Ryan Lambert

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sean monahan

John Scott’s corsi percentage this year is 38.1.

The reason that Scott’s corsi percentage is in any way important to anyone outside of the Buffalo Sabres’ organization, and is in any way germane to the point about to be made, is that it’s pathetic on a grand scale. This is a remarkably low number even for a player generally considered to be the worst in the entire National Hockey League at the actual playing of hockey. More often, even a goon’s numbers will hover somewhere around 45 percent. That’s a player getting dominated in no uncertain terms, ranking him 725th among the 745 players league-wide who have played in at least four games this season.

Meanwhile, Sean Monahan, the Calgary Flames first-round pick in last year’s draft who made the NHL team despite all reason stating that he should have been sent back to the OHL, has a corsi-for percentage of 41.3 percent. To his credit, it used to be much higher.

The reason it’s sinking into Scott territory these days is that he broke his foot in late November and missed two and a half weeks. Tough bounce for the kid, who’d been a little better than OK in getting some sheltered and advantageous usage out of coach Bob Hartley; soft competition, lots of offensive zone starts, power play time, decent linemates, and so on.

He was making the most of it, too. In his first 24 NHL games, as a kid who was barely 19, he had nine goals and 15 points, which isn’t all that bad, considering he’s on the appallingly bad Calgary Flames. Read the rest of this entry »

Brad Marchand2

Quite the kerfuffle with the Bruins over the last 10 days or so, what with Shawn Thornton KOing an unsuspecting victim and getting suspended 15 games, the whole team getting the flu, everyone getting injured, Jarome Iginla dislocating a finger in a needless fight, Tuukka Rask giving up a goal from center ice, and the Bruins losing 6-2 to Vancouver, and Milan Lucic being assaulted by some no-neck clown in a bar for little to no reason at all.

But the thing that’s most egregious of all of these, and for which the team will under no circumstances stand, is Brad Marchand making fun of the Canucks and their fans. He kissed an invisible Stanley Cup ring. He raised an invisible Stanley Cup twice.

The first of these incidents came during warmups, and everyone would have had a nice little laugh about it. The second came with the Bruins down 3-1, following a run-in between Marchand and Ryan Kesler. The third came with Boston trailing 4-1. Coach Claude Julien was in no way happy about these incidents:

“He’s a good player, and he’s an agitator, and there’s some good things to that part of his game, but there’s certain areas where — again, I’ve said it before — you can’t cross the line. … The perception it gives our organization is not what you want to see with those kind of things. … He’s too good of a player and we don’t want him to be a different player, but there’s certain things we want him to be different at. From what I hear, what happened, that’s definitely not something we will accept in our organization.”

Read the rest of this entry »

bozak clarkson

The Eastern Conference has been viewed, rightly, as a barren wasteland with a meek populace lorded over by a very small number of actual good teams. We know for sure, for example, that Boston, Pittsburgh, and probably Detroit are going to make the playoffs. You might as well not even play the rest of the season as far as they’re concerned. They’re in, unequivocally.

For everyone else, though, things are a little more dicey. Tampa is sub-.500 in its last 10 games because they’re not very good away from home (where six of those 10 have been played), they’re cooling off after a hot start, and of course, they’re missing Steven Stamkos. Yet they entered last night sitting top three in the Flortheast because of Montreal’s slow start and Toronto’s quick decline.

But that’s the thing, right? Even if you finish outside the top three in your division, any crummy team in the East has at least a decent chance of sneaking into the playoffs because of how hard Toronto is dropping off (and will continue to do so because their December schedule is murder).

The Leafs will, rather definitively, not be playing after the regular season ends, and a number of potential suitors awaits, with varying degrees of credibility behind their claims to the conference’s final playoff spot.

The fact of the matter is that we’re now already one-third of the way through the season, and so it’s time to look for some replacements.

Read the rest of this entry »

dion phaneuf

Much to the consternation of the quote-unquote advanced stats community, the Toronto Maple Leafs have repeatedly dismissed the kinds of statistics which state that they’re going to be bad in the very near future, and this is largely due to the fact that they haven’t been given a reason to embrace them.

The Leafs made the playoffs last year, for example, because the season was just 48 games long and their inability to actually possess the puck and generate shot attempts in no way hindered their ability to make the playoffs or push the Bruins far deeper into the first round than anyone outside the Air Canada Centre would have expected. The team rightly saw that brutal collapse against Boston as a stroke of bad luck — and maybe you could say it was a season’s worth of well-earned bad bounces finally going against them in one improbably short period of time — and set about this past summer tinkering with aspects of their team which did not need tinkering.

So it was that the doom-and-gloom nerds who swore up and down that regression was going to pummel them this season got their chance to rub their hands together furiously in anticipation for a season-long period of mayhem brought down by the corsi gods on high. You can’t, they argue, go 48 games at 30th in the league in shot attempt percentage and expect to make the playoffs again and not expect comeuppance. Read the rest of this entry »

Henrik Lundqvist

When you’re putting a goalie on waivers, and especially when he’s 36 years old and your backup, it might not be that big of a deal overall. But when your other goalie is 31 and his stats are likewise sub-average, even at the start of the season, it could be a very real issue in the very near future.

