Monday, August 31, 2015

The Top 7 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2015-16

Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern - USA Today Sports
Being a coach in the NHL is rarely a long-term engagement. On occasion, you can see a coach stick around with a team for seemingly forever (see: Mike Babcock, Detroit; Barry Trotz, Nashville; the late Al Arbour, the Islanders), but, most of the time, a coach will be fired a few (usually 3 or 4) years  after his hiring.

And that's not always fair. More often than not, coaches are fired because of lacklustre play by the people they coach, or because of management wanting something else. Todd Nelson turned things around in Edmonton last year after Dallas Eakins' firing, but was let go following the season because management wanted to go in a new direction with a more-experienced coach in Todd McLellan.  Paul MacLean was a two-time finalist for the Jack Adams in Ottawa, winning in 2013.

He was fired under two years later.

Now, knowing that any coach is vulnerable at any time (and that it can be more dependent on their players' quality rather than theirs), here are the most likely coaches to be canned in 2015-16.
Credit: Jerome Miron - USA Today Sports

Lindy Ruff

Lindy Ruff has been a well-respected coach in the NHL since he broke into the league with Buffalo in the 1997-98 campaign. After departing from the club in 2013, he signed on at the start of the 2013-14 season with Dallas and has coached there ever since. 

He has yet to win a playoff series in Dallas, and the club missed the dance last season. That should come as a shock, considering that he has had the likes of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, and John Klingberg to work with.

Ruff is the lowest on this list because he doesn't have a particularly good defense to work with - only Klingberg and Alex Goligoski really stand out - and his goaltending is decidedly average. But, they added Antti Niemi to help bolster that area this summer. Combine that with the new acquisition of Patrick Sharp, and you should have a playoff team.

If they're one of the odd ones out in the Central this season, there may be a new coach behind the Stars' bench come 2016-17.
Credit: Brace Hemmelgram - USA Today Sports

Mike Yeo

It's inexcusable that the Minnesota Wild haven't gone further in the playoffs since Mike Yeo's hiring in 2011-12. He's won all of two playoff series since he was hired, despite having an extremely talented core, including Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, and Mikael Granlund, assembled around him.

Yeo was widely considered to be on the hot seat last season. The team was floundering, and it came to the point where he was screaming at his team on the ice.

Then, Devan Dubnyk came along, and decided to play out of his mind, saving the Wild's season, and likely, Yeo's job.

2015-16 will be his fifth season with the Wild, and his first full one with Vezina-calibre goaltending in Devan Dubnyk. If they can't emerge mostly unscathed out of the Central Division bloodbath, it is possible that Yeo might go.

Credit: James Guillory - USA Today Sports

Jack Capuano

We are now entering Jack Capuano's sixth season behind the bench of the Islanders, and he doesn't have a single playoff series win to show for it. To work with, he's got a top-10 talent in the league in John Tavares to coach, and a solid supporting cast up front that includes Kyle Okposo, Ryan Strome, and Brock Nelson. He also has a very good defense that boasts the talents of Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, and Travis Hamonic. Jaroslav Halak is his goalie, and he's no slouch, either: he was an All-Star last season.

If they have all of that, then why aren't they winning?

Capuano has all of this talent assembled in front of him. He lost in the first round to the Capitals last year, and he only had one playoff appearance in his four years before that on the island.

If he can't shape up in 2015-16 and finally give Islander fans their first playoff series win since 1993, Capuano may lose his job.

Credit: Eric Bolte - USA Today Sports

Michel Therrien

Michelle... ma belle. Sont des mots qui vont très bien ensemble. Très bien ensemble.

Recognize those lyrics? They're from a Beatles song from 1965 that ended up winning the Grammy for 'Song of the Year' in 1967. 

They apply pretty well to Michel Therrien's situation in Montreal.

Yes, his name is 'Michel', not 'Michelle', but still, close enough. Now, focusing on the rest of the lyrics: translated, they mean: These are words that go together well. Together well.

Oh, that's nice. Now, how do they relate to Montreal? Well, Montreal has a bunch of pieces that should go together well. P.K. Subban, Carey Price, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, Andrei Markov and Jeff Petry are all very good players. With the right coach, they should, at the very least, be a perennial favourite to go all the way - especially with a top-5 NHL player in Price in the lineup. 

They are not.

Last season, they won one playoff series against a far weaker team in Ottawa, and yet they still nearly gave it all away by conceding two games to the Sens after winning the first three. They then lost to the Lightning in round two 4 games to 2.

With all of this talent that Therrien can work with, the management in Montreal may need to find a new coach to make said talent vont très bien ensemble.

Credit: James Guillory - USA Today Sport

Ken Hitchcock 

The St. Louis Blues are quickly carving out a reputation as a playoff choker. Under Hitchcock, the Blues have one playoff series win, in four years. It came in 2011-12, Hitchcock's first year on the job. They beat the Sharks 4-1 in the quarter-finals before L.A. swept them in the semis, en route to Stanley Cup win.

