The Most Troubling Statistic for Every NHL Team in 2015-16
It may seem impossible to use a single statistic to define an NHL team.
However, we're going to try.
Some stats reveal plenty about a team's problems, whether as a measure of positional play in goal, at the forward ranks or the group of defensemen. In some cases, it's a combination of these that proves to be insurmountable for a team that is trying to make it to the playoffs.
Using a mixture of advanced stats and everyday numbers, we've discovered a wide range of statistics that trouble us, applying one to every single NHL franchise based on its play in the 2015-16 season.
Not all teams have an obvious flaw, so some of these may seem like a stretch. But each poses a potential problem for the postseason.
Click ahead to see my selections for every NHL team's most concerning statistic n the 2015-16 season.
The stat: 2.49 goals per game
Why it's troubling: The Anaheim Ducks have come a long way from their early-season struggles to put the puck in the net, but they are still going through spurts of ineffectiveness. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have rebounded to put together decent statistical seasons—albeit far from their usual pace of production—and the team ranks seventh in goals per game.
Prognosis: The Ducks seem to have found the right mix, and David Perron has looked incredible on the top line with Getzlaf, but the playoffs will test them when things tighten up even more defensively.
The stat: .903 team save percentage
Why it's troubling: Mike Smith has once again proved he's not fit for a long-term contract as a starting goaltender in the NHL. When healthy—which is increasingly rare these days—he's a poor performer who drags down the Arizona Coyotes' save percentage. The team is getting more offensive firepower thanks to the drafting of some young stars in waiting, but the defense is still suspect, and so the Coyotes are desperate for a difference-maker in net.
Prognosis: Louis Domingue provides some hope for the future, but the team needs to rid itself of the burdensome Smith deal.
The stat: 31 shots against per game
Why it's troubling: The Boston Bruins have bounced back from last season's disappointment and are in the thick of the Atlantic Division hunt this year. This is happening despite having the sixth-worst average number of shots against per game in the league—which is reflected in possession numbers as well with a 48.4 percent Corsi rating and 48.5 percent Fenwick, according to Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.
Prognosis: The gradual decline of superstar defenseman Zdeno Chara and the depth the team has had to deal away over the past couple of seasons have forced the Bruins to rely even more on goaltender Tuukka Rask. But he is up to the task.
The stat: 2.35 goals per game
Why it's troubling: It's tough to win when you can't score. And despite the presence of a number of talented players such as rookie Jack Eichel, power forward Evander Kane and two-way center Ryan O'Reilly, the Sabres haven't been able to put the puck in the net often. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs and New Jersey Devils have scored fewer goals per game this year.
Prognosis: Things will get better in Buffalo with a little patience. The rebuild is going to take some time.
The stat: 3.09 team goals-against average
Why it's troubling: One reason the Calgary Flames surprised so many last season with a playoff berth and first-round victory was the play of goaltenders Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller. Even third-stringer Joni Ortio had some success. This year, it's been the opposite. Ramo was demoted to the minors earlier this year, and Hiller has been a yearlong disappointment. The team has the worst goaltending in the league this year, bar none.
Prognosis: The team will have to get some new blood in net for next year with Hiller and Ramo becoming free agents. The Flames could make a play for James Reimer.
The stat: 8.03 percent team shooting percentage, per SportingCharts
Why it's troubling: The Carolina Hurricanes are actually decent in most categories across the board. But their shooting percentage—third-worst in the NHL—is a deal-breaker when it comes to the playoffs. They have had a ton of trouble converting scoring chances into goals, and that's a big reason the team decided to deal away captain Eric Staal at the trade deadline rather than go for a spring run.
Prognosis: Carolina's luck is likely to change, but the team doesn't have a great deal of strong shooters and will have to reload on talent in order to make big strides.
The stat: 48.7 goals-for percentage at five-on-five
Why it's troubling: Thanks to strong special teams, the Chicago Blackhawks have a plus-21 goal differential in all situations. But when you break it down to five-on-five action, the team has 110 goals for and 116 against. It is a sign of some weakness in depth up front and a heavy reliance on the power play—which is third-best in the league at 22.6 percent success.
