One of the top priorities for Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford this summer was to acquire a “veteran defenseman.” When he said that, I thought he was going to try to sign someone like Greg Zanon, Carlo Colaiacovo, Scott Hannan or Michal Rozsival to replace the departing Bryan Allen. The Canes needed someone who could play top-four minutes and kill penalties to fillt he void that Allen left and there were more than a few defensemen out there who fit the bill. The veteran defenseman who Rutherford eventually signed, however, was way off my radar. That player being the now three-time Carolina Hurricane, Joe Corvo.
The reason why Corvo was so far off my radar, other than the fact that he’s been traded from Carolina twice in the last four years, is because he is more known for his offense and his play in Boston last season suggested that he is barely a top-four defenseman now. He started off playing some big minutes in Boston but was soon regulated to a third pairing/powerplay specialist role and even found himself in the press box for a handful of games later in the year. Corvo is also 35 years old, so he may not have much left in the tank at this point. It just seemed a bit odd that Rutherford would sign him over some of the other candidates out there.
Perhaps Rutherford decided it would be better to go with the devil he knows rather than someone like Zanon, Hanan or Rozsival since they are also past 30 years of age and the Hurricanes are far less familiar with those players than they are with Corvo. It’s worth noting that Corvo has played very well in the past with the Hurricanes. Was he the ideal defenseman? No, but he has been able to be a competent top-four defenseman during his history with the Hurricanes. The last time he was here, he was essentially being used in an all-around role and put up some decent boxcar and underlying numbers to boot.
A lot can change in two years, though as Corvo’s play seemed to diminish quite a bit with the Bruins last year. This could be due to him not fitting the Bruins’ system or his age catching up to him. Whatever the reason, the Bruins coaching staff didn’t have much confidence in Corvo last year, as they used him in an extremely sheltered role and he could go back to having to play tough minutes with the Canes if no one else can fill into Bryan Allen’s spot. I am not sure how the team plans to use him next year or even if he fits Kirk Muller’s system, but one thing we do know is that Corvo can be counted on to be effective on the powerplay and produce a decent amount offensively. How much will he produce for the Hurricanes in this coming season. We will look into that after the jump.
It’s pretty easy to see how much Corvo’s role declined in the span of a year. He went from being essentially a top-pairing defenseman in Carolina to barely getting top-four minutes in Boston a year later. Obviously Claude Julien and the Bruins coaching staff didn’t see Corvo as someone who should be playing big minutes on their team and he was eventually bumped to the third pairing as a result. Now that he is back in Carolina, will he see his minutes increase again? Personally, I wouldn’t bet on it. There’s a new coaching staff here since Corvo left and I have to think that here is a reason he played so little minutes in Boston last year. One of them could be that Boston has a much better D corps than Carolina, but it isn’t out of the question to believe that Corvo’s skills are starting to diminish with age.
That being said, if Corvo wants to play in the top-four, the door is open for him to do so. Jay Harrison doesn’t have the final spot there locked down and either him or McBain can earn it once the season starts if they play well enough.
If there is one positive thing about Corvo’s game it is that he always manages to shoot the puck at a very high rate for a defenseman, especially at even strength. This usually means he is spending more time in the opponent’s zone than he is defending, so he is at least good at driving possession. He was able to thrive in the offensive role the Bruins placed him in last year, producing nearly six shots per 60 minutes at even strength. He ended up recording only three goals thanks to some rotten shooting luck but it’s worth noting that his shooting percentage last year was not far off from his average over the last five years.
At first glance, one might think that with a little more luck, Corvo could score at least five goals at even strength for the Canes next year. While that might be true if he maintains the same shot rate, the chances of him recording nearly six shots per 60 minutes again is somewhat unlikely. Why? Because the Canes are not as good of a team at controlling possession as the Bruins were last year. Sure, Corvo might be able to shoot at that rate if it’s protected enough but I don’t think the Canes have the defensive personnel to employ that kind of system. I think this team is going to be better at controlling possession than they were last season, but they aren’t going to be anywhere near as good as Boston. That alone will give Corvo fewer opportunities to shoot the puck. That being said, he has proven over the years that he is capable of producing a lot of offens so he will still shoot at a relatively high rate for a defenseman. He was able to do that during his last stint with the Canes, when they were one of the bottom teams in the league at controlling possession.