Since then, in the playoffs, Hitchcock's teams have:

- Lost again to Los Angeles in 2012-13, this time in the quarter-finals. The Kings won the series 4 games to 2. The Blues won the first two games at home, both by 2-1 scores, before losing four straight. Every single game in this series was decided by one goal.

- Lost to Chicago in 2013-14, again by a score of 4 games to 2, in the quarter-finals. Again, the Blues won the first two games at home before losing four straight.

- Lost to Minnesota last year, yet again by a score of 4 games to 2, in the quarter-finals, after winning the incredibly close Central Division. This time, the Blues won games 2 and 4 before losing two straight 4-1 games.

It's not like the Blues are devoid of talent: they have an excellent defense that includes Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Jay Bouwmeester; their forward group, which contains, among others, Vladimir Tarasenko, Paul Stastny, David Backes, Alex Steen, and Jaden Schwartz, is quite deep; and they have a goaltending tandem of a two-time All-Star in Brian Elliott and an emerging talent in Jake Allen.

However, if their trend of playoff futility continues, the Blues may be searching for a new coach after 2015-16.

Credit: Gary Vasquez - USA Today Sports

Darryl Sutter

The Kings had won two Stanley Cups in three years coming into the 2014-15 season, and Darryl Sutter had been given a lot of credit for that. He'd stepped in during the middle of their first Cup-winning season (2011-12) and turned the club around, and since then, they'd been a powerhouse.

Now, coming into the 2015-16 season, Darryl Sutter is on the hot seat after missing the playoffs with the Kings the previous season. 

Huh?

The Kings have become shrouded in a cloud of controversy over the last 365 days. Two of their main talents in Slava Voynov and Mike Richards have gone through major legal troubles. Many of their other pieces underwent major slumps in 2014-15, including captain Dustin Brown (27 points in 82 games). That may not be Sutter's fault.

However, none of the other coaches on this list play on the ice and have slumps, either.

"You can't fire the players, but you can fire the coach." That's an old saying in hockey, and it may apply here. With teams like the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers improving in this offseason, there is a possibility that the Kings may find themselves on the outside looking in during the season. If this possibility becomes a reality during the season, Sutter's time with the Kings may be up.

Credit: Gary M. Cooper - USA Today Sports

Claude Julien

The Boston Bruins are a team that knows how to win. Just four years ago (in 2011), they were the best team in hockey, winning the Stanley Cup. In 2013, they came within two wins of doing so again. In 2014, they lost to the Canadiens in the second round, but just barely - they fell 3 to 1 in the seventh game.

In 2015, they missed the playoffs.

What happened? Their offence was relatively unchanged from their glory days of 2011-13, with the likes of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and Milan Lucic still around. Their defense was all there, too, including Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Dougie Hamilton, and Torey Krug. And, most importantly, they still had a top-5 NHL goalie in Tuukka Rask.

We may never know why the Bruins missed out last season. It may be because of Zdeno Chara's decline, or due to the lack of team scoring (Patrice Bergeron led the team with 55 points). But, don't expect the Bruins to rebound this year: they lost Hamilton, Lucic, Reilly Smith, Carl Soderberg, and others in the offseason, adding only Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, and (perhaps most inexplicably) Zac Rinaldo to offset those losses.

With an incoming decline in success, expect management to continue with their ongoing trend of changing the scenery. As a result, Claude Julien may not finish his ninth season behind the Bruins' bench.

Other Coaches Who Merited Consideration (in no particular order): Bruce Boudreau, ANA; Todd Richards, CBJ; Dave Tippett, ARI; Patrick Roy, COL

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Detailing the Impending Goaltending Controversy in the Calgary Flames' System

Credit: David Banks - USA Today Sports
There's really nothing to worry about going into 2015-16 if you're a Calgarian Flames fan. The smoke that's been hanging over the city over the past week seems to finally be departing, and team-wise, you've got a stellar forward group, an even better back-end, some fantastic coaching, and...

Wait.

Did you hear that? 

That sound.

The sound of a million Vancouver Canucks defensemen crying out in terror and then being suddenly silenced. 

The sound of New Jersey Devils fans cheering wildly. 

The sound of... a Goaltending Controversy!

A floorboard creaks. Your spine tingles. A rat scurries by. "Who will get the assignments?" You shudder. "It's messing with me! I just want to get out there!"

What was that?

The door opens. In comes... the man from sector 1B!

He got a new contract! Why did he get a new contract? You were to be the established, number-one guy! It's so unfair! "He should go back to Finland," you think, "and give me a chance!"

The leader summons you both. He tells you to shape up and work your hardest. The one who produces more will be kept.

The other will be released.

But there's two positions open! Why can't you both stay?

