The Pacific Arms Race: Forwards

There have been many, many changes in the Pacific Divison this summer.

As has occurred in net and on the blueline, the general managers of the seven Pacific teams have been busy trying to upgrade their clubs in a never-ending sequence of “trying to keep up with the Joneses.” Or in the Pacific’s case, the Ducks.

As with the other positions, here’s where everyone stands. The arbitrarily-chosen metric to determine the potency of a forward group is high-danger scoring chances for, as defined by War On Ice. Basically, it’s chances right out in front of the net in the slot, and off rebounds. Granted, these numbers can be depressed by a really, really bad defensive group that is hemmed into their own zone a lot.

And in terms of comparing, I’m sticking to the nine most used players to keep things simple and ignoring the fourth line pluggers.

ANAHEIM

Last Season: The nine most-used forwards were Ryan Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf, Jakob Silfverberg, Andrew Cogliano, Corey Perry, Nate Thompson, Patrick Maroon, Matt Beleskey and Rickard Rakell.

High-Danger Scoring Chances For: 694 (14th in NHL)

Changes: The Ducks brought in Shawn Horcoff (via free agency) and Carl Hagelin (in a draft-day trade with the Rangers), while a healthy Jiri Sekac should help their top nine depth. They lost Matt Beleskey to free agency, though.

Breakdown: The Ducks have a group that’s a bit top-heavy, but their “top” is really good and their summer additions balances their roster out a bit. There’s less of a drop-off from Perry, Getzlaf and Kesler to the rest now.

The Verdict: Slightly upgraded.

ARIZONA

Last Season: The nine most-used forwards were Shane Doan, Sam Gagner, Martin Erat, Tobias Reider, Antoine Vermette, Lauri Korpikoski, Kyle Chipchura, David Moss and Joe Vitale.

High-Danger Scoring Chances For: 658 (24th in NHL)

Changes: Added Boyd Gordon in a trade from Edmonton and Brad Richardson, Steve Downie and Antoine Vermette (who returns with a Cup ring) via free agency. David Moss and Martin Erat seem to be gone to the wilds of free agency, while Sam Gagner (Philadelphia) and Lauri Korpikoski (Edmonton) were traded away.

Breakdown: The Coyotes weren’t great last year. There is no Oliver Ekman-Larsson in their forward group to carry the mail. Gordon and Richardson are useful players who will help out, but the team may struggle to score.

The Verdict: Slightly downgraded from last season, if that’s possible.

CALGARY

Last Season: The nine most-used forwards were Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Jiri Hudler, Lance Bouma, David Jones, Joe Colborne, Josh Jooris, Curtis Glencross and Mikael Backlund.

High-Danger Scoring Chances For: 653 (25th in NHL)

Changes: Added Michael Frolik via free agency. Fundamentally, a full year of Sam Bennett basically takes Glencross’ spot in the top nine, too.

Breakdown: The Flames added some top-six depth with Frolik, but it seems like they expect the offensive growth to come via (a) their defensive group improving and (b) Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett transforming from prospect caterpillars into scoring-machine butterflies.

The Verdict: An obvious upgrade in depth, but it’s unclear if Frolik alone will become a scoring machine or if he’ll be used as a catalyst for others. Or neither of those things could happen.

EDMONTON

Last Season: The nine most-used forwards were Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Teddy Purcell, Nail Yakupov, Taylor Hall, Matt Hendricks, Benoit Pouliot, Boyd Gordon and Derek Roy.

High-Danger Scoring Chances For: 681 (18th in NHL)

Changes: Lots of new faces up Highway 2, with Connor McDavid (the draft), Mark Letestu (free agency) and Lauri Korpikoski (Arizona) replacing Boyd Gordon (Arizona) and Derek Roy (free agency).

Breakdown: The Oilers’ forward group has been hamstrung by injuries and a bad defensive group over the last while, but they are going to be deeper and different this season. I’m not sure if making so many radical changes will create chemistry right away, but it’s also obvious that the chemistry that Edmonton had last season wasn’t really working.

The Verdict: If McDavid can be a competent NHLer, the Oilers will be significantly deeper offensively. I’m not sold that Letestu and Korpikoski are much better than the guys they supplant, though.

LOS ANGELES

Last Season: The nine most-used forwards were Justin Williams, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Dwight King, Marian Gaborik, Jarret Stoll, Trevor Lewis, Tyler Toffoli and Kyle Clifford.

