Tag:Adam Gretz
Posted on: February 21, 2012 3:02 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2012 3:09 pm
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Erik Karlsson's big year leading Senators

KarlssonBy: Adam Gretz

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at offensive production of Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson

With less than two months to play in the regular season the Ottawa Senators find themselves in a position that probably not even the most optimistic of their fans expected them to be when the season began back in October.

As of Tuesday afternoon, and following their 6-0 win over the New York Islanders on Monday, the Senators are in the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference with a six-point lead over the first non-playoff team. The playoffs look to be a very real possibility --if not likely at this point -- for a team that was projected by most to be one of the worst teams in the league over the summer.

It's a pretty good position to be in, and one of the driving forces behind their success has been the play of third-year defenseman Erik Karlsson, their first-round pick from the 2008 draft.

After a dominant two-goal, four-point performance on Monday afternoon against the Islanders, Karlsson currently sits atop the NHL leaderboard for scoring among defenseman with 57 points. That's 17 points more than the second-leading scorer, Florida's Brian Campbell. To look at it another way, the gap between Karlsson and Campbell from first to second is as big as the gap between Campbell and Florida's Jason Garrison, who is currently 38th in scoring among defenseman (23 points). And that's pretty amazing.

On his current pace of nearly a point-per-game, Karlsson would finish the regular season with 76 points, which is probably about as good as you can expect in the NHL these days from a defenseman. It's going to take him just 13 points over his final 21 games ( or an average .61 points per game, which is well below his current pace of .96 points per game for the season) to reach the 70-point mark, which would make him just the fifth different defenseman to reach that level over the past 14 seasons.

Nicklas Lidstrom did it four times over that stretch. Mike Green did it twice. Sergei Zubov and Brian Leetch each did it once.

His performance this season is starting to attach his name to the Norris Trophy discussion (as Sportsnet's Ian Mendes and Justin Bourne of the Score both argued on Tuesday), which is sure to have it's share of detractors.

Think back to when Green, the Capitals super-skilled and extremely productive defenseman, was a finalist for the Norris in back-to-back years during the '08-09 and '09-10 seasons with offensive seasons that were near mirror images of what Karlsson is currently doing for Ottawa. It was always polarizing because his shortcomings defensively were always pointed out and magnified, along with some variation of the comment, "well, he's basically a fourth-forward when he's on the ice." Or something along those lines.

Keep in mind, though, that the Norris Trophy doesn't (or isn't supposed to) go to the best "defensive defenseman." It's supposed to go to the player that demonstrates "the best all-around ability in the position."

That, of course, includes offensive ability, and that's something that Karlsson clearly has, and at a very young age. And it's not like he's a poor defensive player at this point in his career, either.

Karlsson is already logging a team-high 25 minutes of ice-time per game for the Senators, nearly two full minutes more than the second defenseman, and when he is on the ice the Senators tend to have the upper hand when it comes to possession and keeping the puck in the offensive zone. Among defensemen that have played at least 50 games this season (or players that we would consider for the Norris Trophy) Karlsson currently has the best Relative Corsi rating in the NHL 13.8. Corsi, if you're not familiar with it, is simply the total shot-differential at even-strength (goals, saves, missed shots, blocked shots) when a player is on the ice, which gives a pretty good indication of which players and teams are controlling possession of the puck the most. And that's pretty valuable, because the best way to keep the other team from scoring is to keep them pinned in their own zone, and Karlsson has been as good at that as any other defenseman in the league this year.

Now, Karlsson does have a bit of an advantage over some of the players he's ahead of that are also legitimate Norris candidates, if not favorites, (such as Nashville' Shea Weber and Boston's Zdeno Chara).

The Senators do protect him a bit defensively by not asking him to start many shifts in his own zone (his offensive zone-start percentage is currently over 56 percent). He also isn't asked to kill penalties all that much, and spends a great deal of time on the power play. But even if you look at just his even-strength points (35) he's still crushing the rest of the defensemen in the league in scoring (the No. 2 defenseman in even-strength scoring is Kevin Bieksa, with 25 points).

