Last week I wrote about how the NHL realignment will affect the Eastern Conferences goalies and it is important to note that the realignment will affect some teams much more than others. For example, the existing Atlantic Division teams currently play the other four members 24 times throughout the year, which will not change. Washington and Carolina however, will now face three of the Southeastern Division teams (WPG, FLA, TB) only six times a year instead of the 18 they are accustomed to. In contrast, they previously faced the five teams that make up the Atlantic Division a total of 20 times, but will now face them 30 times. This translates to a more mild transition for someone like Claude Giroux than Eric Staal.
Eric Staal has been one of the more frustrating players of 2011-12, but fantasy owners have been patient. Most still believe he can come on strong for the second half of the season, which he may, but should you be concerned as a keeper owner? Let’s look at some statistics together.
Against Southeast teams, Staal plays quite well on average. He scores at or above a point-per-game pace against three of the four teams and scores at just over a 78-point pace against the four teams combined. He averages 3.8 shots per game as well.
Against the Atlantic teams, Staal’s numbers aren’t quite as pretty. In just 51 fewer games, Staal’s total point-per-game average drops to 0.76. That is a 62-point pace. His shooting percentage dips just slightly, but his shots-per-game averages to only 3.41. What that means is that if Staal were to play 82 games vs. WPG, FLA, TB, and WSH, he would take 311 shots whereas if he played 82 games vs. NJ, NYI, NYR, PHI, and PIT, he would take only 279 shots. With fewer shots come fewer goals.
While I make note of the extremes (like playing an entire 82-game season versus four or five opponents), the actual variation of points is likely to be more subtle. What is important to note though is that Staal has played much better against his old division than his new. Generally speaking, the Atlantic is also considered to be comprised of a tougher set of opponents than the Southeast, which would also translate to tougher games for Carolina. How Staal performs in that type of situation may surprise you.
When Carolina is playing well and winning hockey games, Staal is a beast. When Carolina is struggling, as they are now, Staal struggles mightily, as he is now. Over the average of his career, Staal’s performance relative to wins would be as such.
As in any case, the actuals do not always match the averages, but the averages are certainly a significant data set to gauge future production. As the competition becomes stronger for Carolina, the wins will be harder to come by. Instead of holding out a glimmer of hope that Eric Staal will magically turn things around, make sure you either temper your expectations or look for a trade partner.