The NHL’s best and worst special teams units during the 2010-11 season

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The Boston Bruins’ Stanley Cup run was impressive in many ways. One of the things that made it truly remarkable was that they raised the silver chalice even while dealing with some serious special teams issues, especially on their power play (at least in the first three rounds of the postseason). It seemed like quite a few teams struggled in that area in the 2011 playoffs, but over the long haul, strong special teams units usually lead to success.

At least, it would seem that way, but the only route to test that theory is to actually look at the numbers. So far on this stat-heavy Saturday, we took a look at Power Play Plus/Minus and Penalty Kill Plus/Minus for all 30 NHL teams in the 2010-11 season.

In order to put it all together, it might be best to look at Special Teams Plus/Minus. The formula is quite simple: take Power Play Plus/Minus (PP goals scored minus shorthanded goals allowed) and then subtract it by Penalty Kill Plus/Minus (PP goals allowed minus shorthanded goals scored). Let’s take a look at which teams had the best and worst overall special teams units, according to “ST +/-.”

Stat categories: special teams plus/minus, power play plus/minus, PP opportunities, PP goals, shorthanded goals allowed, penalty kill plus/minus, times shorthanded, PP goals allowed and SH goals scored.

Team ST +/- PP+/- PP Opp PPG SHGA PK +/- TS PPGA SHG
VAN 31 70 296 72 2 -39 312 45 6
CHI 13 60 277 64 4 -47 255 53 6
NYR 13 44 290 49 5 -31 257 42 11
DET 12 60 301 67 7 -48 300 53 5
PIT 11 43 311 49 6 -32 324 45 13
SJS 11 61 289 68 7 -50 274 56 6
ANA 10 60 285 67 7 -50 305 57 7
NYI 8 45 302 52 7 -37 310 52 15
CGY 7 53 318 62 9 -46 282 53 7
STL 7 51 279 52 1 -44 279 51 7
CAR 5 49 346 55 6 -44 272 51 7
LAK 5 41 292 47 6 -36 276 40 4
MTL 5 51 290 57 6 -46 327 51 5
TBL 5 53 336 69 16 -48 302 49 1
WSH 5 41 263 46 5 -36 299 43 7
BOS 3 38 265 43 5 -35 265 46 11
NSH 3 39 269 41 2 -36 272 41 5
PHI 3 44 295 49 5 -41 313 54 13
MIN 0 46 292 53 7 -46 308 53 7
OTT -1 41 257 45 4 -42 294 48 6
DAL -5 40 306 55 15 -45 277 55 10
FLA -7 30 267 35 5 -37 267 41 4
BUF -8 41 279 54 13 -49 300 51 2
NJD -11 26 237 34 8 -37 241 40 3
TOR -13 44 326 52 8 -57 275 62 5
ATL -15 43 289 53 10 -58 285 64 6
PHX -19 40 289 46 6 -59 296 64 5
EDM -24 42 304 44 2 -66 321 74 8
CBJ -25 31 301 42 11 -56 314 62 6
COL -29 38 265 49 11 -67 314 75 8

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The Canucks enjoyed by far the best overall special teams play in 2010-11, which follows reasonable logic since they dominated the regular season. The only area where you can truly beat up the Canucks is in the amount of penalties they took, which some pointed out when GM Mike Gillis complained about the disparity in whistles during the team’s first round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The eighth-ranked Islanders were the best non-playoff team (+8) while the Coyotes made the playoffs despite the fourth worst special teams (-19). Seven teams had a +10 rating or higher while seven teams rounded out the bottom of the pack with a -10 rating or lower.

Tin foil hat time

As a bonus, I thought I’d court the conspiracy theory-loving crowd by looking at the teams who enjoyed the greatest (or suffered from the worst) disparity between the power play opportunities they received and the penalties they took. For the sake of simplicity, those amounts are listed as “ST opp +/-” or special teams opportunity plus/minus.

Stat categories: special teams opportunity plus/minus, power play opportunities and time shorthanded.

