For a couple of years the Carolina Hurricanes have exhibited possession numbers that say much better things about the team than their place in the standings has.
In the 2014-15 season they finished 26th in the league in standings points and 12th in score-adjusted CF%. In the 2013-14 season they were 24th in the standings and 18th in CF%. Go back another year and they’re 26th in the standings and 12th in CF%.
From the start of the 2012-13 season through November 6 (224 games) they sit at 15th overall with a 50.8% CF% and 27th in total standings points. It’s not just a great offense or defense floating them to a decent percentage in terms of shot attempts like you see with New Jersey’s strong shot suppression. Their 54.6 CF60 is ninth in the league over that time and their CA60 of 52.9 is 16th.
Yet, their 367 goals for over that time is 26th in the league and their 444 goals against ranks 24th. That’s a -77 goal differential, 27th in the league, when they’re basically even in score-adjusted shot attempts. (For their record, if you don’t do score-adjustment on their numbers, their CF% improves to 51.5%.) Despite the appearance in their underlying numbers that they’re an average team, they just haven’t been very good.
The start of that story can be found in their 98.3, the worst in the NHL since 2012-13. It combines a league-worst even strength shooting percentage of 6.7% and a 26th ranked even strength save percentage of .916.
So part of that goal differential is that they are consistently exhibiting a poor shooting percentage and their goaltending has been, kindly, subpar.
A piece of that shooting percentage is that compared to other teams, they’re having their shot attempts pushed to low danger areas at a pretty good clip. They’re taking more shots than league average from the low danger areas and taking fewer shot attempts from high danger areas than the league average.
That imbalance shows that though they’re average in getting shot attempts on net, the distribution of those shot attempts is leaning toward many low danger shots compared to the distribution other teams see.
Add to this that their team shooting percentage from close to the net are way, way below league average and a picture of failure is starting to take shape. Naturally, with the worst shooting percentage in the NHL since 2012-13, you expect each shot area on the hextally charts to be below league average, but the high danger shots are incredibly low. Plenty of shot attempts are coming in, but they appear to disproportionately be coming from defensemen and when shots do come from high danger areas, they are finding pay dirt way too infrequently.
In their own end, that low save percentage doesn’t seem to be, at least entirely, on team defense, as they’re suppressing high danger shots at an above league average rate. (Which may make the goaltending picture look a little uglier.)
And despite doing an ok job at keeping shots out of the low danger areas, opposition teams are shooting at an above league-average percentage from the high danger areas, helping to negate some of their defensive success.
Their defense is carrying an unfair burden in the offensive zone and seems to be doing a decent job in the defensive zone of protecting their goaltenders from the most dangerous shots despite the goaltenders doing a rotten job of protecting the netting from those high danger shots.
The number of shots from the outside and solid shot suppression in close are helping to drive up their CF%, while poor shooting percentage from forwards, not enough dangerous shots and poor goaltending are driving them down in the standings.
Predicting a regression of their standings points up toward the middle this season, based on having average possession numbers, may not be giving a full picture of the challenges in Carolina and what is actually behind their three plus year run of average possession and poor results.
The problem appears to be deeper and more problematic than just some bad puck luck. And that’s part of why the team has had a hell of time digging themselves out of the basement of the Metropolitan Division, which is a far cry in terms of depth from the battle that the Pacific Division was a few years back or the Central Division is this year.
All Corsi numbers are score-adjusted. Advanced stats and Hextally Charts via War on Ice.