Monday, September 26, 2011

Driving Play Season Preview: 16-19, The Almost Average

And we keep rolling on. Here is my writeup for teams 20-22, with a description of the stats I'm using, here are Triumph's on teams 23-26 and 27-30.

#19: Carolina Hurricanes
Initial thought: Can the Canes draw their way into the playoffs?

5-on-5 Fen%/Corsi%: 47.3%/48.8%
PDO: 1.005
PP%: 15.9% (24th)
PK%: 81.2% (20th)
Ozone Faceoff Shift Corsi Rate: 35.763 (21st)
Dzone Faceoff Shift Corsi Rate: -42.514 (19th)

2010-2011 Summary:
In a word: mediocre. Carolina was somewhere below average but not horrible in pretty much every category last year. They did get some decent play out of Cam Ward in goal, who had the 12th highest 5-on-5 save percentage among starters, according to BTN. As has been the case for the last several years, they drew a lot of penalties, so expect that to continue.

Offseason moves:
In what worked out like a trade, the Canes signed Tomáš Kaberle who was at Boston and then traded Joe Corvo to the Bruins for a 2012 fourth-round draft pick. Shutdownline covered this well here and here. I personally think Kaberle will be a bit more of an upgrade on the PP than Corey Sznajder suggests in those articles, mainly because he's put up slightly better numbers than Corvo with worse teammates. That said, I do agree that it's not likely to be a massive jump. Something to keep in mind is that because Carolina draws so many penalties, a small improvement there would lead to more goals than it would for other teams.

They will make the playoffs if...
Skinner is able to build on his rookie season. Here's shutdownline's projection for Skinner, which is quite detailed and covers his great rookie year very well. I'm inclined to agree that a drop in his raw scoring numbers should be expected since he shot lights out. To be honest this is more for down the road, but if Staal can keep producing in relatively tough minutes and Skinner can make the second line a big scoring threat then that will make the Canes a tough matchup.

I don't like the Canes' chances of making the playoffs this year. Last year they finished just two points back from the Rangers, but all of us expect for New Jersey to be much improved this year. They definitely have a shot though, particularly if they improve on the power play and maintain their secondary scoring.

#18: Calgary Flames
Initial thought: How much weight can Iggy carry on his back year after year?

5-on-5 Fen%/Corsi%: 52.4%/51.6%
PDO: 0.998
PP%: 19.5% (8th)
PK%: 81.2% (21st)
Ozone Faceoff Shift Corsi Rate: 48.551 (5th)
Dzone Faceoff Shift Corsi Rate: -49.905 (26th)

2010-2011 Summary:
Calgary were good in possession and on the power play. So how did they miss the playoffs? They were not very good defensively, whether 5-on-5 or on the penalty kill, and Kiprusoff was simply not good enough. He was 23rd at 5-on-5 save percentage among starting goalies and 26th best when his team was down a man, courtesy of BTN. Getting back to team 5-on-5 performance, the gap following each type of faceoff is remarkable. The Flames were devastating on faceoffs in their offensive zone but every bit that bad in their own zone.

Offseason moves:
In line with most teams, the Flames didn't do much in the offseason. Other than going after Brad Richards, which they were rumored to have done, I suppose they didn't have a lot of options. Even Florida thinks the Bouwmeester and Kiprusoff contracts are awful.

They will make the playoffs if...
Iginla can keep it up. Iggy provided the biggest assist by a Canadian since World War II and has put up very impressive numbers well into his thirties. At 34 we would expect a dropoff sometime soon. The Flames finished 3 points out of the playoffs a year ago and should be in the mix this year.

Right now Capgeek tells me that the Flames have $3.6M in cap space. I think this will give us a preview of their long-term plans. They had been more than willing to shell out the cash, so we could definitely see a trade or two during the season to help them make the playoffs. On the flip side, there are rumors and suggestions that Calgary will soon be in rebuilding mode, in which case they will likely sit on it and maybe even be sellers at the deadline. I think a lot will rest on how they come out of the gate.

#17: St. Louis Blues
Initial thought: Feel free to make your own pun.

