Kevin Shattenkirk started the year as the season’s must have pending UFA defenseman. He ended the season as a complimentary if unremarkable blueliner. One of the best coaches in the NHL didn’t trust him enough to play a full twenty minutes in any of the seven games against the Pittsburgh Penguins. In fact Shattenkirk did not see the high side of twenty minutes after the second game of the playoffs.

Shattenkirk’s minute totals in the series tell us a lot about him: Game 7 18:18 Game 6 15:39 Game 5 19:44 Game 4 15:24 Game 3 16:58 Game 2: 17:35 Game 1 19:01. No one who knows hockey needs to be told that he played mostly third, and sometimes second pairing minutes in that series.

For player comparisons, the other two defensemen with more than six games played to finish with six points were Adam Larsson who is not known for his offense, and Joel Edmunson who is not known. Edmunson got his six points in two less games and was a plus-12 to Shattenkirk’s minus-4.

Among all defensemen in the playoffs Shattenkird logged barely more than fifteen minutes of even strength time on ice that put him in the bottom half of all defensemen. With just two points at even strength in the playoffs he ranks in the 30s among blueliners keeping company with Matt Benning, Marc Methot, and Dan Girardi.

The one area in which Shattenkirk was above average was in powerplay points, where he was tied for second. Five points in thirteen games is nothing to sneer at, but it isn’t enough to compensate for the .896 even strength on ice save percentage, well below Holtby’s .911 sv% and putting him 259th of all players in that number.

Most NHL observers would have put Shattenkirk’s next contract around the seven to even eight million dollar per year range similar to the best players in the league. If you look at the numbers you can’t justify anything more than five and that might be a stretch.

Take a moment and listen to this weeks Two Man ForeCheck and weigh in on a new Twitter poll.

Free agency is underway and the Pacific division is as wide open to winning as it was last year. No division title is won in July, but it can be lost.

Anaheim Ducks: C-

The biggest strength of the Ducks off season so far is not signing any hideous contracts. That’s about all that can be said for it though. They finished 17th in scoring last year and the only player they have signed since July first is a retread journeyman defenseman. Nate Guerin was drafted back in 2002 by the New York Rangers and has played in an unimpressive 205 regular season and 7 post season NHL games since. Hardly the most optimistic of starts to the off-season.

Arizona Coyotes: C

Given their likely spending budget the Coyotes had a decent start to free agency picking up Jamie McGinn to play along side some of their youngsters. He’ll bring some size to the team. Other signings included depth players like goalie Justin Peters. They still have a lot to do to be a playoff team, maybe this is the year they go young?

Calgary Flames: B-

The Flames went out and addressed needs. They signed Chad Johnson to a one year deal at a team friendly number. Johnson is emerging as a strong goaltender and had very good number playing behind last years woeful Buffalo Sabre. Troy Brouwer is now their highest paid forward, which would be very odd on many teams, but at under $5m its a decent contract on a team that’s best forward are on or just ended their entry level deals.

Edmonton Oilers: C+

The Edmonton Oilers signed three players, Milan Lucic, Jonas Gustavsson, and Mark Fraser. Fraser is a big bodied defenseman who has spent most of the time since being drafted in 2005 in the AHL collecting just 219 NHL games. It’s worth noting he played in the New Jersey Devils system with Adam Larsson, but they were not very frequent linemates. Gustavsson is a quality backup goaltender which is something they need as only three teams finished with more goals against last year. Milan Lucic was signed for more money than another other player on July first. He’s quite familiar with Peter Chiarelli, Andrew Ference, and Benoit Pouliot from their time in Boston, having won a Cup with the first two. Lucic and Oskar Klefbom appear to be the long range plan for the Oilers as both are signed the end of the 2022-23 season. The signings themselves weren’t egregious, but defense, defense, defense were the first, second, and third needs of the team and they didn’t do much to address those.

Los Angeles Kings: B

Jeff Zatkoff who used to be in the Kings system having played for the Monarchs for a couple years. He may well see serious NHL time after playing well as part of the Penguins Stanley Cup run. The rest of their signings were all second (or lower) tier players with former Washington Capitals center Michael Latta as the most recognizable nationally, Tom Gilbert is a well traveled depth defenseman who is fairly reliable but not flashy, and last was the signing of Zach Trotman a defenseman with decent tools who was Mr Insignificant of 201o. Getting all three for under $3m is a pretty nice deal, especially given the taxes in California. There wasn’t a lot of need here, and also rather little cap space.