Prognosis: The Hawks will be fine so long as Patrick Kane stays healthy. He's the difference-maker on special teams and can make up for glaring deficits at even strength.
The stat: 43.9 percent Corsi for rating
Why it's troubling: The Colorado Avalanche have the worst Corsi rating in the NHL and are in a tight battle for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Poor possession is one reason the Avs are in the bottom third in scoring in the league.
Prognosis: It's an annual slight in the stats for the Avalanche, and unless they make many more additions or change total philosophy under Patrick Roy as head coach, things aren't going to change. They'll have to hope they can overcome the possession problem more often than not.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The stat: 3.06 team goals-against average
Why it's troubling: Only the Calgary Flames have a more pitiful team GAA, and both problems can be traced back to the goaltending. Sergei Bobrovsky has been a massive disappointment in Columbus since winning the Vezina Trophy almost three years ago. He can't seem to stay healthy, and even when he has been up to tending the twine, his numbers are a far cry from Vezina-worthy activities
Prognosis: The Blue Jackets have been getting a good look at their next potential starter, Joonas Korpisalo. Between injury woes and performance issues, Bobrovsky may be reaching the end of his useful days.
The stat: .915 team save percentage at five-on-five
Why it's troubling: Dallas brought in Antti Niemi to solidify the goaltending position after Kari Lehtonen almost single-handedly helped keep the Stars out of the postseason last year. This season, the team is doing very well, but it's not because of the netminders, who have combined for the second worst-team save percentage and the seventh-worst GAA; in all situations, the team's save percentage is .902.
Prognosis: An offense as dynamic as the Stars' will take this team a long way, but one of these goaltenders has to take on a more important role in the playoffs to match up with some of the other Western Conference teams.
Detroit Red Wings
The stat: .680 win percentage when leading after two periods
Why it's troubling: The Detroit Red Wings cannot seem to hold onto a lead, putting their 24-year playoff streak in jeopardy. The team has a 17-1-7 record when leading after 40 minutes. Only the Vancouver Canucks are worse.
Prognosis: It's a sign of the times in Detroit, where an aging group of stars is being transitioned to a younger corps that doesn't have the same abilities to close out tough games.
The stat: 782 giveaways
Why it's troubling: Giveaways aren't always going to result in goals against, but when you have the highest total in the league in that category, plenty are bound to cost you a digit on the scoreboard. The Edmonton Oilers are guilty of giving up the most pucks in the league this season, and it's no coincidence that they are among the league's worst in the wins category.
Prognosis: The Oilers have been a mess for years, and although moves have been made to change the complexion of the lineup, more will be coming in an effort to eliminate avoidable mistakes.
The stat: 28.4 shots per game
Why it's troubling: The Florida Panthers are getting stellar goaltending and decent defensive play. And the offense has been producing in the top third this season. But that kind of production with just 28.4 shots per game is unlikely to stay as high as the team approaches the playoffs. Per SportingCharts, the team shooting percentage of .966 is bound to drop.
Prognosis: The Panthers may be able to squeak out a win in the first round even without improving on the shots column. But beyond that, the shooting success is unsustainable and will eventually bite them.
Los Angeles Kings
The stat: 12 goals from Marian Gaborik
Why it's troubling: The 34-year-old Gaborik has been a huge part of a stale Los Angeles Kings offense since joining the team two years ago at the trade deadline. He scored 27 goals last year in just 69 games but is showing an inability to stay healthy again this year. He is out for the remainder of the regular season with a knee injury, and the Kings have had trouble scoring as a result.
Prognosis: The Kings had better hope Gaborik can come back for the postseason, because he restores the competitive balance to the top two forward lines.
The stat: 77 percent penalty-kill success rate
Why it's troubling: It's a good thing the Minnesota Wild have taken the fewest minors in the league. The team is terrible at killing off penalties. They are tied for third-worst in the league. If refs get more whistle-happy over the final weeks, the Wild may find themselves on the wrong side of the goal lamp too often to recover from.
