Ramblings: Hextall Fired; Kuznetsov Update; Contracts; Game Recaps – November 27

by Michael Clifford on November 27, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Hextall Fired; Kuznetsov Update; Contracts; Game Recaps – November 27

 

The Philadelphia Flyers have fired general manager Ron Hextall.

Hextall was hired in the 2014 offseason, so he’s been there for four full seasons. In those four years, the team averaged 91.5 points, earning two playoff appearances and zero playoff round wins.

There is a lot of good young talent on this team with Nolan Patrick, Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Samuel Morin, and Travis Sanheim all in their age-25 season or under. There is also Morgan Frost and Carter Hart in the pipeline. All this neglects to mention the mainstays like Couturier, Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds, and van Riemsdyk. Long story short, it seems like Hextall has built a nice team here. Goaltending (and the penalty kill) has basically sunk them. Oh, and probably the coach, but that’s another topic for another day.

We’ll see who they hire and judge it from there. To me, Hextall did a pretty good job assembling a very talented roster with a lot of good, young talent. Not just the prospects, but actual, good, proven NHL talent. The next GM may exceed Hextall’s success in terms of playoff wins but it sure doesn’t feel like this is a case of assembling a bad team outside of the netminders, and Sergei Bobrovsky wasn’t traded on his watch.

Also, this:

 

 

And finally, a salient point from Cam:

 

 

*

The Habs waived Karl Alzner. Chalk up another one on the scoreboard for the nerds in the ongoing Computer Boys vs. 200 Hockey Men battle.

*

Steven Stamkos missed practice Monday. He took a cross-check in Sunday’s win and left the ice slowly. He did finish the game, though. It was interesting to see Palat on the top line in Stamkos’s absence. Expect Palat back soon and the coach said Stamkos missing practice was just a maintenance thing.

*

Evgeny Kuznetsov skated on his own on Monday. It’s a small step to getting back on the ice in the next week or two if all things go right. TJ Oshie may be a little further away.  

*

An interesting read from Pierre LeBrun at The Athletic as it relates to RFA signings. Of course, this comes with the William Nylander deadline looming, but it makes for an interesting twist in salary cap fantasy leagues.

Cap leagues have always been about one thing: having highly-successful talent on cheap contracts. Being able to get those 60-point rookies or sophomores on entry-level contracts is nearly a necessity to win such leagues. Not only that, though, but the RFA contracts these talented players would get would usually be much lower than their open market value. It would keep a cheap player on a cap league roster for a decade.

The times, they are a-changin’.

Teams are more reluctant to give out those monster deals to guys hitting free agency in their late 20s. We saw this in the MLB last offseason and it’s starting to seep into the NHL. Sure, the Caps signed John Carlson and TJ Oshie to monster contracts over the last year or so, but since the unmitigated disaster that was the 2016 free agency period (think Milan Lucic, Loui Eriksson, David Backes, and Troy Brouwer), and the troubles the ‘Hawks and Kings are running into with their legacy contracts, teams are very weary about handing out monster deals to 28-year olds. There are still big legacy contracts handed out (the Washington guys named above and Marc-EdouardVlasic comes to mind) but players changing teams and getting huge deals are fewer and further between. The 2017 offseason saw Kevin Shattenkirk, a defenceman with five consecutive 40-point seasons in 82-game campaigns, get just a four-year deal while Alex Radulov got five years and less than $6.5-million per year. And other than the guys staying put, that was basically it. In 2018, aside from John Tavares (a potential Hall of Famer), no one got more than five years to change teams. James van Riemsdyk got 5x$7M, David Perron got 4x$4M, James Neal (who has scored 20 goals every season since the beginning of time), got 5 years at less than $6M per. Four years ago, someone like van Riemsdyk would have probably gotten 7x$7M, or something close to the Oshie deal anyway.

If players aren’t going to get paid as they expect at the age of 28, they deserve to get paid more at the age of 22. Players are going to start wringing every dollar they can as soon as they can, as they should. Their time to earn for the rest of their lives is limited and they’re all one injury away from never playing again.

But this is going to impact cap leagues significantly in the short-term. With a lockout looming, this will be a big sticking point for both the NHL and NHLPA, for different reasons.

*

Tom Wilson had a pair of goals, one assist, six total shots, two penalty minutes, and two hits in a monster fantasy performance Monday night. The Capitals dumped the Islanders 4-1 with Alex Ovechkin grabbing an empty-netter. Braden Holtby stopped 33 of 34 for the win.

Wilson now has 6 goals and 12 points through eight games post-suspension. Now, he is shooting over 28 percent so let’s not think he’s turned a corner as a producer. But he is still getting top line minutes and is still on the top PP. He should remain there as long as TJ Oshie is out of the lineup. More big games like this are very possible.

*

Two teams missing multiple star players faced off in Toronto with the Bruins in town. Mitch Marner was doing what Mitch Marner does best, tallying three assist in the 4-2 win, including the primary assist on Igor Ozhiganov’s first goal of the year.

David Pastrnak had two goals on four shots for the Bruins, tying him with Patrik Laine at 19. Both goals were assisted by Torey Krug and Brad Marchand.

Of note here was that rookie Colby Cave centred Marchand and Pastrnak for the second and the third periods. The 23-year old has 18 points in 15 games in the AHL this year. You can read his Dobber Prospects profile here.

Kevan Miller to a shot to the neck and was sent to the hospital but he’s fine, according to Joe McDonald. He’s just being kept for observation, thankfully enough.

