Ramblings: Caps/Pens, Jets Depth, Salary Cap, Drouin (May 5)

by Michael Clifford on May 5, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Caps/Pens, Jets Depth, Salary Cap, Drouin (May 5)

Recapping the Pens/Caps, Targets for the Jets, Salary Cap Problems, Jonathan Drouin, and more. 

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This was a game the Caps absolutely needed. With no Kris Letang, and no Olli Maatta, there were no excuses not to win, puck luck or not. A win would tie the series, and give Washington the home ice in a best-of-three. And they lost 3-2 in overtime. 

It was a fairly entertaining first period, as the Caps got on the board on a sharp-angle shot from Jay Beagle. The goal was apparently due to a tendency the Caps have found…

Pittsburgh would square things a little later on a deflected shot eventually credited to Sidney Crosby, and it was tied going into the intermission.

The teams would trade goals in the second, so we were off to the third period locked at two goals each.

From about the mid-point of the second on, it looked like the Caps were really taking over. Pittsburgh was just hanging on in their own end, while they were looking for any type of fluke goal on Holtby at the other. This graph from HockeyStats.ca would seem to confirm this, as a span of over 23 minutes saw one even strength scoring chance for the Pens, and 11 for the Caps. That was more how this game should have gone from the start. 

Hornqvist would bury the overtime winner off a puck that was deflected to him, and send Consol into a frenzy. It was a game the Caps probably deserved to win, the second game in a row, but such is hockey. 

It was worth noting that with Letang and Maatta both out, the Penguins turned to Justin Schultz to run their top power play unit. Not that this is significant right now, but we’ll see what happens in the offseason. Daley was on the point for a late-game power play, but that may have been more for defensive purposes. They would never supplant Letang on the top PP unit, but if Schultz returned next year, and Letang was injured (as he’s been known to do), that is some easy points for fantasy owners.

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Speaking of Caps/Pens, I had to laugh. Here is Pittsburgh Pirates ace Gerrit Cole getting admonished by an usher for chirping the Capitals players too hard, or too much, or both. 

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There was a very interesting article posted yesterday from the person known as Corsi Hockey League (see this tweet for reference) with regards to Steven Stamkos going to the Leafs next year. I recommend readers go through that.

Aside from the actual signing of the player, I thought one of the more curious points raised was the salary cap and its implications moving forward. With escrow closing in on 20-percent, the value of the Canadian dollar, and other HRR factors, the salary cap being viewed as a resource, as argued by CHL, is growing in importance with each passing year. Though they have achieved wild success in the last half-decade or so, I assume this is something general managers in Chicago and Los Angeles are very much realizing.

This is just my opinion, but I think in the next few years, we see fewer “smart” teams give out the lengthy unrestricted contracts we have been used to in the past, and more money given to the restricted free agents. The lack of a true bidding war for restricted free agents is something that the teams can leverage into locking up core, high-end talents through their late twenties.

Again, just in my opinion, this kind of thinking may take root this summer. There are (formerly) elite or high-end UFAs like Eric Staal, David Backes, and Milan Lucic, three players that may have been, or are looking for, Ryan Kesler-like contracts. They may get those deals somewhere, but I don’t see it being teams like Tampa Bay or Toronto.

It could be we are at the point that teams, or the smart ones anyway, realize that UFAs are not building blocks, but pieces to round out a playoff contender. The long-term RFAs, or guys on ELCs, are the core, and the high-priced UFAs are not. There are exceptions – looking at you, San Jose – but control and flexibility of a finite resource like the salary cap is critical to the long-term success of a franchise. 

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One of the most important topics for fantasy hockey owners over the course of the summer will be Jonathan Drouin’s ranking. In about 11 months, he is a player that could be on a lot of winning fantasy hockey teams, should everything break right.

With eight points in eight playoff games so far, he’s only driving up his draft day cost for next year. One thing that is important to note so far, and something I brought up in a previous Ramblings, is his shot rate. In his regular season career, he has 101 shots in 91 games, a very poor mark for fantasy purposes for most any forward. In these playoffs, he has 22 shots in eight games, a very respectable mark (though only one goal to show for it).