Team ST Opp +/- PP Opp TS
CAR 74 346 272
TOR 51 326 275
CGY 36 318 282
TBL 34 336 302
NYR 33 290 257
DAL 29 306 277
CHI 22 277 255
LAK 16 292 276
SJS 15 289 274
ATL 4 289 285
DET 1 301 300
BOS 0 265 265
FLA 0 267 267
STL 0 279 279
NSH -3 269 272
NJD -4 237 241
PHX -7 289 296
NYI -8 302 310
CBJ -13 301 314
PIT -13 311 324
MIN -16 292 308
VAN -16 296 312
EDM -17 304 321
PHI -18 295 313
ANA -20 285 305
BUF -21 279 300
WSH -36 263 299
MTL -37 290 327
OTT -37 257 294
COL -49 265 314

***

Here are a few throwaway thoughts (feel free to share your favorite conspiracy theories in the comments).

  • As if the Hurricanes didn’t need more reasons to kick themselves for missing the playoffs … they received a staggering 74 more power play opportunities than penalties in 2010-11.
  • Interestingly enough, the top three teams (Canes, Maple Leafs and Flames) didn’t make the postseason. Their special teams coaches probably won’t link to this post on an online resume.
  • The Lightning might want to rank “special teams” right behind “defense” on their list of needed improvements for next season.
  • The Capitals suffered from the third-worst disparity, but the team’s transition can be seen in the fact that both categories are under 300.
  • The Bruins, Panthers and Blues were the only teams to have exactly the same amount of penalties and power plays in 10-11.

***

OK, so those two tables provide some interesting special teams bits to chew on. If you’d like us to delve into previous seasons a bit, feel free to let us know in the comments. (We’ll probably take a deeper look at that special teams opportunities bit, if nothing else.)

Click here for Power Play Plus/Minus.

Click here for Penalty Kill Plus/Minus.

Blues re-sign goalie Binnington

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Jordan Binnington, the netminder taken 88th overall by the Blues in 2011, has signed a one-year, two-way extension, the club announced on Friday.

Binnington, 24, has played almost exclusively with St. Louis’ AHL affiliate since turning pro four years ago, though he did spend some time in the ECHL.

Last year he worked alongside Ville Husso and Pheonix Copley in the Wolves’ goal, and will likely do so again with Husso moving forward (Copley was traded to Washington as part of the Kevin Shattenkirk deal.)

Binnington’s NHL body of work is brief — one 13-minute relief appearance during the ’15-16 campaign. Right now he’s jockeying with Husso to be the organization’s No. 3 netminder, a potential call-up should either Jake Allen or Carter Hutton get hurt.

Chris Neil wants a one-way deal, and says he’s received offers

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Here’s what we know about veteran tough guy Chris Neil.

He won’t be back in Ottawa, the city where he’s spent his entire 15-year career. But he does want to keep playing. What’s more, he’s not ready to accept a two-way deal or training camp PTO, because offers for a one-way deal have already come in.

“The offers I’ve had so far haven’t been [two way or PTO]. They’ve been a one-way deal,” the 37-year-old forward said, per the Ottawa Sun. “For me, that’s what I’d be looking for.

“It’s up in the air right now. There’s some interest. There’s some teams you’d prefer over others.”

Neil was informed by the Sens last month that he wouldn’t be brought back next season, which marked the end of an era. Ottawa took Neil in the sixth round of the 1998 draft, and he made his NHL debut three years later. He went on to become one of the club’s most recognizable players, in large part to his pugilistic ways — during the 2003-04 campaign, he fought a remarkable 24 times.

That trademark toughness could be something teams are interested in bringing aboard. There were rumblings St. Louis was eyeing him after trading Ryan Reaves to Pittsburgh, with Fox Sports Midwest reporting that Neil had three offers on the table.

If there’s one thing that’s for certain, it’s that Neil believes he can still play. After learning that he wouldn’t be brought back to the Canadian capital, he had some choice words for Sens head coach Guy Boucher and the perceived lack of opportunity Boucher afforded him.

“I have a lot of respect for Randy [Lee, Sens assistant GM] and Pierre [Dorion, GM] … I think, if it was up to them, I’d be back,” Neil explained, per the Citizen. “But they kind of put it in the coach’s hands and that had a lot to do with it. For whatever reason, Guy [Boucher] never really gave me the chance to show I can play.

