Stats I'd love to see: Third (or even fourth) assists

1 Comment

fourthassist.jpgEvery once and a while, I try to introduce new stats ideas (or perhaps stats that I just didn’t know existed) to the hockey blogosphere and fans alike. One example is the incredibly simple Special Teams Plus/Minus stats I discussed during the 09-10 season. This could be a long-running series or a summer diversion, but either way, let’s have a little fun with this experiment.

When Alex Ovechkin scored an empty-net goal to take a brief lead in the three horse race for the Maurice Richard goal-scoring title (eventually won by Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos), a minor Twitter debate ensued regarding the value of the empty-netter. Eventually, I engaged Marty Vance in a small debate about the value of empty netters vs. second assists.

That discussion rolled around in my head for a bit and today I realized something. I’d love if someone – whether it be an official stat keeper or an intrepid team blogger – kept track of every person who touched the puck on its way to the net. Now, keep in mind, that doesn’t necessarily mean every player who was on the ice during the goal. In fact, most goals probably only have one to three players who pass the puck to each other without the other team touching it first. So most goals probably adhere to the one goal scorer + two assists maximum anyway.

But my question is: why not give everyone credit? I’m not saying that a third assist or beyond should count toward a player’s point totals, but rather that it would simply be interesting to find out who was involved in each goal.

To give a little more seasoning to this argument, I will discuss a few ways third/fourth assists could benefit our knowledge of the game after the jump.


brodeurpasses2.jpgRewarding a defenseman who makes brilliant outlet passes

Now, again, I’m not saying there would be a huge amount of third assists. One instance when these might happen, though, is if a defenseman makes a great breakout pass to a player, taking advantage of a prone opposition. Most of the time this will result in an assist for that defenseman – or a non-goal – but if it begins a series of nice passes, that defenseman’s contribution will only live on in the memory of observers who have short memories. Why not reward that subtle, but vital play in whatever way possible?

Spotlighting great passing goalies

This is the cousin of a great outlet pass from a defenseman. Wouldn’t it be intriguing to see if Martin Brodeur or Marty Turco was involved in more goals than you’d think? Again, the numbers might be very small, but goalie assists are rare enough. Let’s say Brodeur makes a great pass to a defenseman, who sends the puck to a forward and then a goal is scored. Is it unreasonable to say that Brodeur helped make that goal happen?

Seriously, any time you can reward this kind of skill, you should*:

Subtle powerplay wizardry

Perhaps the most common time more than three passers are involved in a goal comes when a team scores on the man advantage. Tic-tac-toe passing is far more plausible when teams are given more space and highly skilled players receive that added incentive to make plays. This could be especially effective in identifying great first-pass powerplay point men such as Sergei Gonchar, Nicklas Lidstrom or Andrei Markov. Let’s not forget that an invisible third assist maker won’t even get the typical plus/minus boost during a PP goal, either.

So, again, this would be a fairly minor stat. It might not even happen every game. That being said, hockey is a sport that could use more simple, easy-to-understand numbers. That’s why I think it would be great if people kept track of a third – or dare I say it, fourth – assists.

* – I know that pass would qualify as a primary assist, but still …

Have a stat you’d like to see? Know of a blog or Web site that already keeps track of this stat or something similar? Feel free to mention that in the comments or message me on Twitter.

Patrick thinks he can make immediate NHL jump with Flyers

2 Comments

The New Jersey Devils opted for Nico Hischier over Nolan Patrick, but time will be the ultimate judge in that debate. The Philadelphia Flyers also might see their guy make a more immediate jump to the NHL.

Patrick made it clear: he wants to go straight from the 2017 NHL Draft to training camp to opening night in 2017-18.

“Yeah, I think after a good summer of training, that’s my goal,” Patrick said.

The second pick of the draft noted not just his size, but also his two-way acumen when explaining why he believes he’s ready for the immediate turnaround. Patrick also brings up an interesting point: he’s already experienced three years of junior. He didn’t come out and say it, but the implication would be that his development might stagnate against lesser competition.

MORE: Check out all 31 first-round picks here

CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio got that same sense from Patrick in a one-on-one interview, and noted that the consensus is that he’ll make a difference from Game 1.

Scouts are unanimous in predicting Patrick will play this season in the NHL. He turns 19 during training camp.

One might read the decision to trade Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues as the Flyers’ way of agreeing that Patrick is probably ready, yet GM Ron Hextall wouldn’t just come out and say it. While praising Patrick, Hextall noted that he’ll need to “get to work” and earn a spot.

The odds seem to be in Patrick’s favor, but perhaps it’s better to see him battle for it.

Either way, don’t expect a long wait.

After major changes, Bowman thinks Blackhawks are in ‘good spot’

1 Comment

CHICAGO — Stan Bowman received a lot of kudos for getting the old Blackhawks defense together for another kick at the can.

But the way it played out, bringing back two aging veterans in Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya was a mistake by the general manager. The magic just couldn’t be recreated, and Chicago was swept in the first round by the Nashville Predators.

Then came the offseason changes. Not just on the blue line, either. Brandon Saad is back, while Artemi Panarin is gone. Marian Hossa is gone, too — a huge loss for the ‘Hawks, even if he can be put on LTIR.