The new recruits. They're coming in hot. Three of them. Younger. More energetic. Which one of you two can help them? Which one of you two is holding them back?

One is like Mr. 1B. A foreigner. Finnish. He's had some assignments. Nothing too involving. But he went on a streak - lots of successes - and now, he's not just a threat to his opponents. He's a threat to you - as soon as next year.

Another is the scholar. Went to a good institution. Very smart, studied up, and now he's a legitimate contender. But he's not as proven as the younger Finn - he did just leave school. He'll arrive in a couple of years.

And then there's the wild card. The recent selection. A junior. From the maritimes. Who knows what he'll turn out to be? Could he be out in the field as soon as next year? Or maybe even five years from now? Only he can know.

All of this is very confusing. 

How can this be happening? You were the main man for so many years! You used to hate the idea of working in the same facility as those whom you'd always destroyed. But you know, in the back of your mind, that you can succeed here, now. That you can be the first of this facility to defeat your former group in seemingly forever.

And you know that you have all the versatility of a Swiss Army Knife. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Logical Expectations: #11 - Mikael Backlund

Credit: Mark DesRosiers - USA Today Sports
Logical Expectations is a feature that will run throughout the summer detailing what we, as Flames fans, should expect from the players that play for our beloved team. 

Today, we focus on forward Mikael Backlund. 

Mikael Backlund is quickly developing into quite a player. His fantastic possession stats, offensive ability, and great defensive play have combined together to form a great second-line talent on the Flames. The 2007 1st-round pick has turned many heads as of late, and don't expect that to change in 2015-16.

What Do We Want From Him?

Backlund will score at least 15 goals this year, provided that he stays healthy. Now, that isn't a given - Backlund has missed 52 games over the past 3 seasons - but when he is in the lineup, Backlund is a force to be reckoned with.

Also, look at that hair. Try to avert your gaze. Just try.
He's a possession monster on a terrible possession team. Now, imagine him being paired with Michael Frolik, another fantastic possession player. Oh, you won't have to imagine it anymore - come next year, they'll likely share second line duties. 

With this abundance of skill and possession on the second line next season, combined with him entering his prime (he's still just 26), expect Backlund's output to jump. Big time. He'll never live up to his draft choice (24th-overall in 2007), but he's got a fantastic contract, and is still a remarkably valuable player in the right situation. 

It's always a party when Backlund's around.
Projected stat-line: 71 GP, 18 G, 25 A, 43 PTS.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Flames Re-Up Giordano - Six Years, $40.5 Million

Credit: Ed Mulholland - USA Today Sports
The Calgary Flames took another big step towards cup contention today, re-signing captain and best player Mark Giordano to a 6-year deal worth $6.75 million a year. The deal includes a full no-trade clause in the first four years of the deal, and then a modified NTC in the final two (source).

Said deal has been widely praised by the Calgary community, with many calling it a "steal" and others referring to it as "a lid on Gaudreau and Monahan's contracts", with the reasoning that, while he's around, Giordano will always be the highest player on the team (we saw this when T.J. Brodie signed his new deal - he purposely took a salary just lower than Giordano's to keep that honour the captain's).

The new deal runs from the 2016-17 season to the 2021-22 season, when Giordano will be 38 years old, leading to some speculation that he will have slowed down or even retired by then. Giordano has widely been regarded as a "late bloomer" throughout his career, however, so don't expect him playing at least in the top-4 until his late 30's as not a possibility. His injury problems over the last few seasons have been discussed at length before, but if he manages to stay healthy going forward, expect great things out of the captain.

My favourite part of today: the Flames have their top three defensemen (Giordano, Brodie, and Dougie Hamilton) all signed for the next five years for $17 million. That's barely anything in today's world where the salary cap sits at around $70 million. Imagine where the cap will be in five years. $75 million? $80 million?

Get ready, Flames fans. It's gonna be fun these next few years!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Top 5 Vezina Trophy Candidates, Ranked

Credit: Jean Yves - USA Today Sports
Over the next two weeks, I will be ranking my frontrunners for the respective individual trophies in the National Hockey League.

Today’s discussed trophy is the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the league’s best goaltender.

The Vezina Trophy is always a difficult trophy to win, simply because there are so many factors that go into winning it. It takes into account the quality of your team (especially your defense), your workload, and, perhaps most importantly, where your team would be without you.. Carey Price was the backbone of the Canadiens last year, keeping an otherwise mediocre team at the top of the standings all season long.

Who can do that this year? Read below for some answers.

Credit: Isaiah J. Downing - USA Today Sports

Semyon Varlamov

Remember 2014? You know, the year when the Colorado Avalanche surprised everybody by winning the Central Division? The year when Semyon Varlamov, the Washington Capital who the Avalanche gave up a first- and a second-round pick for, was a finalist for the Vezina? The year after they missed the playoffs?

Say, didn't the Avalanche miss the playoffs in 2015?

