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Wrong side of the whistle: NHL teams hit hardest by penalties

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Earlier this week, PHT looked at the teams who tend to go on the power play far more often than they enter the penalty box, with the San Jose Sharks clearly leading the way. By a lot.

What about the other end of the spectrum? Well, it depends upon how you look at things.

Most time in the box

Chalk it up to strong coaching, great goaltending, or other factors, but some teams are hit harder by poor discipline than others.

Let’s start off in looking at sheer volume of penalty box trips, with help from NHL.com’s many handy stats.

Team Times shorthanded PPGA
1 Anaheim Ducks 281 43
2 Calgary Flames 277 51
3 Winnipeg Jets 275 62
4 Colorado Avalanche 274 64
5 Washington Capitals 272 44
6 Boston Bruins 265 38
7 St. Louis Blues 263 40
8 Arizona Coyotes 260 59
9 New Jersey Devils 260 53
10 Tampa Bay Lightning 258 48
11 Pittsburgh Penguins 257 52
12 Toronto Maple Leafs 251 44
13 Dallas Stars 249 65
14 Montréal Canadiens 249 47
15 Philadelphia Flyers 247 50

As you can see, the Ducks were shorthanded more than any other NHL team. Even so, they only allowed 43 power-play goals in 2016-17, tying them with the Edmonton Oilers for the 10th-fewest given up.

What if you expand the view beyond last season and look at how teams fared since the lockout? You got it, and in this case, here are numbers for all 30 NHL teams.

TEAM GP TS PPGA
Winnipeg Jets 376 1294 256
Arizona/Phx Coyotes 376 1284 284
Anaheim Ducks 376 1277 210
Philadelphia Flyers 376 1275 236
Detroit Red Wings 376 1253 230
Ottawa Senators 376 1242 236
Washington Capitals 376 1241 219
St. Louis Blues 376 1239 188
Blue Jackets 376 1229 227
New Jersey Devils 376 1225 218
Los Angeles Kings 376 1224 213
Montréal Canadiens 376 1222 213
Toronto Maple Leafs 376 1214 223
Pittsburgh Penguins 376 1212 206
Boston Bruins 376 1205 194
Colorado Avalanche 376 1205 236
Tampa Bay Lightning 376 1197 213
Dallas Stars 376 1193 241
Vancouver Canucks 376 1181 210
Florida Panthers 376 1176 243
Buffalo Sabres 376 1164 243
Edmonton Oilers 376 1151 221
Nashville Predators 376 1097 218
New York Islanders 376 1084 211
Calgary Flames 376 1082 215
New York Rangers 376 1081 197
Chicago Blackhawks 376 1044 192
Minnesota Wild 376 1040 193
San Jose Sharks 376 1037 190
Carolina Hurricanes 376 998 173

The Arizona Coyotes are easily the most assaulted by the broader numbers, which makes sense since they’ve dealt with some of the leanest years. The Buffalo Sabres are fittingly in the top ranks by similar logic.

It’s more interesting to consider teams who seem to go to the box more based (arguably) on style, and who suffers from poor PK units the most.

Remarkably, the Ducks once again find themselves in the lower third of the NHL as far as goals allowed, even though they take a lot of penalties.

Unfortunately for Anaheim, those wild ways hurt them when it mattered the most. They gave up a whopping 15 power-play goals during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, easily the most of the postseason. (Somehow, Nashville only allowed seven while the Penguins won it all despite yielding 12.)

Other observations

Let’s rattle off a few other notes, then.

Calm Hurricanes- The Hurricanes have already been tabbed as a team that could break through soon. If they can keep up their tendency to avoid penalties, they really might be onto something.

They’re the only team under 1,000 times shorthanded in that list above. Meanwhile, they join the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings as the only three teams with less than 100 major penalties since the last lockout.

It’s no surprise, then, that the Hurricanes allowed the fewest power-play goals with 173 during that span.

Hitchcock the key for Stars turnaround?- That said, the Blues stand out as the most efficient PK unit of that span.

Here are the top seven PK percentages from 2012-13 to 2016-17, with PPG allowed and times shorthanded:

1. Blues – 84.8 percent (188 allowed on 1,239 TS)
2. Bruins – 83.9 (194 allowed, 1,205)
3. Ducks – 83.5 (210 allowed, 1,277)
4. Penguins – 83 (206 allowed, 1,212)
5. Hurricanes – 82.7 (173 allowed, 998)
6 (t) Kings – 82.6 (213 allowed, 1,224)
6 (t) Canadiens – 82.6 (213 allowed, 1,222)

Meanwhile, the Coyotes, Sabres, Panthers and Stars are the only teams under an 80-percent kill rate.

A lot can go into a unit being successful or unsuccessful. Even so, could Ken Hitchcock whip the Dallas Stars into shape? It’s at least a possibility.

Carlyle loves the rough stuff- Randy Carlyle might be a changed man in Anaheim, but he still loves his ruffians.

If you look at teams with the most major penalties in individual seasons since the lockout, Carlyle-helmed teams dominated the top list:

1. His 2013-14 Maple Leafs (48 majors)
2. His 2012-13 Maple Leafs, with 46 majors in just 48 games.
Tied for third: Last season’s Ducks, with 46 in 82 games.

Now, it’s true that Bruce Boudreau’s 2015-16 Ducks were pretty ornery with 43 majors of their own, but it does seem like Carlyle is OK with a bit of carnage either way.