High-Danger Scoring Chances For: 710 (11th in NHL)

Changes: The Kings added Milan Lucic from Boston, while losing Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll to free agency.

Breakdown: The Kings get bigger, swapping Williams for Lucic. The team has the benefit of some young, emerging depth guys, and I imagine Tanner Pearson eats up most of Stoll’s lost minutes.

The Verdict: Slightly upgraded.

SAN JOSE

Last Season: The nine most-used forwards were Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, Tomas Hertl, Tommy Wingels, Matt Nieto, Melker Karlsson and James Sheppard.

High-Danger Scoring Chances For: 791 (4th in NHL)

Changes: Joel Ward added through free agency, more or less filling Sheppard’s old spot.

Breakdown: That top six is nasty, as the Sharks can rotate a bunch of bodies in and out and have good match-ups. Adding Joel Ward adds some much-needed physicality to the group.

The Verdict: Ward adds both timely goals and the ability to wear the other team down physically. The Sharks are slightly upgraded.

VANCOUVER

Last Season: The nine most-used forwards were Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Radim Vrbata, Jannik Hansen, Nick Bonino, Chris Higgins, Shawn Matthias, Derek Dorsett and Linden Vey.

High-Danger Scoring Chances For: 746 (6th in NHL)

Changes: No changes. (Okay, they lost Matthias to free agency, but they didn’t bring anyone in or shuffle the deck much.)

Breakdown: If it ain’t broke… The Sedins get a lot of attention, but there’s some good depth in Vancouver. There was no particular need to overhaul their group, so they didn’t.

The Verdict: The Sedins are getting older, but they remain potent, as do the Canucks.

  • Toofun

    That “high danger scoring chances for” stat is pretty illuminating on why the advanced stats guys struggle with the Flames.

    I don’t want to start the old “Reversion” discussion again though… please.

      • Toofun

        I probably shouldn’t have but this definition seems tighter than corsi and therefore harder for me to ignore or dismiss.

        There were a few games last year where the Flames were kept to the outside and couldn’t generate many dangerous chances but for the most part it seemed like while they had less possession overall, the opportuniies they did create were good ones. Overall I didn’t think Calgary was outplayed very often last year despite what the advanced stats said.

        25th in the league in high danger scoring chances as quoted in this write up however suggests somthing different.

  • Parallex

    I don’t think L.A. has had a slight upgrade. They’re probably about the same.

    Williams v. Lucic: Traditional Counting stats have them at basically a wash but possession stats have Williams significantly higher then Lucic. The reverse is true for Pearson v. Stoll (although Pearson played a fair amount last year so you have to factor in the replacement for Pearson). If you’re arguing Lucic over Williams as an upgrade then you’re arguing style over substance.

    I’d basically rate that as a saw off.

        • BurningSensation

          I believe both Eakins and Lambert are underrated.

          Eakins because his GM was hot garbage (as well as the D-corps), and Lambert because his use of stats is fine, even really good, its his conclusions (Flames are in it for McDavid!) that leave something to be desired.

          • RedMan

            i think Lambert is underrated because he generates more shots (clicks) then the other writers… a real writers-corsi darling! but those shots need to be quality green zone, not so many red zone, throw it on the net and its good,(but misses the mark) type of shots πŸ™‚

            either way, Lambert is one of us, and we all love him anyway, just the way he is.

    • RedMan

      this definitely is much more valuable than CORSI, and i must say, i think most of us know at some level that while CORSI has been a promising addition, it is still in it’s infancy as a valuable stat with very little predictive quality, but instead just strong analytical value.

      this measurement seems much more intelligent and is intuitive, and also passes the smell test (which corsi doesn’t) by matching the fact that we all know – those with the skill and the cajones to take the puck to the net are the ones rewarded.

      I am all for new and advanced stat and am not anti corsi by any stretch- just know, like all of us do, that we need to get better mileage and performance out of the corsi bus!

      • TheoForever

        Yes, Valiquette makes perfect sense, his approach makes sense and data he collected shows it as such. It takes analytics to a new higher level, one that can satisfy the crowd that believes in cause and effect.

        Unfortunately, there is now an entire industry based on fast and easily digestible spreadsheets, one doesn’t have to watch the game, just dump some numbers and you got an opinion. Valiquette’s method requires more work.