If the Avalanche bounce back in 2016, expect Varlamov to be a big player in that. They've got a talented forward group that includes Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Jarome Iginla, and they just added a good, solid, veteran defenseman in Francois Beauchemin to help out Varlamov, who finished twelfth in the NHL last year in save percentage despite a less-than-stellar defense in front of him.

Credit: Geoff Burke - USA Today Sports

Braden Holtby

The Capitals have been a popular pick this offseason when it comes to choosing division winners, and there’s many factors that would support that choice: they’ve got a potent offense which includes superstars in Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom; they have a solid defense core which includes the likes of Matt Niskanen and John Carlson; and, they possess a long-respected coach in Barry Trotz.

Those are all very important pieces in the Capitals’ puzzle. However, a team cannot win games without a good goalie, and Braden Holtby is just that - he finished in the top 10 last year in all of the following categories: games played; wins; goals against; shots against; saves; save percentage; goals against average; shutouts; and minutes played. That’s pretty good. Holtby is a workhorse - expect him to play over 70 games this year, potentially contending for the league lead, which he achieved last season.

Credit: Adam Hunger - USA Today Sports

Henrik Lundqvist

Henrik Lundqvist is quickly turning into a mystery. Some fans refer to him as the beneficiary of a great defense in front of him that includes the likes of Ryan McDonagh, Dan Boyle, Keith Yandle, and Marc Staal in front of him. But many call him the best there is - a goalie who, despite an abundance of defensive talent in front of him, never gets complacent and consistently puts up great numbers. And they wouldn’t be wrong - ‘The King’ has put up a .920%+  save percentage every season for the last six years. He’s also a very good at shutting out teams - he’s accumulated 55 shutouts over the course of his career (31 of which have come in the last five seasons), good for 20th all time. Just watch out for injuries - they limited him to only 46 games last year.

Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel - USA Today Sports

Pekka Rinne 

Pekka Rinne is a superhuman when he's healthy. He can make unbelievable saves, is a pretty good skater and puck handler, and is a three-time Vezina finalist (2011, 2012, and last year).

So, "if he's that great", you ask, "then why isn't he at the top of this list?"

Injuries. Rinne's played 65+ games once. He's played under 60 in 4 of his 7 seasons in the NHL. However, in the three seasons that he did eclipse the 60-game barrier, he was a Vezina finalist, so you should expect great things from the 32-year-old Finn if he manages to keep off the injury list.

Credit: John E. Sokolowski - USA Today Sports

Carey Price

Did you really expect anyone else at the top of this list? Price is coming off a goaltending triple crown (the Vezina, Hart, and Lindsay trophies) in 2014-15 - the first goalie since Dominik Hasek in 1998 to do so - and there's no reason why the 28-year-old should slow down come 2015-16 - he's just entering his prime. Playing on a mediocre team last season, Price led the league in wins, goals against average, and save percentage, while finishing second in shutouts, en route to winning the Atlantic Division (they would lose in the second round to the Lightning, in six games).

Price is arguably the best hockey player in the world right now. Why should that change? Expect the Vezina, and perhaps the Lindsay and Hart again, from Price in 2016. The Canadiens would be a wild-card team (at best) without him.


Other Players Who Merited Consideration (in no particular order): Jonathan Quick, LAK; Ben Bishop, TBL; Devan Dubynk, MIN; Sergei Bobrovsky, CBJ; Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT; Tuukka Rask, BOS; Jaroslav Halak, NYI; Steve Mason, PHI; Cory Schneider, NJD; Roberto Luongo, FLA

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Top Seven Norris Trophy Candidates, Ranked

Credit: Candice Ward - USA Today Sports
Over the next two weeks, I will be ranking my frontrunners for the respective individual trophies in the National Hockey League.

Today’s discussed trophy is the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league’s best defenseman.

Last year’s Norris Trophy race was cited by many as one of the closest in the sport, with many great candidates available. Erik Karlsson? Yeah! Drew Doughty? Of course! Shea Weber? Why not? Duncan Keith? Sure. Mark Giordano… you get the picture.

This year will likely be no different. All of those players will be back this year, along with a ton of other Norris-deserving candidates including Kris Letang, Victor Hedman, P.K. Subban, Ryan McDonagh, and more. Which of those players are the cream of the crop, though? Find out here.

All HERO charts come from ownthepuck.blogspot.ca


Credit: Jerome Miron - USA Today Sports

Duncan Keith

If the Norris Trophy was influenced by post-season play, Keith would be a perennial finalist for the trophy. He brings and extra something in the extra season that not many other defensemen bring - that workhorse quality that so many teams would die for in those long, gruelling battles that are overtime games.

Alas, it is not, so we must go based off of Keith’s play in the 82-game grind to get to his best play. He’s still a remarkable defenseman in the regular season. He can score - he scored 45 points last year, an impressive total for a defenseman - and he can possess - albeit not as well as some of the others ahead of him on this list. Don’t expect Keith to phone it in - he’s a pillar on the backend, and has big size. Besides, how could you say no to this smile?

