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Raw Charge mail, first bag

We discuss Stamkos in and out of the lineup, stats vs. points, and who should be on Stamkos’s other wing?

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Raw Charge staff asked people to contribute questions for a mailbag, and we sure got some interesting ones. Many thanks for weighing in!

@RMDomal asks: Can you explain why TBL scored almost the same amount of goals with Stamkos and without him? And doesn't the Drouin trade negate Stamkos return? Or was it all the defense? I'm a NYR supporter but TBL fascinates me.

loserpoints: I’ll take these one at a time. The first answer is basically, “Nikita Kucherov.” He lit up the league last year and took over the role of dominant goal scorer from Stamkos. He even looked borderline Stamkosian on the power play. He mirrored the captain’s typical output by scoring a ton of goals from the right faceoff circle as opposed to Stamkos normal spot in the left circle.

Drouin and Stamkos are very different players. Stamkos is a pure goal scorer. He’s a generational shooter who is a huge asset because of that singular unique elite skill. Drouin is a creator who excels at gaining the offensive zone and passing. Drouin’s skill didn’t translate to results though for the Lightning when he was on the ice. Losing him will hurt in the short term and maybe in the long term depending on his development and Mikhail Sergachev’s. But I feel fairly confident saying a full season of Stamkos will help significantly more than losing a season of Drouin.

As far as being a NYR fan, we won’t hold that against you. For now.

GeoFitz: To dive a little bit deeper into the numbers than loserpoints, I wanted to look at the changes in goal scoring for each player from 2015-16 to 2016-17 and see where the contributions changed in the overall goal scoring. The Lightning scored 224 goals in 2015-16 and 230 goals in 2016-17.

2016-17 lost 19 goals from Mike Angelidis, Mike Blunden, Matt Carle, Erik Condra, and Jonathan Marchessault. All except for Condra left the organization and Condra failed to score a goal in limited time with the Lightning. However, the Lightning gained 33 goals from players in 2016-17 that did not score in 2015-16; Cory Conacher, Matthew Peca, Michael Bournival, Gabriel Dumont, Adam Erne, Yanni Gourde, and Brayden Point. From the new additions, the team added 14 goals to the total.

From there, we can look at the players that scored in both seasons and see how their totals changed.

Stamkos is obviously the big one having scored 27 less goals in 2016-17. Callahan also had a big drop off from 10 goals to two with his injured shortened season. Brown, Garrison, Stralman, and Namestnikov also saw decent drops in their goal scoring of 4 to 5 goals less. Paquette, Sustr, and Filppula were within 1-2 goals of what they scored last season. Those players add up to a loss of 56 goals, bring us down from our plus-14 to minus-42.

Nesterov and Boyle managed to score the same number of goals despite both being traded before the season was over.

The smaller games came from Palat (+1), Coburn (+4), Johnson (+5), Killorn (+5), and Hedman (+6). Palat has been a pretty consistent player so him only adding a goal isn’t unexpected. Coburn also had a bit better luck with his shot. Johnson was on the rebound from injuries that hampered him in 2015-16. Without a lower body injury that ended his season early, he might have added another 3-5 goals to his totals. Killorn capitalized on a very high shooting percentage early in the year to push his goal scoring up. Hedman also took advantage of a much improved Lightning power play and an overall spectacular year to push his goal totals up.

The two big movers in the positive side were Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin. For Kucherov, he continued on his progression towards being an elite forward hitting the 40 goal plateau, 10 goals more than 2015-16. Drouin was also bound to take a big step up. He was also helped greatly by the power play and playing a full season where he added 17 goals over his 2015-16 total. Between Kucherov and Drouin, their increases of 27 goals negated out the loss of Stamkos’ 27 goals, bringing the team back up to plus-six goals.

So all-in-all, the three biggest pieces were Point’s successful rookie season, and Kucherov and Drouin stepping up into even bigger offensive roles with Stamkos down to make up for it. The rest of it can be contributed to the normal variances of player performance from season to season.

JustinG.: Nikita Kucherov. Next question.

McGucks91 asks: Would you rather a player with better advanced stats or a player who actually puts up tangible points?

GeoFitz: This is a tricky one. Ultimately, the most important thing is producing results. In the end, the numbers that matter in winning a game is the number of goals on the scoreboard. If you have a player that has great possession stats, but can’t hit the net or set-up teammates, he’s only helping the team by keeping the puck out of his own net when he’s spending more time in the offensive zone. If you have a team full of those kind of guys, you’re not going to win very many games. It’s the same if you have a team full of guys that produce points, but have horrible possession numbers and are giving up more goals. Ultimately, there must be balance.

loserpoints: This is a great question and the answer is more about identifying the best way to evaluate players than any specific stats. The first thing I want to see is does the player drive on-ice goal share? Simply put, does the team outscore the other team when that player is on the ice and how does that compare to when that player is off the ice? The next thing I want to check is the same exact numbers but for shots instead of goals.

If a player drives shot and goal share, I’m pretty confident that’s a player having a positive impact. Same for the reverse. If the shot and goal differential don’t align well, that suggests there is some good or bad luck and I’m likely to consider the shot differential more important in almost all cases.

