Around the league - Dec 10, 2009

Jason Gregor
December 10 2009 02:33PM

It is amazing how players get a reputation, positively or negatively, and how it sticks with them; in many cases for longer than it should. I’m not talking just about how the fans look at a player, but also how coaches and management view their own player.

One area where coaches struggle the most in getting a clear picture of a player is in the shootout. I understand why a coach wants to put his most skilled player in the shootout, but in many cases the results don’t support that decision.

Since the inception of the shootout in 2005/06, Jussi Jokinen has scored the most goals (26) and rightfully so — he has had the most opportunities with 47 attempts. Vyacheslav Kozlov has scored 24 times in 43 attempts. The other players with at least 20 shootout goals include Ales Kotalik, 21 goals in 39 shootouts, Pavel Datsyuk, 21 in 41 shots and Zach Parise buried 20 goals on 42 attempts.

Only Datsyuk and Parise would be considered top-end scorers.

Some of the best snipers haven’t been able to master the shootout. Alex Ovechkin only has 12 goals in 42 tries.  Ryan Getzlaf has 13 in 40 attempts, Rick Nash 15 in 41, Vinny Lecavalier 12 in 40, Jarome Iginla 7 in 28 and two snipers who are only 20 per cent are Evgeni Malkin, 5 of 25 and Tomas Vanek 6 of 30.

Sidney Crosby is a perfect four-for-four this year, but that still only puts him at 16 of 42.

I understand why a coach wants to reward those guys, because they have likely scored a key goal to get the game to a shootout, but the stats prove that they are more likely to cost their team an extra point once the shootout starts.

While Flames fans have watched in dismay as Iginla gets turned away regularly, they aren’t alone. Daniel Sedin is a woeful three for 16 in his career, Alex Burrows is one for seven, Mason Raymond one for five and some how Alain Vigneault continues to use defenceman, Alex Edler, even though he has only scored twice in nine attempts.

Vigneault’s problem is the Canucks don’t have anyone he can rely on. Ryan Kesler is his best bet at six of 19 or Kyle Wellwood at five of 16, although neither is better than 31 per cent. Pavel Demitra would be an obvious choice with 13 goals in 30 shots, but he has yet to play this season. The next time the Canucks go to a shootout Vigneault should use Mathieu Schnieder who is two for three in his career.

Up until Monday, Pat Quinn was convinced that Sam Gagner needed to be in the shootout. Gagner had some highlight reel goals as a rookie in 2007/08, but he only scored five times in 17 attempts. Last year he was three for eight, before missing on all five attempts this season. He is eight for 30 in his career, and clearly shouldn’t be in the top-three anytime soon.

Another guy who shouldn’t be going regularly for the Oilers, even though he is their most skilled forward is Ales Hemsky. Hemsky has taken the second most attempts in the league, 46, but he only has 16 goals good for 34.8 percent.

I said it on my radio show on Monday that the three Oilers who should be shooting are Patrick O’Sullivan, Robert Nilsson and Shawn Horcoff. After Monday’s SO win over Florida O’Sullivan is 12 for 26, Nilsson is eight for 16 and Shawn Horcoff is seven for 11.

Horcoff has the best percentage, 63.6% of any NHL player who has shot more than ten times, and five of his seven goals have been deciding goals.

Horcoff isn’t fancy in the shootout, and normally he either shoots five-hole or makes a deke through the five-hole, but he is successful. Many fans still think Gagner is the guy, because of the sick moves he used his first year, and it seems that the Oilers believed the same until Monday.

It isn’t a knock on a player that he doesn’t excel in the shootout, because many of the true snipers don’t. The extra point might be the difference in making the playoffs or missing by a point or two, and coaches are going to have to start playing the odds rather than going with their best player, or the player they think is their best option.

ICE WOMEN OF THE WEEK

Here is Megan, in her second season as a Tampa Bay Lighting girl. Is it just me or is she sporting a bit of a ‘50s look with the big hair. I don’t mind retro now and then.

