We're down to the wire in this lock-out shortened regular season. The race for the final playoff spot in both conferences is going to be hard fought and wil likely come right down to the last game of the year, especially in the East. The Rangers (44 points), Jets (44 points) and Islanders (46 points) are all in a dog fight for 8th spot, while the Devils (40 points) could be a factor if they could only get things turned around.

 

Things are less uncertain in the West. Dallas, Phoenix and Columbus are all two points within 8th placed Detroit, but two of those clubs sold at the deadline (PHX and DAL) while the Blue Jackets are overly reliant on the unusually superb goaltending of Sergei Bobrovsky (.931 SV!). The Red Wings aren't the Wings of old, but still boast Henrik Zetteberg and Pavel Datsyuk, two of the best two-way forwards in the game. Unless something goes vert wrong, they are favorites to hang on in the West.

 

*

 

The race to the bottom of the standings is just as neck-and-neck. The Calgary Flames (34 points), Colorado Avalanche (34 points after an afternoon win) and Florida Panthers (32 points) have been joined by the Carolina Hurricanes (34 points) in the basement. I mentioned the Canes last week as a club getting submarined by their wretched goaltending. That unfortunate trend has continued unabated, causing Carolina to lose seven in a row and boast the worst record over the last 10 games in the whole league (1-9-0). Even the Avs and Flames have managed to win three of their last 10.

 

*

 

Speaking of the Flames, the hockey gods are doing their best to help Calgary pick inside the top-5 for the first time in franchise history. After selling Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester at the deadline, the club has been hit by a swatch of injuries, including Alex Tanguay who went down with a knee injury (sprained MCL) in the Flames win over the Coyotes on Friday night. Of course, clubs are much more apt to sit players during a "dive for five" for just about any reason, but the Flames have seen guys like Matt Stajan and Tanguay go down with legitimate ailments.

 

*

 

Back to the 'Canes for a moment - I have been tracking their descent with amusement ever since they bafflingly sold low on Jussi Jokinen; a player much better than his counting stats suggested this season as has been mentioned in this space by me previously. Since joining the Penguins, Jokinen has scored three goals and five points in just three games and has actually been one of the best deadline additions by any team so far. The Canes are, well...in on the race for Seth Jones/Nathan MacKinnon.

 

Which isn't to say the lack of Jokinen is the reason the Hurricanes have been losing lately, but it's amusingly ironic nonetheless. Unless you're a Carolina fan, no doubt.

 

 

 

*

 

The Edmonton Oilers are going to miss the playoffs again, but it's not because their young players are faltering. Taylor Hall in particular is rounding into a high impact player: he leads Edmonton in raw corsi (+3.66/60), is second in relative corsi (+22.5/60) and leads them in scoring with 41 points in 37 games (a 90 point pace over an 82 game schedule). He torched the Calgary Flames the last time the two teams met and is a good bet to do so again tonight, particularly with the Flames essentially dressing the AHL Heat as their starting roster.

 

The Oilers still haven't arrived as a contender, but Taylor Hall is a legitimate fantasy rock star...

 

 

*

 

...and Hall's rising star may be why the league decided to turn the other cheek when it comes to his eye-brow riasing slash on Zybnek Michalek on April 10th. The slash wasn't even penalized on the ice, let alone followed up with a fine or suspension, altough it was certainly worthy of one (if not both). Just more evidence the NHL still isn't really sure how to conduct itself when it comes to supplementary discipline.

 

*

 

Looks like I spoke to soon re: the Flames losing to the Oilers. Despite featuring a rookie heavy line-up, Calgary outshot Edmonton 38-29 last night and beat them 4-1. Although that doesn't help the Flames draft position and the Oilers are a little further down the road in terms of their rebuild, the win must still be encouraging for Flames fans (and a punch to the gut for Oilers fans).

 

*

 

Speaking of aforementioned bottom feeders, Carolina also managed to win last night, 4-2 over the Boston Bruins. Surprise star Jiri Tlusty grabbed his 18th and 19th goals of the season, marking his career high in just 41 games. A former first rounder of the Leafs in 2006, it's taken Tlusty a long time to become a regular in the NHL, which is why his outburst this season is so unexpected.

 

It is also unlikely to be repeated next year. Tlusty is enjoying a personal shooting percentage of 18.4%, well above his career average of 13.3%. He also has a PDO of 104.9 (on-ice SV% +SH%), which is the highest on the team. PDO is more or less a measure of how lucky a player has been and tends to heavily regress to the league mean of 100. Tlusty was a 17-goal scorer for Carolina last year and will probably be a top-6 option going forward so he's not useless from a fantasy perspective, but don't expect him to replicate this sort of output next year if you target him in your draft in the off-season.

