We're still grumbling about the heat of the summer and looking longingly towards September's gift of cooler weather and--more importantly--the start of training camp. But that hasn't stopped Puck Daddy from looking ahead to the upcoming season, and it won't stop us either. Their preseason rankings at center had both Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos ranked in the NHL's top 15, but with Vinny's 19 playoff points (good for 6th in the NHL) and general clutch performance fresh in our minds, there were some questions about ranking Lecavalier six spots below Stamkos.
So, with that as a jumping off point, we thought it'd be a good idea to go back through the stats and compare players, and not just Vinny and Stammer. Because I'm the one on an academic calendar, I had enough time on my hands to see what I can find. But before I present it, I will must give the disclaimer that I'm fairly new to hockey stats, so if I say something idiotic, please be gentle with your public humiliation. As a second caveat, I must note that Puck Daddy was looking ahead to next year, not judging last year. So projections of growth for Stamkos, who's still only 21 years old and just went through his first ever playoff appearance, may warrant ranking him about Lecavalier, whether or not past performance does.
Today, we'll start with centers. The Lightning have about 26 million players listed at center, so I cut the list to those who played more than half a season at the NHL level and took a look. The results? Apparently, in the grand surprise of the century, our coaching staff knows what they're doing. Production corresponds very well to time on the ice. And when I say production, I mean goal-scoring, point-producing, and contributing to the success of the team (as measured by goals scored when a player is on the ice), relativized to time on the ice. Anybody could see that Stamkos scores more goals than any of the other centers, but he did play 20 more games than Lecavalier. But when you examine goals scored per 60 minutes of ice time, Stamkos still stands head and shoulders above the pack.
Specific thoughts on each player after the jump (if you're scared of numbers, skip to the end of the bullet points).
- Steven Stamkos. We all knew he could score, so the stats come as no surprise, but the numbers are impressive. Scores 1.35 goals per 60 minutes of even strength ice time and assists another 1.35, bringing his point total to 2.71 per 60 even strength minutes. While this doesn't approach Sydney Crosby's jaw-dropping 3.98, it edges Alex Ovechkin's 2.59 and easily surpasses Vincent Lecavalier's 1.63.
- When Stamkos is on the ice, the team scores 3.51 goals per 60 even strength minutes (allowing 2.61), compared to just 2.12 when he's on the bench. The power play numbers are even more staggering, as Stamkos' line produces 7.23 goals per 60 five on four minutes, compared to just 4.02 when Stamkos is not on the ice.
- Although Lightning fans can point to issues in consistency, the only statistical problem I can find with Stamkos' game is his faceoff numbers, which, at a winning percentage of just 46.5, could use some improvement.
- While Vincent Lecavalier's scoring numbers pale in comparison, they're not too unlike other centers who were similarly ranked in the Puck Daddy preview. He scores .82 goals and nets .81 assists, for 1.63 points per 60 minutes of even strength ice time, a bit below the 2.00 for Ryan Kesler, 1.86 for Eric Staal, and 1.71 for Joe Thornton, but not dramatically so.
- When Lecavalier is on the ice, the Bolts score 2.86 goals per 60 even strength minutes (and give up 2.52), compared to just 2.50 when he's on the bench, so he's obviously a positive influence on offense. He does not, however, stand out on the power play, as the Bolts score 5.42 goals per 60 five on four minutes with Vinny and 5.55 without him. This, of course, may not point to the failings of Lecavalier so much as the strength of the Lightning power play.
- In addition to bringing solid leadership and outstanding playoff performance, Vinny stands above Stamkos at the dot, where he is slightly above average, winning 50.9% of a team-leading 1161 attempts.
- In what may come as a surprise, Dominic Moore does not lag far behind Lecavalier in offensive production, with .77 goals, .77 assists, and 1.53 points per 60 even strength minutes.
- However, although the individual scoring totals are similar, team scoring with Moore's line in the game falls off significantly from Lecavalier's (as expected). Per 60 even strength minutes with Moore on the ice, the Lightning score 2.23 goals (and allow 3.13), compared to 2.68 with Moore on the bench. Additionally, Moore's penalty kill numbers are by far the weakest of the center crop, with the Bolts allowing 6.46(!) goals per 60 four on five minutes with Moore and just 4.30 without him. (Bear in mind, however, that because there are fewer forwards during a kill, the sample size for four on five is roughly half the sample size for Stammer and Vinny in the five on four).
- He is, however, strong at the dot, winning 53.2% of 892 attempts
- Nate Thompson, as expected, produces just .51 goals and .77 assists, for 1.28 points per even strength 60.
- The team produces 1.80 goals (2.31 against) during 60 even strength minutes with Thompson and 2.79 without him. He is, however, a boon on the penalty kill, as a Thompson-led unit allows 4.17 goals per 60 four on five minutes, and the team allows 5.07 without him.
- Thompson is also the strongest center in the faceoff circle, winning 54.2% of 664 attempts, contributing to his reputation as a player who does the little things right.
- Dana Tyrell, in his rookie year, produced .45 goals and .61 assists for 1.06 points per 60 even strength minutes.
- When he was on the ice, the team scored 1.52 goals per 60 (allowing 2.05) compared to 2.85 without him. However, Tyrell's penalty kill numbers are the best among Lightning centers, as his unit allowed just 3.20 goals per 60 four on five minutes, compared to 5.73 allowed by the PK without him! (And he pretty much never tries faceoffs)
- Last (and actually least) is the newcomer Tom Pyatt, who scored .24 goals and .35 assists, for .59 points per even strength 60 minutes with the Monreal Candadiens.
- When on the ice, his team scored 1.18 goals per even 60 (and allowed 1.53) compared to 2.51 without him. He spent more time on the kill than any Lightning center, but his numbers were subpar, as his unit allowed 5.00 goals per 60 minutes of four on five, compared to 3.67 without him.
- Pyatt manages average in one category, winning exactly 50% of his 110 faceoff opportunities.
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So those were a lot of statistics that may or may not have been interesting. What's the takeaway? First, as I said, the coaches know what they're doing. The guys who are producing are on better lines and are playing more. Having solid linemates surely helps Stamkos and Lecavalier, but a player doesn't automatically produce with good teammates, and they do.
The second thing that jumps out is how big a difference Stamkos makes. He scores at a fantastic rate, and the offense is vastly better when he's on the ice. I dare say I won't get much argument when I say he deserved that new contract.
The third thing that I found interesting was the penalty kill numbers. It didn't surprise me much to find that Stamkos did well on the power play and that Lecavalier was average. But Dana Tyrell's beastly penalty kill numbers raised an eyebrow, as did Dominic Moore's poor ones. Admittedly, the penalty kill sample size is smaller than the power play sample size, but I want Nate Thompson and Dana Tyrell on the kill. Please.
And finally, there's a reason Pyatt signed a two-way contract. But he's still young.