If you want to learn more about Megan and the rest of the Lightning Women click here and you can click on each of them and hear their riveting stories.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

  • Does being the GM of Canada’s World Hockey Championship Team really get a guy prepared to be a GM in the NHL? Won’t Mark Messier become more of a recruiter than a GM? He has no salary cap to worry about, he gets to pick from the best players available and if one says no, he just goes down the list. I’m not sold that being the GM for Canada prepares a guy for being an NHL GM. He will scout and look at players to see who he likes, but I don’t see many similarities to being a regular NHL GM.
  • I wrote it a few weeks ago that John Stevens was on a short leash, and I think Randy Carlyle is precariously close to walking the plank as well. The Ducks are in basement of the Western conference, yet they have loads of top-end talent. Carlyle is a demanding coach with a caustic attitude and I’m hearing some of his players have tuned him out. Barring a four or five game winning streak I think he’ll be gone before Christmas, which is never a good PR move for a team.
  • Dustin Penner has played great, but come on people he shouldn’t be considered for the Olympic team because of a solid 30 game stretch. Oiler fans should hope he doesn’t make it so he will be rested for their annual scramble to the playoffs.
  • Is it a coincidence that seven of the top scorers in the league are Canadian in a year where Canada hosts the Olympics? This is a one-in-a-lifetime-opportunity for these players and many are playing with that in mind. For my money Corey Perry should be a lock to make the team. He can score and is a jerk to play against.
  • I’d take Patrick Marleau over Brad Richards if it came down to it.
  • Does anyone think Patrice Bergeron really has a shot to make the team? I don’t.
  • I can’t stand broadcasters who are too homerish. Roger Millions honestly thinks that Mikka Kiprusoff should be the leading candidate for the Vezina? Yes, he has played well, but Ryan Miller has clearly been better. Miller has a 1.82 GAA and .938 SV% compared to Kiprusoff’s 2.16 GAA and .927 SV%. Both are averaging 29 shots per game. Ilya Brysgalov is close too with a sick 1.99 GAA and .925 SV % on a team that relies on him more than Flames do Kiprusoff.
  • Steve Downie might be an ass of a person, but he knows his role and along with Zenon Konopka they give Tampa Bay two very good disturbers. Konopka in an undersized heavyweight, but he understands his role and plays it very well.
  • The Canucks play 17 of their next 23 at home. If they don’t have at least a five or six point lead over non-playoff teams come Jan 30th I don’t see them making the playoffs. Their 14 game road trip –split up by the Olympic break- is not the place to be making up ground for a playoff spot. I doubt the Canucks love the idea of being away from home for over a month.

LEADERS THROUGH THE WEEK

Here are the top ten in pts, goals, assists and other stats.

Goals:
21: Marian Gaborik
20: Sidney Crosby (eight goals in his last four games), Patrick Marleau and Alex Ovechkin
19: Dany Heatley
17: Jarome Iginla, Dustin Penner, Steven Stamkos and Mike Cammalleri.
16: Ryan Malone and Ilya Kovalchuk
*** Cammalleri had five goals in three games this week, and he has nine goals in his last ten games.***

Assists:
35: Joe Thornton
30: Ryan Getzlaf 
27: Tomas Kaberle
26: Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis
25: Nicklas Backstrom, Tomas Plekanec and Mike Green
24: Paul Stastny
22: Henrik Sedin

Points:
42: Thornton
39: Gaborik
37: Crosby
36: Anze Kopitar, Perry, Getzlaf and H. Sedin
35: Brad Richards
34: Marleau, Heatley and Zach Parise
***Kopitar has three points in three weeks without Ryan Smyth***