 

*

 

Steve Yzerman made a bit of gamble in acquiring Ben Bishiop for Corey Conacher at the deadline and thus far it has not paid off for the Lightning. Bishop was pulled in Tampa's 6-5 loss to Washington yesterday after allowing three goals on 20 shots. Bishop has lost all but two of his six starts for the Lightning, although he still sports an above average ES SV% of .927 on the season.

 

It's hard to know if the ex-Senator will work out long term for Tampa since goalies tend to be harder to predict than skaters. The 26-year old is huge at 6'7", but has an uneven record in the past. A former third round pick of the Blues way back in 2005, Bishop spent a lot of years putting up just okay numbers in the AHL before ultimately compiling a .928 save rate in 38 games for Peoria in 2011-12. If that performance, and what he's managed in the show this season, is an accurate representation of his abilities, Yzerman has a new starter on his hands. If not, the search will continue.

 

*

 

Taylor Hall may have escaped justice for his slash, but Charlie Coyle will definitely face a Shanaban for this hit on Artem Anisimov last night. Anisimov never returned after being run over and it's a good bet he'll be on the shelf for awhile - bad news for Anisimov owners and for the Blue Jackets, who are continuing to make their unlikely charge for the post-season after beating the Wild in a shoot-out last night.


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gfunkb7 said:

gfunkb7
... Well what da ya know... Tambellini got fired!!
April 15, 2013
Votes: +0

Ryan Ma said:

Maaaasquito
Rollie... I think you misunderstood what my point was.

What I'm saying is that the Oilers PP is strong and it's one of the stronger points of their season. They're 5th and a lot of that success can be attributed to the play of the "youngsters" (hence why 75% of the PPP totals of the forwards have been contributed by Gagner, RNH, Eberle, Hall and Yak)... What I am arguing is that they're not getting the opportunity as a few of the other "stars" in the league are. Those guys are getting about a 50% share of the PP pie, and the other 50% is going to Horcoff, Hemsky, Smyth who aren't great on the PP. What I'm saying is that it's a mismanagement of talent. The PP is where you gain an edge over your opponents, you get that goal to break the game open or change the momentum of the game. The Isles have it right. JT, Moulson and Boyes are the most offensively talented players in NY, so they should get the bulk of the PP time.

What I'm arguing is that if Nielsen, Okposo and Bailey was given more time on the PP to c***block the top unit, of course the team would be in a similar position as the Oilers at the moment.

The reason why the Isles are successful and in a playoff race at the moment, is because their "star youngsters" are given a lot more responsibility than the Oilers' "star youngsters". JT, Moulson and Boyes are getting more prime ice-time than Eberle, Hall and RNH. If those guys are given more ice-time (the same as the Isles), you'd see them producing better numbers than they are now and possibly even in a playoff position.

Corstyles was saying the youngsters are "faltering" and that's the reason why the Oilers are struggling and missing the playoffs. What I'm saying is that they are "faltering/non producing" because they're being handcuffed and not utilized properly.

Don't get me wrong, Horcoff has a lot of intangibles like you did mention, but the problem is a lot of those intangibles don't translate to "game breaking" success... Hence why he was given 63:34 in PP TOI, yet it has translated to 3 PPP. You look at the numbers of RNH, Hall, Eberle and Gagner and they operate at a much higher efficiency. What I'm arguing is why not give a bit more of that ice-time to the more efficient players, instead of less efficient players.

I completely agree with you that the Oilers do need a few more elements before they are a playoff team. The Isles have Streit/Vissy and Nabby, who's getting them there at the moment, but there needs to be an element of releasing the responsibility to the "young kids" as well. I mean they can't keep Horcoff, Hemsky and Smyth there for the rest of RNH, Hall, Eberle's careers, sooner or later they're need to go the Toews/Kane/Crosby/Ovechkin route where they give those kids the leadership so they can eventually take control of the team.

Until they stop giving Horcoff 14-15 minutes a game and the young kids 20+ a game, they'll continue to mismanage talent and continue to underperform.
April 14, 2013
Votes: +0

letnry said:

letnry
... @repenttokyo, you aren't really being fair because Carolina withheld salary for Jokinen whereas anyone who claimed him on waivers would have had to pay his whole salary. That is why the Canes were able to get assets from the Pens. So the two situations were not the same (trade/waiver claim).
April 14, 2013
Votes: +1

Rollie1967 said:

