Canadiens Extend St.-Louis; Andersen Injury Update; Carolina’s Future; Rangers Take Game 1 – June 2 – DobberHockey - Fix Bdsthanhhoavn

Canadiens Extend St.-Louis; Andersen Injury Update; Carolina’s Future; Rangers Take Game 1 – June 2 – DobberHockey

The Montreal Canadiens made it official on Wednesday by signing interim head coach Martin St. Louis to a three-year contract. He took over in February from Dominique Ducharme and seemed to revitalize the team offensively. The Canadiens released a statement in the morning to that effect:

I saw a good break down from Jack Han – former coach in the Leafs organization who now does consulting work – about how the new coach changed the team’s offensive attack through the neutral zone:

Instead of just dumping and chasing, they’re adding a defenceman to the rush to give them more layers, which helps zone entries, which helps sustain pressure. There is a reason Nick Suzuki went from 1.86 expected goals for per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 (on-ice) under Ducharme through the first 40-some games (and 1.45 actual goals per 60 minutes) to 2.47 expected goals/60 (and 3.3 actual goals/60) under St. Louis. Not having Suzuki and Caufield dump and chase, rather giving them more playmaking options, reaped obvious results.

That persisted through the whole team. Montreal was 28th by expected goals at 5-on-5 in 2021-22 under Ducharme, and 31st in actual goals scored. Under St. Louis, they rose to 17th by expected goals generated, and 12th by actual goals. The offence had a big turnaround, and I would say the most important thing St. Louis did was get Suzuki and Caufield – their two young stars – on the path to high-end offensive performance.

The problem was the defence, which did not improve under St. Louis. Now, it’s fair to wonder what injuries did here, as guys like David Savard and Joel Edmundson were injured or came back from injury, while Brett Kulak and Ben Chiarot were traded. Add in Shea Weber’s absence, and the team was often missing 5/6 regular defencemen over the second half of the season. They don’t have much cap space, even with LTIR, and need to fill out half their blue line. Being anywhere close to average defensively would be a massive improvement and, assuming the offence persists, it is priority number 1. Expectations will be low, however, so even marginal progress is acceptable.

Whether St. Louis can coach this team successfully at both ends remains to be seen, but we should have faith in his offensive improvements for the entire roster, at least at even strength (the power play remains an ongoing issue). That is what matters to us in the fantasy game, and should make the ADPs of guys like Caufield, Suzuki, Josh Anderson, and Brendan Gallagher interesting to follow in September.

*

We all had visions of great goaltending duels all series long between Tampa Bay and New York, but that’s not quite what happened in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. There were four goals, and a 2-2 score, before the first half of the game was over. For reference, the Rangers/Hurricanes series averaged 4.6 goals per game, while the Tampa Bay-Florida series averaged an even 4.0. These teams’ skaters were both ready early, and it showed.

The difference was the Kid Line for the Rangers. With the game tied 2-2, Filip Chytil scored a pair of goals on beautiful shots, one from the slot and one from the right circle to give New York a 4-2 lead heading into the third, and that was more than enough on this night.

New York added a couple extra insurance goals to give us a 6-2 final and give them a 1-0 series lead. The Lightning will want to burn the game tape and move on from this one.

*

An update on Frederik Andersen’s injury:

He would later say that he won’t need surgery, so he should be just fine for the start of the 2022-23 season.

*

Speaking of which, the Carolina Hurricanes were bounced in Game 7 of the second round by the New York Rangers. It was a successful season by many measures, but this is a team that has now made the playoffs in four straight years. Three of those campaigns saw them get past the first round, but no Cup Final appearances yet. This has been a perennial Cup contender for a few seasons now, so the word “successful” might mean different things to different people based on expectations.

This team could look much different in 2022-23. From Cap Friendly, they have Ethan Bear and Tony DeAngelo as restricted free agents on the back-end, with Ian Cole and Brendan Smith as unrestricted free agents. At least two of those players were everyday defencemen. Up front, both Martin Necas and Steven Lorentz are RFAs, with Max Domi, Nino Niederreiter, Derek Stepan, and Vincent Trocheck as UFAs. At least four of those forwards were everyday players for them. That means they have no fewer than six guys who need new contracts and with less than $20M in cap space, and those guys will eat most, or all, of that. We will have to see who they keep around, who they trade, and who they let walk. In that sense, let’s look at this team, holes they need to fill, and what their upside could be for next year.

We should start with the most glaring spot of need and that’s at centre. Trocheck is a very capable 2C but he’s due for a new contract and will likely get a raise on his $4.75M AAV from his last one. Last offseason, Mikael Granlund signed for 4x$5M AAV while Phillip Danault signed for six years with an AAV of $5.5M. Trocheck plays in all three phases and is productive. It seems the Danault contract is a good starting point for what to expect for Trocheck, and it’s a wonder if the ‘Canes want to pay it. They still have Jordan Staal for another year, and extended Jesperi Kotkaniemi for eight years at $4.8M per season. They could realistically go with a centre mix of Aho-Staal-Kotkaniemi-Stepan and let Trocheck walk. That would effectively slide Kotkaniemi into the Trocheck role, something he just doesn’t seem ready for at this point. There were some comments from Trocheck that makes it seem like he really wants to return, but until pen is put to paper, it’s TBD.