San Jose Sharks: B

When you go to the Stanley Cup finals and you aren’t losing anyone to free agency, there isn’t a lot to do. The Sharks added Mikkel Boedker who has proven himself able to produce in the playoffs. The Sharks need more of that, just as they could have used his speed in June against the Penguins. Solid signing that should enhance the team without damaging chemistry.

Vancouver Canucks: D

The Canucks needed to add youth, speed, and quality defense they did none of that. They added Loui Eriksson fresh of a contract year performance, and two players unlikely to play a combined 20 NHL games this season. Possibly their best move was signing Doug Jarvis as an assistant coach.

 

The New Jersey Devils are outside the playoff structure. The New Jersey Devils have played more games than most of the teams ahead of them. Lou Lamoriello has assembled a team with a long pedigree, and unfortunately no future. Even with first ballot hall of fame induce Jaromir Jagr on the roster, and three time 30+ goal man Michael Ryder, the team is 26th in the NHL in goals for. The defense, and goaltending is in better shape, but any team with six players over age 35, including their top three scorers and the goalie with the most wins, isn’t fit for anything but the glue factory.

Its time to hit the hard reset and go for it. Adam Henrique is young enough to play all the way through even a five or six year rebuild. Travis Zajac can either stay long term or be used as a mentor in the upcoming transition and then moved for a missing piece if he’s not part of the solution. Jon Merrill, Adam Larsson,  and Cory Schneider all have their best year ahead of them. Damien Brunner is in much the same shape as Zajac.

As for everyone else: Fire Sale.

Last year at about this time Jagr was traded for a first round pick and two prospects. There is no reason he can’t be traded for more value by the Devils when the Olympic break is over. Michael Ryder who doesn’t have the same name recognition but is most of a decade younger with a year remaining on his contract should command a slightly better return. If Elias who has a NMC can be persuaded to go, he could easily fetch even more than Ryder since he lacks the New Foundlander’s reputation for streakiness.

Bryce Salvador might actually be the prize pick, he plays solid minutes overall at about 21 a night, but almost four of those are short handed and there are several playoff teams who could use him to add a bit more stability to the mix, he too has a year left on his contract. Marek Zidlicky is another guy with a reasonable contract, and who has to be asking himself how many more chances he’ll have to win the Stanley Cup.

Just among those five players you’re looking at enough return to reshape the roster, and the future of the New Jersey Devils. At minimum, that haul of resources should net them three first round picks, four to six prospects one or two roster players and two or three second or later round selections. This is completely leaving out pending UFA’s like Ryan Carter, Steve Bernier, Stephen Gionta, and Mark Fayne. They say the future is now, and in some cases that is true. But when you’re talking about sports franchises the future is built now is more true. If Lou Lamoriello, Josh Harris, and David Blitzer want to see a glorius future for their franchise, the time to reshape it is now.

I noticed a curious trend in the last decade. Few of the young players, say twenty five and under who won the Cup seemed to be major impact players later on. At the same time, players who won a bit later were contributing again and again to at least deep runs. Take Rob Scuderi and Mark Recchi as players who won the Cup towards later, and we’ll look at a few of the players who won young below.

While injuries have played a big part in the recent history of the Pittsburgh Penguins, its hard to argue that Marc-Andre Fleury is not playing well below the level he did when they last hoisted a banner. Oddly, the Cup win represents only a mediocre set of numbers for Fluery. The year before in a loss he finished with a save percentage of .933. In winning the cup he dipped to a pedestrian .908sv% and that represents the last time he was above .900sv% in the post season the trend in games played in the post season and overall performance is not pretty either, this season his save percentage was .834 and that’s about as unlovely as it gets.

Eric Staal was in his second NHL season when the Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup. In that season he crushed out 100 points. On special teams he was magic, 19 powerplay goals and 4 short handed goals are more goals than most players will total in a season, the rest of his 45 goals that year came at even strength. In the playoffs he had 28 points in 25 games. Since then he’s only been in the playoffs once more, and has never again been over a point per game.