        In a way Corsi would have been more indicative of performance in the 80’s, as goalies and equipment were smaller, plus some of those guys couldn’t stop a beach ball. So, shots were going in from almost anywhere.

        In todays game, we need to extract every ounce of advantage to make headway. I have little doubt that some teams already use Valiquette’s approach and I wouldn’t be surprised the least if Flames were one of those teams, just by watching them.

  • The Last Big Bear

    So based on this scoring chance metric:

    Los Angeles: +105

    Anaheim: +54

    San Jose: +53

    Vancouver: +8

    Calgary: -126

    Arizona: -131

    Edmonton: -163

    The Kings were the best team in the division by a mile. The Ducks were good but nothing special, and were fighting with the Sharks for a distant 2nd best in the Division. The Flames were unbelievably terrible at both ends of the ice, in a virtual tie with Arizona for utter futility, only eclipsed by Edmonton.

    Does this seem like a stat that accurately reflects how these teams played?

    Well, I always like to compare new stats to the ol’ stand-by, plus/minus:

    Anaheim +22

    LA +19

    Calgary +12

    Vancouver +8

    San Jose -9

    Edmonton -73

    Arizona -83

    I’ll be honest, by the eyeball test, this scoring chance stat looks like it describes the performance of a team less accurately than +/- does.

  • Parallex

    Hall NHL PPG: .88
    Seguin NHL PPG: .80
    Tarasenko NHL PPG: .75
    Johansen NHL PPG: .62

    the only thing you can argue is that Johansen is a Center, and thus a more important position.

    Hall has an great sample size to support his PPG.

    Seguin plays half the time on wing.

    • Parallex

      Hall has also played 1st line and pp since the beginning and is a defensive liability. His ppg is nice but his complete game is not. Tarasenko plays for Hitch so you either play 200 feet or you don’t play. Seguin has taken off after his move from Boston and Johansen has really developed in his last 2 years including over 70 points this year.

      • Parallex

        Hall is not a defensive liability. Sure he’s no Datsyuk/Toews/Bergeron great two-way player but he’s not bad.

        Commenting that he’s gotten top minutes and PP time is a valid point but Hall is a not a liability (Yakupov on the other hand… *holds nose* that guy stunk defensively).

        The Oilers were bad but Hall wasn’t, anyone who says otherwise… well frankly I doubt their ability to be objective.

        • Parallex

          Don’t get me wrong. Hall is a good player and I’d have him fourth behind 3 strong players. He is a defensive liability and his constant turnovers play into that. It will be interesting to see if that gets cleaned up or if he’s allowed to continue.You don’t think Yak is strong defensively? Lol

          • Parallex

            “You don’t think Yak is strong defensively?”

            I don’t think anyone drawing breath thinks Yakupov is strong defensively… maybe some extreme homer Oiler fan might… but really he’s probably already dead inside nah?

          • ChinookArchYYC

            Agreed. Hall has a ton of speed, a great shot, and is dangerous when given a scoring area, but he could stand to support his D better and backcheck. He is also turnover machine.

        • The Last Big Bear

          Well then you can chalk one up against my apparent ability to be objective, because I think Hall’s defensive game is still appalling.

          I watched plenty of Oilers games this season, and I can think of plenty of goals against directly as a result of Hall blowing the zone early, not knowing who to cover on those exceedingly rare cases when he’s defending a rush, him coasting through the neutral zone on the backcheck, waiting for a stretch pass, etc.

      • Cool Story, Brodie!!!

        “Hall has also played 1st line and pp since the beginning”

        Again, small sample size for Johansen. (2 seasons)

        Hall has 5 Seasons and hes been a consistent performer.

        “Tarasenko plays for Hitch”
        so what? so did Perron

  • Cool Story, Brodie!!!

    “Hall has also played 1st line and pp since the beginning”

    Opening Night 2010

    L1: Penner-Gagner-Hemsky
    L2: Hall-Horcoff-Eberle
    L3: Paajarvi-Cogliano-Brule
    L4: Jones-Fraser-MacIntyre

    Opening Night 2011

    L1: Smyth-Belanger-Eberle
    L2: Hall-Nuge-Hemsky
    L3: Omark-Horcoff-Paajarvi
    L4: Hordichuk-Lander-Jones

    Opening Night 2012

    L1: Hall-RNH-Eberle
    L2: Yakupov-Gagner-Hemsky
    L3: Smyth-Horocff-Hartikainen
    L4: Eager-Belanger-Petrell

    so First line on his 3 Season, seems reasonable for a 1 OVA pick.