Rollie1967
... So the Oilers suck vs the Islanders because their PP is 5th best....while NYI is 7th? Sorry, that reeks of number manipulation. Horcoff may not be the offensive dynamo of Hopkins/Gagner- but hes a good at faceoffs,and gets 30seconds more time than Neilsen- the 2nd option at center for the Isles. The even strength numbers are far more compelling, Hopkins has struggled mightly (which inturn has hurt Eberle) while Tavares continues to improve.Hall,Hopkins,Eberle,Yakupov will all be stars in this league,but they need some grit, some leadership,a top dman, and imho- a better starting goalie to ever do anything in the playoffs,let alone get there.
April 14, 2013
Votes: +0

repenttokyo said:

repenttokyo
i also find it amusing that you chide the canes for trading him for what you perceive to be a low return when the same player was on waivers shortly before and NO ONE in the entire league picked him up. So please, devote space to chiding them as well - Rutherford must be a terrible GM for moving a player for assets, however worthless, when that same player was available for free a short time beforehand.
April 14, 2013
Votes: -1

repenttokyo said:

repenttokyo
irony i do not think you understand what this word means.
April 14, 2013
Votes: +1

Ron Burgundy said:

Ron Burgundy
Horcoff I have been yelling at my TV for months seeing this buffoon on the ice in PP situations. When I watch with my buddies I actually invented a Horcoff drinking game - every time a play dies as a result of Horcoff you have to drink. If you want to get really drunk one night try this out.

Anyway, now I have some good math for backup for when my wife asks me what the hell is going on in the living room - thanks Ryan!
April 14, 2013
Votes: +0

letnry said:

letnry
Charlie Coyle https://twitter.com/Russostrib/status/323452954982105088
Charlie Coyle faces no discipline. #NHL Dept of Player Safety determined that there was no targeting of Anisimov's head. #mnwild #cbj
April 14, 2013
Votes: +0

Jaxx said:

Jaxx
Oilers 5 on 5 just read from pierre lebrun about the teams scoring stats 5 on 5........

** Top teams are : Chicago 1st at 1.58; Pitt 2nd (1.3smilies/cool.gif; Montreal 3rd (1.37); Anaheim 4th (1.32); Boston 5th (1.26)
** Bottom teams are: Edmonton 26th (0.82); Colorado 27th (0.82); Philly 28th (0.76); Calgary 29th (0.66); Florida 30th (0.63)

Coupled with Ma's Oiler PP stats..... its very telling why they have not done so well (again).
April 14, 2013
Votes: +0

davidgoodburn said:

davidgoodburn
Ryan Ma Mr. Ma: Great breakdown and insight into the Oilers situation!
April 14, 2013
Votes: +0

jjmckenn said:

jjmckenn
Jokinen I'm not sure if they sold low for jokinen considering he wasn't even picked up on waivers. He's a soft, overpaid tweener fw. Who isn't the shootout wiz he once was. People will use the old Corsi argument (not very useful) to pretend he is a better player then he actually is. Obviously the scouts see it differently, and no doubt the canes got all they could for him.
April 14, 2013
Votes: +0

gfunkb7 said:

gfunkb7
... Quote: giving a higher percent of "optimal scoring situations" to the players who are the most offensive on the team. Unquote.

Right on the money if you ask me. You may get the first round pick 5 years in a row, but the fact is Edmonton lacks an identity, and it consequently dilutes the skill of their young players. There's no point in having young studs who are NHL ready, destined for first scoring line assignation, but giving them marginal time on the PP, for example.

Bottom line is: Steve Tambellini's doing a poor job managing the assets he currently owns.
April 14, 2013
Votes: +0

holdUP said:

holdUP
The real question... Ryan, if the argument is that the Oilers are still trying to 'justify' (maybe not the right word..) the salaries of Hemsky/Horcoff, then you may see the increase in TOI for Hall/Eberle/RNH next year. Considering Hall/Eberle will both be making MORE than Hemsky/Horcoff, they may shift ice-time their way. Depending on line structure, guys like RNH/Yakupov may see an increase as well if they line up with Hall/Eberle at even strength, produce lots, then as a result see more PP time as well.
April 14, 2013
Votes: +0

Ryan Ma said:

Maaaasquito
... The real question is, when do they figure this out and stop wasting all that prime ice-time on the unproductive Horcoff, Hemsky and Smyth and start giving more to the "most productive" players in the role? I'm just waiting for the next couple of years when the $10.5 mil of salary cap hit comes off the books and we can really see the "superstars" in the making gets some optimum ice-time and responsibility.
April 14, 2013
Votes: +0

Ryan Ma said:

Maaaasquito
Better scenario A better scenario would probably be looking at the Islanders, who are in a similar position (age, rebuilding process, team structure) as the Oilers.