5-on-5 Fen%/Corsi%: 52.4%/52.2%
PDO: 0.993
PP%: 18.6% (10th)
PK%: 81.7% (18th)
Ozone Faceoff Shift Corsi Rate: 41.963 (15th)
Dzone Faceoff Shift Corsi Rate: -36.241 (12th)

2010-2011 Summary:
St. Louis is one of these teams where the numbers just don't seem to add up. Their possession numbers were good, they were good on the power play and close to average on the penalty kill. They did have goaltending problems - Halak finished 22nd among starting goalies at 5-on-5 save percentage and 20th 4-on-5. What really killed them was the third lowest 5-on-5 shooting percentage in the league. I think we can expect that go to up this year. Another factor is faceoffs. The Blues were third worst in the league in faceoff win %. This lead to their merely decent faceoff-shift numbers; they were best in the league once a substitution had been made following both offensive-zone and defensive-zone faceoffs.

Offseason Moves:
There weren't a lot of interesting moves. Not a lot to say about the Blues signing vets Arnott and Langenbrunner to one-year deals. Next year things get far more interesting. St. Louis will have Chris Stewart, TJ Oshie, Barret Jackman and Carlo Colaiacovo all come up for resigning. The former two will be restricted free agents. Early last season they were able to extend Backes, we'll see if they can keep their core together since they have some decent young talent.

They will make the playoffs if...
they shoot better. Something close to league average gets them in.

St. Louis is a really interesting team when you look at how they're perceived by different types of fans and analysts. They had the lion's share of possession but mediocre scoring results. According to TOI, at even strength they broke even scoring (167-167) but outshot their opponents by 161 shots (1989-1828). Looking at individuals with 40 or more games, they have 6 with a 5-on-5 Corsi rate higher than +10 (BTN) but David Backes was their only 30-goal scorer with 31. I think we'll see an improvement in their shooting numbers that will put them well into the mix for a playoff spot despite finishing 10 points back a year ago.

#16: Nashville Predators
Initial thought: Can't lose if you don't concede.

5-on-5 Fen%/Corsi%: 48.1%/48.9%
PDO: 1.015
PP%: 15.2% (26th)
PK%: 84.9% (5th)
Ozone Faceoff Shift Corsi Rate: 33.555 (24th)
Dzone Faceoff Shift Corsi Rate: -44.536 (12th)

2010-2011 Summary:
It may surprise you to learn that Nashville had a better goal differential last year than Detroit - +25 to +20. They did it the old-school way with top quality defense and goaltending. Why that is considered old-school I have no idea since all the old games I've ever seen featured awful defending and worse goaltending. In any case, the Preds allowed the second fewest goals in the league, had dominant penalty killing and Rinne was the best goalie other than Tim Thomas. He was second among starters in save percentage both 5-on-5 and 4-on-5. Offensively, Nashville were far from spectacular.

Offseason Moves:
The biggest offseason thing was the Shea Weber arbitration deal. I don't think $7.5M was fair, but I don't think it'll make a big difference for this season. It is, however, a bad omen for the future. Unless Poile can get ownership to open the checkbook, it's going to be tough to keep this group together. Weber will come up as an RFA again next year, as will Kostitsyn, Wilson, Geoffrion and O'Reilly. Tootoo and Weber's defense partner Suter and, perhaps most importantly Rinne will become unrestricted free agents. It'll be interesting to see what happens with all those contracts and if Nashville is willing to spend close to the cap.

They will make the playoffs if...
they keep it up. I like Nashville for the playoffs. If Rinne pulls a Thomas in the postseason they could even make a deep run, but I think they'll need to improve offensively to be a real threat.

Not a lot more to say about the Preds so I'll use this space to give a shoutout to ontheforecheck, one of my favorite blogs.

That's all I've got. Chase is up next with #7-15.

Our list so far:
30. Edmonton
29. Colorado
28. Dallas
27. NY Islanders
26. Minnesota
25. Ottawa
24. Toronto
23. Florida
22. Phoenix
21. Winnipeg
20. Anaheim
19. Carolina
18. Calgary
17. St. Louis
16. Nashville

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