Callahan

 

Callahan vs. Heatley - I wish I could have gotten this week’s Cage Match out before the start of the season. I feel like it could have saved you all some pain. Much like last week’s Filppula vs. Ribeiro Cage Match I will be comparing an in-decline veteran with an up-and-coming youngster. This week it is Dany Heatley vs. Ryan Callahan. Does the vet have anything left in the tank? Is the youngster ready to usurp him? Let’s find out. Ring that bell!

 

Heatley is only 30, which seems too young for him to be washed up but he is looking that way. Since posting back-to-back 50-goal, 100+ point seasons in 2006-07 and 2007-08, Heatley has been on a downward spiral that briefly kicked up upon his move to San Jose. Now he is in Minnesota and things are just getting worse.

 

The big knock on Heatley has always been motivation but personally, I think that is inexact. He will never be accused of being the hardest worker on his team but I do think Heatley is motivated to win. That is how I explain his trade demands out of Ottawa and subsequent refusal to go to Edmonton. He wants to win. He would not have been picked to play for Canada at the 2010 Olympics if this was not a priority. Likewise, that is the only reason I believe we have yet to hear any whispers of dissention in Minnesota. The Wild are winning so Heatley is happy.

 

I have two knocks on Heatley that have nothing to do with motivation. First off, he is a terrible skater. It looks like he is perpetually skating in mud. Now that he is older, it is that much tougher for him to build up the power to get up to top speed and bulldoze his way to the good scoring areas. This skating issue is exacerbated by a lack of smarts. He is not as skilled of a playmaker and he is not crafty enough to slide into the good scoring spots. This is not to say that he is dumb, he just does not see the game at an elite level.

 

The other aspect of this lack of smarts is that I’m not sure Heatley knows how he needs to work out. With his skating mechanics and rapidly declining body he needs to be working on explosive power. Instead he looks like a guy who spent the off-season riding the bike. He works hard, but he doesn’t work smart. So with a lack of skating technique or hockey IQ, his physical decline has him trapped on the perimeter.

 

Just look at Heatley’s shooting in recent years. He is on pace for 234 SOG this season, which is a far cry from the 300 SOG he was firing during his peak seasons in Ottawa. What’s more damning is his shooting percentage. This year Heatley is shooting a career worst 10.4%, which would normally make him a great buy low candidate if his shooting percentage wasn’t in decline for the fourth year running.

 

Year

Shooting %

2007-08

18.3

2008-09

15.1

2009-10

13.9

2010-11

12

2011-12

10.4

 

Heatley really started to nose-dive last season and you can see that from the fact that he is now only hitting the net on 66.4% of shots he fires. Last season it was 68.7% but before that he was hitting the net on 72-73% of his shots. For a high volume shooter, this is significant. He just is not getting himself into prime scoring locations and is therefore having a tougher time getting the puck to the net.

 

Heatley still has tremendous potential as a power play specialist because of his elite shot. With the opponent a man down he has more room to manoeuvre and get off his wicked shot. The problem is that Minnesota is ill-equipped to get him that sort of room. The Wild power play ranks 22nd in the league at 14.7% success and they have no one with an elite offensive skill outside of Heatley. We don’t need Frozenpool to tell us that Heatley is not skating with elite talent on the Wild but I will show you anyway to drive the point home.

 

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And don’t think for a second that the Wild have elite defensemen quarterbacking that power play. The Wild defensemen are like no name cola. They are cheap and get the job done adequately but if you want smooth well-crafted flavour you have to splurge on Coke or Pepsi.

 

What’s more, despite the fact that the Wild are giving Heatley all the PP ice time he can handle – 4:07 per game – he is basically maximizing what he can extract from the Wild power play. Heatley has seven power play points this season, good for 46.7% of the Wild’s power play scores. Since Heatley has been on for 66.1% of the Wild’s power play ice time this season and there are typically five players on the ice at any given time, of which only three can gain points, Heatley should be getting points on 39.7% of the Wild’s power play scores. Even after you consider that the Wild power play is skewed towards Heatley and that there are times when there are only four players on the ice you also must consider that there are not always three points awarded for every goal. I would say that Heatley is still at his maximum pace for PPP. That means he’ll finish with 21 this season, a far cry from his usual totals but remember he is not playing with the elite talent he has in the past.

