Tag:Eric Nystrom
Posted on: March 7, 2012 2:53 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 3:18 pm
 

Kris Letang: the missing piece for the Penguins



By: Adam Gretz

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the importance of Kris Letang to the Penguins' postseason chances.

When it was announced on Tuesday afternoon that Sidney Crosby has been cleared for contact, the next major step in his latest attempt return to the lineup, it sent a wave of excitement and optimism through the Penguins fan base.

It's not hard to see why. He is, after all, their captain, their best player, and the best player in the league when he's healthy.  With him in the lineup the Penguins should go from being a Stanley Cup contender to, perhaps, one of the top two or three favorites -- if not the favorite -- in the NHL ... if their lineup remains intact.

His return, whenever it happens (it apparently won't be before Sunday's game against Boston) will certainly have a significant impact on their chances. But, and as crazy as this may sound, there is still another player they are currently without that may be even more important for any sort of Stanley Cup run in Pittsburgh -- defenseman Kris Letang, who is currently out of the lineup after being hit by Eric Nystrom of the Dallas Stars at the end of February.

It's the second time this year he's missed time with a head injury, missing over 20 games with a concussion earlier this season after he was hit by Montreal's Max Pacioretty.

The Penguins have been without Crosby, minus the eight games he played earlier this season, since the beginning of last January, which is over a full calendar year and nearly a season-and-a-half worth of games, and they have still managed to be one of the top teams in the NHL.

In 65 games this season they are the third-highest scoring team in the league (in terms of goals per game) and have the second most points in the Eastern Conference, trailing only the Atlantic Division-leading New York Rangers. It's a testament to the depth they've acquired over the years and the 1-2 punch they still have down the middle at center with Evgeni Malkin (arguably the best player in hockey right now) and Jordan Staal, a duo that few teams in the NHL can match up with.

Even without Crosby they still have another No. 1 center, a darn good No. 2 center, and a pretty potent offense overall. One of the best in the league.

What they don't have without Letang is another No. 1 defenseman, and that's a pretty glaring weakness to have on a potential Stanley Cup team. Their blue line takes on an entirely different look without him, and it simply isn't anywhere near as effective. Just looking at the raw numbers this season: with Letang in the lineup the Penguins are 25-10-5, average over 3.2 goals per game, only allow 2.4 and have a total goal-differential of plus-31.

Without him those numbers drop down to a 14-11-0 record, 2.68 goals for per game, 2.56 against and a total goal differential of just plus-3.

Is Letang by himself worth that entire difference? Well, not exactly, because the Penguins have had other players out of the lineup at various times, but his absence is still huge given the number of roles he's asked to play, and the way he's able to perform within them.

He plays over 25 minutes a night, he is their power play quarterback, a regular on the penalty kill, and during even-strength situations he takes on some of toughest assignments on the Penguins defense, as the scatterplot below, which uses Corsi Relative Quality of Competition and Offensive Zone starts, helps to illustrate. The closer to the top left (meaning tougher opponents and fewer offensive zone starts) the more difficult the assignments, and the closer to the bottom right the "softer" the assignments.

PenguinsDefense

As you can see, the Penguins have a pretty set group of top-four defensemen that stand out from the pack when it comes to their 5-on-5 assignments with Letang, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek. Everybody else that's played on their blue line this season has been relatively protected. And when Letang is out of the lineup, as he's been for 25 games and counting this season, one of those other players has to step into a top-four role, and the results aren't always pretty.

Letang not only draws some of the toughest assignments on their blue line, he also outperforms everybody else. He has a positive Relative Corsi rating (a sign that when he's on the ice the Penguins are controlling the puck far more than they are when he's not on the ice) and he is by far their leading scorer on the blue line despite appearing in just 40 games. Orpik is a great physical presence on the blue line, and Martin hasn't been anywhere near as bad as his many critics in Pittsburgh want you to believe that he's been, but none of them are as valuable to the Penguins blue line as Letang.