Patrick Kane peaked in the year the Chicago BlackHawks ended their drought. He had 30 regular season goals and 88 points in the regular season. In the post season on his way to sending the Philadelphia Flyers home with heads hung low he had an eye popping 28 points in 22 games. In the two seasons since he too has trended downwards. He didn’t score a single goal in this years playoffs, this isn’t what was expected when the Blackhawks brain trust drafted him.

For the Los Angeles Kings, the players who entered this season under twenty five are, Anze Kopitar, Alec Martinez, Trevor Lewis, Jordan Nolan, Dwight King, Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov, Andrei Lokitinov, Kyle Clifford. New Jersey Devils fans may or may not want to be a bit more relaxed about the question, with just Mark Fayne, Adam Henrique, Adam Larsson and Jacob Josefson having entered the season under twenty five.

Am I 100% convinced that winning the Cup at a young age is bad for players? No, but it does factor in. And you really have to ask yourself how could it not sap the motivation at least a little? You aren’t even old enough to rent a car in some states or get good car insurance rates, all your friends are still in high school or college or maybe working some entry level job and you’ve just taken home the hardest trophy to win in sports. Having won a cup you’re assured of getting multimillion dollar contracts until at least two years past the point anyone else would have been forced to retire, and you’ll have a nice piece of bling for your hand to remind you of how great you were once.

Back half an eon ago, at least in terms of news cycles I previewed the series.  Depth and health were the two keywords, and whiled they did play a pivotal part, the component I don’t think anyone looked at was something that seems obvious.

The New York Rangers did not have any killer instinct. They were good at evening games up, or popping in goals here and there. They had solid defense for the most part. But getting ahead and standing on their opponents throat? Nope, didn’t happen.

By The Numbers:

  • 4 : The number of games in the series Lundqvist had a sub .900Sv%.
  • 10 : The number of years Brodeur is older than Lundqvist.
  • 3 : The number of Rangers who finished the post season with more points than Artem Anisimov.
  • 0 : The number of shutouts in this series by Brodeur
  • 19:29 : How many minutes Adam Larsson played in this series.
  • 1 : The number of points Gaborik had in the series.
  • 3: Chris Kreider’s points total for the series.

After killer instinct, the Rangers biggest failure was simply not playing sixty minutes of hockey. Bad first periods, mixed second and third periods are no way to win against talented teams. The Devils biggest corporate asset was the ability to withstand the frankly scary Ranger surges and still maintain composure. First to last this was a series that the New Jersey Devils were more willing to sweat blood for. The Devils got contributions from more players, and were consistent game in and game out.

Last time we checked in on the Carolina Hurricanes captain he was a very mediocre 11-25-36. As one of the highest plaid players in  the NHL, that’s not what the team or his fans are expecting of him. Since then he’s had 6 games with a 5-3-8 line. He’s also rocketed from a league worst -23 to a staggering -18 that has him 6th from the bottom of the entire NHL.

What looked like a run away scoring winner among rookies in November and December has tightened up considerably. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has suffered two shoulder injuries from legal hits, and Adam Henrique has had a couple issues keep him out of games as well. The two injuries to Nugent-Hopkins give a lot of credence to the early and preseason arguments that perhaps another year in juniors putting on some muscle might be in his best interest. With or without him the Oilers are a lottery team, and now if that shoulder fails to heal it could have repercussions that span his entire career. One wonders if the close scoring race among the forwards will lend itself to a defensemen or goalie picking up the award in Vegas.

Forwards:

  • Adam Henrique has wrested the scoring lead away from Nugent-Hopkins. In piling up the lead 19% of his points on the season have come shorthanded, 65% have come at even strength leaving the balance on the powerplay. He’s also got 30 takeaways to just 17 giveaways on the year.
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins over 51% of his points have come on the powerplay this season. Despite all the time missed with injuries, he’s still on pace to break twenty goals on the year. While neither his home nor road number crosses 40%, it is interesting to note that his road faceoff percentage is higher than home.
  • Matt Read, the Philadelphia Flyers were probably expecting their other rookie forward to be at or near the top of the Calder discussion. But the small and undrafted Read has climbed the scoring ranks all season with other players out of the lineup. Like Henrique he gets a lot of short handed time, and a good amount of his points a man down.

Goalies:

 

  • Thomas Greiss of the San Jose Sharks has eight of his 12 games played, a .926sv% and 2.06GAA.
  • Jhonas Enroth of the Sabres has been on the crazy train with the rest of the team 8-9-3 in 23 appearances.
  • Richard Bachman has piled up a record of 6-3-1 .912sv% GAA 2.72.

