Kyle Okposo had the best season of his career in 2013-14 for the New York Islanders, finishing with 27 goals and 69 points in 71 games. He moved to the top line next to John Tavares, and then continued to produce after the Islanders superstar was injured at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
On the surface, it looks pretty similar for Okposo this season. He has 27 points in 31 games, but only seven goals. More of a playmaker than a scorer anyway, a regression in goals could have been expected considering he shot nearly four percent better than his career average in 2013-14.
Okposo's point total this season is being propped up in part by 12 on the power play. He's averaging 6.0 points per 60 minutes with the extra man, which is nearly double last season (3.2). Check out his goal and point production at even strength in the accompanying table.
|Key: CF% = Goals/60 = goals per 60 minutes of ice time; Corsi for percentage; CF% rel = Corsi for percentage relative to team average
|*At even strength
Stats from www.war-on-ice.com
It's almost exactly in line with seasons prior to 2013-14 (along with his other shooting spike in 2010-11). The problem is, he wasn't playing with one of the best players in the world in those years, but he is now.
It should be noted Tavares' numbers are down at even strength as well. The newfound depth in the form of Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolay Kulemin and the development of the kids has been an even bigger boon than Islanders fans would have imagined, and it is also plausible to think if the Tavares line starts humming like it did last season this team could be even scarier on offense.
There is nothing wrong with Okposo putting up 1.9 points per 60 minutes at even strength. If the expectations were for him to continue to be essentially a point-per-game player next to Tavares, it's going to be tough to do unless his already career-best production on the power play keeps nudging upward or coach Jack Capuano puts him on the ice more (he's already at more than 20 minutes per game, so that's not very likely).
Can Okposo be the second-best forward on a Stanley Cup contender? After last season, he was trending in that direction. This season could just be a slow start, for both he and Tavares, at least at even strength. The other possibility is last season was an outlier, and Okposo settles in somewhere above his pre-2013 production but somewhere below his 2013-14 work as well.
DISCLAIMER: While the Super 16 is NHL.com's weekly power rankings, it focuses more on the "power" than the "rankings" when determining the order. It's not always going to look like the League standings and likely will take more of a long view than a short one. If two teams are close the tiebreaker almost always is this: If the two teams started a seven-game series right now, who would prevail? Stop by to see where your favorite team ranks, but stay for the information. All rankings, records and statistics are through the games played Wednesday night.
1. Chicago Blackhawks (22-9-1)
At one point not too long ago, the Blackhawks were 10-7-1 and in ninth place in the Western Conference. They had outstanding puck possession and goal prevention numbers, but scoring goals was at times a problem.
Since then, Chicago has won 12 of 14 games. The puck possession has actually slipped overall at even strength, but not nearly as much when the score is close (they've been playing a fair amount when the score is not close because they made it that way). The biggest difference is the Blackhawks are shooting 10.2 percent at even strength and 11 percent overall in the past 14 games, which is quite the improvement from less than 6 percent in the first 19 games.
It should be pretty obvious, but the Blackhawks are not a 90-point team (pace in first 19 games) nor are they a 140-point team (pace in the past 14). Are they about a 113-point team (split the difference over the final 49 games)? That seems plausible.
MUST READ: Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago writes about how the fourth line has earned coach Joel Quenneville's trust.
2. St. Louis Blues (21-8-2)
The Blues have spent time without each member of their "top" line, and now a resident on the best line is going to miss some action. Losing Jaden Schwartz is significant, though it is possible Dmitri Jaskin could be a reasonable facsimile if he gets to play with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera.
Jaskin hasn't done much in his first couple of brief chances at the NHL level, but he does have 44 points in 59 American Hockey League games, including 15 in 17 this season. He has posted strong puck possession numbers in six NHL games this season, and it hasn't entirely been in sheltered situations.
MUST READ: Matthew Coller of ESPN.com writes that David Backes is one of the best forwards in the League in using physical play to help his team possess the puck.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (20-6-4)
It might be tough to quantify just how much coach Mike Johnston's efforts to emphasize puck possession has improved the Penguins in that area of the game because of all of the injuries, but Pittsburgh is preventing goals better than it has since returning to the Stanley Cup Playoffs with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in 2007.
