When you have all of your team’s scoring chances tracked, there’s a lot of neat things you can do with them. One of them is looking at how a certain line performed in terms of generating and preventing chances. The idea was thrown around by Neil of Russian Machine Never Breaks and experimented with by Derek Zona of Copper and Blue. Since the Hurricanes had so many different line combinations last year, it would be a good idea to see which ones were the most effective at generating chances. If anything it should give us some clue on where to start for next season since the lines appear to be up in the air right now.
Acquiring all of this data was made possible by Vic Ferrari’s Time On Ice scoring chance script.
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Note: Data sorted by total scoring chances from greatest to least.
These were the Canes top lines last season in terms of total scoring chances. The green means they had a chance percentage of above .500 and the red means they were below .500.
If we’re looking for which lines to use for this upcoming season, I think keeping the Jokinen-Ruutu-Skinner line together is a must. With a chance rate of 55.9%, they were the most successful regular line last season. As much as I would love to see how Skinner would do playing with Staal, I think we shouldn’t tamper with what isn’t broke and keep him with the two Finns for now. Also, take a look at how Ruutu and Skinner performed with Jokinen on the left wing compared to Chad LaRose. They had around the same number of chances for but gave up a lot more in their own end with LaRose on the line. I think that has to do with Laose being a more defensively responsible player, which probably meant that Ruutu and Skinner were given tougher zone starts with LaRose as opposed to Jokinen, who is a pure goal-scorer and gets more offensive zone draws. This is the line we want to shelter and give most of the easy starts to because they can clearly take advantage of it.
Finding linemates for Eric Staal looks difficult because three of his most regular mates (Cole, Stillman, Samsonov) are gone. However, when looking at Staal’s WOWY you’ll see that all three played very poorly away from Staal, so what we need here are two wingers (preferably goal-scorers) who can take somewhat tough draws and are at least good enough to take advantage of the many set-ups that Staal will provide. LaRose was a possibly candidate but he did not have much success playing with Staal and if you take a look at Staal’s WOWY again, you’ll see that LaRose was one of the only players who performed better WITHOUT Staal, so it’s better to keep him off his line for now. Zach Boychuk had brief success playing with Staal and Cole, so I would not be against giving him a look on the first line to start the year. Newcomers Alexei Ponikarovsky and Anthony Stewart will probably see a lot of time with him too.
Out of all the forwards on the roster, I would have never expected Drayson Bowman as the one winger who had the most positive results when playing with Brandon Sutter considering that he only played 23 games and only one point to show for what appeared to be a lot of hard work judging from his chance ratio. We may not need to use Ponikarovsky on the third line because success is going to eventually come to Bowman if he keeps creating chances. On the other hand, Sutter could not seem to carry a line at all this year no matter who he was paired with. Notice how nearly every line he centered had a sub-.500 chance percentage, that’s not good news.
The fact that Ryan Carter centered one of the few lines who had a positive chance percentage on this list is definitely a concern seeing how he’s not even on the team anymore. There was definitely a lack of depth in the bottom-two lines but Jirii Tlusty, Patrick Dwyer and Jerome Samson appeared to have moderate success with a small sample size, which is sort of good. I have to think that Tim Brent being signed means there’s a good chance that Samson isn’t on the team to start the year, though. Also, I don’t know what Maurice was trying to accomplish by putting Dwyer with Jokinen and Sutter, that line did not work and never well.
When looking at all of the lines who had a percentage above .500, Jussi Jokinen played left wing on three of those lines and Skinner played on two of them. Jokinen was also on a line with Ruutu and Sutter, which had one of the worst scoring chance percentages on the team of 34%. He also did not play that great with Staal and seemed to be dragged down a lot whenever he was on Sutter’s line.
Staal and Cole were kept together on almost every regular line and while Staal’s WOWY’s suggests that Cole was terrible away from Staal, his numbers when playing with Skinner and Ruutu are not terrible at all. They were below .500 but pretty close to it. Gives me a little inspiration to do a WOWY for Cole to see just how dependant on he was on Staal. The data here suggests that he didn’t play bad with him, but he could have done a lot better.
We know that we have one line ready for next year and possibly a third line if the team elects to give Bowman a shot at the beginning of the season. The one problem here is that we know there’s one solid line but after that, there’s some question marks. There is a lot of potential here, though and a lot of things the coaching staff can do to have three productive lines out of what they have on the roster next year. Potential doesn’t equal guaranteed success but you never know until you try.