by Forechecker on 02/19/09 at 06:25 PM ET
Back-to-back losses while pursuing a playoff berth are enough to try the patience of most any hockey fan, and in Nashville, folks are calling for all sorts of solutions. Whether it’s benching underperforming stars, sending goal-starved rookies back to Milwaukee, or paying whatever it takes to land a proven, top-six forward, the natives are restless in Music City.
To set the stage for that discussion, I first wanted to delve into the issue of which players are or aren’t helping this team win; outside of Shea Weber & Ryan Suter, nobody is outperforming offensively, but given the decent defensive performance, it’s likely that some are contributing on that end more than others. For the purpose of this discussion I’m ignoring the goaltending, which, regardless of performance, isn’t a candidate for change via trade or promotion/demotion.
So who’s getting it done for the Preds so far?
The table that follows is similar to the one I used earlier this season for preliminary MVP consideration, and displays the performance of each individual relative to the rest of the team through Monday’s loss vs. Ottawa:
|NAME||GP||5-on-5 TOI||5-on-5 Rat||5-on-5 Imp||PP TOI||PP Rat||PP Imp||PK TOI||PK Rat||PK Imp||Tot Rat Imp||PPM||PPM Imp||Tot Imp|
|GREG DE VRIES||46||13.68||-1.25||-13.11||0.16||-3.23||-0.40||2.39||3.82||7.00||-6.51||-9||-1.38||-7.88|
All data from Behind the Net
What this breaks down is the amount of ice time and relative performance in 5-on-5, 5-on-4, and 4-on-5 play (yes, I know this doesn’t cover 5-on-3 or 4-on-3, but this gets us at least 95% of the action). The TOI column is simply how many minutes per game that player is getting. The RAT column (for “Rating”) in each situation is the difference between the team’s Plus/Minus when that player is on the ice, versus when he’s on the bench, prorated per 60 minutes of play. The Impact columns, then, take the Rating and multiply it by the TOI and the Games Played, to arrive at a total Impact on Net Goals (For - Against) in each situation for that player. At the far right we bring in Penalty Plus/Minus (PPM), which measures how often a player is creating power play or penalty kill opportunities. Each net power play generated is worth 0.153 goals (and each net penalty costs that much), per the Alan Ryder piece that I’ve cited earlier, yielding PPM Impact. The sort is by Total Impact (5-on-5 Impact + PP Impact + PK Impact + PPM Impact), and I’ve highlighted the top three performers in various columns with green, and the bottom three with pink.
For example, you could have a guy who doesn’t score hardly at all, but if he prevents his opponents from scoring to an even higher degree, he can end up with a positive Impact within this table. Also, a player may not score often, but if he creates power play opportunities, that is an offensive bonus that does contribute to team success (see: Ryan Jones above).
So what does this tell us?
1. Although J.P. Dumont and Jason Arnott lead the way, it’s primarily due to relative performance on the power play (where they’ve been decent, and the rest have been awful) more than anything else. At even strength, both have been outscored slightly. Dumont’s rating on the PK looks bad, but he spends virtually no time in that role so the influence there is negligible.
2. Shea Weber has cooled off considerably since that white-hot start, and his power play contribution has waned. More worrisome is his propensity to take penalties in his own end, where he remains prone to grabbing with his off hand (he’s tied for the NHL lead with 7 Holding penalties).
3. Joel Ward has been a revelation, particularly on the penalty kill. Take a look at James Mirtle’s article on the Selke race, and you’ll see Ward’s 1.85 GAA when shorthanded stick out way ahead of the rest of the pack.
4. Dan Hamhuis has had a brutal season. Period. De Vries has been pretty bad, except on the PK, where his GAA is a microscopic 1.09!
5. Vern Fiddler and Scott Nichol, usually two of Nashville’s PK stalwarts, haven’t fared well there this season. If anything, perhaps Martin Erat needs a little more PK work; last night’s game against Detroit marked the first time all season that Erat was on the ice for a 4-on-5 goal against.
So what do you think? Based on the evidence presented above, which players should ride the pine (or a bus out of town) as the Predators scramble to put together a stretch drive for the playoffs?
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