His ability to get the puck out of danger, lead the rush and control the game is unmatched by any other player on their defense.

Crosby's return will be huge news, and it will give the Penguins pretty obscene depth down the middle. But the return of Letang is what would potentially put the the Penguins over the top, on paper anyway.

I'm still convinced they could win without Crosby due to the presence of Malkin and Staal at center. I'm not convinced they can win without Letang (even with Crosby) because they have nobody else that can fill his skates on defense.

(Corsi, Quality of Competition and Zone Start Data all via BehindtheNet.ca)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 1, 2012 5:43 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 5:52 pm
 

Kris Letang has concussion symptoms

PenguinsBy: Adam Gretz

When defenseman Kris Letang had to leave Wednesday's game in Dallas after being on the receiving end of a big hit from Stars forward Eric Nystrom, the biggest concern for the Penguins had to be whether or not their best blueliner suffered another concussion. He's already missed more than 20 games this season due to one concussion, which came after a hit by Montreal's Max Pacioretty. The Penguins have had their share of concussion-related issues this season including injuries to Sidney Crosby, Tyler Kennedy, Arron Asham and, as already mentioned, Letang.

Following Thursday morning's practice in Denver, where the Penguins will play the Avalanche on Saturday, coach Dan Bylsma revealed that Letang is in fact suffering from concussion symptons and will return to Pittsburgh on Sunday for more observation.

Nystrom received a two-minute for roughing on the play, and there was much debate as to whether or not he would face any supplemental discipline from the NHL. Brendan Shanahan, vice president of player safety, announced that Nystrom will not face any additional discipline.

Wrote Shanahan on his official Twitter feed, "Our view is that Letang lunges forward just prior to contact and although it appears that the chin is grazed by the side of Nystrom's arm, the right chest and shoulder of Letang remain the PPOC (principal point of contact)."

NBC's Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick were among the people debating (screaming at each is more like it) whether or not Nystrom should face discipline, and it's probably a shock to anybody that is familair with his opinions on these matters but Milbury was actually on the side of supplemental discipline. Roenick, however, wasn't hearing it as the video below (via wyshynski) shows:



It's a tough play to judge, and it's impossible to figure out what Nystrom's intent was, but it does seem a bit interesting that after facing mounting criticism earlier in the season for the number of suspensions he had been handing out during his first months on the job, the amount of supplemental discipline coming out of the NHL offices has slowed down considerably. You could argue that players cleaned up their act, but there have been plenty of examples of plays that drew punishment earlier in the season but have been overlooked in recent weeks and months.

Two such examples: Ottawa's Kyle Turris and his hit on Boston's Joe Corvo last week, and David Clarkson's charging incident on Monday night.

Either way, the potential loss of Letang for any length of time is a big one for the Penguins. With him they are a serious contender for the Stanley Cup. Without him ... they're probably not.

Previously at Eye On Hockey

Video: Letang injured after hit by Nystrom

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 8:44 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 8:58 pm
 

Kris Letang injured after Eric Nystrom hit

By: Adam Gretz

Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang missed 20 games earlier this season with a concussion after he was hit by Montreal's Max Pacioretty (and then made a controversial return to that game, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime).

That's why it had to be scary for the Penguins to see him go down early in the first period of Wednesday's game in Dallas after a hit by Eric Nystrom.



Letang left the game and his night appears to be over. On the list of players the Penguins can't afford to lose, Letang's name is near the top as he is without a doubt their best defenseman and plays the most minutes in every situation.

Perhaps the most shocking thing to come as a result of the hit was NBC analyst Mike Milbury, who seems to usually favor on-ice anarchy, condemned the hit and argued during the first intermission that it should be worth at least a five-game suspension.

The league will certainly review it, as it does every play, and it's impossible to guess what, if anything, will come out of it. The argument for a suspension is that there's contact to the head and Nystrom took advantage of a vulnerable player. The argument against is that Letang put himself in that vulnerable position and the puck-carrier has just as much responsibility as the player delivering the hit. It should be interesting to see how the NHL interprets it.

