Quick thought today, ranging from some discussion about my idea to shift Mikhail Grabovski to the #1C spot and plug young Nazem Kadri into the #2 hole with Clarke MacArthur and James van Riemsdyk. Basically the thought was:
- Grabovski can handle heavy minutes on the second line, so don’t change that
- Get Kadri onto the top line and protect those minutes
Now, I don’t think that Kadri can be totally protected with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. Even if you started them exclusively in the offensive zone, you’re still keeping a young, raw asset out against Zdeno Chara all the time.
Relating this to an experience I had with the Vancouver Canucks last season, Canucks fans were up in arms when the talented Cody Hodgson wasn’t getting the appropriate levels of ice-time, or so they thought, during a dominant stretch in January. I looked more closely at Hodgson’s minutes and found that he was performing the strongest when kept between 11 and 14 minutes, which is more traditionally what a third liner will get in the NHL.
How to relate this to Kadri, well, I don’t think he’s played enough games to give us a particularly detailed look at how he fares in his splits. I checked them and they aren’t clean, part of the problem being that the powerplay and even strength time hasn’t been evened-out yet.
This table sorts out the Leafs’ centremen’s average time on ice last season and compares it to their TOIQualComp, or the average time on ice the defencemen they played against got. The idea is that defencemen that play the most are probably the best. As you can see, it matches up well with overall time on ice:
|TOI/Game||Opp D TOI|
Sheltering a player takes more than just putting him in offensive situations. You want to keep Kadri’s time on ice well below 17 if you want him to see success at a young age in the NHL. He’s not a pure goal scorer, but his puck-possession numbers have been fine since joining the league and he can be molded into a Grabovski-lite. It just takes time.
But you don’t want to amp up the competition he plays against too quickly. While I think it’s easy to suggest that that’s how you can shelter Kadri, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
I’ve sold myself on the idea that Kadri lining up between MacArthur and van Riemsdyk would actually be a pretty good top six group at both ends of the rink and probably won’t deviate from the thought until expressly proven wrong by either a better combination of forwards put together by Randy Carlyle, or if my idea is attempted and completely falls apart.
If that happens, I’ll buy everybody who comments on this post a beer, but I doubt it.