So the forward group is going to look quite different next season.

The blue line could look very different, though. Oduya and Campbell are both unrestricted free agents and may not be back. Trevor van Riemsdyk was lost in the expansion draft. And last but not least, Niklas Hjalmarsson is a Coyote now, traded to Arizona for d-man Connor Murphy.

In other words, of the six defensemen who lost to the Predators, only Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are still under contract in Chicago.

“A lot of stuff going on,” Bowman said Friday at United Center. “Sometimes, change is good. You have to make some tough decisions. But at the same time, we’re really excited about our team next year.”

Much will be expected of Murphy, a 24-year-old who’s been toiling in Arizona anonymity since being drafted 20th overall in 2011.

“Connor’s a little bit of a different player (than Hjalmarsson),” said Bowman. “Obviously, he’s a bit bigger, he plays probably a more physical game. But he’s a good skater and he’s six years younger. It’s really hard to find young defensemen like that. He’s got a great contract, too. He’s a guy we’re going to have for a long time.”

Michal Kempny and Gustav Forsling will also be expected to take on bigger roles in 2017-18.

“It’s up to them to take hold of it, but I think the opportunity is going to be there for them,” said Bowman. “It’s time to give these guys a chance to grow and take on bigger responsibilities.”

Speaking of young defensemen, the Blackhawks added another to their stable Friday, drafting Henri Jokiharju with the 29th overall pick.

“Henri’s a player we’ve been high on all year,” said Bowman. “A right-shot defenseman. Those are a commodity in today’s game. It’s hard to find them. He plays a modern style of hockey. Great skill-set, good skater, can handle the puck, make plays. I guess what you would term the modern-day defenseman.”

As for Bowman, he believes his big moves have been made. He promised changes, and changes he delivered.

“I think we’re in a good spot,” he said.

Related: Blackhawks sign Czech defenseman Jan Rutta

Penguins spend big to get bigger, land Reaves from Blues

Getty
22 Comments

Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said he wanted to add some snarl to protect stars such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. You won’t find many – if any – forces more intimidating than Ryan Reaves.

That’s who the Penguins reportedly acquired in a trade from the St. Louis Blues, who suddenly became very busy toward the end of the 2017 NHL Draft’s first round on Friday.

MORE: Blues acquire Brayden Schenn for Jori Lehtera, picks

Moments ago, Gary Bettman announced the details of the move.

Penguins receive: Reaves, 51st pick of 2017

Blues receive: Oskar Sundqvist, 31st pick of 2017

Penguins’ perspective

Rutherford believed that the NHL was allowing teams to take liberties with star players, particularly Crosby and Malkin. Even after winning consecutive Stanley Cups, it was clearly something important to him.

Rutherford reiterated that thought after the move.

One can debate how much an enforcer such as Reaves really “deters” such behavior, especially since he won’t be on the ice with star players in most close situations. There’s little denying that he’s a fearsome fighter, with six in 2016-17 and as many as 10 in a single season.

Reaves carries a $1.125 million cap hit that expires after 2017-18.

A busy night for Doug Armstrong

Moments ago, the Blues drafted Kim Klostin with the 31st pick, grabbing a player some expected to go much earlier in the first round.

They also acquired Oskar Sundqvist, the 81st pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. The 23-year-old was unable to score a point in 10 games with the Penguins last season, but he was productive in the AHL, scoring 20 goals and 46 points.

Blues GM Doug Armstrong absorbed some serious criticism for protecting Reaves instead of David Perron, but now both players are gone. One would assume that’s likely by design, although it’s also possible that the Penguins simply provided an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Armstrong made another big splash by sending Jori Lehtera and draft picks to the Philadelphia Flyers for Brayden Schenn. Getting the 31st pick was helpful for the Blues after they sent the 27th choice to Philly.

Flyers send Schenn to Blues, take on Lehtera’s contract

5 Comments

Flyers GM Ron Hextall made a big splash at the end of the draft’s first round on Friday night, sending forward Brayden Schenn to St. Louis in exchange for Jori Lehtera, the 27th overall pick and a conditional first-round pick in 2018.

Schenn, 25, is coming off two pretty productive years with the Flyers, in which he scored 26 and 25 goals. He just wrapped the first of a four-year, $20.5 million deal — one that carries a $5.125M cap hit.

It’s a big get for the Blues, who now boast Schenn, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Robby Fabbri, Paul Stastny and Alex Steen at forward.

That hit is largely why Lehtera is on his way to Philly. Coming off a “bad” season in which he struggled with injury and healthy scratches, there was speculation he’d be made available at the expansion draft — which he was — and when he wasn’t selected by Vegas, the likelihood of a trade was high.

Lehtera makes $4.7 million annually, through 2019.

With the 27th overall selection, the Flyers took Sault Ste. Marie center Morgan Frost. Frost finished fourth on the Greyhounds in scoring this year and had a strong playoff, with five goals and 11 points in 11 games. It was the second center Philly scored in the first round, having previously selected Nolan Patrick with the No. 2 overall selection.

And here are the conditions around that ’18 pick: