Scottie Upshall,  Brian Campbell

Panthers’ power play can only improve next season

1 Comment

The Florida Panthers’ jarringly awful power play (and special teams) from last season inspires a lot of questions, but one of the most amusing ones might be: how much worse would things have been without Brian Campbell?

As much as the scoring defenseman gets grief for a still-bloated $7.1 million cap hit, one wonders if he felt strangely alone at times in Florida. He easily led the Panthers’ woeful power play in points with 12 in 2012-13, factoring into a significant chunk of their disastrously low 27 total power-play tallies.

One way or another, that number should climb next season unless baffling things happen once again.

Comically bad

The Panthers were far behind even the second worst unit for sheer goal scoring on the power play, as the Buffalo Sabres settled for 36. The Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks are the only other teams who fell short of 40 (both finished with 39). Not surprisingly, Florida’s pitiful 10 percent success rate was easily the worst in the NHL.

Now, some will – reasonably – explain these problems away by noting the Panthers’ lack of on-paper talent.

That’s understandable, yet some of the numbers argue that Florida is likely to rebound from that 2012-13 level of “moribund” to merely just bad (or maybe even good if things swing the Panthers’ way). Based on some numbers from the now-defunct stats site Extra Skater, here are a few intriguing facts:

  • The Panthers’ shooting percentage on the power play was easily the NHL’s worst at 7.6 percent. No other team was below 9.3. If the Panthers merely enjoyed that second-worst percentage, they would have scored six more goals. That’s not going to propel them to a playoff berth, yet it would certainly leave them at far less of a disadvantage.
  • Florida generated 669 “Corsi For” events on the power play, good for 21st in the NHL. That indicates that they were at least creating a respectable amount of chances … at least compared to those absolutely abysmal totals.

Gallant’s opportunity

What does this all say?

The Panthers have a strong chance of being better merely by better luck, but new head coach Gerard Gallant could look brilliant if things roll his way. There’s reason to believe that the team will improve thanks to a combination of busy offseason signings and the maturation of young players like Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov. If Gallant (or a plucky assistant) can help that group generate better-than-average chances, people might start to get some hype for a “brilliant turnaround.”

***

It’s easy to dismiss the impact of special teams and just as easy to underrate how much that area can impact a league noted for its parity. An improved power play wouldn’t guarantee a leap for the Panthers next season … but it’s hard to imagine them being hindered by such an awful unit like they were in 2012-13.

Then again, they could also trade Campbell and make that prediction a little less confident …

Related: Panthers’ owner uncertain of future in Florida

NHL on NBCSN: Avs take on Flyers in what could be Duchene’s last game with Colorado

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 08:  Matt Duchene #9 of the Colorado Avalanche takes the puck as Nick Schultz #55 of the Philadelphia Flyers defends on November 8, 2014 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Gett
Leave a comment

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Philadelphia Flyers host the Colorado Avalanche at 7:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

We’re just over a day away from the NHL trade deadline and the picture is becoming clearer when it comes to who the serious buyers are and who the serious sellers are.

When it comes to the Avalanche, there’s no doubt that they’re going to be looking to move veterans between now and Wednesday, but will the Flyers go in the same direction?

Philadelphia enters tonight’s game trailing the Maple Leafs by six points for the final Wild Card spot in the East. That’s not an insurmountable numbers of points, but they need to leap over four teams to get there, and let’s just say the Flyers aren’t exactly playing their best hockey right now.

They’re coming off a 4-2 loss to the Penguins in last Saturday’s outdoor game and they have just two wins in their last nine contests.

“Everybody’s a little frustrated right now, and we can’t be pointing fingers,” captain Claude Giroux said, per Philly.com. “Everybody needs to be a little bit better. Everybody needs to give a little more.”

“We like our team. The locker room is great. It’s hard for me to tell you guys we like our team when the results aren’t there. But we like the way we play, and we like the way we play as a team, and I really think we can do great things.”

This will be Philadelphia’s final game before the deadline and you’d have to think GM Ron Hextall is leaning strongly towards selling, but would a win tonight change things?

With the amount of prospects they have coming through the pipeline and  with pending unrestricted free agents like Mark Streit, Michael Del Zotto, Nick Schultz, Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth on the roster, there’s a good chance Hextall will look to move some bodies.

If there’s some doubt as to whether are not the Flyers will sell, there’s none when it comes to the Avalanche.

Colorado has put together a horrendous year, as they’ve accumulated just 17 wins and 37 points to this point. Not many people expected them to be in the playoffs this year, but no one thought they’d be this bad either.

Like the Flyers, the Avs have some veterans they’d like to unload (Jarome Iginla, John Mitchell, Rene Bourque and Fedor Tyutin just to name a few), but it’s the names with term remaining that are making headlines in Denver.

With time winding down before the deadline, will GM Joe Sakic be able to find a suitable offer for either Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog?

It appears unlikely that either of those guys will move. Those kind of trades are nearly impossible to make around deadline day. If another team is willing to pay the reported asking price of three to four young assets, including a defenseman who could slot into Colorado’s lineup right away, maybe we see it happen.

“I have no control over anything. Just whatever happens, happens,” Duchene said on Monday, per the Denver Post. “I don’t know what’s coming. But we’ll see. Obviously, I’m prepared for anything, but right now I’m just focusing on getting to Philly tonight and preparing for the game tomorrow.

“It’s hard to look past three days right now. I can’t really look past that because I just don’t know where I’m going to be. So we’ll see what happens.”

Things should get pretty interesting in Colorado over the next 30 hours.

Related:

Streit and Del Zotto could get Flyers something at deadline

Stadium Series loss to Pens could push Flyers to sell at deadline

Trade Rumblings: Isles interested in Matt Duchene

PHT Morning Skate: Winnik family explains what it’s like to be traded on deadline day

1 Comment

–The Toronto Maple Leafs surprised some when they sacrificed a second round draft pick to acquire Brian Boyle from Tampa, but The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell believes it’s a good trade for them even if they fail to make the playoffs. (The Hockey News)

–Zach Dalpe was thrilled when he found out he had been claimed off waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets, but there’s a problem. The move isn’t ideal for him because he and his wife are expecting their first child any day now. “It’s our first kid. I take pride in being there when the baby is born, and she could pop any day now. When I told her the news today, it was pretty emotional. She wanted to come to Cleveland, but there’s no way she can travel. I told her we’re just going to have to weather this storm.” (Columbus Dispatch)

–If you think Brent Burns and Joe Thornton have impressive beards, you need to see this Capitals fan’s facial hair. His beard is so long, he’s able to spell out “CAPS” with it. You have to see it to believe it. (BarDown)

–On Monday night, the Minnesota Wild defeated the Los Angeles Kings in overtime thanks to this incredible goal by Mikael Granlund. You can watch his insane individual effort by clicking the video at the top of the page (you’re going to want to watch that more than once).

–CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty predicts the Boston Bruins will end their two-year playoff drought this season. Haggerty points to the team’s response to the hiring of Bruce Cassidy as the main reason why he sees them playing deeper into April. Haggerty writes: “Clearly they’re playing with more urgency, higher compete levels, and a consistent focus that wasn’t there in the first 55 games under Claude Julien. They’ve now scored first-period goals in nine straight games and scored first in each of the four games on the highly successful Western swing through San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Dallas over the last week.” (CSN New England)

–Being traded is never easy, but if it happens to you often enough, you can learn to deal with it a little bit better. Just ask Capitals forward Daniel Winnik, who has been dealt on four different occasions. He and his wife Taylor were forced to move from Toronto to Washington at this time last year and it was total madness. “The first thing he did was go to our storage unit and grab all of the giant plastic bins we have for all of our stuff, and he just started jamming every kitchen supply you can imagine into these things. He kind of went crazy trying to get it done.” (Washington Post)

–Almost every team wants their general manager to add a piece or two via trade at this time of year, but not the Pittsburgh Penguins. They feel like they can win another Stanley Cup with the roster they have in place. The only thing Sidney Crosby wants to see them do is increase their desperation level. “I think as a group, we want to find another level,” Crosby said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. I think it’s a mindset. We’re getting there. As far as execution-wise, maybe we haven’t quite been there. But I think our desperation level is starting to climb a little bit. You see it kind of late in games and things like that.” (Pittsburgh Tribune)

Early thoughts – and praise – for Capitals landing Kevin Shattenkirk

7 Comments

Jaws dropped around the hockey world when news broke that the Washington Capitals landed Kevin Shattenkirk in a blockbuster trade. Heads were then scratched as people tried to make sense of the “conditions” of a conditional second-rounder involved in the move.

