How much will Carolina’s off-season acquisitions help their powerplay?

Both special teams units were a problem for Carolina last season as both their powerplay and penalty kill had success rates that ranked them in the bottom-ten of the NHL. I discussed the other day about how the penalty kill could still be a major problem for this team next year but the powerplay is a different story. The Canes may have had the 10th worst powerplay percentage in the league but it really wasn’t as bad as this stat indicates. In fact, the Canes powerplay was actually very good at getting shots on net and were at least recording scoring chances while they were with the man advantage. The reason why they ranked so low was because they were in the middle of the league in powerplay shooting percentage and had more powerplay opportunities than all but nine teams in the league. The penalty kill is still a huge question mark heading into this coming year but the powerplay has a great chance of improving. 

Simple regression alone suggests that the Hurricanes will have a better powerplay than they did last season if they can continue to get a high number of shots on net, but another thing to consider is the additions of Alexander Semin and Jordan Staal. We all know that these two are going to give the team a huge boost but these two also played a lot of minutes on the powerplay with their previous teams. Last season, the Hurricanes powerplay regularly featured players like Tim Brent, Chad LaRose and Jiri Tlusty and I shouldn’t even need to tell you that both Semin and J. Staal should provide a significant upgrade there.

The Canes should have a more effective looking powerplay unit on paper next season but regression is also in order for two of their newest forwards in both a good and bad way. After the jump, we are going to look at how much the additions of Semin and Jordan Staal will boost the team’s powerplay and what kind of results we could see from the both of them.

Last season, Semin and Staal scored a combined seven powerplay goals, with only two of them coming from Semin. That stat alone is a bit troublesome because if these two are going to add only seven total powerplay goals then it doesn’t equal to much if you take away Spacek’s three goals they will be losing. However, it’s hard to believe that someone with Semin’s offensive upside will score only two powerplay goals in a year, especially if he is going to be playing on the first unit. Staal, on the other hand, is a little tougher to figure out because we don’t know how much powerplay time he will get. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s similar to how he was used in Pittsburgh, though. Predicting what kind of powerplay numbers he will have becomes a little more clear when you look at his 5-on-4 shooting percentage from last season.

Player 5v4 TOI/60 5v4 SF/60 5v4 Sh%
Pitkanen 3:30 53.8 11.1%
Jokinen 2:34 51.5 13.0%
Harrison 1:20 51.4 8.3%
Team Avg. 5:29 50.2 12.0%
Gragnani 2:18 49 11.1%
McBain 2:24 47.9 10.8%
Bowman 0:54 45.6 0.0%
Skinner 3:06 45.2 9.5%
E. Staal 3:21 43.9 10.0%
Ruutu 2:21 43.2 8.3%
Semin 2:23 43 9.5%
Corvo 2:23 42.5 2.4%
LaRose 1:53 40.7 14.3%
Brent 1:31 39.5 20.0%
Faulk 2:53 38.4 15.6%
J. Staal 1:58 38 23.5%
Tlusty 0:49 35.7 22.2%

This is data from Behind The Net showing how often a player was used on the powerplay, how many shots his team produced per 60 minutes while he was on the ice and what his 5v4 shooting percentage was. The league average powerplay shooting percentage was about 10-12% last season, so the Canes, as a team, were around that mark last season. Semin and Jordan Staal, however, were on completely different ends of the spectrum. Semin had some abysmal luck on the powerplay when it came to shooting percentage as he only scored twice on 21 shots. That numbers has to get better because it’s hard to believe that someone with Semin’s talent will score only twice with the man advantage. I have to believe that the number of shots he takes will increase, too. Factor that in with increased powerplay time and he should have some better boxcar stats, though.

Jordan Staal on the other hand was very lucky when it came to scoring on the powerplay. He found the net five times on 17 shots, which isn’t sustainable in the long run. Staal didn’t get many shots on goal and the Pens weren’t exactly generating a lot of offense with him on the ice either, so his powerplay numbers could be prone to decline. This might change if he gets more powerplay time in Carolina, which is possible depending on how Muller decides to roll his lines for next season. The Canes always draw a lot of penalties so Jordan will get his chances with the man advantage sooner or later. Let’s just hope that he can produce more offense than he did last year or continue to strike gold on the powerplay.

As for the rest of the team, I would expect a few players to see their 5-on-4 shooting percentages improve next season. Jeff Skinner, Tuomo Ruutu and Drayson Bowman all had pretty bad shooting percentages and they could very well rebound when you look at the number of shots they were producing. Skinner is the most likely to have a big rebound on the powerplay from the looks of things. Eric Staal could also see his powerplay shooting percentage continue to bounce back towards his career average, which would make him at least a goal or two better than he was last season. Factor that in with the additions of Semin and J. Staal, and the Canes have some very good powerplay options next year.

Turning the attention to the defense, the one thing that everyone should know is that a lot of the powerplay’s success is going to depend on the health of Joni Pitkanen, which is anything but guaranteed. He is one of the better defensemen in the league at creating offense from the blue-line and if the Canes can get a full-season out of him, their powerplay should be in good shape. Knowing Carolina’s luck, he will miss time with an injury or two but they have many other defensemen who can contribute on the powerplay, too many in fact. Both Harrison and McBain are solid on the powerplay and it’s also a given that Joe Corvo will be spending a lot of time on there. He is also due for a string of good luck since he had none of that last season on the powerplay. Marc-Andre Gragnani will also get a lot of powerplay time if he’s in the NHL next season.

Turning the attention to the defense, the one thing that everyone should know is that a lot of the powerplay’s success is going to depend on the health of Joni Pitkanen, which is anything but guaranteed. He is one of the better defensemen in the league at creating offense from the blue-line and if the Canes can get a full-season out of him, their powerplay should be in good shape. Knowing Carolina’s luck, he wil miss time with an injury or two but they have many other defensemen who can contribute on the powerplay, too many in fact. Both Harrison and McBain are solid on the powerplay and it’s also a given that Joe Corvo will be spending a lot of time on there. He is also due for a string of good luck since he had none of that last season on the powerplay. Marc-Andre Gragnani will also get a lot of powerplay time if he’s in the NHL next season.

Then there’s Justin Faulk who was used regularly on the first unit while Pitkanen was out and scored five of his eight total goals from the season on the powerplay. A look at the amount of shots he was on ice for suggests that was mostly good good luck and he may not repeat the kind of powerplay production he had last season. I would expect him to get minutes and at least play on the second unit, though. Faulk’s defensive game has been far more impressive than his offensive output, but we all know that he has a good shot from the point and good offensive instincts, so his numbers can improve with age. Anyway, the overall point here is that the Hurricanes have a lot of offensive-minded defensemen and more than enough guys who can get shots on net.

What you can take away from this is that the Hurricanes are going to have a much better powerplay next season. When you consider the high number of puck-moving defensemen the Hurricanes have, the addition of Alex Semin, the likelihood of Skinner and Ruutu improving and simple shooting regression, one would have to think that Carolina’s powerplay will not finish in the bottom-ten next year. There is just too much talent present for them to do so.

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