Nystrom was issued a two-minute minor for roughing.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: November 9, 2011 1:06 pm
Edited on: November 10, 2011 2:50 pm
 

Stars shining bright behind light of top lines

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- It's pretty hard to look at the Dallas Stars right now and not be star-struck. After all, they lead the league with 11 wins. No other team has even 10 yet.

You can't help but be impressed with the team's top line.

"I don't know which exact top line," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "I think there are some arguments about who is the No. 1 line at times."

OK, so I guess it's possible you aren't impressed with the top line, but that's only when you can't tell which it is.

"The [Jamie] Benn line there with Ryder on it has just played I think two or three games together after the injury to Steve Ott. Benn and Loui [Eriksson] have had some good chemistry from the get go," Gulutzan said. "Then you've got Ribs [Mike Ribeiro] and [Brendan] Morrow who have had great chemistry as well for years.

"It's good to have some internal competition and that's kind of the battle in that room right there. The young guys vs. the old guard. They're having fun with it. But every night we're getting one of those lines to step up."

Let me be more specific then: I admit openly here to professing my love for the newly formed line of Benn, Eriksson and Michael Ryder. They are each fast. Heck, the whole team is fast. They are very skilled. And they look like they have been playing together for three seasons, not three games.

Just look at the numbers -- they never lie, just sometimes deceive. Since this line came together, Ryder has three goals and four assists. Eriksson has two goals, five assists and a star of the week honor. Not to be outdone, Benn has three goals and five assists. Again, those numbers have been compiled in three games! These three have averaged more than seven points per game combined since they were put together.

They go together like peanut butter, jelly and bread. (Seriously, why is bread never mentioned in this cliché? Do people actually just scoop PB&J in their mouth at the same time?)

"Those two guys have been playing together for a little bit and this is my third game with them and they've been flying," Ryder said after Dallas' impressive 5-2 win over the Capitals on Tuesday, in which he scored twice. "I just jump in there and I'm feeding off them. Guess we’re just going good right now."

Maybe the biggest breakout has been Benn. The 22-year-old is opening eyes everywhere with his play. Combined with Eriksson specifically, they are capable of some beautiful hockey. What has impressed me so much is the unselfishness of the two players. Somehow, they keep finding themselves in 2-on-1 situations and each time they are looking to pass. More often than not it leads to a goal, it seems.

Add Ryder to the mix, and, well let the fun times roll.

"Things are going pretty good right now," Benn said. "Ryder got put on our line right before this road trip and it seems like we're just clicking and we're having fun out there."

Five consecutive wins will help in that department too.

And what of this No. 44 on the blue line? My roster sheet told me that's Sheldon Souray. I could hardly believe it. This is the same guy they were so desperate to get rid of in Edmonton? It is, and he's playing as well as ever. He is averaging nearly a point per game. He seems to have found a home and the Stars are happy to have him.

His four goals are the third most for a defenseman in hockey, trailing only the great Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit and Florida's Jason Garrison. With his production, the Stars defensemen have picked up the scoring slack they had been leaving behind. Last season it took them until Dec. 29 to score nine goals, a total they have already reached.

For the most part, it's a somewhat no-name group. But it has been solid. As is the case with most every goalie, the defensemen deserve some of the credit for Kari Lehtonen's start.

Lehtonen remains probably the biggest reason why people are still hesitating to jump on the bandwagon. He is coming off a career year and has battled injuries throughout his still young career. He is just 27.

"He keeps us in every game and gives us confidence," Benn said.

Really, GM Joe Nieuwendyk has pieced together a quality team. And the good news? Once the ownership situation gets straightened out and Tom Gagliardi starts paying the bills, there could definitely be a green light to add some salary onto the league's lowest payroll in the form of trades or just finding some quality fits for his team the way he did with Souray and Eric Nystrom.

Nystrom was waived by the Minnesota Wild before the season and eventually made his way to Dallas. In 82 games last season he had four goals. In 14 games this season, he has four goals. Including one spectacularly awesome one on Tuesday night.

