Another week, another long term mega-deal to keep Predators fans happy. The 8 year $8 million deal for Ryan Johansen shows the Predators organization is committed to winning, and retaining its star talent, no matter the cost.
The last piece to this puzzle is Mike Fisher, who could announce any day now his intention whether to play next season or not. His numbers show he is still playing at a high enough level, and in a reduced role, he could really help this team next year.
We all know how great the JOFA line was last season. Appearing together after a dreadful team start to the season, the line combination of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson created nightmares for opposing squads, and no one was able to effectively shut it down. The line carried the Preds into the playoffs where it continued to make noise until Johansen’s untimely injury.
Our first chart from Sean Tierney, @chartinghockey on Twitter, displays line combination shot rates which can tell us a lot about the effectiveness of a whole unit. In the top right next to the red arrow we find JOFA, which is right where you want to be on the graph. Essentially it is telling us that JOFA possesses and creates chances at an elite level, while not giving the opponent many as well. By overall possession, JOFA was the fourth best line combination in the entire NHL.
And while it is a much smaller sample size, take a look at the chances JOFA created against the top defensemen within the Central Division.
JOFA is generating chances (CF60/CF%) and goals (GF60) at massive rates against the top defensive competition in the Central. It is great to see this type of production against the best defenders in the Central and it should carry over into next season.
A lot has been made about whether Johansen’s contract matched his production, and whether he should have a cap hit as the 8th best center in the NHL. But in my mind Poile made the right decision on term and figure.
The first thing to factor into play is the market. And the entire market for centers in the NHL was completely reset when Connor McDavid put pen to paper on his 8 year $12.5 million dollar deal. What this does is create comparisons for other centers. In Johansen’s case meaning his agent goes to Poile and says “listen, I know Ryan is not McDavid, but I know Ryan is not $6 million worse”. And from there the number was created.
Secondly, in today’s NHL the most important and most rare skill to have is a playmaking center which is what Johansen is. Big bodied, two-way centers who pass first at an elite level rarely exist. Anze Kopitar, Joe Thornton, and Ryan Getzlaf come to mind, and surprise surprise, all of them sit at around the same cap hit as Johansen who is also much younger.
So 8 years at $8 million for Johansen? Yes, I take that deal every day of the week. In 5 years as the cap grows, Johansen could be considered underpaid especially if he leads the Predators to Lord Stanley.
For the past two years the Winnipeg Jets have been a trendy pick to make the leap from talented young roster to a playoff worthy squad. But each year it seems the same problems keep recurring: a weak defense and lack of quality goaltending which has held back a blooming offense. Is this the year things finally click?
Last season the Jets finished 30th in team save percentage, 20th in shots against, 28th in power play goals against, and 23rd in shot differential. This must change for success to follow.
Goalies Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchison have not proven reliable in net, so logically the Jets tried a different route in signing former Flyers goalie Steve Mason. The issue here is Mason is not much better as of late.
After a great 2014-15 season where Mason finished 3rd in Save Percentage in the league, his play has slipped, and so has that percentage to 24th in 15/16 and last year finishing 38th in the league. Mason is only 29 so a return to form is possible, but certainly not guaranteed.
The Jets then tried to add to their defense by signing Dmitry Kulikov from Buffalo. Once again, another head scratching move as Kulikov's numbers have been rather abysmal, showing he is at best, a 3rd pairing defensemen.
But all is not doom and gloom for the Jets. While their offseason has been questionable, there is no denying the Jets team is loaded with talent.
Center Mark Scheifele and winger Blake Wheeler are two of the most underrated players in the league, and if the Jets can somehow make the playoffs, they could finally get the recognition they deserve.
Finnish sniper Patrik Laine is the league's next Ovechkin with a deadly accurate wrist shot, and a blazing slap shot on the power play.
Youngsters Nikolaj Ehlers, Kyle Connor, and Marko Dano should all vastly improve and only add more to this dangerous attack.
While the defense gets its fair share of the blame, Jacob Trouba is in the next wave of great defenseman. The analytics crowd loves him, and he is an excellent two way player.
Dustin Byfuglien is still ripping shots from the point and decapitating forechecking wingers, while a healthy Tyler Myers could vastly improve this unit.
The talent is there for the Jets. If Mason can bounce back to at least near the league average, the Jets could very well make the playoffs next year.
Verdict: Winnipeg is trending up.
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