Sunday, September 25, 2011

Driving Play Season Preview: 20-22, The Mediocre

And we're back, slogging our way through the Driving Play season preview. I got what could be called the playoff bubble teams. I'd prefer to think of them as the guy in your apartment building that plays his guitar all the time - not good enough to be impress you but, unlike the guy in your dorm that played his guitar all the time, not awful enough to be impressively bad.

To the surprise of no one, I am taking a nerdy approach. For each of these previews, I'll give the team's Fenwick and Corsi percentage, power play and penalty kill percentage, and Corsi rate for the first shift following a faceoff at each end. Fenwick/Corsi percentage is the percent of shots, including missed shots and for Corsi blocked shots, taken by them. 50%, taking as many shots as your opponents, is average. PP% and PK% are the usual stats. PDO is a measure of luck. It's the sum of shooting percentage and save percentage, in this case I'm using all even strength. Ozone/Dzone faceoff shift Corsi are two new stats I've been working on. They're the Corsi rate for the time between the faceoff and the first player leaving the ice. Here's a link to a fuller description.


#22: Phoenix Coyotes
Initial thought: Please move to Portland somehow.

5-on-5 Fen%/Corsi%: 49.5%/50.3%
PDO: 1.009
PP%: 15.9% (23rd)
PK%: 78.4% (26th)
Ozone Faceoff Shift Corsi Rate: 41.97 (14th)
Dzone Faceoff Shift Corsi Rate: -35.628 (10th)

2010-2011 Summary:
Last year Phoenix was a little-above average 5-on-5. They split possession pretty evenly with their opponents and got good enough goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov to make the Flyers go insane, which Chase covered quite well from the Flyers' perspective here, here and will do again in an article he's said would be up in a few days for the last three weeks. Special teams were a problem all the way around. Last year they were actually better with a man advantage than they had been the last few years, having finished third from the bottom in PP% for both the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for 'em:
Bryzgalov wasn't coming back so the biggest move that didn't make itself was trading Lee Stempniak for Daymond Langkow. Scott Reynolds at Copper and Blue argued that it was a good, risk-reducing move for the Flames. I think it was a good deal for Phoenix, but definitely risky. As noted in that article, Langkow's possession numbers have been good but his scoring has taken a dive as he's aged. The risk is that on top of aging, he missed all but 4 games last year with neck and spinal cord damage suffered at the end of the 2009-2010 season. If he can get back to driving play, that'll look like a steal for Phoenix but there's some chance they traded a decent winger for very little.

They'll make the playoffs if...
they get some decent goaltending. Doing some research for this preview, I found an article on the coming Phoenix goalie battle that started "When the Coyotes signed goaltender Mike Smith during the off-season, some assumed the starting job was his to lose." Him?


I rated Phoenix 19th, while my colleagues' average put them 25th. This is probably because I don't value the goalie position as much as most. They've got a decent group of skaters with the potential to be even better if Langkow can produce. Like a lot of teams in this group, I wouldn't be surprised to see them comfortably in the playoffs or well out of the hunt.

#21: Winnipeg Jets
Initial thought: Meet the new Jets. Same as the old Jets?

2009-2010 Stats
5-on-5 Fen%/Corsi%: 49.9%/48.8%
PDO: 99.1%
PP%: 18.3% (12th)
PK%: 77.5% (27th)
Ozone Faceoff Shift Corsi Rate: 33.431 (25th)
Dzone Faceoff Shift Corsi Rate: -60.533 (30th)

2010-2011 Summary:
Last year, the Thrashers Jets were a team of two halves. Triumph covered this quite well here. The short of it is that in the first half or so of the season, Atlanta did quite well by goal-differential standards but their possession numbers weren't good. In the second half they picked up their possession numbers but their goals went negative. Goaltending was mixed as Chris Mason was bad but Ondrej Pavelec did well. All signs pointed to a team closer to average than most people realized, but a little below.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for 'em:
Normally I'd talk about a big offseason move but Winnipeg really didn't make any that jump out. The biggest change is probably bringing in Claude Noël as head coach. Noël has a decent amount of experience coaching hockey, including professional hockey, including professional hockey in Winnipeg but has only been head coach in the NHL for 24 games for Columbus in 2009-2010. The highlight of his resume is leading the Milwaukee Admirals to their lone Calder Cup in 2004. He spent last season in Winnipeg as head coach of the Moose. I don't think it's too high in terms of risk or reward.

They'll make the playoffs if...
they play like they did in the second half of last season but the shots go in like they did in the first half. See above. To be honest I don't like Winnipeg's chances. Of the teams above them last season, they are better than Toronto and about even with Carolina but far below New Jersey, and all the playoff teams. They'll need a lot of bounces to go their way.


I will like the Jets' chances better if and when they move to the West. At the risk of opening a can of worms, I think the West is stronger near the top but has a weaker group of teams fighting for those last few spots. Something I'm going to be watching for is home-ice advantage. The atmosphere at MTS Centre should be amazing and the Jets will benefit from their opponents often coming in from a long trip. Given Winnipeg's tough travel themselves, I think we'll see a big difference between home and away results.

#20: Anaheim Ducks
Initial thought: There are 10 teams worse than them? Wait, they finished in the top 10 overall last year?

2009-2010 Stats
5-on-5 Fen%/Corsi%: 45.3%/44.5%
PDO: 100.6%
PP%: 23.5% (3rd)
PK%: 81.3% (19th)
Ozone Faceoff Shift Corsi Rate: 31.991 (27th)
Dzone Faceoff Shift Corsi Rate: -56.561 (29th)

2010-2011 Summary:
I'll start with the positive. Anaheim had one of the best power-play units in the league. Despite Corey Perry's 50-goal season, Teemu Selanne actually led the way with 16 PP goals. This does not appear to be a fluke; they finished 5th in PP% the previous two seasons and last year they were second in 5-on-4 shots for rate, according to BTN. 5-on-5 the Ducks were just dreadful.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for 'em:
I was trying to decide which trade with the Oilers to write about - giving up Sutton for Foster or a 2013 second-round pick for Cogliano. Then I fell asleep.

They'll make the playoffs if...
they start, shall we say, drawing penalties like the Hurricanes. Another factor is the health of Jonas Hiller. He has been quite good over the last few seasons but missed a lot of last season with vertigo. He played well his first preseason game against the Canucks but it remains to be seen whether he can maintain his health or relapses like Lucille 2. Elite goaltending and power play should get them in.

Anaheim are an interesting case for something Matt brought up and we'll be working on. They have top goaltending but terrible possession numbers 5-on-5. Add to that a top PP and an argument could be made for them being anywhere from the top 15 to one of the worst teams. I rated them 24th, for what little it's worth. Despite that low ranking, I think they are the only team in the group I'm writing on that has a shot to make a deep run in the playoffs if it all goes well for them at the right time.

Coming Tomorrow: 19-16

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