No matter how you look at it, he's having an incredible season and has clearly been Ottawa's best defenseman, if not its best overall player, and is one of the biggest reasons the team has exceeded almost every expectation.

I don't know if that's enough to get him serious Norris consideration at this point as the names Chara, Weber and Lidstrom still carry enough clout (and are pretty darn good players as well) to make it difficult for him to crack the top-three.

That doesn't mean he isn't deserving.

(Corsi and Zone Start numbers via BehindTheNet.ca)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 20, 2012 4:23 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2012 4:24 pm
 

Predators extend GM Poile, assistant GM Fenton

PredatorsBy: Adam Gretz

When it comes to getting the most bang for the buck there are few front offices in the NHL better than the Nashville Predators, led by general manager David Poile and his assistant, Paul Fenton.

On Monday, the Predators announced that both men have had their contracts with the club extended, with Poile's deal running through the 2014-15 season.

“Today’s announcement is further recognition by the Predators’ ownership group of the outstanding job David has done as President of Hockey Operations since the franchise’s inception,” said Predators chairman Tom Cigarran in a statement releasead by the team. “The consistent success of the Predators on the ice is directly attributed to his ability to assemble and lead a team of management, coaches, scouts and administrators who continually identify, draft, develop and motive an exceptional group of experienced and young players. The ownership group believes that under his leadership, the Nashville Predators will soon achieve its goal of winning the Stanley Cup.”

Stability has been a pretty big thing in the Nashville organization as Poile is the only general manager the team has had since it entered the league back in 1998. Along with having only one head coach -- Barry Trotz -- there has been a lot of consistency in Nashville over the past decade-and-a-half.

Despite not having the financial resources of some other teams across the league, the Predators have been a playoff team in six of the past seven seasons, and are currently one of the top teams in the NHL this season with 74 points as of Monday, a total that is more than all but four teams.

The Predators have been built primarily through the draft and their lineup is loaded with home-grown players up and down the roster.

Poile might have one of the toughest jobs in the NHL over the next two years as he figures out how to handle his two best players, defensemen Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. Suter is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, while Weber will be eligible for that following next season.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 20, 2012 12:39 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2012 12:53 pm
 

Red Wings waive Conklin, keep MacDonald

ConklinBy: Adam Gretz

For much of the season the Red Wings backup goalie position appeared to be a major area of weakness, as veteran Ty Conklin struggled when given starts in place of Jimmy Howard, resulting in Howard having to carry almost all of the load in net.

With Howard sidelined due to injury in recent weeks, the Red Wings were forced to bring up Joey MacDonald to fill out the roster, and when given an opporutnity to play, he did everything he could on the ice to convince Detroit management to keep him around when Howard returned. And that's exactly what's going to happen as the Red Wings placed Conklin on waivers on Monday afternoon, which means MacDonald will be sticking around as Howard's new backup.

The 32-year-old veteran, who has played for four teams in his NHL career, has appeared in eight games for the Red Wings this season and allowed just 13 goals on 196 shots for a .934 save percentage. He's been the man between the pipes in each of Detroit's past seven games, six of which they've won, with all of them coming on home ice to extend their NHL record home winning streak to 23 games (and still counting).

Conklin was just never able to find any sort of consistency for Detroit this season and was having one of the worst years of his career, posting a .878 save percentage in his 11 appearances. His last appearance for the Red Wings came on Feb. 4 against the Edmonton Oilers when he was lifted after giving up three goals on nine shots in the first period of what would be a 5-4 shootout loss.

MacDonald came into finish the game, his first appearance with the Red Wings this season. He's played every minute since.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 20, 2012 10:04 am
Edited on: February 20, 2012 10:06 am
 

Mattias Ohlund to have major knee surgery

By: Adam Gretz

Mattias Ohlund hasn't played a game for the Tampa Bay Lightning this season, and it's looking as if it's going to be quite a while before he suits up for them, or any team, again.

If he's ever able to.

The veteran defenseman is going to undergo major surgery on his left knee at the Cleveland Clinic on Thursday according to Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times, and it's a procedure that could be the final chance to save his career.