So, let’s say a player drives a positive shot and goal differential. The next question is how. For most players, at least part of that will be by scoring points. For some players, it will be mostly scoring points. For some players, it will be a combination of scoring points and other skills like zone entries, buildup passing, zone entry defense, zone exits, etc. And occasionally, players can drive positive differentials while scoring relatively little but excelling in several other areas.

That’s a long way of saying, scoring is the most common way that a player can help the team outscore the opposition but the right combination of other skill sets can achieve a similar effect with the right linemates. So I start big with goal share and shot share. If a player drives success in those metrics, the rest is about understanding how exactly they do that.

McGucks91 asks: What type of pie crust goes best with pumpkin pie?

Achariya: Your basic pie crust will work fine (flour, cold water, shortening, butter, salt, sugar), but you can also add just a touch of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg (maybe half a teaspoon each) to the flour before you cut in the rest of the ingredients. It’ll give the crust a hint of an autumnal color and flavor. Thanks for the question!

GeoFitz: Whichever one helps me get that delicious pie into my belly.

JustinG.: I agree with Acha, just make sure you keep the ingredients cold when you’re preparing the crust. It helps make it extra flaky.

iActium: I’m a cake kind of guy. Not a huge fan of pie.

Saima asks: Who is the best option to play LW next to Stamkos and Kucherov on the top line next year?

Achariya: I think this is a POINTed question.

GeoFitz: In my mind, there are four main options to play there; Vladislav Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Chris Kunitz, and Alex Killorn. Namestnikov is the one that I most want to see. But as I’ve explored in articles, putting Namestnikov there means pushing Brayden Point down the line-up or forcing Yanni Gourde to play center on the third line. I think Kunitz has done enough in his career playing next to high end players that I would be willing to give it a chance and see how he can do with two guys that are great shooters and one that is a great playmaker.

Palat would also make a great complement on the line, but I like him a little better on a line with Tyler Johnson and Point. Killorn has been a drag on possession, but it’s easy to see Cooper going with him. I don’t think he’s the best option and is the worst of these four.

BoltsGuy04: In my opinion, it may be a rotation of Namestnikov, Palat, and Kunitz. I’d rather see Namestnikov there because he has shown really well with Stamkos and Kucherov, and doing so would put Palat on a potential second line with Johnson and Point, leaving a third line of Kunitz, Gourde, and Killorn, possibly.

Palat, Stamkos, and Kucherov on the first line would be one of the best top lines in the league, but moving Palat to the second line would help better balance the scoring.

As far as putting Kunitz on the first line, I would only see that if an injury occurred or if the team needed a little spark mid-game.

iActium: Vladislav Namestnikov. Chris Kunitz on the top line just irritates me. He isn’t a top line player in the NHL and is better suited deeper in the lineup. If it isn’t Namestnikov, the coaching staff could put Yanni Gourde, (shudders) Alex Killorn, Brayden Point, or Ondrej Palat up there. I’m partial to Namestnikov due to what the line of ‘Namestnikov - Stamkos - Kucherov’ did in their small sample size last season; they were dominant. I want to see more of that line just to find out if that combination really works or was just a flash in the pan. If Namestnikov doesn’t work there then try one of the other four players previously mentioned (personally I think Point ends up being a winger on the second line or the third line center).

Additionally, Ondrej Palat could easily slot up there and if the Namestnikov doesn’t work out then our favorite Czech winger would be the immediate beneficiary. He’s done it before and will produce. Personally, I prefer spreading the talent across the roster a little more. Being too top heavy isn’t a great strategy for long term competitiveness.

@WestCoastBolts asks...Roster Lineup in 2020?

GeoFitz: Oh, that’s a hard one... I’ve done some stuff with the salary cap before in trying to project out multiple years in the future. The reality is, one simple move (like trading Jonathan Drouin) can throw everything else into disarray when you’re projecting that far. With that said, here’s my best guess (and maybe best wishes?) on a 2020 line-up.

Palat - Stamkos - Kucherov
Erne - Howden - Point
Killorn - Johnson - Raddysh
Joseph - Cirelli - Stephens

Hedman - Dotchin
Sergachev - Foote
Hajek - Thomas

Vasilevskiy - Ingram

For some reason, I think Dotchin is going to stick around and get carried by Hedman on the first line. Joseph and Stephens have the potential to play up higher in the line-up. Same goes for Raddysh. But if that’s where our top six is sitting, it’s hard to see anyone other than Erne from my line-up really getting bumped. The presence of Point and Johnson does make it a little awkward for bringing Howden into the mix. But I think he’s a prospect that won’t take long to break in to the NHL for the Lightning with his solid two-way play at center and his great size. Plus it’d be a reunion of two Moose Jaw Warriors with Point on the 2nd line.

BoltsGuy04: I’ll go by depth chart, not necessarily lines. And for the purposes of this argument I’ll give my prediction for the 2020-21 Opening Night lineup (barring injuries) as opposed to the 2019-20 lineup.

Palat - Stamkos - Kucherov
Point - Johnson - Raddysh
Erne - Howden - Joseph
Killorn - Cirelli - Stephens

Extra: Veteran forward on cheap, one-year deal

Hedman - Foote
Sergachev - Free agent acquisition or trade (Dumba?)
Hajek - Cernak

Thanks, y’all! Come back tomorrow for more, and if you have more questions, feel free to leave them here!