On the other end, there are five seasons’ worth of teams under 10 majors for a full campaign.

Penguins (2015-16) and Red Wings (2013-14) – nine majors
Red Wings in 2014-15 and 2015-16 – eight majors
Fittingly, Hurricanes in 2016-17: six majors.

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Much like with most studies in an age of parity, the majority of teams seem to fall in the middle when looking at penalties (either from a pessimistic or optimistic standpoint).

Interestingly, there are teams that can survive their own mistakes and others who aren’t always exploiting their advantages, but perhaps we’ll see changes in 2017-18 and beyond?

Plenty of opportunity on revamped Blackhawks defense

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For almost a decade, Niklas Hjalmarsson was a mainstay on the Blackhawks’ back end, quietly providing some of the most effective defense in the league.

But with Hjalmarsson in Arizona now, traded to the Coyotes for the younger-though-less-proven Connor Murphy, it remains to be seen how Chicago’s blue line will roll out next season.

In addition to Hjalmarsson, the ‘Hawks also bid adieu to Brian Campbell, Johnny Oduya, and Trevor van Riemsdyk this offseason.

Add up all the good-byes, and that’s a lot of minutes to replace.

“We’re going to see when we’re putting the pairs together, whether we’re going to reunite [Duncan Keith] and [Brent Seabrook] or look for some balance,” head coach Joel Quenneville said, per CSN Chicago. “There are a lot of options. We’ll look forward to that and sorting it out.”

The way it looks right now, the top four will be comprised of Keith, Seabrook, Murphy, and Michal Kempny. That’s two left shots — Keith and Kempny — and two righties — Seabrook and Murphy.

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

The bottom pairing, though, is anyone’s guess. Newly signed Czech defenseman Jan Rutta is in the mix. But so too are Jordan Oesterle, Gustav Forsling, Ville Pokka, Erik Gustafsson, Viktor Svedberg, and possibly even Luc Snuggerud.

Once training camp starts, it’ll be up to those young players to prove themselves.

“Just the amount of opportunity that is in front of me just drives me even more,” said Oesterle, whom the ‘Hawks signed July 1. “I want to be here and force their hand to keep me here.”

Veteran Michal Rozsival is also under contract for next season. However, he turns 39 in September, and with all that youth champing at the bit, the Blackhawks will be hoping they won’t need him much, if at all.

Chicago’s defense in 2016-17, ranked by total time on ice

Sheary’s agent — who’s also Dumoulin’s agent — hoping to avoid arbitration

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Conor Sheary‘s agent is hopeful that an arbitration hearing won’t be needed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And that same agent has reason to be optimistic, since he’s also the agent for Brian Dumoulin, who settled at the last minute today.

“Each (case) is so different,” Andrew Gross told the Post-Gazette this morning. “Ultimately, though, team and player would like to avoid going in that room. It’s not a pleasant experience.”

Sheary’s hearing isn’t scheduled until Aug. 4. The 25-year-old forward is coming off a 53-point regular season. In his young NHL career, he’s already won two Stanley Cups.

That said, the Penguins can’t afford to break the bank on an extension. After all, a big reason for their success has been having players like Sheary on affordable deals — a necessity with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Kris Letang taking up so much cap space.

Sheary wasn’t all that productive in the 2017 playoffs either, scoring just two goals with five assists in 22 games, while finishing a team-worst minus-5 for the postseason.

“We’re prepared to go to arbitration,” Pens GM Jim Rutherford said last week.

Of course, Rutherford was also speaking about Dumoulin, and the two sides were able to reach an agreement on him.

You can probably expect a similar outcome with Sheary.

Just don’t bet the house on it.

Preds avoid arbitration with Austin Watson

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Another narrowly avoided arbitration to pass along.

The Nashville Predators have signed forward Austin Watson to a three-year, $3.3 million contract that will pay him $1 million next season, $1.1 million in 2018-19 and $1.2 million in 2019-20.

Watson’s hearing was scheduled for today.

From the press release:

Watson, 25 (1/13/92), set career highs in goals (5), assists (7), points (12), penalty minutes (99) and games played (77) during the 2016-17 season as he established himself as an integral member of the Nashville roster. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound winger then added four goals and nine points in 22 postseason contests as the Predators advanced to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Watson also appeared in 57 games for the Predators during the 2015-16 season, recording three goals and 10 points.

The Pittsburgh Penguins also avoided an arbitration hearing today by signing defenseman Brian Dumoulin to a six-year contract.

Spooner seeking $3.85 million in arbitration

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Ryan Spooner‘s arbitration hearing with the Boston Bruins is scheduled for Wednesday. And if it goes ahead, it could be a rather contentious one.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Spooner is seeking $3.85 million on a one-year deal, while the B’s are thinking almost half that at $2 million.

Spooner, a 25-year-old forward, will certainly be able to sell his offensive statistics. He had 49 points in 2015-16, then 39 points last season.

“Ryan’s a talented player,” said GM Don Sweeney, per CSNNE.com. “He’s had a lot of success. Our power play is better when he plays as well as he’s capable of playing, and he can really be a good complement to our group.”

But the knock on Spooner has always been his defensive play. The past two seasons, he’s a combined minus-17. Back in May, it was reported that the B’s were entertaining trade offers for him.

Spooner’s last contract paid him $1.9 million over two years.