Plus/Minus:
+18: Parise
+16: Christian Ehrhoff,
+15: Travis Zajac
+14: Jay Bouwmeester
+13: Ryan O’Reilly, Pavel Kubina, Ovechkin, Wayne Simmonds, Matt Carle, Brendan Morrison and Jeff Schultz.
*** Rod Brind’Amour still leads for the Green Jacket with a whopping -19. Martin Havlat isn’t living up to his big contract in Minny with -17 and two goals. Robert Nilsson was +5 this week to improve to -7 on the season. ***

PP Goals:
Nine: Heatley aned Gaborik
Eight: John Tavares (had four goals this week and all on the PP).
Seven: Andrew Brunette, Teemu Selanne and Steven Stamkos
Six: Kovalchuk, Milan Hejduk, Scott Hartnell, Mike Richards, Rich Peverly, Tomas Holmstrom, Mike Fisher and Brooks Laich
***I think Mike Fisher is going to get a long look from Steve Yzerman and the rest of Team Canada management. He is a great two-way player.***

Hits:
110: Stephane Robidas
109: Ryan Callahan and Dustin Brown
103: Cal Clutterbuck
102: Matt Greene
97: Ryan Malone
96: J.F Jacques
95: Scott Nichol
91: Brooks Orpik
90: David Backes, Brendan Morrow and Chris Neil

Shots:
130: Parise
126: Ovechkin
124: Jeff Carter
123: Henrik Zetterberg
120: Rick Nash
112: Dustin Brown
108: Vincent Lecavalier
107: Crosby and Perry
106: Cammalleri and B. Richards

FINAL POINT

Strange stat of the week…The Penguins’ PP is 26.8% without Crosby and only 17.7% with him. I doubt Dan Bylsma will start using Crosby less on the PP. It is a quirky stat right now, but I’d bet it reverses by season’s end.

Only one forward is in the top 90 in blocked shots. Canucks forward Ryan Johnson has 39 blocks which puts him 87th.

Jeff Carter is 3rd in the league in shots, but he leads in missed shots with a staggering 65. He has more missed shots than these guys have actual shots, Nathan Horton, Brian Gionta, Joe Thornton, H.Sedin, Maxim Afinogenov, Kristian Huselius, Scott Gomez and Sam Gagner to name a few. I wonder how many goals Carter would have if he actually hit the net more often? He misses the net one out of every three shots. Ouch.

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
December 10 2009, 02:45PM
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I agree with all your random thoughts, but your ice women is weak this week. Hair throws me off.

And not only is Messier the wrong guy but having Gretzky could potentially make the two of them look like idiots.

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#2 Offthebandwagon
December 10 2009, 02:54PM
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Smyth driving the net and going wide on the right side really forces players back into their own goalie. Kopitar has a lot of skill; more than Hmesky and he's bigger too. Smyth did this for Edmonton and this is why Hemmer was a much more potent force in the two years prior to his departure. He had room because the two defenders were trying to protect their goalie and gather rebounds. Penner is starting to figure this out now too. Gagner is going to have a lot of time to make passes and dangle this season now that Penner isn't afraid to go into the trouble zone.

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#3 Cam Davie
December 10 2009, 02:55PM
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Pretty sure the ice woman this week is wearing a Bumpit. #fail.

Did anyone even know that Henrik Sedin was in the top 20 for scoring... let alone tied for 4th overall?! And he's a +8. I know that people in Vancouver either love or hate the Twins, but statistically they have to be two of the most underrated players in the league.

If only the rest of the Canucks were playing HALF as well as Hank.

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#4 Offthebandwagon
December 10 2009, 02:56PM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

I agree with all your random thoughts, but your ice women is weak this week. Hair throws me off.

And not only is Messier the wrong guy but having Gretzky could potentially make the two of them look like idiots.

By 'weak' you mean 'has too many clothes? I concur.

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#5 I'm a Scientist!
December 10 2009, 02:56PM
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At first I didn't really like the ice woman of the week either...then I figured she looked like a Texan and a screamer and my opinion changed (but not because of the Texan thing)

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#6 Dyckster
December 10 2009, 03:01PM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

I agree with all your random thoughts, but your ice women is weak this week. Hair throws me off.