|Year||ESA||ESA/60||ESSF/60||ES on-ice Sh%|
Playing on a team that is stronger at controlling possession also led to Corvo being on ice for more shots in general, which shouldn’t surprise anyone, but something to point out is that Corvo has been on ice for least 30 ES shots per 60 minutes for every season over the last five years. This is either an testament of how good he is at creating offense or that he had good teammates during all of these years. I’m willing to bet that it was a little of both. His most frequent teammates in Boston last year were Dennis Seidenberg, Milan Lucic and David Krejci, three players who are all more than capable of driving the play forward at a high level. During his years in Carolina, however, he was used with a variety of different forwards, as his most frequent teammates during the 2010-11 season were Brandon Sutter, Eric Staal and Erik Cole. Two players who are in the top-six and only one of them is accomplished when it comes to dictating possession at even strength.
I think Corvo is still good enough to be on-ice for about 30 shots per 60 minutes and I am almost certain that he will be on ice for that many shots if he is used in a protected role, but I don’t think he will have the same shot rate as he did in Boston. Carolina is still a weaker team overall than them at driving the play so unless Corvo gets to exclusively play in the top-six, he will probably be on-ice for 30-32 shots per 60 minutes at the most. His age is also another question since a lot of players tend to see their results fall off a cliff after they turn 35, so Corvo is prone to that kind of regression. We just better hope it doesn’t happen this year.
|Year||PP TOI||PP TOI/G|
Corvo not only saw his minutes at even strength decrease, but he was also used much less frequently on the powerplay than Boston than he was in Carolina. Although, I’m going to assume this is because the Canes were one of the top teams in the league at drawing penalties in 2010-11, so everyone got more powerplay time as a result and it’s also worth noting that Corvo still played a decent amount of minutes per game on the powerplay with the Bruins last year. At worst, he will be on the second powerplay unit in Carolina and play 1.5-2 mins. per game, but I could easily see him playing much more often than that on the powerplay.
|Year||PPG||PPG/60||PP SOG/60||PP Sh%|
Even though he produced a high amount of shots on the powerplay last year, Corvo scored only one goal. I mentioned that Corvo’s even strength shooting percentage has been very low in recent years, but this isn’t the case for him on the powerplay, so you can make a stronger case here that he was unlucky when it came to 5v4 shooting. This is something we can expect to rebound in the coming season because I find it hard to believe that he will shoot for only 2.4% on the powerplay again next year, especially when you consider how much he shoots the puck.
Will Corvo continue to shoot at such a high rate, though? He has been able to get a relatively high amount of shots on net for the last few years, so I’m inclined to believe that he will continue to this into next year. Factor that in with the improving Hurricanes powerplay and there should be little concerns over whether or not Corvo can get a decent number of shots on net.
|Year||PPA||PPA/60||PP SF/60||PP On-ice Sh%|
Corvo had only eight powerplay assists last year, which is a major drop off from what he had the year before and it’s a little surprising because neither his on-ice shooting percentage or the team’s shot rate declined that much. He also played much fewer minutes on the powerplay in Boston than he did in Carolina, which is probably why his assist total was so low despite his underlying numbers remaining constant for the most part. So, with that in mind, it’s reasonable to project Corvo’s on-ice shooting rates to stay in the same ballpark next year. His on-ice shooting percentage will probably be another story, but it’s pretty easy to notice a pattern with Corvo and his team’s powerplay shot rates over the last few years. He might end up being on-ice for more shots on goal since the Hurricanes have an improved powerplay, but we’re better off taking the safe route here and going with his career patterns.
I know that Jim Rutherford mentioned that he signed Corvo as someone to compliment Tim Gleason, but I have a hard time believing that Corvo will last on a shutdown pairing. He may have been used in that capacity in his last go-around with the Canes, but there is a new coaching staff now and Muller, Lewis, Maclean and Brind’Amour may not think as highly of Corvo as Paul Maurice’s staff did. Julien limited and protected Corvo for a reason, and I think Muller will end up doing the same, which is why I’m projecting Corvo to play about 15.8 minutes per game. That would be on the third pairing on a team like Carolina.
As far as Corvo’s personal shot rate is concerned, I have him taking a step back from last year because he is playing on a weaker team but I still have him recording about 4.5-4.8 shots on goal per 60 minutes at even strength. Corvo has been able to post decent shot rates throughout his career, and I think he can produce at least 4 shots on goal per 60 minutes even if he isn’t completely protected like he was in Boston. In an 82 game season, this would give him about 104 even strength shots on goal and that would project him to have anywhere from 1-6 goals at even strength. Corvo’s goal total is a little tough to predict because he’s had a low shooting percentage in the majority of the last five seasons, so you can’t assume that his 2.6% shooting percentage at even strength last year will bounce back to the mean. That being said, I have him posting a better shooting percentage than last year by a little bit and Corvo recording about 3-4 goals in an 82 game season.