Credit: Andy Marlin - USA Today Sports

P. K. Subban

One of the flashiest, most dynamic defensemen in the entire league, Subban is a fantastic offensive defenseman. He isn’t the most disciplined blueliner in the world, but he more than makes up for that with his great offensive prowess - he set new career highs last year in every offensive category, with 15 goals, 45 assists, and 60 points - a mark that ranked second in the entire league.

Subban’s an exceptional possession player, as well - his Corsi is very, very good. He’s one of the best defensemen in the entire league, but he isn’t ranked higher due to his defensive deficiencies - he’s quite solid defensively, but can’t quite match some of the players above him in that regard.

Credit: Kim Klement - USA Today Sports

Victor Hedman

One of the greatest up-and-coming defensemen in the league, Hedman is a beast. Don’t let his hulking, 6’6” frame fool you - Hedman is a very quick skater who will blow by you as quickly as he’ll get back to stop an opposing player from doing the same. He’s a possession monster who can score - the 2009 second-overall pick totaled 38 points in 59 games last year, which extrapolates to 53 over a full season.

Why did Hedman miss 23 games last year? Injuries. They’re his biggest threat - he’s played 75+ games only twice in his career. However, if this Ornskoldsvik, Sweden native can keep healthy, watch out.

Credit: Jerome Miron - USA Today Sports

Shea Weber

Is Shea Weber ever going to win one of these? I mean, he’s pretty good, right? He has a pretty hard shot, and he can score some, right? His point totals went down last year, but he has a guy named Roman Josi patrolling the blueline with him who is starting to steal some of his thunder.

Regardless, Weber is a very, very good offensive defenseman who will punish you with a strong check. He’s got experience in big games - he’s won two Olympic gold medals - and is poised for a bounce-back year after a slight step back last year, due partially to the surge of the aforementioned Roman Josi. Just look out for some shoddy possession numbers.

Credit: Candice Ward - USA Today Sports

Mark Giordano

Many will argue with this pick - I guarantee it. But you can’t deny that, before his fluke bicep injury last season (seriously, you couldn’t do that if you tried), ‘Gio’ was running away with the trophy. He was the defensive leader in points with 48 in 61 games, with stellar possession numbers to boot. Giordano turned T.J. Brodie into a legitimate first-pairing defenseman, and will surely get paid when his contract expires come July. A concern, however, comes with his age: Giordano turns 32 in October and some decline may come in future seasons. Don’t expect it this year, however, as he’s still in the waning stages of his prime.

Credit: Jerome Miron - USA Today Sports

Erik Karlsson

Last year’s Norris winner should have another top-flight campaign in 2015-16. He’s a beautiful skater, a great offensive defenseman, and an outstanding possession player. Karlsson led all defensemen last year with 66 points, and he’ll only get better from now on: he’s just 25. The 15th-overall selection in 2008 is a great pick to win it all this year, and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t, aside from the fact that he has incredible competition. Oh, and did I mention that he was named the best defenseman in the Olympics in 2014? It’s not just North American journalists who keep calling him the best. Simply put, Erik Karlsson is the real deal - to call him anything less would be a horrible insult.

Credit: Richard Mackson - USA Today Sports

Drew Doughty

How has this man not won the Norris yet? He’s a premier defenseman in today’s league. Last season, he scored 46 points, good for fifth on a pretty unremarkable Kings team that missed the playoffs. Expect that total to rise this year with a resurgent season from the hungry Kings, who will be ready to avenge their disappointing season. Doughty is a terrific possession player who will take the body on you with his 6’1” frame - he's registered 332 hits over the last two seasons - and, like Karlsson, is a silky skater who isn’t a stranger to big games. Expect Doughty to lead the charge on a resurgent Kings team next season.


Other Players Who Merited Consideration: Kris Letang, PIT; Roman Josi, NSH; Ryan McDonagh, NYR; Alex Pietrangelo, STL; Kevin Shattenkirk, STL; Aaron Ekblad, FLA; Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJ; Ryan Suter, MIN; Anton Stralman, TB; T.J. Brodie, CGY

Logical Expectations: #8 - Joe Colborne

Credit: Isaiah J. Downing - USA Today Sports
Logical Expectations is a feature that will run throughout the summer detailing what we, as Flames fans, should expect from the players that play for our beloved team.

Today, we focus on forward Joe Colborne.


Joe Colborne essentially duplicated his 2013-14 season last year, scoring the same number of points (28), with two fewer goals (8) and two more assists (20) being the only major offensive differences. He still had a career year, though - he achieved this all in 16 fewer games. Colborne is a bit of an unknown commodity in most fans’ knowledge. He can fit in many different positions, but has never really established himself anywhere. He’s listed as a centre, but has played both wings with Calgary. What is he?

