Ramblings: On squashing the bye week, OEL’s shot volume and more.
Montreal’s tailspin couldn’t have come at a better time for hockey media. A big market team, in first place, crashing two weeks before the trade deadline, with a GM who is known for being “in on everything” and has already made a win-now splash. I wonder how much pressure/panic Bergevin is feeling to make a move or if this is all media driven. Probably a little of column A and a little of column B.
There is a ton of interest from teams looking to make a splash for the Avalanche’s big guns. These names rarely hit the market so there is some urgency to get in on the action. There aren’t too many sellers either which has focused the interest. Most of this is coming from teams who are struggling. Where there is smoke there is fire.
What’s interesting to me is contrasting the fervor surrounding Montreal and Boston, with the patient approach Minnesota and Washington appear set to take. There is no such thing as a “perfect” team, especially not in the salary cap era, but these two are at the top of the league in part thanks to their amazing depth. In a lot of ways, the Wild and Capitals made their deadline moves last summer, adding Eric Staal/Chris Stewart and Lars Eller/Brett Connolly respectively.
They made those moves early, had some hiccups in the first month or two and have since rocketed to the top of the standings. Now they are weary of upsetting the applecart. I tend to agree with this notion. I was begging for teams to make their big moves earlier this season so they would have time to incorporate these players into their system. Now, teams are running out of time.
Of course, there is no perfect solution to winning the Cup. The Blackhawks have won it both with and without major trade deadline splashes. The Penguins made their moves early last year and rode the wave to a championship. It takes a great roster, along with health and luck to win it all.
Sometimes, deadline acquisitions fit seamlessly. Other times, they fall on their face. Each situation will be different. I’m excited for these trading to finally pick up. We’ve got a ton of Trade Deadline content coming over the couple of weeks, and of course, we are your go-to for instant analysis of every deal that does go down.
The NHL needs to squash the bye week. It’s a nightmare for fantasy owners but without even getting into my selfish reasons for hating it, I can’t imagine there is anyone in the league who likes it. After the Flames were trounced 5-0 by the Coyotes, teams coming off the bye fell to 3-8-1 with a minus-18 goal differential.
That’s a small sample. The Leafs and Rangers are both included in the data set and they played one another both coming off the bye so that works out to a wash. All that said, this trend is very much in line with studies that found teams performed worse following breaks of three days or longer.
I think the NHL schedule is too long. Players play too many games in too compressed a time and get hurt. I’d go with a 70-game schedule, shorten the season by a couple of weeks and get rid of as many back-to-backs as possible. But I understand that it’s a business and subtracting games means subtracting money. I doubt we’ll see them take away games. But it’s clear that the bye week hasn’t done what it set out to accomplish. The early schedule was MORE compressed and we saw injuries all over the league.
Get rid of the bye but also eliminate back-to-backs and give teams as many one- or two-game breaks as possible.
That doesn’t let the Flames entirely off the hook. They had a great first period peppering Mike Smith with 19 shots but couldn’t solve him and then they tanked from there.
Chad Johnson was on the hook for the loss getting yanked after conceding four goals through two periods. I suppose that means Brian Elliott gets the next start since the Flames are in full-on “win and you’re in” mode.
Johnny Gaudreau was bumped down to the fourth line following an offensive-zone turnover that led to a goal:
Gaudreau now skating with Stajan and Hathaway. Ferland up with Monahan and Brouwer. #Flames— Aaron Vickers (@AAVickers) February 14, 2017
Turnovers are going to happen when you are trying to create offense. You do not want to turn Gaudreau into a puck dumper.
Vrbata has 13 points in his last 14 games. Although he only has two goals in that stretch he has fired 47 SOG in that span. He is enjoying the return of Max Domi who has a three-game scoring streak now going.
Conventional logic dictates that the Coyotes should be trying to sell. They are in the cellar and have a ton of veterans on expiring deals. More young assets in the pipeline would be a good thing. But they’ve started playing competitive hockey with six wins in their last nine games I do wonder if the Coyotes really want to sell right now, however. Maybe it would be better for the development of the youngsters they have around to try and finish out the season playing competitive hockey.
