Friends, we are a mere six games away from this roller coaster of a 2016-17 NHL regular season’s conclusion. For Hurricanes Nation, there has been countless highs and lows this year. Some of the season’s best moments, like the Jorge Alves story, will register as just a blip on the stat sheet. Other stories, like the emergence of Sebastian Aho, can be told almost entirely from statistical analysis. Hockey fandom is a twisted emotional world, but the statistic is the big equalizer. As we draw to a close of another year of questionable caliber, it’s time to examine where the Hurricanes are statistically. Who has emerged? Who has regressed? And what can we expect/ask from the team going forward? It’s time to look at the Hurricanes year in statistics.
To start, here are some of the fun statistical benchmarks and blackmarks from the Hurricanes players.
After Thursday’s win against the Blue Jackets, the Hurricanes sit at 84 points. The 2015-16 Hurricanes finished with 86 points. If the Hurricanes collect at least six points in their last six games, it will mark their first 90-point season since 2010-11. The team will be playing meaningful hockey in April for the first time in years. Maybe even to the pl….ease, there is no way in hell that I’m jinxing this.
Initial disclaimer: I defended the Cam Ward signing. I still think it was better than most, if not all the alternatives. His overall performance has not been enough to qualify even as a suitable 1A goalie. I’ll eat that crow. You’ll soon see why. No, I promise it won’t be through a Cam Ward soft goal montage.
The Good…Give Them a (Slight) Raise
Jeff Skinner– (32 Goals-25 Assists- 57 Points in 73 games) 6 points from career high (rookie season), highest point total since rookie year, 2 goals away from tying career high
Takeaway: This has been Skinner’s best year by far. He still has an outside shot at a career high in goals and points. He is what he is, at this point, but he is easily still the best pure scorer on this team.
Sebastian Aho– (23-24-47 in 76) Highest rookie scorer (47) since Jeff Skinner, played in every game this season
Takeaway: Aho is likely to hit 50, making this a solid rookie campaign. I could see him becoming a 70-80 point scorer in his second campaign, I could also see a sophomore slump (a la Dylan Larkin & Ryan Nugent-Hopkins). Speculation is fun.
Elias Lindholm- (11-32-43 in 66) career highs in points (43, previously 39), faceoff wins (53.8%), and takeaways (54)
Takeaway: The points just don’t tell the whole story with Lindholm. Yes, it’s his best season points-wise, and he led in assists, but his defensive numbers are impressive as well. Better than Staal’s in some regards. He’s for real, y’all.
Jaccob Slavin– (5-28-33 in 76) Career highs in Pts (33), +/- (21), ice time (23:26), blocks (151), team-leading 77 takeaways and has played in every single game
Takeaway: Slavin is my Hurricanes MVP. The rest of the NHL might not know this kid for another 2-3 years, but we do. Slavin is an outstanding top pairing defenseman, folks. He is the anchor of our defense, and Canes fans should be ecstatic to see him and Pesce for the next decade.
Brett Pesce– (2-16-18 in 76) Career highs in Pts (18), +/- (17), ice time (21:02), blocks (136) and has played in every single game.
Takeaway: His offensive numbers will never be pretty, but this defensive lynchpin should not be underappreciated. His consistent defensive toughness will be a key contributor to the Canes eventual return to sustained success
The Okay…..You can still improve some
Teuvo Teravainen- (15 Goals, 26 Assists, 41 Points in 75 Games) career high 41 points (previously 35), team leading 59 giveaways
Takeaway: I wonder if Teravainen is still due for a Lindholm-esque offensive breakout in the future. If not, he’s still a very capable 3rd line forward, but if he can boost his scoring, while protecting the puck better….he might be a very capable 2nd line forward. This marks his first 40 point season of his young career.
Jordan Staal- (16-27-43 in 68) Career high 59.8% face-off pct
Takeaway: Staal’s numbers continue to scream ‘solid’ in every way. They don’t wow you, they don’t scare you, but he is a cornerstone for this team. Ideally, it would be nice to see him rise up to a 50-point level. 50 is his career high.
Justin Faulk- (16-19-35 in 68) Career high in goals (16),
Takeaway: His mediocre first-half has been all but erased by his stellar play in the latter part of the season. He might not be a defensive juggernaut, but he is the top blue line catalyst for the Hurricanes offense, by far.
