Mike Smith

The Big Question: How much has Dave Tippett’s defensive system affected Mike Smith’s stats?


The Big Question will be a weekly feature on PHT where we ask a question, provide some background and ask you, the reader, to weigh in with your opinions.

Today’s question: How much has Dave Tippett’s defensive system affected Mike Smith’s stats?

Coyotes goalie Mike Smith was named the NHL’s first star of the week today, and deservedly so. The 29-year-old has surrendered just three goals in his last four games, all of them Phoenix victories.

In fact, Smith has been solid all season. His .925 save percentage ranks fourth among regular starters – not bad for a guy the Lightning let walk away this summer. On July 1, Smith agreed to a modest two-year, $4 million contract with Phoenix to replace Ilya Bryzgalov, one of the league’s top goalies in his last two seasons with the Coyotes.

Speaking of which…while Smith has prospered, Bryzgalov has struggled after signing with the Flyers for nine years and $51 million. Philly’s big-money goalie has some of the worst numbers (.900 save percentage) among regular starters.

Back to the Coyotes, who for the last three seasons have been coached by Dave Tippett while employing a style of hockey that could nicely be described as conservative and not so nicely described as boring. Phoenix doesn’t run and gun, focusing instead on playing solid team defense and pouncing on turnovers to create scoring chances.

Theoretically, a team that plays a conservative style will surrender fewer quality shots as a percentage of total shots against. Players are less likely to get caught on the wrong side of the puck, and with more players behind the puck, opponents have more players to beat on the attack. As a result, opponents will often have to settle for shots from the perimeter, ones that are more easily stopped by the goalie.

(Here’s some good analysis of shot location affecting save percentage when the Minnesota Wild were coached by Jacques Lemaire, one of the most conservative coaches in recent NHL history.)

So go have it in the comments section. Are Smith’s stats a product of the team in front of him, or is that being unfair to Smith?

Update: Wisniewski tore ACL 47 seconds into ‘Canes debut

James Wisniewski, John-Michael Liles, Elias Lindholm
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Last night, we passed along news that veteran d-man James Wisniewski — acquired from Carolina at the draft — suffered what looked to be a serious injury just 47 seconds into his ‘Canes debut, and was ruled out for the remainder of the night.

Now, he’s been ruled out for a lot longer than that.

From the club:

Ron Francis, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that defenseman James Wisniewski will undergo surgery on his left knee after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during Thursday night’s game in Nashville.

Recovery time for the injury is estimated at six months.

This is, obviously, a tough development for both player and club. The ‘Canes were counting on Wisniewski to be a regular contributor on defense this year, and help improve last year’s middle-of-the-pack power play.

Wisniewski, meanwhile, was looking to bounce back from a disappointing ’14-15 campaign. He was shipped out of Columbus at the deadline to Anaheim but never made an impact for the Ducks, failing to see any playoff action as Anaheim made it all the way to the Western Conference final.

Jordan Weal to make NHL debut for Kings

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Two days after an uninspiring performance versus San Jose, the Los Angeles Kings will be getting an injection of youthful enthusiasm tonight versus Arizona.

Coach Darryl Sutter confirmed today that Jordan Weal will make his NHL debut at Staples Center.

A 23-year-old center, Weal is expected to replace Andy Andreoff and skate between Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan on the fourth line.

“It’s really exciting,” Weal told LA Kings Insider. “A lot of work has gone into getting to this part of my career, and the hard work’s just going to continue. It’s going to keep going, and I’m trying to do as much as I can in this game and keep improving from this game moving forward in trying to solidify a solid spot in the lineup.”

The 70th overall pick in 2010, Weal had 69 points in 73 games last season for AHL Manchester.

Related: Jordan Weal is looking to make the leap