale, but like Carlson, it’s a wonder how healthy he really is. I doubt that Randy Carlyle gives any significant minutes to Theodore, but he has the skill to be a difference-maker in the minutes he does get. He may need to be if Anaheim’s top d-men can’t come through as they normally would.

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The playoffs start Wednesday, and the firings happened Monday, which means Tuesday is a bit of dead time in the NHL. I thought I’d go through some interesting stats from the past season, and what it could mean for the future fantasy-wise. Note that any stats not taken from Frozen Pool are going to come from Corsica or Hockey Analysis.

Primary points per 60 minutes

Below are the top five forwards in primary points per 60 minutes this year at five-on-five with a minimum of 1000 minutes of ice time. For those unfamiliar, primary points just removes secondary assists, counting only goals and primary assists. Three names you’d expect, and two you probably wouldn’t:

Zucker set a career-high in goals (22), assists (25), shots (172), and did that while playing just 15:17 per game. Over the last three seasons now, his points per 60 minutes (1.87) is the same mark as teammate Zach Parise. I know some people hate his inconsistency, but that may come with his usage. For example, in late October, he had a mini-stretch where he posted two goals and three assists in three games. Solid, right? The 10 games immediately following that little outburst, he never cracked the 16-minute mark in ice time, and played under 13 minutes four times. With that little ice time, it’s hard to be productive on a regular basis. If he can get regular minutes, including power-play time, he can be a very good fantasy asset. If he can’t, he won’t be. It’s that simple.

Also, I’m not sure how much higher Niederreiter can go from the 57 points he posted this year. Minnesota is intent on spreading out the power-play minutes among their forwards, and it’s uncertain there’s any plan to give him significantly more even-strength ice time. A great season, but expecting even more progression next year is not a good idea.

Individual Scoring Chances

Scoring chances are just that, chances to score, and not goals. Converting those into goals is what drives production, and if the player doesn’t convert – looking at you, Boone Jenner – there’s nothing that can be done.

These are the top three forwards in individual scoring chances per 60 minutes this year. Again, a couple of those names make sense, and the third may come as a surprise to some:

It might make sense in the context of his season, considering Skinner scored a career-best 37 goals. It was also on the Carolina Hurricanes, a team tied for 20th in goals per minute at five-on-five, and did so largely playing away from Jordan Staal, the team’s top centre. The question is if he can repeat next year.

Well, Carolina should be improving offensively. They took strides forwards in that department this year, and young guys like Elias Lindholm and Sebastian Aho are only getting better. He did shoot 13.2 percent this year, but he had shot at least 12 percent in two previous seasons, and his career mark is now 11 percent. That’s not a significant deviation. Maybe he doesn’t push towards 40 goals again, but with an improving forward group, and Skinner’s significant shot volume, a 30-goal season is reasonable.  

Johnny Gaudreau

This little spiel was supposed to be about interesting stats from the past season. The thing is, a lot of the leaderboards featured Johnny Hockey in them somewhere, so focusing on him directly seemed the route to take.

I have a feeling a lot of people feel burned by Gaudreau. His 61 points represent the lowest total of his career, as do his 18 goals. Personally, I figured he would be in the mix for the Art Ross Trophy. Maybe not win it outright, but somewhere around the top-10. Instead, he finished outside the top-30.

At the outset, it’s important to note the injuries. All the slashes to the hand, and subsequent games missed, throughout the year are no secret. It’s not just that he missed 10 games, but how truly healthy was he when he returned? We may never know the answer, but it’s something to wonder.

On the season, Gaudreau managed 2.25 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five. The season before his mark was 2.26. There is one reason for the similar production rates: he registered a point on a league-high 92.7 percent of goals scored with him on the ice. In 2015-16, his mark was 79 percent. That number will come down next year, but is hopefully offset simply by a rise on goals scored per minute by the team.

For the 2016-17 campaign, Gaudreau averaged 2.1 individual scoring chances per 60 minutes. Over his first two years in the league, that number was 2.11. He also averaged a lower shot distance to the net as well. So his decrease in shooting percentage is likely a bit unlucky, and perhaps related to the injuries discussed earlier.

Had the 23-year-old played 80 games, his pace would have him at 20 goals and 68 points. Not what we had hoped, but it would have looked a lot better. On top of the games lost, he was also given nearly 90 seconds less in ice time per game as well.

Unless Calgary’s scoring rates, particularly the top line, takes a big boost next year, it’s hard to see Gaudreau really fulfilling his potential as a fantasy option. A rebound in goal scoring and seven or eight more games could push him back to the 75-point range, which is great, but not his true ceiling. With the success the team has had, it’s hard to imagine they change too much with ice time distribution. That will likely keep the superstar from truly becoming elite in the fantasy game.

Blue line production

The top-5 defencemen in primary points per minute at five-on-five is… interesting

It shouldn’t be surprising that Brent Burns is at the top of this list. He’s at the top of a lot of offensive production lists. Not much discussion needed here.

Tyson Barrie is a pretty big shock, however. Colorado was the lowest scoring team at five-on-five this year, and yet they had a defenceman that finished as one of the most productive in the league. Sure, his 38 points are a three-year low. However, he finished with more five-on-five points (25) than the year before (21) when he posted 49 points overall. The difference this year from 2015-16 was the power-play production, where he dropped off by 11 points.

The Avalanche were also last in power-play goals per minute for the year. It’s no surprise that Barrie’s production took such a hit given. Can their power play turn around next year? It could. It could not. That is a complete guess.

Dougie Hamilton finished second in the entire league in primary points for defencemen, and managed 50 points total. This is higher than he normally finishes, but over the last three seasons, his mark per 60 minutes (0.63) is in the neighbourhood of guys like Kevin Shattenkirk (0.64) and teammate Mark Giordano (0.63). In total points per 60 minutes, including secondary assists, he’s top-5 in the league. This is a very productive player, and despite the lack of ice time, banking on 40 points from him seems like a near-certainty now.