The Ottawa Senators are playing a strange cat and mouse game with Mike Hoffman.
There is no doubt that he has high upside. Is he an elite wing? Probably not. Can he score 60-plus points? That seems possible. The problem with Hoffman this year was that it seemed there were always problems. Mark Stone benefited immensely from Ottawa’s late push while it did little for Hoffman. But why?
When Dave Cameron came in, the wing probably thought there was hope to climb the depth chart. Then Andrew Hammond got white-hot and so did Stone.
Whatever wave Ottawa was riding, Hoffman was nowhere near it. While Stone’s 49 points after January 1 were otherworldly, Hoffman did not get that first- or second-line magic carpet ride too often. Despite that, some crazy numbers kept popping up that suggested maybe the two players should have been paired together.
Stone’s ice time was around 19 minutes after Cameron arrived and Hoffman’s was around 14:00 or so, and that is being generous. Despite that and weird power play usage or (lack thereof), the Ottawa winger still was able to show off his speed and hands. On what basically amounted to be third line ice time for the last 20 games of the season, the forward had 27 goals and 21 assists, but only had three power play points.
The power play misuse is weird. Wouldn’t having a guy with the wheels and skills of Hoffman on the power play only make it better given his obvious talent level?
Put another way – Hoffman had more 5v5 individual scoring chances than Rick Nash and Sidney Crosby. He was 25th in the NHL.
— Stephen Burtch (@SteveBurtch) July 28, 2015
Alas Cat Silverman touched on tangible numbers earlier today.
At even strength, Hoffman was in the top-five most of the season despite being in the top six one night and on the fourth line the next. It was that kind of strange season, but players that generate this many scoring chances at even strength are not typically flukes.
One of Ottawa’s arguments would be that the forward could not repeat his 13.6% shooting percentage. That might be true. However, Hoffman played less than 15 minutes a night and still had just about 200 shots on net (199). It is as if Hoffman and his agent are almost low balling themselves deliberately.
The other even strength numbers from the HERO Chart are intriguing as well.
The forward exceeded expectations in spite of bottom-six ice time at even strength. Some of the stats are top-ten and -twenty in categories. That is heady stuff for a player enjoying his first breakout campaign. Production wise (given the ice time), Hoffman is pretty much first-line caliber.
So how could Ottawa try to pay him as a bottom-six forward?
The player sets up chances at a first-line rate as well. His overall GF% impact is nearly in the top-25 in the entire league.
Hoffman’s GF% relative to the team was 14.2% higher. Now the Corsi and Fenwick numbers are not earth shattering at 3 or 4% above the team average. However, would they be higher if he was used more? That is the great unknown. No one really has an answer to that, but his offensive stats likely could have received a modest bump if he saw second-line even strength time.
One thing to point out is that this was Hoffman’s second year in the league. Mistakes he made were not any worse than some of the other top-six players in Ottawa. He has to learn not to anticipate too much and get careless. Those really are the only two black marks against him that the Senators could have issues with.
The one overlying factor in the Hoffman situation is some things just do not add up. Why low-ball a player with this kind of potential?
If Hoffman stays with Ottawa and is used a little better, he has 55-60 point upside next season. If he goes somewhere else, he may enjoy the same numbers but with even greater potential going forward. The ball is now in Ottawa’s proverbial court.