“Even before I got hurt, I was a healthy scratch for a couple of games and I saw the writing on the wall.”

After tough year in Florida, Smith ready to reunite with ‘players-first’ Gallant

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For Reilly Smith, the anticipation of playing for Las Vegas next season goes beyond playing for the league’s newest team.

It’s also about playing for his old coach, Gerard Gallant.

“I think he kind of embodies the motto that it’s a players-first league and everything kind of revolves around that,” Smith said, per the Golden Knights website. “I know particularly last year in the Florida Panthers organization, there was a lot of change and things going on and I know one of the main messages that he always put forth was that whatever goes on outside, make sure you guys are a tight-knit group inside and play for each other.

“That was one thing that he definitely tried to convey to the team and try to get us to rally behind.”

Smith’s time in Florida was a two-part tale.

After coming over from Boston as part of the Jimmy Hayes swap — Marc Savard’s contract was also shipped to Florida — Smith had a terrific ’15-16 campaign under Gallant, posting career highs in goals (25) while helping the Panthers qualify for the playoffs.

In the postseason, he was a consistent scoring threat, finishing the series with four goals and eight points in six games.

Year two wasn’t nearly as successful.

Gallant was fired early on — controversially so — and Smith’s production dropped off. He ended with just 15 goals and 37 points, disappointing figures that were exacerbated by the big five-year, $25 million extension he signed in the offseason.

Reading between the lines, fair to suggest Smith struggled with the coaching change from Gallant to Tom Rowe. Things came to a head in early March, when Rowe called out Smith following a loss to Dallas.

On the Stars’ first goal, Smith seemed to lose his man in front of the net. Rowe was asked about it, and responded.

“We went over that exact play in team meeting and we haven’t learned our lesson yet,” he said. “That is the problem.”

Rowe wasn’t done there. Later, he was asked about Dallas’ winning goal, which may have been deflected in off a skate. The criticism went back to Smith.

“I don’t know,” said Rowe. “All I know is Reilly Smith was blowing the zone doing exactly what he is not supposed to be doing.”

Smith will certainly be a guy to watch this season. He’s still only 26 years old, looking for a bounce back, and noted that Gallant gave him the opportunity to play a larger role than he had with the Bruins (and, prior to that, the Stars).

One wonders if that’ll happen again, this time in Vegas.

Subban ‘can’t really envision’ Habs without Markov

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The Montreal Canadiens’ defense looks a lot different than it did two years ago.

For the second offseason in a row, the Canadiens have walked away from a seemingly important puck-moving defenseman. Last summer, they traded P.K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber, and yesterday they announced that they were parting ways with Andrei Markov.

Markov and Subban played a lot of minutes together during their time time in Montreal. The two even became good friends (Subban attended Markov’s wedding earlier this month).

Needless to say, when Subban found out that Markov wasn’t going to be returning to the Canadiens, he was pretty surprised.

“I can’t really envision the Montreal Canadiens without Andrei Markov on the blue line. That’s No. 1. Even before I played for the team, I watched him play for the team and be their best defenseman,” The Preds defenseman told NHL.com’s Arpon Basu. “Even while I was there, I still thought he was our best defenseman, even though a lot of people thought because of what I got paid it was me. You can’t really put a price tag on how he plays because he’s so smart, the way he sees the ice.”

With those two players no longer on the team, it’ll be interesting to see who moves the puck for the Habs. Shea Weber is still playing at a high level, but carrying the puck up the ice isn’t his strongest attribute.

GM Marc Bergevin added Mark Streit, Karl Alzner and David Schlemko this offseason, but none of those guys can do the things Markov is capable of doing when it comes to moving the puck efficiently.

Is there another move on the horizon?

Well, Montreal has a huge hole on the left side of their defense and they have over $8 million in cap space. Maybe there is something brewing.

Related:

Andrei Markov opts for KHL after saying goodbye to Canadiens

Habs president pens glowing farewell letter to Markov

Habs sign Streit–is he Markov’s replacement?