 

Heatley is getting little help at even strength either. The Wild are an unabashed trap team. They may have the best record in the league this season but that has nothing to do with their ability to score goals. The Wild are constantly on their heels as a result of this trap game. No player on the team with more than five games played has offensive zone starts on the good side of 50%. They are constantly starting shifts in their own zone and having to push their way up ice. This does not suit Heatley at all. He is a one zone player. Last season, in San Jose, he received 50% offensive zone starts and his last season in Ottawa he received 57%. Heatley thrives in the offensive zone and the Wild aren’t getting him there enough.

 

The Wild simply are not going to score enough goals to push Heatley’s scoring upward. They have the league’s 23rd ranked offense, scoring 2.41 goals per game. This is simply not a scoring environment. No one that Heatley skates with is an elite scoring threat and in the Wild system Heatley’s best linemates are reverting to safe defensive hockey. Frozenpool shows us that Heatley is skating with the best linemates that Minnesota has to offer but unfortunately this is not enough.

 

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I like Mikko Koivu but in the Mike Yeo system he is reverting to perpetual safe mode, always making the smart choice at the cost of offense. This will not help push Heatley. Even if the Wild’s system were more offensively skewed, in what universe is Koivu an improvement on Joe Thornton? Honestly, Koivu is probably the worst centerman Heatley has had since Atlanta.

 

Heatley is getting no help, and at this point in his career, he needs it.

 

Meanwhile, Ryan Callahan is quickly establishing himself as a legitimate scoring threat. You may disagree with my opinion that Heatley works hard, but there can be no disagreement that Callahan is the epitome of hard work. Now he is being rewarded for that hard work. He is receiving 21:12 minutes per game including 4:03 of which are on the top power play unit. Frozenpool tells us that Callahan is skating with the cream of the Rangers’ crop.

 

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The Rangers’ power play is only slightly better than the Wild’s at 15.3% but the weapons are no doubt better. The Rangers boast elite talents in both Gaborik and Richards that Callahan can feed off of. Callahan currently has just five PPP on the season, putting him on pace for 17 but there is upward potential here. Callahan’s five points account for only 33.3% of the Rangers’ power play scores. Since his power play time accounts for 66.3% of the Rangers’ total power play time and assuming that Callahan should score on roughly 60% of the scores when he is on the ice we can calculate that Callahan should be in on 39.8% of the Rangers’ power play scores. There is upward mobility here for Callahan, especially if you consider the Rangers’ power play should improve as their multiple elite talents gel and that Callahan has vultured no power play assists.

 

At even strength, the party continues for Callahan. He skates on the second line, but as Frozenpool will show us; this is not such a bad thing.

 

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Callahan is skating most of his shifts with star centerman Brad Richards. This is a somewhat new development so expect that percentage to climb as the season wears on. Skating with an elite playmaker in Richards bodes very well for the feisty Callahan. He can do the hard work banging in the corners and in front of the net, while Richards dictates the play. This is practically a match made in heaven. Nothing is elite about Callahan but it doesn’t need to be. He just needs to play his role and he plays it to perfection.

 

With a top notch playmaker by his side, Callahan is now firing the puck more than ever. He is on pace to finish with a career high 263 and while he may fall short of that, it is certainly on par with what you can expect from Heatley. Callahan is scoring at a higher rate than his career 9.8% shooting but his 13.0% shooting this season is a carryover from last season’s 12.8% shooting. In reality last season was the breakout season for Callahan but because he missed 22 games to injury he finished with only 48 points. That same pace over 82 games 66 points, quite similar to the 62 points that Callahan is on pace for this season. His offensive explosion is not new but it may be news to you.

 

Both Callahan and Heatley have similar potential for PIM and plus/minus is a crapshoot. Their power play production looks to be coming in pretty darn similar and Callahan is now shooting more. It really just comes down to points and Callahan looks to be as good, if not better than Heatley in this respect.

 

Heatley just strikes me as a bad habit that you need to kick. This whole idea of clinging to him because he has been so good for so long is infuriating. He is a dried out jellyfish and the seagulls are swarming.

 

How few points is Heatley going to have to score before you abandon ship? He’s on pace for 53 this season but could easily go as low as 45. Do you really want a 45-55 point player with marginal peripherals on your team? Heatley is no longer a 30-goal scorer. Those days are done. There is bounce back potential but he needs a better system with better teammates.

 

Callahan is just coming into his own. We could be looking at a three to four season run of 55-65 points with some upward potential for 70. The only knock on Callahan is the fact that he is like a human pinball, bouncing off everything on the ice. This may lead to more injuries killing his fantasy potential. I am confident Callahan can stay healthy and start putting Heatley in his dust. Chalk this one up for Callahan and if you Heatley owners still don’t buy it, at least use the Heatley name value to sell him off for Callahan and then some.

 

 


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Comments (14)add comment

Garri Jones said:

garrijones
... I was fortunate enough to trade heatley for datsyuk at the beginning of november. I couldn't wait to get him off my team.
December 13, 2011
Votes: +0

horrorfan said:

horrorfan
continued And I know it's a small sample but so far he's doing well being in a more offensive role, so it's more relevant to highlight those numbers.
December 09, 2011
Votes: +0

horrorfan said:

horrorfan
Spurgeon "He needs to be closer to a 45 point pace at the minimum."

I'm not labeling him to any type of soft drink - don't really care about that. I'm just commenting on your quote above and now he's on a 47 point pace (7 points in 12 games) since Zidlicky's injury so just looking at the full season numbers doesn't give him enough credit. I never said he'll directly help Heatley, I just wanted to point out that he's helping the PP without Zidlicky so perhaps that'll have a trickle down effect.
December 09, 2011
Votes: +0

steve laidlaw said:

metaldude26
Spurgeon 11 games is a pretty weak sample size and that lifts him to what, RC Cola status? How is that helping Heatley? Over those same 11 games Heatley has seven points, maintaining his horrific scoring pace.
December 08, 2011
Votes: +0

horrorfan said:

horrorfan
Spurgeon Just want to point out that Spurgeon has 6 points in 11 games since Zidlicky's last game, including 4 on the power play. Depending on Zidlicky's recovery, Spurgeon could keep helping the PP quite a bit, looking beyond his full season numbers.
December 08, 2011
Votes: +0

steve laidlaw said:

metaldude26
... Here's the problem with Bouchard; he's streaky. He'll dazzle you with the speed and stickhandling but it doesn't consistently translate to points. He may have looked much better recently but he doesn't maintain these runs of superb play. He is capable of getting 60 this season but that's a real long shot at this point and he's only skating with Heatley on the power play. Bouchard would have to single-handedly turn that power play on its head to boost Heatley.

Spurgeon is flat ginger ale until further notice. Looking the part isn't good enough. You could've just poured ginger ale into my Pepsi can. He's got to produce the same way as a cola to earn cola status.
December 07, 2011
Votes: +0

Karlos El Taco Piquante said:

Fighting_Emu
... Compromise on flat RC Ginger Ale? These metaphors are making me thirsty! smilies/cheesy.gif
December 07, 2011
Votes: +0

Karlos El Taco Piquante said:

Fighting_Emu
... Im just saying-having watched a lot of Minny games this year the pp looks snake bitten and I think its just a matter of time before PMB/Spurgeon start to reap the benefits of a more efficient scoring clip. I guess PMB is not in that class but he is easy to forget and very underrated. Not really buying the SO specialist tag at all here. He eats powerplay time for breakfast and Im putting it in writing here- he will surprise a lot of people this year. On pace for 50 but producing much better. Im calling just about .8 ppg from here on out- which puts him at low/mid 60s after a slowish start. I think theres even a bit of upside left there. Not exactly Marleau/Alffy territory but like I said he is technically just hitting his prime at 27 and might be a bit of a late peak due to missing a season and a half. All I can say is that hes a joy to watch and cerainly flashes a lot of skill if you dont catch many Minny games.

