Ramblings: Yes Giordano Norris blah blah, Tarasenko’s slump, under-the-radar players and more (Dec 17)
I’m a big fan of teams who go outside of the Old Boy’s Club to hire a young GM with a fresh, analytical hockey mind. So I’m a fan of Kyle Dubas and John Chayka. Dubas believes in creating a professional, winning culture from top to bottom and uses analytics to identify undervalued players. I think Chayka has the same philosophy. An under-the-radar thing that both men have done is set up a winning culture at the AHL level. In the offseason, Chayka added Adam Helewka (trade with San Jose for Kyle Wood), Hudson Fasching (trade with Buffalo) and Robbie Russo (trade with Detroit), plus they signed veteran David Ullstrom from Europe. The three forwards are close to a point-per-game for Tucson and Russo has 13 assists in 21 games. How good is that for the development of potential fantasy owns Conor Garland or perhaps Tyler Steenbergen? Those are two high-scoring junior players with a slim thread of development that would likely fizzle out in a lot of systems, but in Arizona’s system they are being brought along nicely. Teams like San Antonio (St. Louis’ farm team), Rockford (Chicago) and Cleveland (Columbus) struggle to score – do you think that helps Dylan Sikura, Jake Walman or Vitali Abramov?
I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of space here talking about the ‘G’ position over the last two months. My goal today? Get through this without even mentioning the word. Today it is all skaters, all the time. Honest.
Here is a quote that I’ve heard about a dozen times over the past week, during a dozen different games by a dozen different talking heads.
“Mark Giordano, now here is a name we never hear about in Norris Trophy talks.”
Uh, consider his name now heard. A lot. In fact, it’s the only name I am hearing in Norris Trophy talks, so you can stop saying that now. All of you.
Still, another two points Sunday gives Giordano 15 in 10 games. He had 10 in 10 games before that, and 10 in 11 before that. Remarkably consistent. Back in 2014-15 he had 35 points in 38 games to start the season so he’s done something similar to this before. But he’s 35 years old now and coming off a 38-point season. Who knew that getting rid of Dougie Hamilton would help him this much at this age?
In 2014-15 he slowed to 13 in 24 games before a biceps injury ended his season. In 2013-14 he had 43 points in 53 games, again showing a track record of similar production. That too was interrupted by injury (21 games – leg). His pace is for 90 points and he is seeing a bit of puck luck (9.89% 5on5 S% usually around 8.4%), but it’s the power play where he’s seeing the biggest spike. At 12 PPPts, he’s already surpassed last year’s 10 and is well on his way to a career high (currently 26). The Flames sit 13th in the league at 21.6% PP efficiency, which is certainly maintainable. I think if he stays healthy this is the year that Giordano tops 70 points.
Calvin De Haan has three points and nine Hits in his last two games. De Haan is a player who rarely reaches 80 games, but if he does he’s looking as if he’ll top 200 Hits. His career high is 140. In leagues that count Hits, he’s becoming an appealing option. He should also, if healthy, reach 20 points and 120 SOG, which would also be a career high. He saw secondary PP time Sunday (with Justin Faulk) for just the second time all season, so I wonder if that will be something to look for in the coming games.
Warren Foegele snapped a 25-game, yes 25-game, pointless drought Sunday. The fact that he was never once scratched ruing his slump tells me something. His value in other areas of the game will keep him in the lineup through thick and thin.
Vladimir Tarasenko has gone seven games without a point. Tarasenko – seven games, and he’s also minus-9 in that span. He is on pace for 53 points, which is his worst production per game since his rookie campaign. His linemate Ryan O’Reilly has four points in that span, but overall has been having an excellent season so it’s hard to imagine that Tarasenko’s production could suffer this much. Having Jaden Schwartz taken off his line has hurt, and I wonder if the Blues would be better served reuniting the Tarasenko – Brayden Schenn – Schwartz line and have O’Reilly play with Perron and Alex Steen or perhaps Robert Thomas or Patrick Maroon. Throughout his career, Tarasenko has been the driver for production on his line, but this year he is clearly the passenger and for whatever reason needs help.
We are 32 to 34 games into the season, depending on which team we’re talking about, and yet seven players have 45 points. That’s seven players reaching approximately 109 points or more – a level that zero players hit in 2017-18. Jack Eichel and Mark Scheifele with big games Sunday to join that club.
Eichel’s been playing on a line with Jeff Skinner and Sam Reinhart, as you know, and that line has been ridiculous lately. Eichel, with four on Sunday, has 25 points in his last 15 games. Reinhart has 19 in 15, Skinner has 14 in 15 (but 10 of them are goals). I took a look at the best lines for this season and the line is ranked 11th (after I filtered out the four-forward PP units that ranked above them). With Jason Pominville on that line instead of Reinhart, the line actually did better and ranked seventh. Looking at Eichel’s line combos, he was with Pominville for 28.5% of his ES shifts and tallied 41.2% of his ES points. He was with Reinhart for 37.2% of his shifts and that resulted in 32.4% of his ES points. Far more production with Pominville, but perhaps Sunday’s big game in which the trio with Reinhart combined for nine points was that moment in which the line really meshed.
Reinhart, by the way, is on a 10-game points streak.
By the way, the top line was of course Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog – and that was also the top producing line of 2017-18. Run this report in Frozen Tools to see the full list of top line combos this season.