I don’t think you want to allow any nine-game stretch to decide your fate but I don’t think they need to be sellers. They are already at the bottom of the league. If all they can get for their expiring vets is mid-late picks then just keep the vets around and try to develop the youngsters. Hell, maybe they convince guys like Vrbata and Martin Hanzal to stick around. After all, Vrbata is on his third tour of duty in the desert.
Chuck this all out the window if they can convince teams to give up high end futures for those rentals. They got a first for Antoine Vermette a couple of years back and then re-signed him in the off-season.
Christian Dvorak is starting to show signs of life. He has five goals and seven points in the last six games. I’m not positive that this portends to a strong final couple of months but I am intrigued. He came into this season as a big-time prospect and still has a high ceiling. It’s good to see flashes. Perhaps things start to come together next season.
A couple of weeks back Michael Clifford mentioned on the Roto Hockey Show that it was possible that one reason Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s shot output is down this year is because of the return of Vrbata who is also a big-time shooter of the puck. That may be part of the story but there are other factors in play.
OEL’s power play ice time is down almost over a minute from last season at 3:53 per game. That’s still one of the top marks in the league and is the same kind of ice time he had two seasons ago when he put up a career high 268 SOG.
The power play time coming down is in part because the Coyotes just aren’t drawing penalties like they did last season. They led the league in power play chances last season but now sit in the bottom quarter of the league in that department. They’ve also cleaned up their act in terms of taking penalties so perhaps this is all the result of not having used Steve Downie this season.
More likely, it’s the result of regression from many players, in particular Anthony Duclair who drew a penalty once every three or four games last season. He’s currently in the minors trying to rediscover his game.
Fewer power plays aren’t the whole story either. Since January 1, OEL’s power play time is down to 3:03 per game, good for just 64.7% of the available PP time. He’s used to seeing up in the 75-80% range of PP ice time. His minutes are still the highest on the team but that’s because he has been their most used penalty killer over that same span.
Last season OEL barely saw any PK time but has played over 50% of the available shifts since January 1. He’s their best player and should be used in every role but it’s clear that this sort of work is taxing his shot output. He has just 24 SOG in 17 games in this stretch, which is a steep drop from an already reduced pace. At this rate, OEL will finish with less than 150 SOG, which seems unthinkable.
Of course, he has also scored 12 points in those 17 games, which is a 57-point pace. If the Coyote forwards can continue to score, it may not matter if OEL’s shot rate is down. He is providing good scoring in the form of assists.
Kevin Hayes cares not for these notions of regression. While he stumbled for a bit in the month of December he has gone off since the Christmas break scoring 19 points in the last 15 games. Hayes and his line with Michael Grabner and JT Miller continue to play the rope-a-dope getting punished on shot metrics but they pounce on turnovers for instant offense:
Kevin Hayes has some sweet hands pic.twitter.com/EUV0s64uOD— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) February 14, 2017
Brandon Dubinsky continues to be a person of interest, and not just in rotisserie leagues. The Blue Jackets’ second line with Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson and Boone Jenner has dominated opponents of late, leading Dubinsky to score eight points in the last six games. He’s must-own material if your league scores Hits or Faceoffs but has short-term value in other formats as well.
Jenner hasn’t received the same kind of bump in value. He’s either going to start producing soon or this line will fizzle out. I’d lean towards the latter but one can dream.
I need to shoutout my buddy who scored a cheeky one in a shootout in the CIS this past weekend:
ICYMI, which you probably didn't, Valiquette's SO winner. Go Wolves Go! pic.twitter.com/TDsvMGPBSI— Thunderwolves Hockey (@lakeheaduhockey) February 12, 2017
Nice mitts, Smelt!
Happy Valentine’s Day! Will you be my Twitter follower? @SteveLaidlaw.
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