I guess the big news of the day is that the Maple Leafs sent down Carter Ashton, opening up a roster spot for the eventual return of Tyler Bozak. It’s a paper transaction that doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot, but one more excuse for me to quibble with the way the bottom six have been put together and deployed so far this season. Carter Ashton, in my view, has been the best non-scoring winger the Leafs have had. His speed and forechecking ability has really cut down on other teams’ ability to exit the zone cleanly, and the turnover and giveaway problems that the Leafs have had all season in their own end seem magically apparent on the other side with Ashton on the ice.
That said… he’s the one who is waiver-ineligible, and you can’t expose a guy like Frazer McLaren to waivers, since guys like Frazer McLaren are never on waivers, and teams are just chomping at the bit to get those types of players.
The other big piece of news is that Jonathan Bernier, who shut out Nashville earlier this season, will be the starting goalie, and if you have a problem with the way the goalies are being used this season, even if the starts are favouring one guy in the tandem, you’re really missing the forest for the trees. Toronto’s 2nd in the league in save percentage both overall and at 5-on-5, behind only Boston. There’s no reason to complain there. Nashville is in town tonight.
|Corsi Close %||48.5% (21st)||43.2% (29th)|
|5v5 GF/60||1.75 (25th)||2.18 (17th)|
|5v5 GA/60||2.77 (27th)||1.87 (7th)|
|PDO||97.2 (30th)||103.3 (1st)|
|5v4 GF/60||6.47 (17th)||8.42 (5th)|
|5v4 SF/60||48.0 (24th)||58.4 (9th)|
|4v5 GA/60||6.37 (14th)||5.24 (9th)|
|4v5 SA/60||44.1 (2nd)||62.5 (25th)|
|Penalty Differential||-3 (18th)||-11 (27th)|
I’ve been doing some research on shooting percentage lately, basically taking how a team performs over a small sample of games and extrapolating it over their next sample of games. Overall, shot percentage seems to be repeatable in a way, but it seems to be skewed towards the bad shooting teams. The problem for the Nashville Predators that they’ll need to overcome is that they are pretty bad at shooting the puck, they aren’t good enough of a puck-possession team to overcompensate.
Up and down the board, Nashville’s just a bad team. They’re one of four teams this year to get beaten in Corsi by the Leafs in score-close situations, their powerplay is “meh”, and they haven’t been helped out by luck. While the Maple Leafs have reclaimed their natural spot on top of the league in terms of PDO, Nashville’s the lowest. Pekka Rinne had a pretty average year last season and was hurt all of this year. Carter Hutton has come on as the new Predators starter and has fared admirably if not well. He was never supposed to be a starting goalie anyway. He wanted to be… a lumberjack. (Lucky for him, he doesn’t have to play tonight)
MAPLE LEAFS LINEUP
James van Riemsdyk – Nazem Kadri – Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul – Trevor Smith – David Clarkson
Mason Raymond – Peter Holland – Nik Kulemin
Jay McClement – Jerred Smithson – Colt Knorr
Dion Phaneuf – Carl Gunnarsson
Jake Gardiner – Cody Franson
Paul Ranger – Morgan Rielly
One thing I never got is that if Trevor Smith got sent to the minors in favour of Jerred Smithson, why does Smith play a significant amount more ice time than Smithson? I have a problem with specialists in general in an 18-man lineup, but Smithson’s specialty is something he’s successful at less than 60% of the time.
Like, he has more value to a lineup than Frazer McLaren, but if the Leafs are short in the centre ice position, I’d like to see it filled by players that at least have offensive potential like Smith and Peter Holland. I was a big fan of the Holland move because it put a player on the ice that had a reasonable chance of being a 1st, 2nd or 3rd line centre in the NHL next season.
I suppose the biggest news is that Nazem Kadri is back. Rather than put him back with Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk, I wonder if Randy Carlyle may keep Holland up there and finally deploy the Lupul-Kadri-Clarkson line everybody wants to see. Otherwise three of your best four offensive players will be playing against Shea Weber all night.
