Carolina Hurricanes Slowly Recognizing Importance of Shootouts

Mark JonesSenior Analyst IJuly 27, 2014

Apr 13, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal (12) scores a goal on Philadelphia Flyers goalie Cal Heeter (33) during the shootout at Wells Fargo Center. The Hurricanes won 6-5 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes and shootouts have, historically, not mixed well.

Over the past three seasons, the 'Canes are 4-11 in the controversial tiebreaking skills competition, having been outscored 10-18. 

Meanwhile, the Detroit Red Wings are a more respectable 16-17 over the same time span, having outscored opponents 31-30. New Hurricanes coach Bill Peters hails from that background, and he will certainly need to overhaul his new team's shootout tactics soon.

At his introductory press conference last month, Peters didn't name shootouts as one of his three focus areas for improvement, but he easily could have.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  Bill Peters, head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, is seen on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Peters discussed shootouts at a Saturday Q&A session with fans, noting that one of the next items on his agenda would be to gather career shootout success rates for each 'Canes player.

He also said that most coaches are too rigid with their shootout selections, expressing a willingness to change the cast of three shooters frequently and consider defensemen for selection as well.

Peters will find, for the most part, very little to work with.

Career Shootout History of Carolina Hurricanes Forwards
PlayerGoalsAttemptsConversion Rate
Alexander Semin154731.9%
Jeff Skinner62128.6%
Eric Staal41921.1%
Nathan Gerbe41136.4%
Riley Nash2450%
Jay McClement2450%
Jiri Tlusty030%
Chris Terry22100%
John-Michael Liles1250%
per NHL.com (minimum 2 attempts)

For reference, the league-wide conversion rate in 2013-14 was 31.6 percent, a mark only Nathan Gerbe and Alexander Semin top—and neither have yet scored their first shootout goal in a 'Canes jersey.

RALEIGH, NC - OCTOBER 15:  Patrick Sharp #10 of the Chicago Blackhawks scores the game-winning goal against Cam Ward #30 of the Carolina Hurricanes during a shootout at PNC Arena on October 15, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Blackhawks defeated the
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Peters will discover it isn't much prettier on the goaltending side.

Among active NHL netminders who have faced more than 100 career shootout attempts, Cam Ward's .617 save percentage and 11-25 record are third-worst and worst, respectively. Anton Khudobin has faced just six attempts in his blossoming career, and he has saved five of them.

However, if Peters digs deeply, he'll also see that Chris Terry, longtime star for the AHL Charlotte Checkers and an expected training camp contender for an NHL job, is 16-of-35 on shootouts attempts with Charlotte over the past four years (and was four of six in 2013-14).

Terry also attempted two shootout attempts for the 'Canes in 2013-14...and scored on both.

Should Terry gain a leg up on his competitionlikely composed of Zach Boychuk, Brock McGinn, Brad Malone and others—because of such a specialty? In today's NHL, it's justifiable.

Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

Throughout the Hurricanes' weeklong prospect development camp, it was clear that shootouts were a significant part of the on-ice work. It was also clear that the next generation of NHL stars, who grew up more familiar with shootouts (which were introduced to the NHL in 2005) than their predecessors, will be better than ever at the skills competition.

Camp invitee Brady Vail, a 2012 fourth-round draft pick of Montreal who became a free agent this spring, excelled in the one-on-one situation. Vail converted five of seven attempts over the course of Friday and Saturday alone, including a goal on his attempt at Saturday's Summerfest scrimmage.

Peters was surprisingly heavily involved in the camp and surely noticed Vail's skill. Alex Aleardi, Bryan Moore and Clark Bishop (2014 fifth-round pick) also scored in the post-scrimmage shootout, while 2012 second-round selection Phil Di Giuseppe (who scored twice in regular play) pulled a nice move but hit the post.

If the future of the 'Canes holds shootout promise, though, the present still needs work.

Out of all remaining free-agent forwards, only Devin Setoguchi has been consistently reliable in shootouts in recent years, converting nine of 17 attempts over the past three seasons.

With outside help seeming unlikely at this point, improvement will be achieved solely through practice, coaching and experience.

 

Quotes and paraphrases obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.

Mark Jones has been a Carolina Hurricanes Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report since 2009. Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.