With a little time for the smoke to clear and with the assets revealed, here are some scattered thoughts.

PHT will likely cover more of the fallout on Tuesday and beyond, though, so stay tuned.

Brian MacLellan deserves consideration as a top GM

Judging an executive can be really tricky; while a GM of the Year award is easy to justify, it’s also easy to mock. Even the best managers inherit a roster (aside from MacLellan’s predecessor George McPhee, who will build one in Vegas), so you have to credit some successes to the guy who came before.

And, yes, McPhee helped put together a core that includes Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby and Nicklas Backstrom.

Even so, MacLellan evokes Stan Bowman in masterfully adding tremendous electrons to a fantastic nucleus.

He added Matt Niskanen (and, admittedly, flubbed it with Brooks Orpik) to beef up a defense to help the shrewd hiring of Barry Trotz as head coach. Trotz seems like he’s ending what was a busy procession of shaky bench bosses.

MacLellan really nailed it the next summer, trading for T.J. Oshie and signing Justin Williams to a bargain deal. A year later, the Capitals added a fantastic third-line center option in Lars Eller via a smart trade.

And now this. It’s not clear where Kevin Shattenkirk will fit in the Capitals’ lineup, but either way, he boosts an already formidable group.

Misc.

Let’s lightning round some other thoughts.

  • Scottie Upshall joked about all the one-timers Shattenkirk is primed to set up for Alex Ovechkin … but he has a point.
  • It’s difficult to imagine the Capitals re-signing Shattenkirk, putting continued emphasis on the talk of Washington being in the last season of a “two-year window” to make their greatest push for a Stanley Cup. At the same time, there aren’t a lot of problem contracts beyond Orpik’s in Washington, so the plus side is that MacLellan can also show how he might be Bowman-like in making the right calls in who to bring back. Make no mistake about it, getting Shattenkirk is about now, not later.
  • Oh yeah the Capitals also got a nice sneaky bonus in landing Pheonix Copley, who better have the nickname “typo.”

All things considered, it’s no surprise that the Capitals are excited.

There’s at least a chance Shattenkirk might be able to suit up for Washington as soon as Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, but either way, this sure looks like a slam dunk.

Wild just wouldn’t stay down, edge Kings in OT

11 Comments

Don’t blame Ben Bishop if, deep down, he was glad that he didn’t make his Los Angeles Kings debut on Monday.

After seeing the kind of speed, drive and all-around electric play displayed by the Minnesota Wild, you can understand a goalie shuddering at the often wide-open action. Despite falling behind four times against the Kings, the Wild ultimately edged Los Angeles 5-4 in an overtime thriller.

Mikael Granlund‘s 20th goal of the season ended it in OT, and quickly. And it was beautiful:

…. Unless you’re Jonathan Quick and the Kings, that is.

Granlund is absolutely on fire right now.

Ryan White made a great first impression for the Wild, scoring a goal and an assist (while displaying great flow). Martin Hanzal wasn’t able to score, though he did make his presence felt with five hits. And, again, Bishop might have secretly been relieved to put his Kings debut on hold.

Marian Gaborik turned back the clock a bit to his Wild prime, scoring a goal and an assist. He generally made quite a bit happen for Los Angeles.

It was a tough one for Anze Kopitar, meanwhile, who was unable to generate offense and suffered a -3. He wasn’t able to stop Granlund in OT, though who could?

The Wild still must worry as mumps sidelined at least Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, but for now, they’re battling on. Just ask the Kings how resilient this group really is.