The Penguins are fifth in the NHL in goals against per game at 2.30. They did finish sixth in 2010-11, but part of that was because Crosby and Malkin both missed a huge chunk of the season and the scoring at both ends was down in Pittsburgh games by design. Possessing the puck isn't just about scoring goals. Teams like Chicago and the Detroit Red Wings are great at preventing them because they don't have to play defense as much as other teams.
Johnston's efforts might make the Penguins a bigger threat this postseason, provided they find some measure of luck with team health by April.
MUST READ: Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes Kris Letang is thriving in Johnston's system and has a very famous admirer.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning (20-10-3)
When the 2014-15 season is over, whether or not the Lightning won the Atlantic Division could very well have been determined by their ability to find some separation in the next six weeks. Not only does Tampa Bay not leave the time zone between now and Feb. 3, they play only three games against the Western Conference, and two of them are against the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche.
Compare that to a 12-game February that includes zero games against teams from the Eastern Conference, and eight road games. Oh, and the four at home are against the Blackhawks, Blues, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings.
It's pretty simple. The Lightning need to bank points now, or they're going to spend March chasing a team or two in the Atlantic.
MUST READ: Sam Hitchcock of Intelligent Hockey constructs the best power-play unit in the League, and it includes Steven Stamkos.
5. Nashville Predators (20-8-2)
The Predators still have a crazy high PDO at even strength, mostly because Pekka Rinne is crafting a Vezina Trophy-worthy season. Nashville is one of three teams, along with the Minnesota Wild and Buffalo Sabres, actually shooting better as a team at even strength than on the power play. That's not easy to do.
Nashville has scored two power-play goals in the past 11 games. While the Predators have won eight of those games, they've won four in regulation. They're going to need more extra-man goals to keep pace with the top teams in the Central.
MUST READ: Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post writes that Rinne has been the best goalie in the NHL in 2014-15.
6. Detroit Red Wings (17-7-8)
The Red Wings have not collected two points in any of the past four games they have played. They have lost with more than two players on the ice once. Their inability to seize the extra point after playing to a draw through 60 minutes is, at this point, the biggest reason why Detroit is not atop the East.
Detroit is 1-6 in the shootout and 2-2 in games decided during overtime. Jimmy Howard has stopped 4 of 15 shots in the shootout. Before this season, he had allowed 40 shootout goals in 153 attempts. His performance this season is a sample-size anomaly.
MUST READ: Jack Han of Eyes on the Prize writes about Mike Babcock's ability to get his players to suppress shot attempts in a guest post for Winging It In Motown.
7. Anaheim Ducks (21-7-5)
In each of the past two seasons, the Ducks have been an average puck possession team but finished near the top of the Western Conference anyway. Last season, the Ducks shot an extremely high percentage at even strength and two seasons ago they stopped shots at even strength at an extremely high percentage.
This season the Ducks are right around 100 in PDO at even strength, and their Corsi-for percentage is hovering right at about 50 percent. They're 12th in the League in goals per game and 16th in goals against. They're 17th on the power play and 17th on the penalty kill. They're 15th in five-on-five goals ratio.
Anaheim is also first in the NHL in points. The Ducks are tied for fifth in non-shootout wins. They are 15-0-5 in one-goal games, but there are no other indicators, fancy or traditional, that say they should be one of the best teams in the League. In the past two years, at least there was something specific to point to and then wonder if they could sustain it or not.
MUST READ: Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register writes that Ryan Getzlaf will need to carry the club with Corey Perry out of the lineup, and could make a statement for the Hart Trophy in doing so.
8. New York Islanders (21-10-0)
The Islanders have been the opposite of the Red Wings, racking up extra points after 60 minutes with regularity. That might matter, especially if they slow down and someone emerges from the quagmire below them to challenge for the second spot in the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders have also gone 15-5-0 in the past 20 games, and the formula has been pretty simple: Don't give up five goals. They're 15-0-0 when they allow four or fewer and 0-5-0 when it is five or more.
MUST READ: Barbara Baker of Newsday writes about amazing acts of kindness spawned from past experience for Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic.
9. Los Angeles Kings (15-11-6)
The Kings were not possessing the puck like we've come to expect early in the season, but they've controlled more than 56 percent of the shot attempts at even strength in the past 15 games. They've also lost five of six, but in three of those they more than doubled the opponent on the shot clock, and the loss Tuesday in St. Louis went from a nice end to a long road trip to disaster in a hurry in the third period.
MUST READ: Chris Johnston of Sportsnet writes about some frustration building after the string of losses for the Kings.