Well, he’s 25, just saw an increase in his extrapolated offensive statistics, and he’s just now beginning to enter his prime. Next year could be a breakout season of sorts for Colborne. We’ll see.

What Do We Want From Him?

Joel Coburn…

Oops, sorry, don’t know how he got here.
Joe Colborne will likely play next year in the fourth-line left wing slot alongside Josh Jooris and David Jones. Those are very decent fourth-line linemates. The very underrated David Jones frequently scores 30+ points, and Josh Jooris is an emerging middle-six player. You can’t go wrong there. When given quality linemates, a player will (usually) benefit, and there’s no reason why Colborne should be an exception. Had he played 82 games last year, with extrapolation, Joe would have scored 36 points. His advanced stats mostly fit his role.

But they do need to get better - you can’t score without the puck. These may be due to his linemates, however - he was often played with possession black holes Mason Raymond, Brandon Bollig, and Lance Bouma.
If he stays mostly healthy, expect him to surpass that mark next year. He’s getting older, and he’s entering his prime. Why shouldn’t he?

And if he doesn’t pan out, we can always count on getting a good return on him from the Bruins.

Projected stat-line: 81 GP, 13 G, 20 A, 33 PTS.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Top Seven Art Ross Trophy Contenders, Ranked

Credit: Jerome Miron - USA Today Sports
AUTHOR’S NOTE: You may notice a slight change in content from here on out. I’ve recently acquired a Partnership from HFBoards. What does this allow me to do? Well, I can display my content to all users on the forum. This includes fans of other teams.

Yes. I still hate the Oilers. But you may see the odd post here discussing that team. It’ll still be 85% Flames content. But this post today kick-starts the rush of NHL content, too.

(And yes, Logical Expectations is still going. It’ll be back tomorrow.)

Sidney Crosby used to be the indisputable face of the NHL, a consistent Art Ross frontrunner, if not winner, and everybody’s favourite whipping-boy. While he still holds two of those titles - although perhaps not for long on the whole ‘face of the NHL’ front - Crosby no longer stands alone at the top of the pack in the scoring race.

Here are the biggest threats to capture the Art Ross trophy come next April.

All HERO charts in this article come from ownthepuck.blogspot.ca.

Credit: Jerome Miron - USA Today Sports

Tyler Seguin

Everybody’s favourite ESPN Body Issue model had a career year last year, finishing seventh in scoring with 77 points - in 71 games. That’s an 89-point pace extrapolated through 82 games. And what’s to say Seguin can’t reach those heights? 

Injuries. Seguin missed three weeks in February and March after being sidelined with a lower-body injury after a nasty Dmitry Kulikov hit.

However, aside from that setback, Seguin has never missed any major time in his NHL career. He should be right back to lighting up oppositions next season.

2014-15 Stats: 71 GP, 37 G, 40 A, 77 PTS.
Projected 2015-16 Stats: 81 GP, 39 G, 41 A, 80 PTS.


Credit: Sergei Belski - USA Today Sports

Jakub Voracek

Voracek had a stellar season in 2014-15, finishing fifth in League scoring with, in 82 games, 81 points. Of those 81 points, 59 were assists, good enough to rank second in the entire NHL. However, half (11) of his goals last season came with the man advantage - a career high. Despite this, however, his possession numbers reek of superstardom - his HERO (Horizontal Evaluative Rankings Optic) chart places him well above first-line status in all three Corsi metrics. He didn’t get lucky scoring many of his goals on the power play. Expect big things out of this big Czech 26-year-old next season - and he’s barely in his prime. 

2014-15 Stats: 82 GP, 22 G, 59 A, 81 PTS.
Projected 2015-16 Stats: 82 GP, 20 G, 62 A, 82 PTS.


Credit: Winslow Townson - USA Today Sports

Alex Ovechkin

You already know the deal. The best pure sniper in the entire league, Ovechkin will dazzle, be physical, and consistently score 50 goals a year (while likely scoring under 35 assists) all while making defensemen look silly.

Don’t expect that to change this year. He’ll let Nicklas Backstrom handle the playmaking on his line - no one can score like Alexander the Great.

2014-15 Stats: 81 GP, 53 G, 28 A, 81 PTS.
Projected 2015-16 Stats: 82 GP, 52 G, 31 A, 83 PTS.


Credit: Jasen Vinlove - USA Today Sports

Vladimir Tarasenko

Tarasenko stole the show in St. Louis this year, leading the team in scoring with 73 points in 77 games and, in the process, establishing himself as a superstar. The only one of this list not to be ranked in the top 7 in scoring last year, Tarasenko will be expected to carry the load in St. Louis from this point on. Fresh off of signing a gargantuan 8-year, $60 million contract - the richest in Blues history - Tarasenko will be eager to lead the club past the second round for the first time in fifteen years. With stellar metrics all across the board and a sure increase in ice time from his 17:37 last year coming, expect a banner year out of the extremely talented 23-year-old.