And not only is Messier the wrong guy but having Gretzky could potentially make the two of them look like idiots.

AND it looks like they Photoshopped Howdy Doody's mouth on her. Nobody has teeth that white.

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#7 Rogue
December 10 2009, 03:15PM
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Nice Hawker Typhoon!

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#8 Ender
December 10 2009, 03:24PM
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Re: The Penguins PP

Perhaps the trend is logical; since the Boy Wonder is on the top PP unit with Malkin, opposing teams would logically put their four strongest defenders on the ice against that unit. Pitt has depth, though, and their second PP unit is usually nothing to sneeze at either. That leaves the Pitt second unit with ample opportunity to play against either a tired opposing PK if they can't get off the ice or lesser defenders if the change occurs.

Of course, I can't specifically name the members of the second unit; with injuries to Malkin, Gonchar, and Kennedy and with Rupp in and out of the mix, the unit hasn't been very stable. The idea, though, is that whoever is in there is still a decent group of guys.

The biggest reason, though, why the PP numbers appear to favour having Crosby off the ice is simply that the Penguin's PP has sucked hard as a whole all year. NHL.com lists their percentage through 31 games at only 14%, good for last in the league if not for St. Louis. Since scoring a PP goal at all is almost an anomoly in itself, it's easy to get a skewed trend on the few pucks that do manage to find their way into the net. How a group that consists of Crosby, Malkin, Gonchar, Kunitz, and [insert rotating PP hopeful here] can be so woeful when they outnumber the opposition is a little baffling, but with the numbers they are currently posting it's little wonder that the second unit is winning the scoring race; the Golden Bears would have a shot at winning that race the way Crosby and Co. are currently performing.

Like Gregor, I figure it can't last. Crosby/Malkin aren't that bad, and even against the other team's top four they should be able to score more than they have been.

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#9 Jonathan Willis
December 10 2009, 03:32PM
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@ Jason Gregor:

I'm largely in agreement with the Random Thoughts, although I think the Canucks get a Demitra bump and make the playoffs.

Oh, and I'd take Richards over Marleau, who never hit the 60-point mark before Thornton came to San Jose.

I'm not sure why you're getting so much flack for the ice woman, though.

And of course you're bang-on about shootout players.

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#10 Poo Czar
December 10 2009, 03:38PM
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Nice to see Lurleen Lumpkin land a gig with the Lightning...

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#11 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
December 10 2009, 03:39PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Jason Gregor:

I'm largely in agreement with the Random Thoughts, although I think the Canucks get a Demitra bump and make the playoffs.

Oh, and I'd take Richards over Marleau, who never hit the 60-point mark before Thornton came to San Jose.

I'm not sure why you're getting so much flack for the ice woman, though.

And of course you're bang-on about shootout players.

She's photoshopped, for sure. Teeth are too white and the skin is a little too flat to be natural. She's very pretty, though.

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#13 Hemmercules
December 10 2009, 04:15PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

I don't think it is bad for Messier to be there, in fact he will be fine in that role, because he will be able to rally guys to want to go over and play.

My point was it won't prepare him to be an NHL GM.

Any why would having Gretz as the coach make them look like idiots. Gretzky improved a lot as a coach. I think he will go for sure, and I bet MacTavish will be an assistant on the staff.

Isn't MacT coaching the Spengler Cup???

I think Messier and Gretz will do fine as well, like you said, it's the best players picked off a list with no cap.

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#14 Bucknuck
December 10 2009, 04:29PM
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I think the ice girl is hot! I just want to see more of her...

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#16 Colin
December 10 2009, 06:22PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

I don't think it is bad for Messier to be there, in fact he will be fine in that role, because he will be able to rally guys to want to go over and play.

My point was it won't prepare him to be an NHL GM.