I accept the RC Cola compromise- well played. Spurgeon will hit 30+ this year without a shadow of a doubt though- mark it!
December 07, 2011
Votes: +0

steve laidlaw said:

metaldude26
... Kevin - I do not always qualify this in my articles to cut down on volume but my Cage Match articles are always geared towards performance in your standard 6x4 setup with Goals, Assists, +/-, PPP, PIM, SOG as the skater categories. With more categories Callahan's value sky rockets but I can only cover so much. If anything it is worth noting that Heatley is surprisingly strong with hits and blocks added.

Karlos - I don't think I snubbed PMB. I just said he wasn't elite. Big difference. I guess you could argue that PMB is an elite shootout shooter but I don't see that helping Heatley. So PMB is good but there's no comparison to linemates Heatley has had in his last couple NHL stops. I mean, PMB vs. Alffy or Marleau? Not a chance. PMB is good but he's not in that class.

More importantly, when has PMB ever elevated the scoring of one of his teammates? I can't think of one, and that's my point.

Also, Spurgeon? A can of Pepsi? No way bro. He's solid but 10 points in 28 games is more like flat ginger ale than it is like Pepsi. In the unreasonable world of fantasy hockey analogies name brand colas are reserved for only la creme de la creme. He needs to be closer to a 45 point pace at the minimum. If he can get on pace for thirty I'll grant him RC Cola status.
December 07, 2011
Votes: -1

Karlos El Taco Piquante said:

Fighting_Emu
... Good article all in all- generally agree with the sentiment. I find one leap of judgement particularly disagreeable though. I think Heatley actually has quite a bit of help on the powerplay and the assumption that he doesn't is a little disconcerting. Mikko Koivu has always been an underrated offensive threat and can fill a variety of role on the PP. In terms of no name Cola- Id say Spurgeon is looking more and more like brand name Pepsi these days as well.

But really my beef is about one guy who doesnt get an ounce of credit: PMB. In fact Im guessing his name on the list is supposed to be the main implication that Heatley has ineffective linemates on the man advantage. This is simply inaccurate. PMB leaves a sour taste with poolies because of his propensity for injury, and pass first mentality but when healthy he is one of the more dynamic set-up men in the game with a distinct knack quarterbacking the powerplay. He is an elite- albeit injury prone and somewhat one dimensional- offensive threat. You cant help but give props to a guy who scored at a 60 point clip 3 consecutive years under an offense deprived, Lemaire strangled team. His 4 powerplay points this year isnt necessarily indicative of this skill- but his goal last night was on the man advantage and he has been all over the highlight reels with his finesse lately. This guy is getting his groove back and definitely trending upward. I say that much moreso with an eye on actual gameplay than stat crunching. He will surprise people this year and at 27 writing him off is likely a mistake.

In fact the whole powerplay has been a little bit snake bitten. I honestly would not be shocked to see them in the top 15 by years end. If Spurgeon can take a step forward and Clutter can crash and bang his way into 20-25 goals Id go as far as to say top ten. Is this enough to turn the tides on Heatleys verdict? Maybe not- but to say he has no one to play with is, at a minimum- grossly overstating the point (imho).

To clarify I like the article- just take exception to that one judgement call...
December 07, 2011
Votes: +0

Kevin said:

hockeyplayer168
... It should also be noted that Callahan is a stud when it comes to hits and blocked shots. I scooped him up at a huge discount in my league. Heater went in the 3rd round and I took Cally in the 9th round. He's actually my best producing forward above Parise, Kesler, Getzlaf, Duchene, Benn, Moulson, Pacioretty, Tavares. No surprises though. In my mind, he proved his worth last season with some solid numbers and the determination to earn captainship. It's just a matter of obtaining him before the rest of your league sees his ability.
December 07, 2011
Votes: +0

steve laidlaw said:

metaldude26
... True dat, Massimo. True dat.
December 07, 2011
Votes: +0

Massimo Cinelli said:

rticinelli
... And if your league counts "heart and soul" it's really no contest.
December 07, 2011
Votes: +1

haha said:

jsuites
... "dried out jellyfish". awesome.
December 07, 2011
Votes: +0
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