Noah Hanifin- (4-21-25 in 74) Career high in points (25)
Takeaway: He had slightly better offensive numbers, and slightly worse defensive numbers from his rookie year. I definitely feel there is a corner still to be turned for Hanifin. March has been his best month of the season statistically and he isn’t even halfway through the 5-year long Lindholm Learning Curve.
Victor Rask- (16-27-43 in 75) Played in every single game, career highs in assists (27) and ice time (17:27)
Takeaway: It’s hard to say that Rask actually regressed, but his numbers across the board are just slightly lower than last year. It would not shock me if this is Rask’s ceiling, which is still very solid for a 3C
Joakim Nordstrom (6-5-11 in 75) (team leading 129 hits)
Nordstrom’s number’s dropped dramatically, as his role did, but he was still the team’s top physical presence this year, statistically, and seems to fit that fourth line grinder role, with occasional offense perfectly.
Lee Stempniak- (15-23-38 in 75) Played in every single game.
The only reason he’s in the ‘okay’ list is because he didn’t have any career-highs with the Hurricanes and scored 51 last season. That should not diminish from his season-long success as a veteran source of alternative offense.
The Not Good- We’re Less Than Pleased
Ryan Murphy- (0-2-2 in 27) Lowest career games played (27), points (2), +/- (-11) ice time (13:10) of career
Takeaway: Whether or not he is an NHL-caliber defensemen may yet be determined, but the fate of his Hurricanes tenure is nearly etched in stone. He’s had multiple opportunities and hasn’t grabbed them. Bye Ryan.
Cam Ward- (26 Wins-20 Losses-11 OT Losses, .906 Sv% in 58 games) Most wins (26), games played (58) since 2011-12 season. Lowest Goals Saved Above Average (-13.42) of his career
Takeaway: I have a sneaking suspicion that Cam Ward may have been the de facto locker room leader this team. That’s valuable with a young core. But its time for me to officially acknowledge that Cam is not the best option to bridge the gap towards consistent contention. Not as a 1 or a 1A. A 1B? Maybe. (Again, I’m well aware I’m late to this party)
Eddie Lack- (7-5-3, .902 in 17) Fewest games played in a season in NHL career
Takeaway: It’s harsh to pile on right now given the hit of two days ago, and I’d love to give him a pass for being injured all the time, but he wasn’t great last year either. The talent is there, so are the rebounds unfortunately
Game Over, You’re Fired
David Marcoux- The Hurricanes will finish with their third consecutive season in the bottom third of team goaltending (in terms of save %). He tinkered with, and subsequently broke Eddie Lack. Even if Ward and Lack are the problem, Marcoux has brought ZERO statistical benefit to this team for three years. The numbers have spoken.
The Not Included
McGinn, Di Giuseppe, Dahlbeck and Tennyson all played significant roles on this team, but did nothing of astonishing note statistically. I’d love to see McGinn (Who led the ‘meh’s with 14 points) or Di Giuseppe step up offensively as they get further up to speed. I’d also love to see Fleury and McKeown take Tennyson and Dahlbeck’s jobs. No offense guys.
A Look at the Overall Hurricanes Production
On the whole, the team hasn’t scored enough to make it back to the halcyon days of the late 2000s, but this is, statistically, the best team (Outside of goaltending) that Raleigh has seen since the first year of the Drought. The team already has six 40+ point scorers, a first since 2010-11. If Stempniak (38) reaches 40 points, it will be the first time since 2005-06 that the Hurricanes have had seven 40-point scorers
On a related note, Sebastian Aho is just three points away from 50. If he gets there it will be the first time the Hurricanes have had multiple 50 point scorers since Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner did it in 2013-14. Sadly, the Hurricanes have not had more than 2 since 2010-11. It’s likely that run continues, though Lindholm and Staal each with 43 points, have an outside chance.