2014-15 Stats: 77 GP, 37 G, 36 A, 73 PTS.
Projected 2015-16 Stats: 79 GP, 41 G, 43 A, 84 PTS.


Credit: Jerome Miron - USA Today Sports

Jamie Benn 

Last year’s Art Ross winner will enjoy another elite season, albeit not quite to the degree of which he enjoyed his last. Buoyed by the best shooting-percentage of his career, Benn will falter slightly in the upcoming season, although his regression may be offset by a full season of Tyler Sequin and a new toy in Patrick Sharp. Focusing more on the positives, Benn is a rare power forward with slick hands and a good, frequent shot, who can score both on the power play and shorthanded. Just watch out for some mediocre possession numbers

2014-15 Stats: 82 GP, 35 G, 52 A, 87 PTS.
Projected 2015-16 Stats: 80 GP, 32 G, 54 A, 86 PTS.


Credit: Tom Szczerbowski - USA Today Sports

John Tavares

The first-overall pick in the 2009 Draft has lived up to expectations thus far in his career, finishing second in the scoring race last year after a late surge by the aforementioned Jamie Benn. He’s a great scorer with a very good shot, and is also a skilled playmaker - ask any Islanders fan about what they think of Kyle Okposo, and they’ll credit many of his accomplishments to Tavares.

On the flip side of the coin, Tavares isn’t great defensively - his Corsi Against/60 is lacking. However, every other part of his HERO chart is firmly in first-line territory - he’s no slouch when it comes to getting shots on the net. 

2014-15 Stats: 82 GP, 38 G, 48 A, 86 PTS.
Projected 2015-16 Stats: 82 GP, 41 G, 50 A, 91 PTS.


Credit: Charles LeClaire - USA Today Sports

Sidney Crosby

There were two factors that led to Sidney Crosby losing out on the Art Ross last year: first, he finished the season with the second-lowest shooting percentage of his entire career; and second, he missed five games. The two men ahead of him both played 82 games. He played 77. Had he played those five extra games, while scoring at his pace for the season, he would have finished with 89 points. That’s two more than Jamie Benn’s league-leading total.

Oh, and now he’s got Phil Kessel on his wing. 

Crosby’s got this one in the bag. He finally has an elite winger, and his shooting percentage should go back to his usual totals. Expect another dominant season from the 2005 first-overall pick - of course, unless…
Gah!
2014-15 Stats: 77 GP, 28 G, 56 A, 84 PTS.
Projected 2015-16 Stats: 82 GP, 37 G, 60 A, 97 PTS.


Other Players Who Merited Consideration: Connor McDavid, EDM; Ryan Getzlaf, ANA; Nicklas Backstrom, WSH; Evgeni Malkin, PIT; Corey Perry, ANA; Steven Stamkos, TB; Claude Giroux, PHI; Patrick Kane, CHI*

*I am not providing a stance on Kane’s situation. I wasn’t going to mention him here at all, but I figure that if he ends up playing, he’ll be up there. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Logical Expectations: #7 - T.J. Brodie

Credit: Sergei Belski - USA Today Sports
Logical Expectations is a feature that will run throughout the summer detailing what we, as Flames fans, should expect from the players that play for our beloved team.

Today, we focus on young defenseman T.J. Brodie.

The city of Calgary was invited to T.J. Brodie's coming-out party last year, and boy, did they enjoy what they saw: Brodie set career-highs in goals, assists, points, penalty minutes, shots, and - of course - shooting percentage, and was (as usual) a very strong possession player.

What Do We Want From Him?

Brodie is best known as Calgary's best player to ever wear the #66...

Well, maybe just to Penguins fans.
Ok, ok, maybe Brodie is best known as a very solid defenseman with excellent possession numbers and decent offence. That's how the majority of Flames fans know him, and the metrics add up with that statement:

There are 7 categories where Brodie is above top-6 level! Brodie wears #7! Whoa.
Brodie is a lights-out possession player, and playing with a more offensively-oriented guy in Mark Giordano allows him to focus on that more rather than jump up in the rush. He's usually the one starting it with a ridiculous backhand pass rather than the finisher - last year, he scored 19 fewer goals than assists. Expect that trend to continue this season, and expect his offensive totals to climb as he begins to enter the very early stages of his prime.


Projected stat-line: 80 GP, 13 G, 36 A, 49 PTS, 32 PIM

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

#fancystats - Kris Russell and David Schlemko

Credit: Sergei Belski - USA Today Sports
You may recall that I've been doing a little feature called Logical Expectations over the course of the offseason - I look at a player, and tell you what to expect from them.

Starting with Mark Giordano, I started to incorporate something called a HERO chart in my expectations - that's a Horizontal Evaluative Rankings Optic, for those of you out of the know. It's quite helpful in determining how a player impacts his team.

