Kukla's Korner

Which snipers really need their setup man?

Great offensive performers in the NHL often come in pairs; think Wayne Gretzky & Jari Kurri, or Mario Lemieux & Jaromir Jagr.  When it comes to today’s prominent goal-scorers, however, which ones are the most dependent on a particular playmaker to set them up?  To answer that question, I dug through the goal-scoring details from the 2007-8 season and took a look at the leading snipers, to answer the question of who fed them a Primary Assist most often…

When I examined this issue for 2006-7, the Sedin twins were the most intertwined players in the league, just barely ahead of Slava Kozlov & Marian Hossa.  As Kozzie’s production tailed off in 2007-8, however, the Sedins again led the way, this time by a wide margin.  The table below represents the top 20 scorers with at least 20 goals last season, ranked by their reliance upon a specific player for Primary Assists:

 ScorerGoals Top Assist Man1st AssistsReliance
 Daniel Sedin, VAN29 Henrik Sedin1862.1%
 Jonathan Cheechoo, SJS23 Joe Thornton1147.8%
 Shawn Horcoff, EDM21 Ales Hemsky1047.6%
 Henrik Zetterberg, DET43 Pavel Datsyuk2046.5%
 Petr Sykora, PIT28 Evgeni Malkin1346.4%
 Brenden Morrow, DAL32 Mike Ribeiro1443.8%
 Jochen Hecht, BUF22 Jason Pominville940.9%
 Joffrey Lupul, PHI20 Mike Richards840.0%
 Brad Boyes, STL43 Paul Kariya1739.5%
 Bill Guerin, NYI23 Mike Comrie939.1%
 Andrei Kostitsyn, MTL26 Tomas Plekanec1038.5%
 Tomas Plekanec, MTL29 Alexei Kovalev1137.9%
 Milan Michalek, SJS24 Joe Thornton937.5%
 Dany Heatley, OTT41 Jason Spezza1536.6%
 Marcus Naslund, VAN25 Daniel Sedin936.0%
 Martin St. Louis, TAM25 Vincent Lecavalier936.0%
 Jason Arnott, NSH28 J. P. Dumont1035.7%
 Vincent Lecavalier, TAM40 Martin St. Louis1435.0%
 Tomas Holmstrom, DET20 Henrik Zetterberg735.0%
 Brendan Shanahan, NYR23 Scott Gomez834.8%

One interesting thing that jumps out of this table is how little player movement one sees from this group.  Only two scorers on this list (Marcus Naslund and Brendan Shanahan, highlighted in pink) are no longer with their team from last season, although with Shanny there’s still a possibility of a return since he’s a free agent.  This makes sense, of course; if a duo is working well together there is natural resistance to breaking them up.

Note, also, the two lines highlighted in green; Tampa’s dynamic duo of Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis are doing both ends of this work for each other.  And if there is any doubt as to what Joe Thornton means to the San Jose Sharks, just ask Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek, both of whom rely upon Big Bird to feed them the puck.

So as we get ready to launch this 2008-9 NHL regular season, keep an eye on your favorite team to see if preseason line combinations threaten one of these productive pairings.  If they do, feel free to let the head coach know he’s taking a big risk!

Filed in: NHL Statistical Analysis, | On the Forecheck | Permalink
 

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