There are a lot of moving parts here – does he play with Nikita Kucherov; what happens to Stamkos this summer; does anyone else get brought in – so making any sort of final determination right now is foolish. With that said, the jump in his shot rate is an excellent sign moving forward. Just think about this: three of the 23 players to finish with 65 or more points last year averaged under two shots a game, and they were Joe Thornton, Jaromir Jagr, and Nicklas Backstrom. The first two are future Hall of Famers, the third played (mostly) on a line with Alex Ovechkin, on an elite power play unit, and may have a case for the Hall of Fame one day. For Drouin to really rack up the points, shots are a necessity, and he’s taken a good first step forward in this regard.

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Over his last couple of Ramblings, Neil Parker has looked at the Jets from a variety of angles. This one looks at Blake Wheeler, and the team’s lineup in general. His latest Ramblings talked a bit about the Winnipeg goaltending situation.

At the risk of a bit of over-kill, I wanted to look at the Jets again, this time focusing on the young players, and some gaps in the roster that need filling.

Winning the second overall pick in this year’s draft means the Jets should be getting one of the big Finns, likely Patrik Laine. With Blake Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers, Mathieu Perreault, Drew Stafford, Marko Dano, and now Laine, it’s safe to say that a winger shouldn’t be on the shopping list. Also, Ondrej Pavelec and Connor Hellebuyck, with a re-signed Michael Hutchinson, means goaltending isn’t on the list either.

We are left with centres and defencemen.

Given that the Jets have Mark Scheifele and Bryan Little, they don’t need to find a top-six centre. That helps matters a great deal because getting one of those in the offseason can be costly.

One player that is worth consideration is Riley Nash. The Carolina forward has never had great traditional stats, but we have to remember, he’s been on Carolina for three years now, most of the time in bottom-six role. Three of his five most-common line mates over the last three years have been Chris Terry, Patrick Dwyer, and Nathan Gerbe. Despite that, on a per minute basis, he’s scored as a fringe third-liner over that span (1.36 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five, similar to names like Troy Brouwer and Ryan Kesler).

He has also been able to generate 40-45 high-danger scoring chances per season over the last three years (per War On Ice), again, a pretty good accomplishment considering his ice time and line mates. Consider that Artemi Panarin, Gustav Nyquist, and Mark Stone all had 48 this past season, it gives a decent reference of how Nash has been able to generate offence in a fairly poor offensive situation.

Should he find his way to the Jets, a third line slotting with any two of Laine/Stafford/Perreault/Dano would be pretty dangerous. This would allow Adam Lowry to play as the fourth centre, which he would be much more suited for.

In a Reach For The Stars scenario, Frans Nielsen would make a very good third line centre for this Jets team. The problem being I would assume Nielsen is looking to cash in on his UFA, and might price himself out of Winnipeg’s range.

Maybe the Jets don’t do anything, but I think there is a glaring need for a competent third line centre. Just look at some of the contenders left, and the third line centres they have: St. Louis has Backes (depending how you view their lines); San Jose has Marleau (when he's slotted as such); Pittsburgh has Bonino; Tampa Bay’s would be Filppula if Stamkos were healthy. If Winnipeg wants to make a push, rebuilding their bottom-six centre depth is a glaring need. Nash isn’t Marleau, but he’s better than what the Jets currently offer.

I will look at some d-men in my next Ramblings.

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The nominees for this year’s Mark Messier leadership award were Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, and Shea Weber. Jonathan Toews, Dustin Brown, and Daniel Alfredsson were winners from the three previous years.

Is anyone going to get outraged over this? Surprisingly, after Twitter searching about 100 tweets or so, I couldn’t find more than a couple tweets that amounted to pretty much, “Lol Ovechkin leadership.” I expected more out of Twitter. Maybe we’re civilizing ourselves? Maybe.

There is a long list of people that think Ovechkin has been a good leader, or at least example, for a long time now. Beyond that article that was just linked, there are lots of results that pop up with a quick Google search. It’s important to remember that there is not one specific way for a person to be a good on-ice leader, rather, there are many paths that can be taken. Joe Sakic admitted he was a quiet leader, while guys like Messier made public guarantees of victory. No one would say either is a bad leader.

Just keep in mind there is no one right way to do just about anything in life. When it comes to hockey, there is no singular way to train, coach, lead, practice, or whatever else is being discussed at the moment. The only thing that matters is that it works. And it seems to work pretty well for the three players nominated.  

*Some stats from Hockey Analysis, War On Ice, and Hockey Reference. Cap information from Cap Friendly