Colin Wilson – Mike Fisher – Patric Hornqvist
Gabriel Bourque – David Legwand – Viktor Stalberg
Nick Spaling – Matt Cullen – Craig Smith
Dicky Clune – Paul Gaustad – Matt Hendricks
Roman Josi – Shea Weber
Seth Jones – Kevin Klein
Victor Bartley – Ryan Ellis
To use an old line, if you went to the pantry and looked for a can marked “hockey team”, the Nashville Predators would be inside the can. The Nashville Predators are made up of every 2nd or 3rd line player in existence that played for another team and you thought “oh, this guy is kind of good”.
Although that would be somewhat unfair to pass off every member of the forward core as being average. Patric Hornqvist is a legitimate offensive threat, one of the few players that consistently gets over three shots a game. He’s a legitimate offensive threat. Though Stalberg was a depth player in Chicago last year, he was a good one, and he’s had a +6 penalty differential to compensate for the fact that he’s a below 50% possession player. Matt Cullen was one of the better Minnesota Wild players at gaining the zone in 2011-12, and him and Gabby Bourque have managed to keep their head above water for the Predators, out-shooting opponents despite the team not being full of players that can out-shoot. There are some “good” players on the Preds, but it’s clear they need a couple of “wow” guys to really take the next step. It’s a problem with Filip Forsberg being injured, but you get the sense they could use a couple more. Since Colin Wilson in 2008, the team only took one forward in the first round, Austin Watson, who projects as somewhat of a defensive centre. All these players have pretty good defensive ability, but guys like Cullen and Craig Smith need to start turning all their shots into goals for this team to have a chance in the tough Western Conference.
Barry Trotz employs a somewhat-rigorous zone-matching scheme with his forwards. Paul Gaustad’s Corsi stat is not all that great because he starts in the Predators zone a lot, Trotz suggested back in October. (Gaustad’s Corsi stat is also not all that great probably because he’s very limited offensively) I think the defence is the real strength of this team, now that Roman Josi is back in the lineup, the Predators have been able to find some easier minutes for phenom Seth Jones, keep him below 24 minutes and play him more specifically in offensive situations.
Last year it was fun to speculate on matchups going into games, but Carlyle has gone to power-on-power this year, as mentioned zillions of times before, so there’s hardly any use in doing that. Should expect to see a lot of “gentlemen’s agreement” shifts, however, where Carlyle matches against Nasvhille’s fourth line in the defensive zone by sending out Smithson and Orr. Dicky Clune is not only rare in that he’s a hockey player with a tolerable Twitter account, but he’s also one of the few enforcer-type players that consistently starts shifts in the defensive end.
For more Nashville news and views, as well as all the news and notes from around Conference III, check out III Communication, which may be my favourite hockey blog in existence.
(And a paragraph as useful as most goalie statistics)
Jonathan Bernier versus
Carter Hutton Marek Mazanec. Just as one Carter leaves, another one appears. An old moniker is to “never trust somebody that has two first names”, but I was never sure about Carter Ashton. Carter is *technically* a first name, but you don’t see a lot of kids named Carter wandering around, and for good reason, at any point in time. It usually scored in the top 500 most popular boys names every year, with 100 or so babies born every million in the United States with that name, but became much more popular around the turn of the century for some reason. It’s since shot all the way up to 25th.
What about Ashton? Well, it didn’t even score at all in most of the early part of the 20th century, but regained form in the 1980s and became the 76th most popular boys name in North America in 2004, ahead of names like ‘Steven’ ‘Timothy’ ‘Colin’ and ‘Henry’, more commonly accepted first names. Of course, that’s only one year, but Ashton remains a popular boy’s name to this day.
It’s a moot point because ‘Hutton’ is definitely not a first name (it peaked as a first name in 1999 at 260th) but I definitely think that you can get away with saying that “Carter Ashton” is two first names. It skirts the definitions of either, but both names are popular first names.
UPDATE!! – Wow, this is awkward…
— Dave McCarthy (@DaveAMcCarthy) November 21, 2013
“Marek” is definitely not a popular boys name in the United States.
The Leafs and Predators play at 7:00 Eastern tonight on Leafs TV.