Heck, he's even a humanitarian by day. Nystrom took the time to try and make the day for a pair of presumably homeless gentlemen before the game.

"We always have so much food," Nystrom said. "I asked for a to-go box and I took it across the street to the park and gave it to two homeless guys. Gave them the best meal they've had in a long time."

And wouldn't you know it, this might be the best team they've had in Dallas in a long time. Well OK, it hasn't been that long, but you get the point.

"We're trying to gauge ourselves against the league," Gulutzan said. "Coming into Washington and then heading to Pittsburgh and Detroit, we thought this would be a real good measuring stick."

So far, so good. Especially if the Stars keep that, err, those top lines together.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 12, 2011 5:38 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 5:58 pm
 

Eric Nystrom and the salary cap floor

EN1By: Adam Gretz

On the surface, the Dallas Stars acquisition of Eric Nystrom from the Minnesota Wild for future considerations isn't the most exciting trade you will see come across the league transaction page.

Actually, it's probably somewhere near the bottom. What makes it so bizarre -- and interesting -- is that Dallas could have simply claimed him re-entry waivers earlier in the week and absorbed only half of his $1.4 million annual salary which runs through the end of next season. Why, then, did they trade for him? Because they needed to take on his full salary in order to stay above the salary cap floor.

Here are some of the details, via  Wild beat writer Michael Russo of the Star Tribune:
The Stars' woes began the other day when Sean Avery was officially reassigned to the Connecticut Whale.

After the Rangers sent Avery to the minors, the $1.9 million portion the Stars were picking up came off their cap. That put them dangerously close to going below the floor. With Adam Pardy coming off long term injury relief, the Stars needed to send Tomas Vincour and his 800K to the minors. So the Stars had to make a roster move to add close to $1.2 million to stay above the $48.3 million floor.

So they couldn't take Nystrom at half of his $1.4 million. They needed the whole portion.

The reason Sean Avery, who hasn't played for Dallas since early in the 2008-09 season, is involved in this is because when the Stars parted ways with him back in 2008, the New York Rangers claimed him on re-entry waivers. That means the Stars are still responsible for paying half of his salary. As long as he remained on the Rangers' NHL roster the $1.9 million the Stars were payiing would count toward their salary cap situation, which is one of the lowest in the league.

Since Avery is no longer on the Rangers NHL roster, the Stars lose that cap hit (even though they're still paying him) and were in danger of falling below the cap floor. Had they simply claimed Nystrom on re-entry waivers, which would have been far more valuable in a financial sense, they would have only been responsible for $700,000 per year through the end of next season, and only had Nystrom take up $700,000 in cap space, with the Wild picking up the other half.

Instead, they had to give up "future considerations" (which will probably turn out to be nothing of any consequence) and take on over $2 million ($1.4 million per season) in salary (and salary cap space) through the end of next season, while the Wild are no longer responsible for anything.

Nystrom can provide solid depth as a bottom-six forward, but this appears to be a case where the contract is more valuable to the team than the player.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.


Posted on: October 12, 2011 1:28 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 1:51 pm
 

Daily Skate: Canucks won't forget Methot's hit

By Brian Stubits

METHOT MARKED: The Canucks played in Columbus on Monday night and during the game Henrik Sedin took a hard check into the boards from the Blue Jackets' Marc Methot. While he didn't get any supplementary discipline from the NHL for the hit, there could be more waiting from Vancouver down the line. Kevin Bieksa says a few Canucks tried to challenge Methot to a fight to no avail, so he had this to say afterward: "Hank's a tough guy and he'll take that for the team. But we'll remember that." (Vancouver Sun)

PIN THE TAIL ON THE DONKEY: When Daniel Carcillo arrived in Chicago for his introductory press conference, he decided to fit right in and take some shots at Vancouver, including Tanner Glass, saying he'd "keep them in check" this season. Problem is, Glass is with the Jets now. "He should probably figure out what team I’m on before he starts doing stuff like that. The funny thing is, I’ve asked him to fight before, and he said no. It’s kind of surprising that he called me out in the media. I have no pre-existing relationship with him. He’s a donkey; everyone knows he’s a donkey, that’s just his thing." (Illegal Curve)