*

Mark Stone scored two goals but it wasn’t enough as Ottawa lost 4-2 to the Rangers. Brady Tkachuk assisted on both goals.

The Hayes-Kreider-Chytil line was dangerous all night, though so was the top line. Mika Zibanejad had one goal and one assist for the Rangers while Chris Kreider also scored, giving him 13 goals in 25 games on the year. It’s nice to see him rebound after the health issues last year.

Henrik Lundqvist stopped 29 of 31 in the win, maintaining his save percentage above .920 on the season.

Thomas Chabot led all skaters in ice time. What a season.

*

Mike Hoffman scored his 12th goal of the year, an overtime winner to lift the Panthers 4-3 over New Jersey. The primary assist on the goal was from Jonathan Huberdeau, his second assist and third point of the night. Very quietly, Huberdeau is now on a point-per-game pace with 5 goals and 17 assists in 22 games.

All the big guns came out for Florida as Aleksander Barkov had a goal and an assist while Evgenii Dadonov had two assists. When those guys have nights like this, Florida is hard to beat.

Of note for the Devils was Jesper Bratt skating on the top line with Nico Hischier and Taylor Hall. He had seen some time there last year. I wouldn’t add him just yet outside of deeper leagues. Those lines were in flux a lot of the night.

*

Detroit and Columbus played a wild 7-5 game, a Jackets win, on Monday night. I’ll just list the multi-point efforts:

  • Josh Anderson: goal and assist, now with 11 goals in 24 games. He’s also just shy of three shots per game.
  • Pierre-Luc Dubois: two goals and an assist, putting him now on a 40-goal pace.
  • Artemi Panarin: goal and two assists because of course
  • Ryan Murray: two assists, now on a 40-point pace
  • Anthony Mantha: two goals and an assist with 10 shots on goal in just over 20 minutes of ice time.
  • Dennis Cholowski: goal and an assist, his first multi-point game in over a month.

*

I just wanted to add some of my thoughts to the Arizona-Chicago trade that took place late Sunday night. You can read Ian Gooding’s fantasy take on the swap here.

Two things to touch on: what Schmaltz can do for the Coyotes and the lens through which he’s viewed may not be correct. Let’s start with the former first.

Arizona has had trouble scoring goals. There’s no doubt about that; as of Monday afternoon, the team is last in goals per 60 minutes at 5v5, 28th in goals per 60 minutes on the power play, and 29th in goals per 60 minutes at all strengths. Maybe the team will turn itself around due to their 30th-ranked shooting percentage regressing positively, but there’s also not a lot of shooting talent on the team. Alex Galchenyuk is the team’s most proven goal scorer and he has precisely one season with more than 20 goals. There are a bevy of guys that could be 20-goal scorers like Richard Panik and Vinnie Hinostroza, but they are marred by inconsistency. Derek Stepan’s career-high is 22 goals and he’s cracked the 20-goal mark only twice. Long story short, there are a lot of guys that should improve, but maybe they need some help. This is where Schmaltz comes in.

As Ian pointed out, Schmaltz doesn’t shoot much. If he can ever crack 20 goals again, that’ll be a wildly successful season. But he doesn’t need to score to help the team score. Back in February I wrote about how Schmaltz compares to William Nylander in terms of passing. Nylander is a much more frequent shooter, but the way they can set up their teammates is very similar. From CJ Turtoro’s viz, here is how the 2016-2018 seasons compare for Nylander and Schmaltz in terms of percentage of controlled zone entries/exits, passes that lead to shots, and more:

 

I wasn’t kidding when I said that Nylander and Schmaltz are comparable in the way they set up their teams.

Nylander is a fine comparison because both players had been skating with elite offensive talents. But over the summer, I found another comparison a bit more apt given the lack of shooting: Ryan Johansen. I recommend going to read that link.

When I see Schmaltz’s profile – great playmaker, very little shooting – I think of Johansen. Maybe some see that as hyperbole but I don’t. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Schmaltz’s rookie year, he has a slightly higher points/60 minutes at 5v5 (1.86) than Johansen (1.79), a slightly lower primary assist rate (within 0.06 primary assists/60 minutes), and virtually an identical shot attempt rate (8.89 for Schmaltz and 8.72 for Johansen).

This leads me to my second point: where did the narrative come from that Schmaltz is a defensive centre? I read it on social media late Sunday night and heard it on a couple highlight/talk shows on Monday. Schmaltz is a lot of things, but strictly a defensive centre is certainly not one of them.

The image below is from Hockey Viz. I’ll go bit by bit on this:

Note in the middle of the image there are two boxes with smaller boxes inside. Those tell us shots/goal rates with a player on and off the ice at 5v5. The big box on the left is the shot rate. Inside that, you can see the team actually allows slightly more shots with him on the ice than without. The other box shows a big uptick in goals for with him on the ice, but shots against aren’t his strength.

Also from HockeyViz, here is Chicago’s shots allowed with Schmaltz on the ice at 5v5 this year. The darker red shows where the team allows more shots above the league average. It’s a bloodbath:

Now, it’s been similarly bad with him off the ice just because the team is poor defensively, but it was much the same last year. If Schmaltz is a defensive centre, he’s done a poor job preventing shots for about 100 games now, which kind of seems like the whole point.

Even if he’s only league average defensively, it’s not an issue for fantasy purposes. We don’t need him to be a stalwart defensively. We need him to be able to find his teammates in shooting positions. All the evidence we have for Schmaltz’s short career has shown he can do that. I believe he can maintain this level of playmaking even away from Patrick Kane. Maybe with another diminutive, highly-skilled American winger?