I didn't get to putting one of these in either posts for David Schlemko and Kris Russell, which you can read here and here, respectively.

Let's look at them now and analyze how they fit in as a player. My initial predictions stand, but this puts just a little more oomph! into the equation.

David Schlemko


You can see here that both Schlemko's ice time and offensive capabilities are limited, but you already knew that, didn't you?

But look at his Corsi. He's actually a pretty solid possession player. He helps his team generate shots well, he is good at helping his team prevent shot attempts... he's a nice possession player all around.

Hey, have you ever wanted to see what the opposite of Schlemko's graph looks like in the Corsi department? Look no further than...

Kris Russell


You may take a haphazard glance at that graph and say, "Oh gee, Kris Russell isn't nearly as good as David Schlemko! We should be playing Ol' Schlemmer more!"

You'd be wrong. Russell is a better offensive player - though not by much - and he's on the ice far more. As for his Corsi, well, remember how back in my article I mentioned how Russell set the record last year for most blocked shots? Well, Corsi counts blocked shots as shot attempts. Kris Russell was on the ice for the most blocked shots of anyone last year. Simply put, he doesn't have very good puck possession, but his defence is still good, because even when he loses the puck, he makes sure that it doesn't hit the net.


Logical Expectations: #6 - Dennis Wideman

Credit: Sergei Belski - USA Today Sports
Logical Expectations is a feature that will run throughout the summer detailing what we, as Flames fans, should expect from the players that play for our beloved team.

Today, we focus on offensive defenseman Dennis Wideman.

Dennis Wideman, like so many of his teammates, had a breakout year offensively in 2014-15. He achieved career highs in goals (15), assists (41), points (56), yet also, less excitably, shooting percentage (8.7%). Wideman was a lucky guy last year, and there's been much speculation as to whether the Flames should trade him while his value is highest. However, in the right situation, Wideman can remain a very valuable asset to the Flames, even with a little regression.

What Do We Want From Him?

Take a look at some of Wideman's advanced stats:

Sadly, we aren't including his shootout success rate.

Here is his HERO (Horizontal Evaluative Rankings Optic) chart. Remember that this doesn't only take into account his last, best season, but stats from the last three years (so, his entire time as a Flame).
BTW - I'm making a post with stats like these for Schlemko and Russell, too - they didn't get any #fancystats in their posts. OTP doesn't make any graphs for goalies - sorry Jonas.
Looking at that graph, Dennis is definitely, at the very least, a top-4 defenseman when it comes to offence. However, when it comes to his possession, he's fine offensively, but he's not even registering defensively - he drags down his linemates' possession horribly when he's on the ice. Last year, he was playing with Kris Russell, who could offset Wideman's defensive liabilities with his great play, but this coming year, he'll be paired with the more offensively-oriented Dougie Hamilton. So... reserve your expectations.


Projected stat-line: 79 GP, 11 G, 35 A, 46 PTS, 41 PIM

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Logical Expectations: #5 - Mark Giordano

Credit: Sergei Belski - USA Today Sports
Logical Expectations is a feature that will run throughout the summer detailing what we, as Flames fans, should expect from the players that play for our beloved team.

Today, we focus on the captain, Mark Giordano.

Mark Giordano had a breakout year last year - his Norris-calibre numbers and great leadership coincided with the emergence of Calgary as a playoff contender to form one of the greatest surprises of 2014-15. 

Now, playing in his contract year, Gio will be playing for big, big money in next year’s offseason. Like, $9 million type money. D’you know how many active players are making $9 million or more next year? Five (IMPORTANT NOTE - PLEASE READ: this is if - and I’m not taking either side here - Patrick Kane plays next year. If he is found guilty, which I’m not saying that he will be, then you can put that number one lower. But I’m not assuming anything as of now, so I’m just playing it safe.).


To get back on the subject, let’s figure out what we want from our captain next year.

What Do We Want From Him?

Mark “Mr. Bean” Giordano…

Don’t pretend that you don’t see it.
OK, sorry - Mark Giordano, or “Geode” if you are a geologist…

OK, I promise, I’m done.
“Gio” will be expected to do the heavy lifting on the Flames’ back-end next year - although not as much as he did last year with the addition of the young Dougie Hamilton - and his stats will likely reflect his ice-time. As the backbone of the team, expect him to put up at least 60 points, if he plays a full season. He’s a star. The stats…

Fine, fine, skip this part if you want.
…say so. Just look at his HERO (that’s Horizontal Evaluative Rankings Optic). He’s pretty highly rated.


This site is great, by the way.
He’s well over the ‘Top Pairing’ threshold in all 7 categories. He can do anything.

And that’s why we need to sign him to a 8-year, 600 million dollar deal. (Just kidding - 900 million)


Projected stat-line: 21 G, 54 A, 75 PTS, 43 PIM