Any why would having Gretz as the coach make them look like idiots. Gretzky improved a lot as a coach. I think he will go for sure, and I bet MacTavish will be an assistant on the staff.

So I guess Penner isn't going then?

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#17 Pajamah
December 10 2009, 07:48PM
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Colin wrote:

So I guess Penner isn't going then?

Nah, just means if Canada loses, Penner will be blamed.

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#18 roughneck
December 10 2009, 09:34PM
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Roger Millions isnt a homer, hes a complete and total idiot or a ventriloquist dummy that got its wish to be a real boy, not sure which. Doesnt matter, hes just a talking head for the brains of the flames operation.... and yes I am aware thats an oxymoron.

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#19 David S
December 10 2009, 09:38PM
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Bucknuck wrote:

I think the ice girl is hot! I just want to see more of her...

Just click on the link in Gregor's article.

*Doing his best Quagmire imitation*

ALLLL-RIGHHHHT!!!! Giggity giggity.

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#20 Jon
December 11 2009, 12:31AM
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Is it just me or has anybody else noticed that Gagner's shootout moves lack a little dazzle these days. In his first year, he would deke about 500 times and more importantly he would score. To my eye, he seems to deke less...and perhaps consequently score less as well?

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#21 jayoilfan
December 11 2009, 07:48AM
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@ Rogue, sorry dude but that is a Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX. It is bit of a hobby of mine so feel I had to correct you.

Anyway I am very impressed with the Oil as of late and totally enjoying the games.

JG I agree that a Team Canada GM position is not training for an NHL GM spot. Also, sorry to the Penner supporters but he should not be on the list. There are too many other player they have to choose from. If he does make it great but I am not going ot bet the farm.

Good read JG, as usual.

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#22 Milli
December 11 2009, 09:24AM
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Wouldn't it be funny to see MacT make Penner a healthy scratch at the Worlds!!!!

I agree, Ice women is weak, although still better than at RX1.

Gretz to me is one of these types of people that is so driven to succeed that he refuses to suck at anything. I think he'll go we'll win and he will end up back in the NHL at some capacity. Great players are great for more than skill, there is that competitive fire deep inside that drives them to win at anything.

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#23 E-Mac
December 11 2009, 09:40AM
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I used to look forward to "Ice Women of The Week," what a huge letdown. This is comparable to missing the playoffs three straight years. If the Big Sexy wouldn't touch it, it shouldn't make the grade.

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#24 Rogue
December 11 2009, 10:00AM
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Damn, not only did my wife leave me but I am wrong on the plane. Oh well, 1 out of 2 ain't bad!

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#26 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
December 11 2009, 10:31AM
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@Jason Gregor

Weren't you the one that mentioned pulling Gagner in favour of someone else?

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#27 swany
December 11 2009, 10:40AM
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Gagner has sick moves but I think we are seeing that shooters score more than guys that like to make moves, look at the goals scored in the shoot out most of them are shots.

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#28 BarryS
December 11 2009, 11:08AM
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Rogue wrote:

Nice Hawker Typhoon!

Supermarine Spitfire Mk 9

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#29 rindog
December 11 2009, 02:45PM
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@Jason Gregor

I have been one of the biggest Penner supporters over the past few years (you can verify that JG) and while I don't think he will get much consideration for the Olympic team - I think a strong argument can be made for him to be there.

If the Olympic management team wants to pick a roster based on guys that are playing well now (rather than past accomplishments) and guys that seem to be elevating their game when they need to; Penner is a prime candidate.

I would be hardpressed to find 8 Canadian wingers that have been as consistent and as dominant (shift by shift) as Penner has this year.

He has a a few intangible things that some of the other scorer leaders don't have (size and PP presence). I watch this guy take the puck to the net with as much tenacity as any other wingers in the game right now.

His foot speed is no longer an issue and his effort level has not tailed off at all.

Again, realistically he has NO chance - but it's nice to dream...

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