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Breaking Down NHL Team Trends: Metropolitan Division

There are no two NHL teams that are built the same way. Some place a heavy reliance on defense, while others focus on being able to create offense.

Think of the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning as examples of offensive teams. Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Ales Hemsky, Jason Spezza, and Valeri Nichuskin will terrorize Western Conference defenses next season, while Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, and several others will rack up the goals in the Eastern Conference.

On the other end of the spectrum, think of the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues, who have strong defensive units that help shut down the opposition. In Nashville, Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Seth Jones, Mattias Ekholm, and Ryan Ellis will form one of the best defensive units of the 2015-2016 season, while St. Louis can be confident that any combination of Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, and Kevin Shattenkirk will be successful in shutting down the opposition.

With that in mind, I took a look where NHL teams get their scoring from, assuming that the accumulation of points would be equivalent to depth. Here’s how the teams looked last season.

We’re going to do a breakdown of each team in the league. Today we’re going to take a look at the NHL’s Metropolitan Division.

(Quick caveat: This type of analysis only looks at goals (which are notoriously random and unreliable), but there are still interesting tidbits of information to be gleaned. Also, there may be scorekeeper bias present in the point totals; some scorers hand out secondary assists like a dentist hands out toothbrushes, so I tried to look at percentage of points as well.)

 

Carolina Hurricanes

Points by forwards Points by defensemen Percentage of points by forwards Percentage of points by defensemen
369 (27th) 141 (21st) 72.4% (23rd) 27.6% (8th)

(Note: The numbers in the parentheses are league ranks).

 

The Carolina Hurricanes are a team that lacked offensive punch at both ends of the ice, which combined with poor goaltending to really make the team look terrible in 2014-15.

Their score adjusted shot attempts percentage was 51.6% on the season, however, and the additions of James Wisniewski and Eddie Lack should bolster the team defensively, while good seasons from young players such as Elias Lindholm, Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask and Riley Nash could seriously boost the team’s offense.

Are they going to surprise people and make the playoffs? Probably not. Is the potential to have a much better season there, however? I’m going to have to say yes.

 

Columbus Blue Jackets

Points by forwards Points by defensemen Percentage of points by forwards Percentage of points by defensemen
451 (14th) 171 (7th) 72.5% (22nd) 27.5% (9th)

 

The Blue Jackets had terrible luck with injuries in 2014-2015, and if everyone can stay healthy in 2015-2016, there’s no reason to assume that the team can’t make a return to the playoffs.

The team added star winger Brandon Saad during the offseason, so the forwards will likely be increasing their offensive production. There are also a light of bright spots on the back end as well. Unfortunately, a solid chunk of the defensive contributions come from Jack Johnson, who isn’t exactly the best two-way player.

 

New Jersey Devils

Points by forwards Points by defensemen Percentage of points by forwards Percentage of points by defensemen
351 (28th) 132 (27th) 72.7% (21st) 27.3% (11th)

 

The New Jersey Devils were a terrible team last year, and just how bad they were was disguised by how good Corey Schneider played. The former Vancouver Canuck was fourth in the league in adjusted goals saved above average in 2014-2015.

They were also one of the oldest teams in the NHL, and they didn’t really get any better over the off-season. 2015-2016 should be a rough year for fans of the team that has been so consistent over the past couple of decades. Lou Lamoriello left as well, so for the first time in 28 years, someone other than him will be managing the team.

 

New York Islanders

Points by forwards Points by defensemen Percentage of points by forwards Percentage of points by defensemen
484 (6th)  170 (8th) 74.0% (16th) 26.0% (15th)

 

The New York Islanders have done fairly well at drafting and developing talented forwards–Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson–and then exploiting market deficiencies to pick up defensemen and goaltenders for cheap.

The result is a well balanced and potent offense. Having one of the most talented duos in the league in John Tavares and Kyle Okposo helps, but credit has to go to Garth Snow for how effective he’s been in managing the team.

 

New York Rangers

Points by forwards Points by defensemen Percentage of points by forwards Percentage of points by defensemen
510 (3rd) 148 (18th) 77.5% (3rd) 22.5% (28th)

 

The New York Rangers are the second team we’ve seen–the Tampa Bay Lightning were the first– where the defensemen don’t contribute very much to the team’s offensive production, and instead prefer to get the puck up to the forwards and let them do most of the work.

The strategy works when the forwards are as talented as New York’s. Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Rick Nash, Derrick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes are all capable of hitting the 50-point mark.

One interesting thing to note is the difference between Tampa’s defense and New York’s defense. The Rangers unit isn’t as effective at clearing the puck out of their zone, and it shows in shot attempt differentials. At 5 on 5 last season, Tampa’s sc-adj SAT% was 53.9%, and New York’s was only 50.6%.

 

Philadelphia Flyers

Points by forwards Points by defensemen Percentage of points by forwards Percentage of points by defensemen
432 (17th) 158 (13th) 73.2% (18th) 26.8% (13rd)

 

The Philadelphia Flyers were a middle-of-the-road offensive team in 2014-2015, despite having one of the league’s best forward duos (Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux), and a decent scoring top pairing in Mark Streit (52 points) and Michael Del Zotto (32 points).

Though they got stellar goaltending from Steve Mason, the Flyers still missed the playoffs due to poor two-way play from the team as a whole. Though next year probably won’t end much better than last year, the prospect cupboard is stacked, and the organization will be reaping the benefits soon.

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

Points by forwards Points by defensemen Percentage of points by forwards Percentage of points by defensemen
449 (15th) 150 (16th) 75.0% (13th) 25.0% (18th)

 

The Pittsburgh Penguins are very similar to the Philadelphia Flyers offensively–strong offensive duo, good top defensive pairing, middle of the road numbers as a team–but were better defensively in 2014-2015, which is why they ended up in the playoffs, even if the Flyers didn’t.

The Pens also added Phil Kessel over the offseason, so look for the production from Pittsburgh’s forwards to get a boost next season as “Phil the Thrill” plays alongside either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

 

Washington Capitals

Points by forwards Points by defensemen Percentage of points by forwards Percentage of points by defensemen
468 (9th) 181 (3rd) 72.1% (25th) 27.9% (6th)

 

When Barry Trotz came into Washington, it was assumed that he would model his new team after the ones he coached in Nashville, where strict, defensive responsibility ruled.

Though defense was important for the Capitals in 2014-2015, there certainly wasn’t any offense sacrificed, as the team managed to score 237 goals (tied of 6th in the league).

Look for the production of points to move more towards the forward unit in 2015-2016. The loss of Mike Green on the back end should lower the offensive output from the back end, and the addition of T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams should boost the production of the forwards.

 

Data taken from war-on-ice.com

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