Western Conference all-underachiever team

by Doran Libin on January 25, 2016

Doran Libin's Western Conference fantasy hockey all-underachiever team for 2015-16 so far

 

The following are the best, or worst, underachievers, in the Western Conference to date. They were chosen based on the difference in their expected performance versus their performance thus far in the season. The expected numbers are based on Dobber’s predictions, and the comparison is based on the difference in the respective points per game paces.

 

Forwards

 

Player

Games

Points

Shots per Game

Time-on-ice (TOI)

PPG Diff.

Marian Gaborik

48

18

2.65

14:49

0.38 (-0.36)

Jason Pominville

48

20

2.48

17:10

0.42 (-0.27)

Jiri Hudler

39

23

1.51

15:58

0.59 (-0.28)

 

Marian Gaborik – Gaborik may be in the most trouble of any one on this list as his struggles have seen him bumped to the Kings’ bottom six. He still gets power play time but playing with the likes of Andy Andreoff is not going to do anything for his production rate. He still gets power play which is something of a saving grace but the Kings’ power play is not prolific enough to single handedly rehabilitate Gaborik’s season. If there is reason to be optimistic about Gaborik’s future it is that he has been bumped out of the top six by Vinny Lecavalier, a player who is showing signs of life for the first time in three years. As the Kings have three centers currently in their top six, Kopitar, Carter and Lecavalier, it would not take much of a Lecavalier slide for Gaborik to potentially regain his spot.

 

Jason Pominville – This is the second straight season in which Pominville has a severely reduced shooting percentage. Unlike the other two forwards on the All-Under Achiever team Pominville cannot blame new and inferior linemates for his lack of success this season. He is still playing predominantly alongside Mikael Granlund and Zach Parise, with whom he has previously had lots of success. Where does have some similarity is in his falling shot, and scoring chance, rate. The drop in his shooting percentage can be partially explained by the fact that his scoring chance rate is dropping faster than his shot rate. It is not enough though to explain him scoring on less than five percent of his shots after many years of having a shooting percentage around 10%. The low shot rate could be blamed on playing on Zach Parise hogging all the shots but that has not stopped Pominville in the past and as such does not seem a valid reason.

 

Jiri Hudler – Hudler has two strikes against him right now, the first is he is completely failing at getting shots. He is only getting a shot and a half per game and at his current pace will barely get 100 shots on the season. While his shooting percentage is low this season even a rebound will not help if Hudler does not start shooting more. He does not need to be a bulk shooter to succeed but the seasons where he has had the most success have been those where has finished with close to 200 shots. The other problem for Hudler is that he has been taken off the top and is now playing with Markus Granlund and Joe Colborne. This is not a disaster of Marian Gaborik proportions but as a pass first player he needs to play with linemates who have the ability to snipe a couple goals, which is why playing with Gaudreau and Monahan was so successful for him.

 

Defense

 

Player

Games

Points

Shots per Game

Time-on-ice (TOI)

PPG Diff.

Dougie Hamilton

46

19

2.02

19:04

0.41 (-0.25)

Justin Schultz

36

9

1.31

20:03

0.25 (-0.29)

 

Dougie Hamilton – Hamilton was supposed to flourish in Calgary but was unable to take advantage of the opportunity to play alongside Mark Giordano when TJ Brodie was out with an injury early in the season. It took a while for Hamilton to bounce back from the early season struggles as after being separated from Hamilton he played with a multitude of partners including an extended stretch with cement boot Derek Engelland. The good news for Hamilton is that he has settled in to the Calgary defense corps now playing predominantly alongside Kris Russell. Since the end of November he has 14 points in 22 games, which is much closer to the point per game rate that was expected of him early in the season. He is probably a safe bet to continue at this pace given his total ice time and power play time.

 

Justin Schultz – The time for Schultz to stake his claim in Edmonton is quickly coming to an end. Coming into this season he got a one year prove it contract and has soundly failed to prove anything positive. If anything Schultz looks to have taken leap backwards as the Oilers take less shot and given up more shots than they did last year with him on the ice, and the same can be said of scoring chances. With the team’s rates falling with him on the ice naturally Schultz’s rates have fallen significantly as well. With the Oilers, and Schultz, taking so many fewer shots this year he could not afford for his individual and on-ice shooting percentages to fall, but they have and as a result Schultz has less than 10 points 50 games in to the season. For a supposed offensive defenseman this is an abject disaster.

 

Goalie

Player

Games

Wins

Goals Against Average

Save Percentage

Expected Wins Diff.

Pekka Rinne

40

18

2.50

90.46%

18 (-11)

 

Pekka Rinne – Rinne has quietly been trending downward since the lockout season. In three of the last four seasons not only has he not been an elite goalie but he has not even been a league average goalie. This year is on pace to be the worst year he has posted in his career that was not prematurely shortened by injury. He has below average save percentages almost regardless of from where the shot comes. He has been especially bad on high danger shots stopping under 80% of those shots. His numbers at even strength would be horrible if not for his shorthanded numbers which make the rest of his numbers look passable. Even with the loaded Nashville defense in front of him allowing amongst the fewest shots per game Rinne has largely found a way to allow Nashville to lose more often than win. The saving grace for Rinne is that there is no one coming behind him but at 33 years old it is quite likely that his best days are behind him.

 

Dishonourable Mentions

 

Radim Vrbata – Vrbata is a rough case as it would be easy to blame his reduced production on not playing with the Sedins but if his shot rate and scoring chance rate are any indication it is more bad luck than anything else. At the rate Vrbata takes shots it would be historic if he continued to score at his current rate as he is on pace for 280 shots and very players who taken that many shots have failed to get at least 25 goals. Vrbata’s six percent shooting percentage indicates that he is due for something to go his way sooner or later this season.

 

Craig Smith – Smith should be a consistent 20 goals scorer and looked to be on that path with consecutive 20 goal seasons leading in to this year. Part of the reason for Smith’s rising goal rate was the basically annual increase in his shot rate, which has not continued this year. The rising shot rate covered for Smith’s shooting percentage falling for the last three seasons. The shot rate likely continues to fall as Smith is down to just over 15 minutes per game from his height two years ago of 16.2 minutes per game. With the addition of Ryan Johansen and Kevin Fiala to the Nashville forward corps this trend looks likely to continue.

 

David Backes – This is a bad year for Backes to struggle to find his scoring touch as he is an unrestricted free agent after this season and the Blues are reportedly up against their internal cap. This is especially problematic as big guys tend to experience sudden and drastic drops in production when over 30 and losing a step meet. Backes certainly fits the over 30 part of that equation. Given that he has taken less shots each year since peaking at 241 shots four years ago the lost step may also be true.