More from the Times on the surgery, and what exactly is going to happen:
The complicated procedure performed by noted orthopedist Anthony Miniaci will use a thin layer of titanium to resurface the bottom of the femur behind the kneecap. That should create a cushion where cartilage that usually covers the bone has flaked off to such an extent there is painful bone-on-bone rubbing at the patellofemoral joint.

There is no guarantee the surgery will resurrect Ohlund's 14-season career. There is not even a timetable for rehab.

The 35-year-old defenseman signed a seven-year, $25.2 million contract with the Lightning prior to the 2009-10 season, and it's a deal that still has four years remaining on it. In his first two years with Tampa Bay he didn't score a single goal in 139 games, and hasn't scored one since April 7, 2009, when he was still a member of the Vancouver Canucks. That's a lengthy stretch for a player that used to score around nine or 10 per season. He did record 18 assists in his first two years with the Lightning, and also took on a pretty heavy defensive role that usually saw him logging ice time in situations that required him to focus almost entirely on defense over offense.

The Lightning have certainly missed him this season as they've been one of the worst defensive teams in the league, and Ohlund's absence has resulted in third-year rearguard Victor Hedman stepping into the big minutes that Ohlund had previously played.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 18, 2012 7:25 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2012 11:10 pm
 

Pavel Kubina traded to Flyers

LightningFlyersBy: Adam Gretz

For the second time in less than a week the Philadelphia Flyers made a move to add to their blue line.

On Saturday evening, just a few hours after their 6-4 loss to Pittsburgh, the Flyers completed a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning by acquiring defenseman Pavel Kubina. The Lightning will receive a second and fourth round pick, as well as forward John Kalinski.

The deal was reportedly held up because Kubina would have given the Flyers 51 contracts. The NHL limit is 50, which may have led to the inclusion of Kalinski, a forward that had been playing for Adirondack Phantoms in the American Hocke League, scoring nine goals to go with three assists in 40 games.

It's been expected for a few days now that Kubina would be moved, and the Lightning, having now established themselves as sellers, were holding him out of the lineup until a trade could be completed.

In 52 games this season the 34-year-old Kubina has scored three goals to go with eight assists and has logged nearly 20 minutes of ice-time per game. He will be eligible for unrestricted free agency following this season.
NHL Trade Deadline
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Earlier in the week the Flyers made another move in an effort to solidify their defense, acquiring Nicklas Grossman from the Dallas Stars in exchange for two draft picks. Philadelphia has apparently been one of the busiest teams in the NHL as we approach the Feb. 27 deadline and have been the team most commonly referenced in Rick Nash trade rumors. Helping to fuel that fire was the word that Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson and Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren were speaking to one another in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon.

Given that the Flyers are currently the highest scoring team in the league and are once again struggling to keep pucks out of their own net, a very common problem in recent years, defense should seemingly be a much higher priority than adding another goal-scoring forward.

For the Lightning, it's also their second deal of the week as they also traded center Dominic Moore to the San Jose Sharks for a second-round pick.

After their 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday night, the Lightning have a 26-26-6 record, which has them in the 11th spot in the Eastern Conference with 58 points, six points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for what would be the eighth playoff spot.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 18, 2012 5:33 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2012 8:59 pm
 

Derek Dorsett vs. John Scott is not a fair fight

By: Adam Gretz

Derek Dorsett of the Columbus Blue Jackets is no stranger to fights.

According to his player page at hockeyfights.com he had been involved in 14 during the 2011-12 season, one of the league leaders in that category, and had found himself in 50 regular season fights in his entire NHL career entering his game on Saturday afternoon. So he kind of knows what he's doing when he decides to drop the gloves, and it's not much of a surprise that he did so in the third period of a game his team ended up losing 6-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Choosing John Scott as his opponent probably wasn't one of the better decisions he's ever made on the ice because ... well, we'll just let the video speak for itself. Particularly the shot at the 53-second mark that shows what is an obvious disparity in size.



The Blue Jackets list Dorsett as being 6-feet, 198 pounds.

The Blackhawks list Scott as being 6-feet-8, 270 pounds.