They have a ice-time breakdown of:

Tavares: 20:39 - 3:22 (67.1% of PP)
Moulson: 19:11 - 3:22 (65.9%)
Boyes: 18:18 - 3:19 (65.9%)
Nielsen: 17:59 - 2:05 (41.5%)
Okposo: 16:50 - 1:26 (28.3%)
Bailey: 16:03 - 1:17 (28.8%)
Grabner: 14:57 - 0:33 (10.9%)

Talent wise they might not be as strong as the Oilers, but what they are doing, is giving a higher percent of "optimal scoring situations" to the players who are the most offensive on the team. They aren't giving a Horcoff (0.16 PPP/game average) close to half of their PP opportunities or even a Hemsky (0.31 PPP/game average) 40-plus % of PP chances. They're giving all that prime ice-time to JT, Moulson and Boyes cause they're the most dynamic in that role.

The Islanders have the 7th best PP in the league (20.6% efficiency), and the reason why they're competing for a playoff spot is because they're using that to their advantage.

53% of the Isles PPP have come from Boyes, JT and Moulson because they've been given two-third of the PP opportunities. You give Eberle, Gagner, RNH and Hall that same amount of time, I wonder how many points they'd record?
April 14, 2013
Votes: +0

Ryan Ma said:

Maaaasquito
Oilers... I disagree...

The problem isn't entirely that they are faltering, but I think it's just that they're too deep and not given "enough" ice-time to be effective.

If you look at the ice-time breakdown of the Oilers:

Gagner: 19:13 - 2:51 (50.3% of team PP)
Eberle: 18:59 - 3:06 (54.5%)
RNH: 18:51 - 3:03 (54.1%)
Hall: 18:23 - 3:05 (54%)
Horcoff: 17:18 - 2:38 (45.5%)
Smyth: 15:21 - 1:18 (23.1%)
Hemsky: 15:42 - 2:38 (44.7%)
Yakupov: 14:11 2:26 (42.9%)
MPS: 14:02 - 1:20 (24.7%)

They're really breaking down as an "offense-by-committee" team, which as we all know tends to level out the production of the players involved. The "youngsters" are the key to the offense, yet they have to give up a large share of their ice-time to players like Horcoff, Smyth, Jones... You could argue that they have young bodies and can't handle 20+ minutes a game, which is fair enough. But at the end of the day, if they were given "star" quality ice-time and a higher percentage of PP like a Ovechkin (85.1%), Crosby (79.5%), Tavares (67.1%), Getzlaf (66%), Giroux (64%)... They would have had a much bigger impact this season and probably would have gotten the Oilers in the post-season.

The Oilers registered 73 PPP this season, Gagner (14), Hall (13), RNH (10), Eberle (9), Yak (9), which represented 75% of their PP totals. If they were given slightly more 60-65% of PP time, surely their 5th ranked PP would have potted more goals and eeked out a few more wins.

Also one thing to keep in mind is that Eberle's numbers are essentially right where they belong... The ice-time, SOG, shooting percentage, PP TOI and role on the team all point to his numbers being right where they should be (55-60) point total. The only reason why you're considering him as a "big disappointment" is because you're comparing them to the numbers he posted last season which were an aberration and "off the scale"... He shot a ridiculous 18.9%, which is a crazy pace that really only the elite of the elite can maintain, expecting him to repeat this numbers is asking for a lot. Also the emergence of Gagner also took some responsibility off of Eberle. Where as last year, it was almost entirely on Eberle's shoulders.

The thing that's interesting with the Oilers is that they have the personnel of a Pittsburgh, Islanders, TB, Washington, Chicago, SJ team... but they're playing them as a Nsh, STL, Phx team... So until they start giving their most talented players that high-end 20+ minute and 60+ % on the PP, they'll continue to struggle...

It's not that the young kids are faltering, it's due to the fact that they're being handcuffed cause they're losing ice-time to "less offensive" role players...
April 14, 2013
Votes: +0

Corstyles said:

Corstyles
Oilers young players "The Edmonton Oilers are going to miss the playoffs again, but it's not because their young players are faltering."

I beg to disagree. Jordan Eberle has been a big disappointment this year and Nugent-Hopkins has been a disaster. And, if they didn't have Hall ripping it up on their left wing, their numbers would look even worse. Justin Schultz had a great game on April 1st against Calgary, but if you exclude that game, his contribution in the last 21 games is 3 powerplay assists and a -9.

The Edmonton Oilers are going to miss the playoffs precisely because their young players are faltering.
I'll agree with you wholeheartedly that Taylor Hall is a rock star... it's just too bad the rest of them left their games in Oklahoma City.
April 14, 2013
Votes: +0

donpaulo said:

donpaulo
... not that it takes anything away from your article but a spell check is in order.
April 14, 2013
Votes: +0
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