Prognosis: Even a minor jump in goal prevention while a man down would help the Wild eke out the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
The stat: 12 starts by Carey Price
Why it's troubling: It's clear the Montreal Canadiens are nothing without their Hart Trophy-winning goaltender. Things have spiraled out of control for the Habs ever since Price went down with a right knee injury that could keep him out of action the rest of the season. The team is 10-2 with Price in goal and 22-28-6 without him.
Prognosis: Price should be back to normal next season, and the Habs will once again contend for the Eastern Conference title.
The stat: .910 save percentage for Pekka Rinne
Why it's troubling: Rinne has been the rock for the Nashville Predators for years. Without him at his best, the team is average or worse. He is performing well below his career averages, and the Preds are going to finish in a wild-card spot with a tough first-round matchup as a result.
Prognosis: It seems time may have caught up with the 33-year-old Finn. This could spell trouble in the playoffs.
New Jersey Devils
The stat: 2.24 goals per game
Why it's troubling: A lack of goal scoring is a chicken-and-egg scenario in most cases. Are the New Jersey Devils' poor possession numbers and lowest average number of shots per game in the league byproducts of this or causes of a roster devoid of offensive talent? The team had a strong top trio for much of the season with Lee Stempniak, Mike Cammalleri and Kyle Palmieri producing well. But Cammalleri got hurt, and the team chose to deal Stempniak away for future picks rather than lose him as a free agent.
Prognosis: The team may lure Stempniak back, but it's hard to imagine that trio picking up right where it left off next year. More talent is needed to bump up the scoring average in Jersey.
New York Islanders
The stat: 0.85 points per game for John Tavares
Why it's troubling: Tavares was right up among the league leaders on the final day of the regular season last year, only losing out on the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's top point-getter when Jamie Benn had a massive Game 82. He would have been a great preseason bet for the Hart Trophy this year but had such a disastrous opening half that he hasn't been able to recover statistically.
Prognosis: History suggests Tavares will be back to his point-per-game performances sooner than later. He's gone through a few cold stretches but has three goals and six points in his last seven games.
New York Rangers
The stat: 77.4 percent penalty-kill success rate
Why it's troubling: It's stunning to see a team as strong as the New York Rangers displaying such a terrible percentage on the penalty kill. It's the worst of all current playoff teams in the standings and almost a full percentage point less successful than that of the Chicago Blackhawks. Because of a mediocre save percentage, a number of shots in those situations are finding the back of the net.
Prognosis: There's no doubt the number has hurt the team in the standings, and the Rangers will have to be disciplined in the playoffs to avoid being put in a tough position.
The stat: 33.2 shots against per game
Why it's troubling: The Ottawa Senators are the league's worst when it comes to giving up shots. Yes, worse than the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets. The undertone to this problem is the fact that superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson is still spectacular when it comes to the offensive side of things but hasn't been able to prove he belongs in the top tier of defensively sound blueliners.
Prognosis: Trading for former Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf hasn't done the team any favors when it comes to protecting the puck. The problem goes much deeper than Phaneuf, but Ottawa won't solve it anytime soon with the defense in its current state and a reliance on young players up front.
The stat: .222 shootout win percentage, per SportingCharts
Why it's troubling: If the Philadelphia Flyers could turn even half of their seven shootout losses (in nine opportunities) into victories this season, they would be in a playoff position right now instead of battling tooth and nail for a berth. There is a ton of top-end talent on the roster with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek leading the way, so the lack of success is puzzling, as well as troubling.
Prognosis: The Flyers were equally terrible last year and not so spectacular in 2013, so despite the presence of some strong offensive players, the individual showdown doesn't appear it will ever be a strong suit for this club.
The stat: 21 goals from Phil Kessel
Why it's troubling: The Pittsburgh Penguins anticipated much more production from their prized offseason acquisition. Kessel is a five-time 30-goal scorer who was expected to flirt with 40 this season on a line with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin—and the ability to play with both on the power play. The chemistry has been inconsistent, to say the least, and the player's hefty contract handcuffs the Pens on the cap front. They have no choice but to hope he can produce more as time goes on.
Prognosis: Kessel will finish with a goal total in the mid-20s, and the Pens will make the playoffs. We'll see what the American sniper is made of in the postseason.