Nothing else really needs to be said.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 18, 2012 3:55 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2012 6:27 pm
 

Watch: Matt Cooke's rare 3-on-5 goal

By: Adam Gretz

When the Penguins and Flyers get together you can be sure that it's going to be a ridiculous game. Saturday's 6-4 Pittsburgh win in Philadelphia was no exception. There were penalties, a questionable hit from behind by Jordan Staal, and Matt Cooke scoring a rare 3-on-5 shorthanded goal, the Penguins' second shorthanded goal of the game, with both coming on the same penalty kill.

Check out Cooke's goal, which gave the Penguins a 3-2 lead late in the second period.



How rare is a 3-on-5 goal? Consider that it was the first one in the NHL this season, and that since the start of the 2005-06 season there were only 10 such goals scored across the entire league before Cooke found the back of the net. If you go back as far as the 1997-98 season, there were only 20 shorthanded goals scored in those situations before Saturday.

Former Flyers forward Mike Richards has actually scored three of them, and is the NHL's all-time leader for 3-on-5 goals.

Cooke's goal, which resulted in Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov being removed from the game for Sergei Bobrovsky, came just minutes after Staal scored a shorthanded goal of his own to tie the game at two. Staal was involved in another big player earlier in the game when he hit Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn from behind into the boards, resulting in a two-minute minor for boarding. It could have (and probably should have) been more.

It's a play that resulted in a $2,500 fine from the NHL. He has a clean resume in the NHL and doesn't have a reputation as being a dirty player, which probably worked in his favor. Staal was penalized on the play, but the Flyers didn't get a power play as Kimmo Timonen was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. It was simply that kind of day, and not one of the better officiated games you will see in the NHL this season.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 18, 2012 10:42 am
 

The Kings need to find some offense

RichardsBy: Adam Gretz

The Los Angeles Kings have one of the best goaltenders in the NHL this season, and a pretty solid defense anchored by young star Drew Doughty.

Unfortunately, they're running the risk of letting it all go to waste with what has been one of the worst goal-scoring teams the NHL has seen over the past 14 years.

Entering Saturday's game against Calgary, the Kings are clinging to the No. 8 playoff spot in the Western Conference, just two points ahead of the Flames team they're hosting. If not for the stellar play of Jonathan Quick it's worth wondering if this team would even be in playoff contention right now.

Quick, who is currently third in the NHL in goals against average and save percentage, has been the very definition of a hard luck loser. He has had 10 games this season where he's allowed two goals or fewer and still come away with a loss, whether it be in regulation or in overtime/shootout.

That includes Thursday's 1-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, the third time in the past month-and-a-half he's been on the wrong side of a 1-0 decision. There is only so much he can do.

As of Saturday morning, the Kings are averaging just 2.07 goals per game, by far the worst total in the NHL. And this is a team that has had the 6th most power play opportunities in the NHL. Granted, it's not exactly been a great power play (23rd in the league), but they've had more chances on the man advantage than most teams. Outside of that, there is almost no 5-on-5 scoring to speak of with a league-worst 76 goals during 5-on-5 situations this season. The second-worst team, the Minnesota Wild, has 84.

But how does this season stack up against recent goal-scoring shortages? Since the start of the 1997-98 season, only three teams have finished a full season averaging fewer goals per game than '11-12 Kings are currently averaging: The 2000-01 Wild (2.05), 2001-02 Blue Jackets (2.00) and 1997-98 Tampa Bay Lightning (1.84). Keep in mind, that Wild team was in its first year of existence, while the Blue Jackets were in their second year of existence.

At their current pace, the Kings would finish the regular season with just 169 goals, a total that would actually fall nearly 50 goals short of what would be the league average. This is a big problem.

The last time the lowest-scoring team in the NHL actually qualified for the playoffs was the 1988-89 Vancouver Canucks after finishing with a 33-39-8 record to claim the fourth and final playoff spot in the Smythe Division. It's only happened three other times since the NHL expanded beyond the original six in 1967 -- the '86-87 Detroit Red Wings, the '70-71 Minnesota North Stars, and the '68-69 Philadelphia Flyers.

Feeling optimistic?

Great goaltending will only take you so far. In the end, you still need to score goals.

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