  • prendrefeu

    Rrrrrrreaallly not interested in discussing, nor reading, comments about Oilers players’, past, present, nor future, on a website devoted to discussion about the Flames.

    Thanks.

    Don’t worry about what your neighbor is up to, work on what you have in hand. Period.

  • supra steve

    Amusing : Hall , Hopkins and Yakupov were all BPA ‘s their draft seasons and Flames would have taken all 3 if they had the chance/opportunity . Calgary born Hall ? Are you kidding me you , Flame fans would have cried fowl/bloody murder if your club would have bypassed on him . It takes an entire team to develop properly , and Oilers have lacked back end support for an entire decade . That is starting to change and Oilers will made big strides this year and McDavid will be as advertised/hyped . Coaching will also make Edmonton a lot better this year . One more top acquisition on defence and this club will be very competitive , if goaltending hold decent . Flames on the other hand will be hard pressed to duplicate last season due to possession numbers .

    • TheoForever

      Nobody would have taken Yak, your own people didn’t want to take him, but your owner overruled them. I got no problem with Hall except he needed some veteran leadership around him to make him a good pro, which he isn’t unfortunately.

      Your argument about regression is complete nonsense, based on nothing but hope. We made enough quality additions Hamilton, Frolik, Bennett to progress. Ferland, Grandlund and Colborne should be better. Even if Hudler and Wideman cannot duplicate the numbers there is plenty of people to step up. Most experts predict Flames to be better due to the offseason moves, of course some of them know very little, so we will just have to wait and see.

      As for your defence, Sekera isn’t a top paring guy, so you are only missing 3 top four dmen. Here is a bold prediction Talbot collapses 20 games in and starts to develop some bad habits, and oiler fans start taking shots at him.

      Summer is a great time to be an Oiler fan, everything is possible, and then the puck drops. Good luck with the next draft lottery, I think you guys can make it 5 in 7.

    • TheoForever

      It has something to do with the Oiler Trolls always being here. To be fair, it is like that on the Oiler site too. Don’t know about the Van site, as nobody is saying anything.

      • TheoForever

        Honestly, I knew you would say that. But, every time I see I always notice it just happens for no reason. Hey, I hate the oilers. And I truly am jealous that they have mcdavid and are having a unbelievable off season.

        • TheoForever

          πŸ™‚
          Not jealous at all, just sickened that it had to be that dumpster fire up north, I feel for the kid.

          The season will come and in no time, we are all going to be able to have a few good laughs. Lot’s of great material this summer from the coiler nation.

          • TheoForever

            I’m going to go out on a limb here and say you have a pretty depressing life being on this blog all day (yes, you are always commenting throughout the day) and oilersnation daily to bash on the oilers. Just my two cents. Have a beer, hangout with your mom, go for a walk, please.

          • TheoForever

            Well, I have made ONE post on the oilernation EVER and it was this week, and did not take a shot at Oilers. You can check that, since you got nothing better to do but be here.

            For the last week I have had a chance to be on Flames nation and participate as much as everyone else, it’s nice.

            As for the other part, your stab is just nonsense and I could say the same about you.

            I don’t need a beer in the middle of the day, and I will visit my mother later, just after I feed the kids.

            Thanks for participating.

          • TheoForever

            Feed the kids?! There’s no way a man with your negativity about everything has a family. But, if you do, man I feel bad for how your kids are going to grow up. Take care.

          • TheoForever

            You are a troll, that took time to login into Flames Nation to stir the pot. Don’t play innocent, judging from your post go back to drinking. Nothing, worse than a self-righteous hypocrite. Don’t let the door hit you.

        • TheoForever

          Problem is, the Oilers, according to their GMs, coaches and fans have an unbelievable off season every year! Then comes the reality, by November they are preparing for next year’s draft!

          Don’t be jealous of the oilers getting McDavid and their 6 other new recruits, they still don’t have a Defence nor a Number One goalie! I am looking forward to seeing McJesus play the Anaheim (or tying to play Anaheim!)