by PuckStopsHere on 10/29/10 at 12:42 AM ET
The Carolina Hurricanes are the worst team in the faceoff circle so far this year. They have a 37.1% success rate in the faceoff circle, which is the league worst. It is more than 6% worse than any other team in the league. Last year, they were sixth worst in the league with a 48.1% faceoff success rate.
The main difference between this year and last is the retirement of Rod Brind’Amour. Brind’Amour was the third best faceoff man in the NHL last year with a 58.8% faceoff success rate. Despite this success, Brind’Amour was not particularly successful. He was only capable of scoring 19 points and had a -29 +/- rating, which was third worst in the league. Despite his faceoff success, Brind’Amour was a liability to his team last year.
Aside from Brind’Amour, the only Carolina faceoff man who won more than half of his faceoffs was Jussi Jokinen with a 51.3% success rate. The man who took the most faceoffs for the team last year was Eric Staal and he posted a 41.8% faceoff rate, which was second worst in the league.
This season, Jokinen remains the only person capable of winning more than half his faceoffs. He has won 51.0% so far this year. The two men who have led the team in faceoffs taken this year are Eric Staal and Brandon Sutter. They have 36.9% and 33.3% success rates respectively. They are the two worst faceoff men in the league so far this season.
It will be very hard for Carolina to remain as poor in the faceoff circle. They are well outside normal levels. This is significantly worse than any team has been since 1997. In fact, the worst team in that period of time was the 1997/98 Tampa bay Lightning who had a 44.1% success rate in faceoffs. That is seven percent better than Carolina has been so far this year.
Usually, I argue that faceoffs are not particularly important. Every team is pretty close to 50% successful on faceoffs. The difference between 50% and any team costs a few puck possessions, which can be made up with solid offensive and/or defensive play. I have debated this point with Gabe Desjardins of Behind the Net. I think he overvalues faceoffs. However, if a team is as bad as Carolina has been so far, there could be some effect seen in the standings.
So far, Carolina has a 4-4 record and it is hard to argue that faceoffs have hurt them significantly. Carolina may be a strong test of faceoff theories if they remain such a significant outlier from established levels of years past. It is likely that the team will improve their faceoff rate merely by Eric Staal and Brandon Sutter improving back to last year’s subpar levels. There is almost always a 50% or better faceoff man available in the minors or the waiver wire as a replacement level player and one would imagine that Carolina will eventually find one.
The Carolina Hurricanes were a poor faceoff team last year. They were held from the bottom of the standings by Rod Brind’Amour, who was their only above average faceoff man. Brind’Amour has retired and nobody is left who can win a faceoff. As a result, Carolina has done remarkably poorly in faceoffs so far this year. Their season could be a test of the importance of faceoffs. The Hurricanes could be the worst faceoff team in recent memory this year. Will it affect them in the standings? I predict that they climb in the standings from last year despite their faceoff failings.
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