SALAK BACK: Speaking of the Blackhawks, they recalled Alexander Salak from the AHL on Wednesday. Corey Crawford had missed the previous two days of practice, but on Wednesday he was back and Ray Emery wasn't present. Interesting goings ons in Chicago. (CSN Chicago)

SPOT PRACTICE START: I just love these stories. The Capitals had to sit out Michal Neuvirth in practice on Wednesday for what Bruce Boudreau called a lower body injury (he is available for Thursday's game in Pittsburgh, coach said). Since you kind of need two goalies, they got PR man Sergey Kocharov to fill in. (Capitals Watch)

BACK TO THE TANK: The San Jose Sharks are moving their next few practices to the HP Pavilion, where they play their games. The idea? Coach Todd McLellan wants his team to get used to the new boards and glass so they can keep their home-ice advantage. Good thinking. (Working the Corners)

FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLET: That is one way to desribe Phil Kessel's shot. Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer talks about the invisible shot that is so quick of his team's All-Star forward. He sounds glad to be on the other side of the ice. (Toronto Sun)

TO BOO OR NOT TO BOO? That is the question begging Senators fans about Sergei Gonchar. There is no question in this blogger's mind Gonchar deserves it for his indifference in Ottawa to start the season. (Silver Sens)

NYSTROM CLEARS: The Minnesota Wild placed Eric Nystrom on waivers last week then put him on re-entry waivers on Tuesday. Both times he cleared. So even at half price, nobody was willing to take a shot on the 28-year-old who had just four goals and a minus-16 last season. (Russo's Rants)

CHANT ALONG: Finally, as a request by @CoachBlueweiss after yesterday's Daily Skate item about the Maple Leafs' (and others') new goal song, here is some love to the Islanders' for this year, a little diddy called Crowd Chant by Joe Satriani. Not bad.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.



Posted on: September 30, 2011 10:05 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 11:01 pm
 

Taylor Fedun taken off on stretcher



By: Adam Gretz

During the most recent NHL Research and Development camp the league tested different variations of icing, including no-touch icing and a hybrid icing that would be a combination of the touch and no-touch rule.

Over the years there have been somes calls for the NHL to go with the no-touch rule for one primary reason: two players racing to beat an icing call, while exciting, can also be terribly dangerous. Example: Kurtis Foster, formerly of the Minnesota Wild, who broke his leg in a race for the puck back in 2008 (video here).

On Friday night, during the Oilers-Wild game in Minnesota, Edmonton defenseman Taylor Fedun was taken off the ice on a stretcher with what is being described as a leg injury after he became tangled up in a similar race for the puck to negate a potential icing call.

Nystrom was given a five-minute major for boarding and a game-misconduct. Michael Russo of the Star-Tribute Tweeted that Fedun stepped on Nystrom's stick causing him to fall into the boards and that it shouldn't have been a penalty.

Whether it was a legitimate penalty or not, this will no doubt be another example used by those in favor of the league introducing no-touch icing, even though it has received little support from NHL general managers in recent years. The biggest criticism of it, aside from the fact that it would eliminate an exciting play, is that it would potentially hurt the flow of the game by adding more whistles and stoppages.

Take, for example, the words of Coyotes general manager Don Maloney back in August on this very subject, via Dan Rosen of NHL.com:
"I am not for no-touch icing whatsoever," Phoenix GM Don Maloney told NHL.com. "Watching enough other leagues that have the no-touch, what I don't like is when the play stops. The puck is still moving but all the players stop and wait for it to go over the goal line. It's a speed game and you're supposed to play to the whistle. I just don't like that. It just aesthetically looks poor."

Fedun spent the previous four years playing at Princeton where he scored 20 goals throughout his college career.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com