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Erik Karlsson is even more dangerous this season

By Adam Gretz | Hockey writer
Erik Karlsson might be even better this season offensively. (Getty Images)

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

Erik Karlsson was the NHL's Norris Trophy winner in 2011-12 due in large part to his incredible season offensively.

He finished with 78 points and blew away his peers on the blue line. The next defenseman on the list was more than 20 points behind him, and it was the third-highest point total from a defenseman since the 2000-01 season.

Even though he took home the Norris, given to the NHL's best all-around defenseman, his offensive play often makes him more of an additional forward than a true defenseman. While his defensive game still has some flaws, his offensive ability helps to overshadow them. In other words, the positives that he brings to the table offensively help to outweigh whatever negatives that he still has in his own end.

The goal, after all, as simple and basic as it sounds, is to outscore your opponent. And Karlsson is a huge part in helping the Senators do just that.

Expecting him to score at a pace that would see him reach that level of total point production again is asking a lot and probably won't happen again. It not only takes an incredible amount of skill for a defenseman to reach that level in the modern NHL, it also takes a tremendous amount of good fortune and puck luck, especially when it comes to racking up the assists. Even though he probably isn't going to tally points at that same pace this season (his points-per-game average is down a bit), he might be an even more dangerous player offensively this season.

He certainly seems to be more aggressive and active offensively, if that's even possible. Let's just compare his first 13 games this season to his first 13 games last season to get an idea.

Erik Karlsson: Offensive production through first 13 games
YearShots On GoalTotal Shot AttemptsGoalsAssistsPoints
2013621426410
2011-12408611213

Entering Wednesday's game at Pittsburgh, that shot total for 2013 was leading the league -- not just for defensemen, but for all players. Just because, that's worth repeating: He's leading the league in shots on goal as a defenseman.

Since the NHL started tracking shots on goal in the late 1960s, a defenseman has led the league just five times: Ray Bourque in 1994-95 (lockout shortened season), 1986-87 and 1983-84, and fellow Boston Bruins great Bobby Orr in 1969-70 and 1974-75 (leading the league in scoring both times).

That's it. That's the list.

But it's not just the fact that he's getting more shots on net than everybody else. He's taking more shots as well. The fact that he's playing more minutes this season has certainly given him more opportunities to generate shots. But even if you take the additional playing time into account, he's still taking more shots. The puck is constantly on his stick. And when it is, he never passes up the opportunity to get at the goal.

He will shoot from everywhere and anywhere: from the point, on the rush, in the slot, below the circles. Any chance he gets, he unleashes it. Using the data from the chart above, you can see he's averaging 10.9 shot attempts per game with an average of 4.7 hitting the net.

Both numbers are absurd for a defenseman.

While I have no means of comparing the attempted shots (goals, saves, misses, blocks) in an historical context, I can see how many defensemen have averaged that many shots on goal, and the list is a short one. Since 1969-70, a defenseman has averaged even 4.5 shots just 10 times. Orr did it five times. Bourque did it four times. Paul Coffey did it once.

Karlsson's current pace, if he could sustain it, would be the sixth-highest.

So what does it all mean for Karlsson and the Senators?

For Karlsson, it means he's probably going to score a ton of goals. And while his assist numbers are going to drop, his goal production should go up.

Let's just say, just for fun, that he's able to maintain a 4.5 shot-per-game average the rest of the way (given how many shots that he's attempting, that seems like it could actually happen) and converts at his career average of 7 percent. That would give him an additional 11 goals this season and a total of 17.

He scored 19 in a full 82-game season a year ago.

But is it a good thing for the Senators? Well, how isn't it a good thing?

For one, it's going to result in them scoring more goals, and let's keep in mind that they're playing for a coach who last year said teams in the NHL have to score their way to the Stanley Cup so I can't imagine they're unhappy about it. But it also means that if Karlsson is in a position to keep taking that many shots, whether they're coming at even-strength or on the power play, the Senators' opponents aren't in a position to score themselves. And that's good news for Ottawa.

In the NFL, the best defense often is a good offense.

And no defenseman in the NHL is better offensively than Erik Karlsson.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @Agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Also, subscribe to our YouTube Channel.

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