Defensemen:

  • Jake Gardinier of the Leafs leads all rookie blueliners in points. 21:07 TOI/G
  • Raphael Diaz has climbed into second with 16 points, and has 91 blocked shots for the Montreal Canadiens.
  • Jared Cowen has 155 hits, 63 blocked shots 14 points and is loggging almost twenty minutes a night for the Senators while fourth in scoring for rookie defensemen.
  • Adam Larsson’s injury has allowed other defenders to catch up to him in scoring, but few are close to his 21:48.
  • Justin Faulk of the Hurricanes leads all the newbie defenders in average time on ice with 23:38. His 74 hits, 54 blocks and 24 takeaways to just 13 giveaways show he’s earning that time too.

Eric Staal has a current stat line of 11-25-36 with a league worst -23, his next nearest teammate Char Larose is a mere -16, probably not what ownership hoped to invest its money in for the season.

Forwards:

  • Even with time off due to injury, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins still leads NHL rookies in scoring. The Oilers will probably consider keeping him around a couple more seasons.
  • Just one point behind “The Nuge” is Quebec Nordiques New Jersey Devils stud Adam Henrique who has to play the oppositions top defensive players on a nightly basis. what’s more interesting is that he plays two minutes less powerplay time and unlike Nugent-Hopkins Henrique plays over two minutes a night shorthanded where he’s picked up seven of his points.
  • Matt Read has burst to the top of the rookie scoring race int he last two or three weeks. The Flyers are quite grateful for this given how the injury bug seems to have taken up residence in their locker room. Over five minutes of any given night of special teams time are coming his way. Currently leads all rookies in goals with 15 through 45 games.

Defensemen:

  • Raphael Diaz is still tied atop the rookie defensemens scoring race, with a slightly better plus/minus on a notably worse team than Larsson. 3-12-15 -1 30 Hits 84 Blocks 10 Takeaways
  • Jared Cowen is a monster on the blueline, the Senators moving tower is one point behind the Habs Diaz and the Devils Larsson in points while playing three and a half minutes of shorthanded time a nite.  133 hits 59 blocks and 20 takeaways make it unlikely the other teams fails to notice he’s on the ice even if you could miss a 230lb 6 ft 5 inch defenseman sporting the Canadian capital teams logo.
  • Adam Larsson has led or shared the lead in scoring the whole season and there is a lot to be said for consistency, especially on a team that took quite some time to wind up this season. 64 hits 51 blocks and 9 takeaways. leading all rookie defensemen in average time on ice.

Goalie:

  • This week the San Jose Sharks put Antero Nittamaki on waivers, that should say something about how confident they are in Thomas Greiss. Confidence in the rookie goalie with the best GAA 1.98 and best Sv% .927 among rookies with 10 or more starts isn’t terribly shocking.
  • Richard Bachman also ousted a more senior backup for the second slot on a western team The Dallas Stars relegated Andrew Raycroft to the AHL in favor of Bachmans 6-2-1 record with a 2.50 GAA and .917 Sv%.
  • Despite transportation issues Jhonas Enroth has not so quietly been the better goaltender for the Buffalo Sabres this season. His Sv% at .919 is significantly higher than former Vezina winner Ryan Millers as is his GAA at 2.59, he’s got an 8-9-3 record giving him almost half the teams wins with slightly more than a third the losses.

Honorable mentions:

Justin Faulk: Carolina Hurricanes

Craig Smith: Nashville Predators

Carl Hagelin: New York Rangers

Gabriel Landeskog: Colorado Avalanche

Jake Gardinier: Toronto Maple Leafs

Alexei Emelin: Montreal Canadiens

The Kansas City Cyclones Quebec Nordiques New Jersey Devils picked up  Alexei Ponikarovsky for pocket lint and a firm handshake from the Carolina Hurricanes. The fifteen points he racked up in Raleigh put him equal with rookie defenseman Adam Larsson who is playing his first season of North American hockey. If that doesn’t put the rest of the eastern conference back on their heels nothing will.