After what I think was a short break (correct me if I’m wrong WPG fans), Nik Ehlers was put back on the Scheifele line and popped for three points. He had four points in 13 games to start the season and has 20 in 20 ever since.
Scheifele has three consecutive three-point games. The last player to do that for the franchise was Marc Savard back in 2005.
Tyler Myers had four points in 27 games to start the season and has six in his last five – three of them on the power play. He’s been seeing regular secondary PP minutes over the last nine games and that unit has been better of late. He pairs with Morrissey on the PP, while Dustin Byfuglien mans the top unit. Jacob Trouba has been removed from the power play altogether, it would seem – just 48 seconds total over the last four games.
Coach Paul Maurice is still riding Big Buff as his main QB, but he has to notice that Josh Morrissey has arrived. Even with secondary PP time he has 12 points in his last 11 games with four of them with the man advantage. The torch will be passed to Morrissey soon enough, but it seems as though he’s going to just walk in and take it on his own terms, and say “screw it” to the coach’s timeline.
Mathieu Perreault has points in eight of his last nine games. Maybe the 30-year-old still has gas in the tank after all. He had been so horrible over the last 20 games of 2017-18 and the first 24 games of this year, that I had my doubts. Just eight points during that span, plus a forgettable postseason in which he was dealing with a lower-body injury. I had figured that perhaps that injury had become something that stuck with him long-term and impacted his play.
A certain player in the G position was pulled Sunday for St. Louis. I’m not going to get into that, I am staying strong in my vow not to discuss that position for an entire Ramblings. But playing against that particular person in charge of guarding the twine was a real boon for the red-hot Flames’ scorers. Of course…James Neal wasn’t a part of the seven goals, but Auston Czarnik was. And I spoke of big line combos, and that line of Johnny Hockey – Sean Monahan – Elias Lindholm ranks third, combining for seven points Sunday.
But back to Neal vs. Czarnik in what is becoming my pet cause. I’m not saying Czarnik is great or anything, I’m just saying it sure would be nice to see what he can do if given the same chances that Neal gets:
Neal has seen about 522 minutes of ice time, with 76.5 minutes on the PP, with most of those 445.4 ES minutes with Matt Tkachuk on his line. He has five points at even strength and two on the power play. That’s a point every 100 minutes at ES and every 38 minutes on the power play, give or take.
Czarnik has seen about 226 minutes of ice time, with 27.3 minutes on the PP, with most of those 199 minutes at ES also with Tkachuk on his line. He has six points at ES and one on the PP. That’s a point every 38 minutes at even strength and 27 minutes on the power play, give or take. The contract is doing the talking here. The track record. Their puck luck is about the same (similar 5on5 S%), and Neal is getting sheltered minutes with a lot of offensive zone starts that Czarnik doesn’t get. And yet Czarnik’s CF% is higher (better possession), and his IPP is way higher (75% of goals scored when he’s on the ice he gets a point on vs. 43.8% for Neal). I’d just love to see him get a shot.
In a 7-2 loss Vince Dunn was in on both St. Louis goals and has five points in his last six games. He has stormed out to the lead among the talented Blues’ defensemen in scoring with 14 points on the season, three more than the injured Alex Pietrangelo and four more than Colton Parayko. He also have five points on the power play while the rest of the team’s defensemen combine for six.
Aw crap. I made it most of the way into the Ramblings without mentioning a ‘G’. I watched the Calgary/St. Louis game and caught the final half of the Edmonton/Vancouver game, but didn’t see the San Jose/Chicago game nor even flip to it for a second. And so in reviewing that one, I see that Martin Jones got shelled. Three goals given up on four shots and he now sits 46th in the NHL for save percentage. It’s been a terrible season for Jones and frankly after his initial year with San Jose he hasn’t been good at all since. Two great games – his best of the campaign – in early December gave us a bit of hope, but the Sharks are piling up the W’s despite him not because of him. Anyway, trust in the contract. He’ll continue to get all the starts he needs and will probably get 30 to 33 wins again. But I don’t see that SV% reaching 0.910 and perhaps not even 0.905. And this is the first year of his gaudy six-year contract. Thanks Martin, for ruining my goalie-free Ramblings. I even got past the St. Louis guy getting pulled without mentioning his name or position.
Kevin Labanc, who had two points Sunday, has seasonal points-per-game averages of 0.36, 0.52 and now 0.65 in this his third year (53-point pace, thank you Frozen Tools). We love steady development trajectories and I don’t have to tell you what I think next year will bring.
Dylan Sikura was called up by Chicago last week and picked up his first point of the season Sunday, an assist. He’s been lining up with Brendan Perlini and David Kampf. His 18 points in 26 games for Rockford sit him 12th in the AHL among rookies.
Jujhar Khaira is becoming a very good fantasy option in leagues that count Hits. He has seven points in his last nine games plus 24 Hits. Thirty points and 150 Hits would be a great return on an often overlooked second-year player. The preseason projection for him in my Fantasy Guide had 20 points and 135 Hits.
Interesting stat, after a Sunday that also included Brock Boeser picking up three points and Elias Pettersson extending his points streak to seven games: 668 of 3148 goals scored this season were scored by players 22 years old or younger (21.2%). The last time this happened was in 1987-88 when it was 25.8%. Gretzky was 26 that year so he wasn’t a part of the 25.8%, but teammates Esa Tikkanen and Craig Simpson were. Top scorers that year at 22 or under – Mario Lemieux of course, Jimmy Carson and Luc Robitaille.
See you next Monday.
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