10. San Jose Sharks (17-11-4)
Like the Kings, the Sharks have steadily improved of late but they are turning more puck possession into victories. San Jose has won seven of eight and is closing in on second place in the Pacific Division.
There are 46 players in the NHL with at least 85 shots on goals this season, and the Sharks are the only team with four of them (Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski). Tommy Wingels just missed the cut with 84.
MUST READ: Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area writes a road-heavy schedule to start the season may have been more of a problem than the Sharks were letting on.
11. Minnesota Wild (16-12-2)
Speaking of a team controlling lots of games and still losing more of them than they should be, the Wild were 11-7-0 at one point and jostling with Chicago at the top of the puck possession metrics leaderboards. Unlike the Blackhawks, they have not won 12 of 14 though. The Wild are 6-5-2 since, and 1-5-2 against the top-10 teams on this list. They're in the wrong division for that trend to continue.
MUST READ: Angelica Rodriguez of Hockey Wilderness writes about why the Canadian Women's Hockey League All-Star Game was a big deal.
12. Montreal Canadiens (20-10-2)
There aren't many young players in the NHL who earn more rave reviews about their pure talent and potential than Alex Galchenyuk. He's starting to turn that promise into production, and if the 2012 NHL Draft was re-done today, he'd probably go No. 1 instead of two picks later. Filip Forsberg has more goals and points this season, but Galchenyuk is two goals shy of leading his classmates in both categories, and most people in La Belle Province think he's just scratching the surface of how great he's going to be.
MUST READ: Laura Saba of Eyes On The Prize writes about a lineup change involving Galchenyuk and David Desharnais that she would like to see be more permanent.
13. Boston Bruins (16-13-3)
They've been missing two of their four best players for a significant chunk of the season and are eight points out of first place in the Atlantic with 50 games to play. Boston is 6-5-3 since back-to-back bad losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Canadiens in mid-November, and the Bruins have allowed 33 goals in that span (26 in 13 games minus the third game in four nights in California).
They've still been a top-10 puck possession team despite missing Zdeno Chara and David Krejci. Even if Chara is 75 percent of what he's been the past several seasons, adding those two should improve the offense and ease some of the burden on Patrice Bergeron's line and Tuukka Rask. Don't write off the Bruins just yet.
MUST READ: Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe writes the Bruins are still going to need another forward beyond Krejci to spark the offense.
14. Toronto Maple Leafs (19-9-3)
Since losing by a combined 15-4 margin in back-to-back games to Buffalo and Nashville, the Maple Leafs are 10-1-1. They are shooting 12 percent as a team during that span at even strength, and 14.2 overall. The goalies have stopped an even 95 percent of the shots at evens. They've actually performed worse at possessing the puck, controlling less than 43 percent of the shot attempts in that span, compared to nearly 48 percent before that.
The biggest difference from the past couple seasons appears to be the level of awareness about what is really going on. "New school" assistant general manager Kyle Dubas and "old school" coach Randy Carlyle have intimated they know the team isn't playing as well as the record suggests.
MUST READ: James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail details five reasons why this Maple Leafs team is better than the 2013-14 edition.
15. Vancouver Canucks (18-11-2)
The Canucks have lost five in a row, but they played well enough to win at least a couple of them. The goaltending problems have bubbled to the surface. This team looks pretty similar to Montreal, except Carey Price is not sporting a .900 save percentage. Ryan Miller needs to be better, and his track record suggests he will be. Eddie Lack was given a surprise start Wednesday after the team had three days off, and he's clearly playing better than Miller right now so that is going to be worth monitoring.
MUST READ: Daniel Wagner of Pass It To Bulis and the Vancouver Sun writes about the Canucks ability to get shots on target and to block them, and why they'll be alright with better goaltending.
16. Winnipeg Jets (16-10-6)
Zach Bogosian, Toby Enstrom and Jacob Trouba all average more than 22 minutes per game to lead the Jets, and it is possible they will combine to play zero games the rest of this month. Trouba is the latest to be injured and expected to miss the most time. He might also be the most important.
Nine of the next 11 games are against teams ahead of them on this list. The robot from Lost In Space has a warning for the Jets.
MUST READ: Jeff Z. Klein of the New York Times writes about the revival of Michigan Tech hockey, which is being led by Jets goaltending prospect Jamie Phillips.