Pernell Slewban is at it again. The Canadiens defenseman who is developing a not quite flattering reputation had another $2500 lifted from his pocket for the incident. This is the same player who got Mike Richards to say unkind things in the press about him, and teammate Hal Gill to remonstrate him in front of the media for being a slob in the locker room.  One can only wonder when Subban will focus enough on playing the game to have more stories written about his game winning goals, glorious defensive plays and slick passes than about the boneheaded things he does.

If the playoffs started going into today’s action: three teams in the east would make the playoffs who did not last season, only one team who was out in the west last year would be in.

Lot’s of fun games on the schedule:

  • The Battle of Alberta is rejoined. The Oilers offense against the Flames goaltending provides a nice contrast.
  • The Kings and Avalanche are trying to climb a bit higher in the standings and are currently rubbing elbows and 7th and 8th.
  • Panthers vs Jets: With a win or overtime loss the Panthers reclaim first in the division, with a regulation win the Jets will climb to within one point of the division lead.

The KHL is streaming their All-Star game live for all to see, anywhere in the world.

Also, look for my debut column over at Hockey This Week real soon. They are carefully hidden on Twitter: @HockeyThisWeek I hope you can find them.

With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins down checked with an injury, it’s time to look at some of the top rookies again. No doubt he’ll come back and be the only rookie the media and most blogs mention.

Eric Staal currently boasts a stat line of 9-16-25 -23 through 41 games played. The good news for him is that’s he’s just two goals and four assists short of matching his own rookie season. The bad news is well, everything else. Since December tenth he’s added two goals, four assists and dropped down another -5.

Goalies:

  • Richard Bachman has leaped onto the scene. When Lehtonen went out with an injury, and Raycroft simply fell down on the job the Dallas Stars called on Salt Lake City’s Bachman to stand and deliver. He’s now gotten into nine games with a 5-2-0 line, one shutout, .912sv% and 2.76 gaa.
  • Jhonas Enroth of the Buffalo Sabres has struggled lately (as has the team) with his last win coming back on November 26th. Still his numbers are solid on the season with a .921sv% and 2.49 gaa in 16 starts. Likely the only rookie netminder who will cross twenty five games.
  • Jakob Markstrom of the Florida Panthers appears to play a bit better in the NHL than the AHL, and has been recalled. In six games in the big show so far he’s got a five starts and is 2-3-0. His .928sv% is tops among rookie goalies with five or more games and is better than either Theodore or Clemmensen for the Panthers, his 2.59 gaa is about one fifth of a goal better than his AHL number.

Forwards:

  • Adam Henrique of New Jersey Devils and Windsor Spitfires fame is behind only Nugent-Hopkins in rookie scoring and is tied for the lead in game winning goals for rookies with 3. Currently he’s playing 18:23 a night leading all rookie forwards in TOI/G.
  • Matt Read is one of the other guys tied for game winning goal leads. The Flyers prodigy is also the only rookie forward who has scored both a shorthanded goal and on the powerplay. Is one of just six rookie forwards playing more than two minutes shorthanded per game.
  • Craig Smith of the Nashville Predators leads all rookie forwards in powerplay goals and is third in scoring.
  • Gabriel Landeskog is the only rookie forward who has recorded more than 100 hits, he’s seventh for rookie scoring and second for average TOI/G with respectable numbers for both powerplay and penalty kill minutes.

Defensemen:

  • Rapheal Diaz of the Montreal Canadiens (Now In English!) is quietly putting together a very respectable season in chaos central. at 2-11-13 he’s tied for the scoring lead for rookie defensemen, just three points behind the scoring leader on the blueline in Montreal. The -2 he sports is in comparison to the teams -10 goal differential. His 72 blocked shots leads all rookie defensemen.
  • Adam Larsson of the New Jersey Devils has been one of the few constants of this NHL season. Huge minutes, very important to the team and leading rookie defenders in scoring.  He’s also tops in TOI and eats up over two minutes a night of powerplay time.
  • Jared Cowen is probably the most complete rookie defenseman. The Senators blueliner is 3rd in scoring, 2nd in total ice time, 2nd in hits (with more than twice as many as Larsson who is 3rd) is 1st in shorthanded time on ice by more than a little, and is behind only Spezza and Karlsson in TOI for the Senators.

Others to watch:

Defensemen: Slava Voynov, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Jake Gardiner

Forwards: Cody Hodgson, Luke Adam

Goalie: Matt Hackett, Mike Murphy, Leland Irving