Those are just from the team leaders, but where the Hurricanes have offensively shined has been the depth production. The Hurricanes have NINE double digit goal scorers this season, the most since 2010-11. They are:
- Jeff Skinner (32)
- Sebastian Aho (24)
- Victor Rask (16)
- Jordan Staal (16)
- Justin Faulk (16)
- Lee Stempniak (15)
- Teuvo Teravainen (15)
- Elias Lindholm (11)
- Derek Ryan (11)
Viktor Stalberg had 8 before he was traded, which might have given us 10, which not even the 2005-06 team did, but this is still the first time in many years that we’ve gotten consistent goal scoring from across the lineup. With 7 games remaining the Hurricanes sit with 198 goals. This is the highest total since 2013-14 right now. Scoring 14 goals over the next seven days would put that at the highest since 2010-11. Simply put. The offense still needs work, but this is the best producing team we’ve seen in Raleigh in years
A Little Bit of Give and Take
One of the random interesting statistics I noticed in my research was the Giveaway-Takeaway ratios. Noting Jeff Skinner’s singlehanded steal and breakaway goal against New Jersey, I decided to take a look and see how the players fared in terms of getting and keeping the puck. Here’s how they stack up:
T=Takeaway, G=Giveaway ☹= They who are no longer with us
Slavin (77T, 50G, +27), Lindholm (54T, 31G +23), Pesce (49T, 33G +16), McClement (29T, 15G +14), McGinn (26T, 13G, +13), Staal (52T, 39G, +13), Stempniak (52T, 42G, +11), Faulk (49T, 44G +5), Nordstrom (24T, 21G, +3) Skinner (59T, 58G, +1) Stalberg ☹ (33G, 19T, +14)
Aho (35T, 51G, -16), Hanifin (38T, 50G, -12), Teravainen (50T, 59G, -9), Dahlbeck (6T, 14G, -8), Rask (36T, 42G, -6), Ryan (31T, 32G, -1), Hainsey ☹(22T, 35G, -13)
I think this statistic really helps illustrate how good Elias Lindholm is on both sides of the puck. That +23 disparity shows how intelligent Lindholm is playing right now. The cliché goes that sports are just as much mental as they are physical. I think this season we’ve all seen him turn that mental corner, to the point where it’s not inconceivable that the 2017-18 season could see him playing like the Top 5 pick we’d always hoped he’d be.
On the other side of that coin, it seems like the youth of Aho, Hanifin and Teravainen are working against them here. For Aho, I’d expect this to be an area where we’ll see continual improvement. I believe that for Hanifin as well, but maybe not immediately. Teravainen just needs to figure out how to control his skills. He’s got the physical tools, it just seems sometimes like he thinks the game a split second slower than he needs to vault into that next Top 6 echelon.
Uhhh, You Forgot The Corsi
For those advance stat nuts, the only regulars who fell below 50% on the popular puck possession metric were Nordstrom (48.5%), Tennyson (48.5), McClement (45.1), Murphy (47.9) and Dahlbeck (47.0). Jordan Staal led the team at 55.7%. Bill Peters loves controlling the puck. The numbers bear that out.
What Do the Stats Say About 2017-18?
They say we need a goalie change. We sit 25th in the NHL with a .901 team save percentage. We might be able to contend with that in the Western Conference, but not in the Metropolitan Division. The Hurricanes’ division will likely see 4 100+ point teams (The Rangers sit at 97 points. The Capitals, Blue Jackets and Penguins are #’s 1, 2 & 4 in NHL point total). No other division will finish with more than 2. All 4 of those 100 point teams are in the top 11 of team save percentage. Our top priority should be a goalie upgrade (cough…Scott Darling…cough)
We could use another scorer too. It is known. A top line forward would be great, but this team, built for defense, will always only be as good as its goaltender. I supported Ron Francis’ resigning of Cam Ward. To an extent, I still do. But to go in to 2017-18 relying on Cam Ward as anything more than a 1B option would be less than ideal for our chances going forward. That said, we are clearly trending in the right direction. 2017-18 will be a real telling year for Ron Francis’ rebuilding effort.
The statistical facts are clear. This is one of our best Drought teams yet. I understand that’s like saying it’s the best smelling pile of crap, but its a pile of crap that’s been fertilized and something seems to be growing out of. Metaphor.
Follow-up disclaimer: On a final, completely irrational, non-statistical note, I have lied to you this entire article. I love Cam Ward, soft goals, rink wanderings and all. He loves stepping up under the biggest pressure. He always has. He’s got another late season miracle in him. Lead us back to glory, Cam, I still believe in you!