Corvo’s on-ice shot rate is also prone to regress due to being on a worse team but I mentioned earlier that he has been capable of being on-ice for at least 30 shots on goal per 60 minutes even on bad teams. That could be due to either his linemates, his playing situation or his own personal talent but regardless, I have Corvo on-ice for a little over 31 shots per 60 minutes. Yes, he’s on a worse team but I think Carolina’s coaching staff will be smart enough to protect Corvo a little bit and use him in more offensive situations, this should lead to him being on ice for a decent amount of shots on goal.
An on-ice shooting rate of 31.3 SF/60 would put him on ice for about 671 total even strength shots in an 82 game season which would put him on-ice for anywhere from 47-65 even strength goals depending on what the Hurricanes shooting percentage is. Over the last five years, Corvo’s teams have converted on a slightly below average amount of the shots they’ve taken, so I have that continuing into this season and Corvo being on ice for 52-53 even strength goals. This would give Corvo 12-14 even strength assists on the season if he records an assist on 22.7% of the goals he is on ice for, which is his average over the last five seasons.
On the powerplay, I have Corvo playing a little over two minutes per game since I think the team will continue to use him as one of their key assets in this area. However, I do think his shot rate will decrease a bit from what it was last year because I can’t see him continuing to have over 13 shots per 60 minutes on the powerplay. I know that Corvo shoots the puck at a high rate, but that kind of production seems unsustainable and I’m willing to bet the fact that he played fewer minutes 5v4 minutes with the Bruins last year skewed things a bit. Corvo was still able to get over 10 shots on net per 60 minutes the last time he played with the Canes, so I think he will be able to do it again, though. This seems to be the one area he is very skilled at.
A shot rate of 10.17 on the powerplay would give Corvo 38-39 powerplay shots in an 82 game season and this would project him to have anywhere from 1-5 PPGs in that same time frame. Corvo was horribly unlucky in terms of shooting percentage on the powerplay last year, so I have him regression towards the mean a little for this upcoming season and scoring 3-4 PPGs. This is still a low amount compared to some of his career totals but it’s a reasonable expectation given his age and the other options Carolina has on the powerplay.
I mentioned earlier that I have Corvo’s on-ice shot rate staying relatively the same from what it was last year since I can’t see any reason for it to dramatically go in either direction. If Corvo continues to be on-ice for about 48 PP shots per 60 minutes, then he would be on-ice for about 184 shots in an 82 game season, which would put him on-ice for anywhere from 21-31 PP goals during that time frame. Personally, I have Corvo on-ice for about 23 PPGs since I think the Canes will shoot at about a league average percentage on the powerplay in this coming season. This would give Corvo 10-14 PP assists in an 82 game season. The percentage of powerplay goals that Corvo has recorded an assist on over the last five years has jumped around quite a bit, so the best thing to do here is to use his five-year average for his projection, which would give Corvo 10-11 PP assists in an 82 game season.
82 Game Projection
|Corvo 2012-13||ESG||ESA||PPG||PPA||SHG||SHA||Total Pts||PPG/82|
This would be an improvement over last year for Corvo but still a low scoring line compared to what he has done over his career. The reason why I’m projecting only 28 points for Corvo is similar to my reasoning for McBain having less than 30 points. It is hard to be a huge point producer when you are only playing on the third pairing, which is where I have Corvo slated for next year, at least for now. There is only so much ice time to go around and I think Corvo will end up being one of the more limited and protected players on the team given his age, skill-set and general abilities.
You will also notice that I have a relatively high ceiling set for Corvo, as well with 39 points and that is because I think the door is open for him to play top-four minutes next year. Do I think he will play in those situations? No, but it could happen because the Canes have a spot open in the top-four that could be his for the taking if he plays well enough. He has shown in the past that he can produce offensively when given this kind of ice-time, so I think he will have a decent season going by boxcar stats if he gets to play that often. That being said, I don’t think he will get those minutes and Corvo finishing with 26-32 points is the most likely outcome from this year. His production on the powerplay will be welcomed, though.