Tag: Shea Weber


If Rinne can stay healthy, could the Preds surprise?


Hockey teams that don’t score a ton of goals can’t afford to get below-average goaltending.

Unfortunately for the Nashville Predators, that’s been the case the past two seasons, as their star netminder, Pekka Rinne, has battled hip issues that have either kept him out of the lineup or adversely affected his play.

Hence, the relief in Music City that Rinne’s hip “feels great” heading into 2014-15.

“I had a good summer,” the 31-year-old said yesterday, per The Tennessean. “I worked hard and stayed healthy. I’m just really excited for this upcoming season. I feel like I’m ready to go.”

In 2013-14, the Preds’ team save percentage finished at .902, the fifth lowest in the NHL. The season before, the number was even lower, at .900. Both times Nashville missed the playoffs.

The Preds would love to see their team save percentage back to around the levels it was in 2010-11 (.924) and 2011-12 (.919), both playoff seasons.

But despite Rinne’s excitement, expectations for the Preds are generally low, as evidenced by online sportsbook Bovada recently setting their 2014-15 point total at just 76.5. (Only Calgary, Florida, and Buffalo had lower totals.)

This is a team that has the potential to surprise, however. It has a Vezina Trophy-caliber goalie in Rinne and a Norris Trophy-caliber defenseman in Shea Weber. It has promising youngsters in Seth Jones and Filip Forsberg. And to help new coach Peter Laviolette with the offense, it’s added a proven sniper in James Neal, as well as veteran forwards Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy and Olli Jokinen.

While the Mike Fisher injury does hurt, it’s worth noting that the Preds did manage to win 36 games in regulation or overtime last season. That’s the same number as the Dallas Stars, one more than the Minnesota Wild, and two more than the Detroit Red Wings — all three of those teams being playoff teams. A 2-9 record in the shootout was a big issue for Nashville, but there’s reason to believe that could be different in 2014-15.

NHL’s hardest working defensemen in 2013-14

Minnesota Wild v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Five

It’s Labor Day in America (and Labour Day in Canada), which means a good number of readers are scanning this during vacation time instead of killing cubicle boredom. With the holiday in mind, it might be fun to consider the admittedly abstract idea of which players “worked the hardest” last season.

A few ground rules before you get too angry on your day off:

1. This is based on 2013-14 stats.

2. Quantity generally beats out quality in many cases, so players who logged 70+ games have a much better chance than someone who was injured but faced tough assignments when healthy.

3. By no means is this a comprehensive list and this isn’t meant to judge subjective things like “effort.” It’s mainly based on how a player was deployed. In other words, team styles and coaching in general made a big impact.

To keep these lists from getting too huge, consider this the “Defensemen Edition.” Goalies and forwards will be considered in a different post.

Ryan Suter

In the eyes of some possession-leaning people, the Minnesota Wild defenseman might be overrated. Even his loudest doubters can’t deny the gargantuan minutes he puts up, though.

Suter led the league in total time on ice (2,411:54) and really blew everyone else away in average time on ice (29:24, with only Erik Karlsson logging more than 27 minutes per contest at 27:04). It’s not like Suter was just getting the glamour minutes, either, as he averaged 2:21 of shorthanded play per game.

Perhaps his “fancy stats” would shine a bit more if he wasn’t playing almost half a game considering the escalating aerobic requirements of playing modern NHL defense? Just throwing it out there …

Braydon Coburn

Two Philadelphia Flyers led their respective positions in shorthanded reps last season, but we’ll get to Sean Couturier in the next edition. Coburn logged 20 more penalty kill minutes (327:21:00) than runner-up John Carlson (307:03:00), averaging just under four minutes of SH time per contest.

There’s no doubt that playing in Philly inflates their stats – the Flyers averaged the most PIM per game with 14.4 per season – but that didn’t make Coburn’s job any easier.

Zdeno Chara, Shea Weber, Alex Pietrangelo and Dion Phaneuf

OK, this list is probably a lot longer than those four names, but consider this the “all-around” group. Chara and Weber carry significant offensive burdens while also being asked to play top-notch defense, often with tough assignments and matchups. Pietrangelo shouldered the burden of the St. Louis Blues’ Flyers-like trips to the box (14.2 PIM per game) by killing for more than three minutes per night.

You might scoff at Phaneuf’s inclusion, but consider this: he faced tough quality of competition and started his shifts in the offensive zone just 38.8 percent of the time, yet he was also called upon to be a scoring threat from the blueline.

Now, should he carry such a workload? That’s a question for a rapidly changing Maple Leafs front office to ponder.

Erik Karlsson

As much as we justifiably focus on how much work a defensemen is responsible for in his end, what about those who are asked to carry their offense?

In Adam Gretz’s list of the players teams relied upon the most for offense, Karlsson was the only defenseman to make it, as he was involved in a whopping 32.2 percent (74 of 229) of the Ottawa Senators’ goals. That’s more than Joe Thornton, Evgeni Malkin and Kyle Okposo managed for their respective teams.

He also generates a ridiculous amount of the Senators’ shot attempts, overall:

While he doesn’t have a tough penalty-killing workload (1:30 per game), he still was on the ice an awful lot, finishing with the second-highest TOI and TOI averages behind Suter.

