The NHLN Notebook is a semi-regular feature of interesting hockey content from the past few days that doesn’t quite deserve its own article.
Poor goaltending costs Ken Hitchcock his job, good goaltending gets Thomas Greiss an extension and could singlehandedly save the Islanders’ season, and the Avs are a complete disaster.
Poor goaltending gets Hitchcock canned
Mike Babcock on Ken Hitchcock: “I don’t believe he’s going away to retire, I just don’t believe that. Someone will be happy to have him.”
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) February 1, 2017
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) February 1, 2017
The news of the week came on Wednesday when the underachieving St. Louis Blues fired surefire Hall of Fame head coach Ken Hitchcock. Hitchcock, as we all know, is one of the greatest coaches of all time, and has led the Blues 413-248-124 record over parts of six seasons. Of course, he didn’t see much playoff success in St. Louis, as the team’s loss in the Western Conference Final to San Jose was the furthest the team went with him at the helm.
The firing seems somewhat curious, especially when you take into consideration what general manager Doug Armstrong said afterwards. He said the players are individual contractors rather than a team, essentially throwing the roster under the bus while putting no blame on Hitchcock. And that makes sense, considering the Blues’ underlying numbers (5th in Corsi For percentage, 6th in Fenwick For percentage at even strength) suggest the team should be waaaaaaaay better than it is.
So what’s the issue here? Poor goaltending. Jake Allen, in his first season as the team’s starting goalie, has posted a very bad 0.895 save percentage. And as you’ll see in the chart from Sean Tierney below, the Blues defencemen haven’t been making life difficult on Allen, either.
It’s somewhat interesting that Allen has struggled in the Blues net this season and former Blue Brian Elliott has had a terrible season in Calgary so far. The rhetoric surrounding Elliott was that he’s been bad everywhere else other than St. Louis, yet oddly enough, the Blues system hasn’t been able to prop up Allen at all this season.
Unfortunately for Hitchcock, that ultimately meant the loss of a job. But as Mike Babcock said, it would be surprising if Hitchcock wasn’t employed by the beginning of next season. Even if it isn’t as a head coach, there will be teams who are interested in a guy with that experience and skill in both player analysis and motivation.
Good goaltending gets Greiss a raise
Avg shot distance faced (>1000 mins)
Lundqvist, Greiss, Mrazek, Smith facing closest avg shots.
Budaj, Elliott, Hellebuyck, Rask, furthest. pic.twitter.com/c7h9kYJ1s1
— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) February 2, 2017
Avg shot distance vs GSAA
WSH keeps shots away from Holtby and he saves tons above avg.
Crawford & Greiss facing closer shots + doing well. pic.twitter.com/m4NXhZfoZk
— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) February 2, 2017
Most people will say that Ben Bishop is the prize on the UFA market this summer in terms of available goaltenders, but in my opinion, Thomas Greiss was the best option. But unfortunately for anybody who was ready to dig into the advanced numbers and find themselves a bargain this summer, Greiss is now off the market. The Islanders inked Greiss to a three-year, $10 million deal to keep him in Brooklyn for, well, uh, as long as the team stays there, I guess?
But anyways, Greiss has been fantastic since joining the Islanders last season. Since the beginning of the 2015-16 season, nobody who’s played more than 1000 minutes in an NHL net has a better save percentage than Greiss does. Not Carey Price, not Ben Bishop, not Braden Holtby. He’s been the league’s most successful goaltender. And, unlike Allen, like I mentioned earlier, the Islanders aren’t really doing much to help him. Only Henrik Lundqvist faces more close, high danger shots than Greiss does, meaning he’s damn near singlehandedly bailing the team out on a consistent basis.
His $3.33 million cap hit over the next three seasons will give him the 27th highest cap hit among NHL goalies next season (and that’s without counting UFAs like Bishop and Steve Mason). So that contract looks like it’s going to be a bargain for an Islanders franchise who is badly in need of something to go their way.
The horrific Avs will look to blow it up
ICYMI, Jarome Iginla tells us that he’d like to be traded to a team in the playoff chase https://t.co/NoFSw3c8C9
— Josh Cooper (@JoshuaCooper) February 2, 2017
— Michael Gallagher (@mpatrickg5) February 2, 2017
The Colorado Avalanche are terrible. They have been for a few years now, but this year, PDO magic hasn’t been able to save them. They rank at the bottom of the league in shot attempt differential, save percentage, shooting percentage. Everything. They’re bad. So so sooooo bad. Like as bad as you expect the Vegas Golden Knights to be next season.
So where do they go from here?
Well it seems that general manager Joe Sakic is ready to blow the team up a little bit, as Matt Duchene is being shopped around the league, Gabriel Landeskog has also showed up in trade rumours, and Jarome Iginla has explicitly said he’d like to play on a playoff team. Sakic apparently wants a top, young defenceman for Duchene, and likely something similar for Landeskog, but as we saw last summer with Taylor Hall and Adam Larsson, it might not be that simple.