Obviously the New York Rangers and the rest of the hockey world are resting assured that despite the slow start to the season for the team, and its otherwise world-class starting goaltender in particular, things are all going to work out fairly well. This is, after all, Henrik Lundqvist we’re talking about, and the Rangers haven’t even played a home game this season.

In this week’s 30 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman points out that Lundqvist in particular — out of all elite NHL netminders — might be having trouble dealing with the new, smaller pads because he’s the kind of goalie who previously liked to go deeper than almost all others into his crease because he wanted as much time as possible to see the shots. Without the ability to come out every night shaped like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, that deepness leaves him far more open to shots simply getting through him, whether he sees them or not. If he were more aggressive in coming out to challenge shooters, he might be able to keep the angles down and effectively negate the advantage. Bourne outlined all this yesterday.

So maybe it takes Lundqvist a little more time than others to adjust to the change specifically because of how much deeper he goes, and maybe this rough start — in which he’s gone 2-4 in his starts, posting sub-.880 save percentages in all his losses — will straighten itself out sooner than later. His current even-strength save percentage of .887, by the way, doesn’t speak well for his ability to pin all of this on his defense.

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peter laviolette

In the immediate wake of the Peter Laviolette firing yesterday morning, just hours after the team looked like garbage against a team that is itself primed for a truly awful season, a lot of people just kind of shrugged and said, “Well, sure.”

Yeah the Flyers are bad and yeah they’re 0-3-0 to start the year, having conceded far more goals than they’ve scored and probably no one is all that surprised by the occurrence. But with that having been said there are so many questions that emerge in the immediate wake of the decision that spring to mind.

Like, “Why?”

“Why?” is the first question that should come up, for sure. Three games is a comically short period of time in which to consider a coaching change and it is in fact the fastest any bench boss has ever been fired in the entire history of the league. This was a team, though, that always looked on the poise of putrid. There was always something there, of course, enough that you’d say to yourself, “Okay this could possibly be a good team if things break for them.” After all, before last year’s thunderously bad performance, they posted better-than-100-point seasons, and that was after making the Stanley Cup Final in a streak of luck eclipsed only by the Devils’ accomplishment of two years ago.

This is a team that considered, for example, Scott Hartnell to be something other than a reliable 20-25 goalscorer who was at least somewhat defensibly responsible. They pay him like a skill guy, giving him more money against the cap than any other forward on the team this year, based solely on the fact that he scored a complete-aberration 37 goals playing with Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr. They consider 68-year Kimmo Timonen to likewise be a No. 1 defenseman and both pay and play him commensurately, but largely due to the fact that other, better options simply do not exist.

That Laviolette had to cobble together any success from this roster, given what was being spent on it, is absurd. That he did so successfully for two seasons is a credit to his prowess behind the bench.

Read the rest of this entry »

Isn’t this what the Leafs wanted?

Phil Kessel tough

Exactly what, apart from what he ended up doing, was Phil Kessel supposed to do in that situation? The whole world is having a good ol’ laugh at Kessel this week after he took a two-hander at John Scott’s ankle. Kessel’s options at the time were threefold:

  1. Fight John Scott and have the Christ beaten out of him.
  2. Skate away from Scott as fast as possible and bear the brunt of the next several decades of laughs that would come his way.
  3. Try to keep Scott away from him long enough for someone to intercede on his behalf, perhaps by wielding his stick like a hatchet.

He obviously chose the third and final of these choices and it proved the most judicious. The time on the IR with a concussion that came with No. 1 was always a non-starter, and the scorn from No. 2 likewise was never an option. And now hockey pundits in every major market, most of all those with reason to dislike Kessel (Boston) or the Leafs (Montreal), laughs at Kessel. The Toronto media, for their part, defended their boy and team as well they should have: The kinds of tactics the Sabres employed in that game, following Corey Tropp asking Jamie Devane to fight following a goal. Devane, an aspiring NHLer with naught but 36 pro games (and 90 PIM in them) to his credit obliged. By KOing Tropp. And, in doing so, allowing the player five inches shorter and 40ish pounds slighter than himself to bounce his head scarily off the ice.

In turn, Sabres coach Ron Rolston put out John Scott and an assortment of other non-skill players. Randy Carlyle, given that he had last change a total lack of things happening in his brain, put out his top line, which included Kessel. Thus began the chaos of a line brawl, David Clarkson leaving the bench, and a goalie fight.

But let’s not forget where all this started: It started when the Leafs themselves started loading up on brainless goons, as a means of becoming “harder to play against.” That the Leafs had none of them (save for Devane) in the lineup mattered not at all; if you’re playing Toronto, you prepare as though you’re going to have to fist-fight some people. Thus the inclusion of Scott in the lineup. Read the rest of this entry »