In other words, the Senators really on him to work hard … and they probably will only lean on him more with Jason Spezza out of town.


Hopefully this list provided you with some fun, even if it’s – again – not aiming to consider every player who carried a significant workload in 2013-14.

That’s actually a nice task for the comments. If there’s a consensus there, this post might just be modified to consider your choices.

Update: Blocked shots get mixed reviews as a sign of quality defense, but there’s little use denying that it takes courage and counts as dirty work. In case you’re wondering, Andrew MacDonald easily led the league with 242 blocks last season.

Poll: Is Erik Karlsson an elite defenseman?

Ottawa Senators v Pittsburgh Penguins

While defensive defenseman seem to suffer when it comes to Norris Trophy voting,* offensive blueliners tend to get nitpicked an awful lot. In many cases, they’re labeled as double-edged swords; people believe that there’s a strong chance they can hurt their teams when aggressive bids to push the pace fall flat.

It’s pretty difficult to make an argument for anyone other than Erik Karlsson being the best player on the Ottawa Senators, yet that doesn’t mean that he’s a consensus pick as one of the best defensemen in the NHL. He’s generally downgraded by the same conversations people had about dynamos like Paul Coffey.

The question is: should he be considered among the very best at his position?

One thing that seems beyond debate is his sterling offensive ability. While most blueliners aim for 60 points and would likely be happy with 50, Karlsson is a rare threat to at least flirt with a point-per-game. Not only that, he creates so many shots that it’s easy to argue that the sum of his offense makes up for any defensive lapses (legitimate or exaggerated).

Silver Seven Sens advances the argument that the gifted 24-year-old makes the players around him better, too. The “fancy stats” smile upon Karlsson as well, as you can see here and here.

Circling back, though, his style can make it easier to pinpoint those moments when things don’t work out. The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy wondered if he’s “too soft” to be an elite defenseman, for one:

In 2012, the Sens star won the Norris Trophy as best defenseman in the NHL. The award, voted on by hockey writers, is notoriously slanted towards blueliners who put up offense and Karlsson was a gem that year with 19 goals and 78 points in 81 games. By contrast, runner-up Shea Weber had 49 points that season, playing more minutes than Karlsson and certainly make the space in front of his netminder a lot scarier for enemy forwards than Karlsson ever could.

But at the same time, is your team ever safe from getting scored upon if Karlsson is carrying the puck up the ice? No doubt the Swede is a special talent, but that attention to detail in his own zone seems to be lacking sometimes.

“Elite” means different things to different people, so let’s leave that to your own discretion. Based on whatever standards you’d like to consider, is Karlsson an elite defenseman?

* – The fact that Zdeno Chara only owns one Norris is pretty mind-boggling.

Preds, Ellis ‘don’t agree exactly on what the dollars should be’ for new deal

Ryan Ellis

Sounds as though contract negotiations between Nashville and RFA defenseman Ryan Ellis have hit a standstill. From The Tennessean:

The 23-year-old defenseman is the lone remaining restricted free agent from last year’s roster who has not come to contract terms. He is coming off a three-year, $4.5 million entry-level deal.

General manager David Poile sounded hopeful a resolution could be reached soon. Veterans are scheduled to report for training camp on Sept. 17.

“Like 99 percent of negotiations that aren’t done at this time we just don’t agree exactly on what the dollars should be,” Poile said. “Hopefully it will be done by training camp. That’s what our target is.”

Ellis is in an interesting situation. The 11th overall pick and fourth defenseman off the board in 2009 — taken ahead of Calvin de Haan and Nick Leddy — he struggled to find his niche in his first two professional seasons but broke out in ’13-14, posting career highs in games played (80), goals (six), assists (21) and points (27).

Yet in Nashville, he’s stuck amongst a glut of blueliners.

Shea Weber and Roman Josi are the top two guys, and Seth Jones arrived on the scene last year and became the No. 3 (with the understanding he’s talented enough to eventually push for one of the top two spots). As a result, Ellis only averaged 16:04 TOI per game last year, though that number is expected to increase under Peter Laviolette’s new uptempo system, which should fit Ellis’ offensive skillset and puck-moving ability.

Poile ‘expecting real good things’ from Jones in 14-15

Seth Jones

Nashville’s defense already looks pretty good going into 2014-15, but Seth Jones is something of a question mark.

The 19-year-old blueliner (he’ll turn 20 on Oct. 3) has a lot of upside, but his rookie campaign was far from perfect and while that’s not surprising or worthy of condemnation, it still remains to be seen how long it will take him to break out.

Predators GM David Poile seemed hesitant to set the bar too high for Jones, but he is clearly upbeat about the defenseman’s development.

“For 19 years old I’m not sure what you’re supposed to expect, but he did a lot of really good things,” Poile told NHL.com. “I know he had some bumps in the road. I think his plus/minus (minus-23), you’d like to be better, but he went over to the [2014 IIHF] World Championship and played really well; best defenseman in the tournament. He’s been working out all summer. I’m expecting real good things. Just a little bit better in every area.”

Sophomore campaigns obviously aren’t always kind, but the Predators can afford to take some of the pressure off of Jones. Shea Weber and Roman Josi each averaged over 26 minutes per game last season and will likely shoulder the bulk of the burden again in 2014-15.