San Jose Sharks
The stat: 75 percent penalty-kill success on home ice
Why it's troubling: The San Jose Sharks are just inexplicably bad at home, which is not how things have been historically for the Northern Californians. The Shark Tank was once a place to fear thanks to loud fans and solid teams. But not only is the win/loss record disappointing at home this season, but the team has been brutal on the penalty kill but has a whopping 82.5 percent success rate on the road.
Prognosis: Perhaps the Sharks should tank a little down the stretch to ensure themselves a road series to start the playoffs.
St. Louis Blues
The stat: Plus-six goal differential
Why it's troubling: The St. Louis Blues are second in the Central Division and tied for second in the Western Conference standings. But the teams they are competing with each have at least a plus-20 differential. You could look at this stat—191 goals for and 185 against—and say the Blues are used to winning close games, which is good for playoff hockey. But the truth is the team has been on the wrong side of too many high-scoring losses, including back-to-back defeats in Alberta this week.
Prognosis: The team has had to deal with injuries all season, and once a full complement is back in action, things might sort themselves out on the scoring front. The Blues do have one of the most dynamic offensive weapons in Vladimir Tarasenko and a top goalie tandem in Jake Allen and Brian Elliott.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The stat: 16.6 percent power-play success rate
Why it's troubling: The defending Eastern Conference champion is tied for fourth-worst in this category, which is sad considering how offensively potent this group has been over the years. The Lightning clicked at 18.4 percent last season. It's puzzling, given the presence of Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Steven Stamkos.
Prognosis: Things may get worse before they get better if the Bolts lose Stamkos to free agency in the offseason. Perhaps some renewed chemistry with a fully healthy tandem of Triplets (Johnson, Kucherov and Ondrej Palat) will help matters down the stretch.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The stat: A minus-41 goal differential
Why it's troubling: The Toronto Maple Leafs have the league's worst goal differential in any situation this season. It certainly hasn't helped that the power play has clicked at 14.9 percent (also last in the NHL) and has been unable to pad the positive side often. Goaltending has also been an issue with Jonathan Bernier posting a .912 save percentage.
Prognosis: With a full scorched earth approach in progress, about the only way things will get marginally better next season is if the Leafs find better goaltending in the offseason and the kids progress more quickly than anticipated. Getting Auston Matthews first overall in the draft would help.
The stat: 82 goals against in the third period
Why it's troubling: Only the Columbus Blue Jackets have allowed as many goals against in the third period as the Vancouver Canucks, and the Canucks have played fewer games. The third period is a critical frame for comebacks or finishing opponents. It's no coincidence the Canucks have just a .107 win percentage when trailing after two periods and the league's lowest win percentage (.593) when leading after 40 minutes.
Prognosis: Scoring more goals, period, will be a focal point for the Canucks next season. Only Daniel Sedin has cracked the 20-goal mark this year. Last season, only Sedin and Radim Vrbata cracked that number.
The stat: 49.6 percent faceoff success
Why it's troubling: Despite the Washington Capitals' dominance this season, the team is in the middle of the pack in terms of possession, and some of that can be traced to a lack of success in the faceoff dots. Washington's top two middle men are both below 50 percent, with Nicklas Backstrom successful in 49.1 percent of his draws and Evgeny Kuznetsov in 47.2.
Prognosis: Practice, practice, practice when it comes to Kuznetsov, who is in just his second full season in the NHL. Backstrom is coming off a year in which he won 53.6 percent of his faceoffs, so there is reason to believe he can be better in the playoffs.
The stat: 298 minor penalties
Why it's troubling: A lack of discipline is a difficult thing to overcome. The Winnipeg Jets spend an average of 11 minutes, 56 seconds per game with a player in the penalty box, which offers opportunity to opponents while keeping the puck off the Jets' most talented players' sticks.
Prognosis: When it comes to hooks and holds and your typical minor penalty doled out for interference of some sort, the players often just have to keep moving their feet while trying to make a play on the puck. It will keep them from reaching out with the hands or stick by keeping them in better positions on the ice to win an individual battle.