Therein lies the issue. They could re-sign Trocheck for $5.5M-$6.5M a season, leaving them with about $14M in cap space. If they choose to re-sign Tony DeAngelo – which, off-ice issues aside, he was their best PP defenceman, with all due respect to Brett Pesce – they will probably have to offer $3M-$4M a season. That brings them close to $10M left in cap space with at least two more defence signings to make, and a couple spots in their bottom-6, and we haven’t even gotten to Martin Necas. In other words, if they do re-sign Trocheck and DeAngelo, guys like Domi, Niederreiter, and Stepan are all probably going to walk. They’re a smart team, so replacing some of those players shouldn’t be too hard, but Niederreiter is an excellent third liner for them. He’s had back-to-back 20-goal seasons and is an integral part of that great checking line with Staal. Maybe Lorentz fills that role, or a healthy Jordan Martinook, but the composition of that bottom-6, a strength for them, is likely to change.

That is kind of the crux of all this. Ostensibly, there is room to sign Trocheck/DeAngelo/Necas with a couple depth guys and basically run it back with mostly the same group. Would that necessarily be a bad thing? They were one of the best teams in the league all season and ran into Igor Shesterkin and his .950 SV% in the second round. As good as Niederreiter is, he shouldn’t be the difference between a good and a great team.

But they could also choose to not run it back. They could let Trocheck walk, trade DeAngelo’s RFA contract for a pick, and even trade Necas for what should be a healthy return. That would likely mean a bigger role for Kotkaniemi, which really could make or break their season. In that sense, though they don’t have a ton of cap space when taking pending contracts into consideration, they don’t have to return with almost entirely the same roster. They could really shake things up if they want.

For my money, they probably should run it back. For any faults they have, they performed very well against the elite in the East in the regular season: 3-0 against Boston, 1-1-1 against Toronto, 2-1 against Pittsburgh, 3-1 against the New York Rangers, 1-1-1 against Washington, 0-2-1 against Florida, and 2-0-1 against Tampa Bay.  That’s a record of 12-6-4 against the other seven playoff teams in the East. They finished the season sixth in scoring at 5-on-5, and fifth by expected goal share (via Natural Stat Trick). They were even 10th in scoring at 5-on-4. They had an elite penalty kill which seemed to fall apart in the Rangers series, but their expected goals against on the PK against the Rangers was under 5.00 per 60 minutes, the best of any second-round team. What sunk them was .667 goaltending on the PK in that series, which is just something that happens in a two-week sample. Small mistakes are magnified in the playoffs.

If they do run it back, we can probably expect much of the same in fantasy as we got from them in 2021-22. That means a 30-goal, point-per-game season from Sebastian Aho, a 30-goal season from Andrei Svechnikov, 20 goals and 50 points from Trocheck, great power-play performance from DeAngelo, and good secondary defence production from Pesce and Jaccob Slavin. The real inflection point of this is whether their goaltending tandem of Antti Raanta and Frederik Andersen can do it again next year. Goaltending has usually been the downfall of this team (and to an extent, it was again in the second round, as the PK performance probably ended their season), and relying on top-5 goaltending without guys like Shesterkin, Vasilevskiy, or Saros is a fool’s errand. Yes, Carolina is an excellent defensive team and that helps, but needing goalies to do it again is a tough ask. There is also the injury factor for both guys we need to consider.  

Seth Jarvis could be the game-changer to all of this, really. He led the team in individual expected goals in the postseason, scoring three times. He was also second on the team in goals/60 at 5-on-5 in the regular season, trailing only Niederreiter. One problem with this team is that if Svechnikov was skating with Aho, by far their two most dangerous shooters were on the same line. Jarvis cementing himself as a sniper would give them two wingers to play on the top two lines, creating two very dangerous scoring trios. Again, losing Niederreiter would hurt, but Jarvis making a leap would be immense for this franchise. I think he can do it, but we have to see it from him first.

Necas is another big part of the potential future. He just did not have a good season: three-year lows in goals and points per game in the regular season and his worst expected goals differential in his three full campaigns (via Evolving Hockey). The difference was the power play, as he had just 4 PPPs in 78 games, compared to 13.3 per 78 games over his previous two seasons. If he has 14 PPPs, he has 50 points, and the conversation is different. But his play-driving really hasn’t taken off yet, so maybe the Hurricanes want to trade him before (if?) his value plummets. They have a big decision to make here.

Carolina could let Niederreiter walk, sign the guys they need to, and basically slide Martinook into the Nino spot on the third line, and not miss a beat. If that’s what they do, there’s no reason to expect any sort of drop off from this team, and certainly not a substantial offensive one. There should still be lots of fantasy goodness here for 2022-23. The twist would be if they do decide to let guys like Trocheck/Niederreiter walk, and trade Necas and/or DeAngelo, and mix up the composition of not only their two scoring lines, but their top PP unit. I thought they should have added more depth scoring at the trade deadline, and maybe that’s what they decide to do this summer. They have lots of options, but their top guys should still be top guys. I am really excited to see what Jarvis does. It wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up the best goal scorer of this year’s rookie class.



tags: #Canadiens #Extend #StLouis #Andersen #Injury #Update #Carolinas #Future #Rangers #Game #June #DobberHockey

Leave a Comment