Dustin Luke Nelson is the editor of Gone Puck Wild and is an analytics contributor to The Hockey Writers. Follow him on Twitter @dlukenelson
Vincent Lecavalier Improving
It’s no secret that the Vinny Lecavalier of 2006-07 — 52 goals, 56 assists — is long gone. He’s got three years left on his contract after this season, with a cap hit of $4.5 million and he’ll be 35 by the time the Cup is raised this season. Flyers fans are well aware of how difficult the struggling Lecavalier would be to move. Even if the Flyers ate the maximum amount of his contract in a trade, it would still cost another team $2.5M per year.
That’s a lot for a player who had one goal and one assist at 5-on-5 through the season’s first 17 games. He also carried a rather unimpressive 38.3% CF% through that stretch. His WOWY numbers looked exactly how you’d think they looked for a player with that kind of possession. It was ugly.
It was that performance that lead coach Craig Berube to scratch Lecavalier for seven straight games in December.
But there’s some good news for Flyers fans: Lecavalier has been much better since returning. He has four goals and an assist through 13 games at even strength and his possession has swung like a pendulum into the positive. He’s carrying for 53% CF% since the scratches. Given, his zone starts are slightly improved, 8.9% relative compared to 6.6% relative before the scratch, but you could argue that on a team that has the depth issues Philadelphia has, those extra offensive zone starts could just be the result of his improved performance and not the other way around.
He’s even done that with a relatively similar number of minutes. He was getting 10.5 5-on-5 minutes per game before the scratch and 10.4 after.
Is it sustainable? Maybe. Outside of Claude Giroux’s line, the Flyers haven’t been a great possession team this year, with a 48.4% CF%. That ranks 25th in the NHL. But, despite the small sample size, there’s not much reason to assume Lecavalier couldn’t continue to have improved possession numbers. He’s tapered off a bit in recent games, recording just three total shots in the last four games. His production might not jump up too much, but the Flyers are winning at this point if he’s more than the possession black hole he was at the start of the season.
Speaking of Improvement: Dan Boyle
Dan Boyle is another player who had a rough start to the season, but has started to contribute for the Rangers. Boyle was solid for San Jose last year — aside from some injuries keeping him from consistent ice time — posting a 1.3 P/60 in all situations and a 53% CF% at even strength (-1% relative). But even prior to that season we were questioning whether Boyle was finally going to have his age catch up with him.
It looked like the 38-year-old d-man was there this year. He was injured in his first game as a Blueshirt, then returned November 13. While he did put in two goals on the power play in his first 15 games, he failed to register a single point at 5-on-5. He had a 51% CF% (3.9% relative), but that doesn’t look quite as nice when you see his 103.1 PDO and 22.2% ZSO%Rel.
However, since December 23, his numbers have improved. He has a goal and an assist in nine games at evens to go along with another goal and four assists outside of 5-on-5 — something that’s important to understanding his value to the Rangers. He’s expected to contribute on the power play. His CF% is up to 54.8% (5.6% relative) while chewing up less of the nice zone starts with just a 9.5% ZSO%Rel.
That’s some nice improvement. I’m not sure that lives up to his two-year $4.5M AAV deal, but he’s having a positive impact on a team that has been very good lately and is getting better.
Perron You Crazy Diamond
Talking about David Perron is a little more divisive than you’d think. There are a lot of believers that would argue his production has been halted through much of his career by usage, while others think he’s at best a middle-of-the-road second line guy. (That’s not anything to sniff at though.)
I wrote a bit about Perron’s move to Pittsburgh and how an assignment with Sidney Crosby might benefit Perron previously. He’s posted good numbers throughout much of his career (which I’ll spare you now, lots of them here), but was buried in Edmonton.
Three games into the experiment and things are going well for Perron in the Steel City. He’s largely lined up with Crosby in the middle and either Steve Downie or Chris Kunitz on the right side. The line has struggled some, relative to how much you expect any line with Crosby on it to score and the rest of the Penguins playing pretty well in terms of possession. Nonetheless Perron has three goals and an assist in four games.
Perron’s has had some rough zone starts, as will happen on a Crosby line, with a -10.9 ZSO%Rel through the first three games, with a four-game total of -2.4%. That’s just a slight bit better than Crosby’s -13.5% ZSO%Rel in the first three and -3% through four. Yet, Perron has a 56% CF%. That’s -.5% relative, but the line is still dictating play. Perron’s generating five even strength shot attempts per game himself, with 14 of those hitting the net and 17 of them being scoring chances. He’s got a 57.1% SF% and a 66% SCF%. (That’s Scoring Chances For%, a fairly new stat over at War on Ice. Their definition of scoring chances is worth a read.)
With numbers like that, the goals are going to come for Perron. This still looks like it was a great move for Pittsburgh.
Long Island Ice D
Speaking of quality trades, the Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk trades are working out pretty well for the Islanders. It was talked about a lot at the start of the year, with both Leddy and Boychuk getting off to strong starts. But, checking in on that story, things continue to go well for the Islanders in that move.
Nick Leddy leads all Islander defensemen with a .5 G/60 and a 1.3 P/60. Leddy and Boychuk are the top two Isles D-men in CF%, SF%, GF%, and are first and third in SCF%. These deals may prove to be the two off-season trades that made the biggest difference for any team this year. They’re getting some good assignments, but it’s paying off for the team to use them that way.
Here’s a look at how Leddy and Boychuk stack up inside the Islanders defensive group. Color is Relative Corsi For%.