Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The tribulations of the West Coast Express

The Hockey Page does some dirty work today to bring us the top lines so far in this new NHL:
Spezza-Heatley-Alfredsson: 95 pts, +58
Forsberg-Gagne-Knuble: 88 pts, +49
Savard-Kovalchuk-Hossa: 79 pts, -4
Demitra-Frolov-Conroy: 78 pts, +31
Jagr-Straka-Nylander: 78 pts, +3
Lecavalier-Modin-Prospal: 71 pts, +23
Thornton-Murray-Samsonov: 68 pts, -8
Hemsky-Horcoff-Smyth: 65 pts, +6
Staal-Cole-Stillman: 64 pts, +25
Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom: 62 pts, +29
Naslund-Bertuzzi-Morrison: 61 pts, +16
There are a lot of familiar names there, guys that have been appearing on scoresheets regularly all season so far. The most surprising thing, however, is the group at the bottom of the list. The West Coast Express is gimping along at under a point-a-game pace and only Naslund is in the top 20 in league scoring.

Todd Bertuzzi's 19 points and Brendan Morrison's 16 are a far cry from the dominance the line displayed in years past, although none of this is really a surprise for anyone who has watched the Canucks regularly this year.

For all of the talk that Bertuzzi 'isn't the same' as he was before 'the incident,' we should recall that his 2003-04 season was hardly legendary before he decided to beat down Steve Moore. Bertuzzi had 17 goals and 60 points in 69 games and was leading the league in minor penalties.

One has to go all the way back to the end of the 2002-03 season to find a truly elite Bertuzzi, as he finished third in league goal scoring behind only Naslund and Milan Hejduk. Including his lackluster playoff performance that year, Bertuzzi has had just 27 goals in his last 104 NHL games, the equivalent to a 21-goal season over 82 games.

Maybe this is ill-timed considering six of those goals have come in his last five games, but he's got a long, long way to go to be one of the league's most potent snipers again. I doubt he ever gets there.

The line to watch of those listed is that out in L.A. Consider that Conroy wasn't even part of the line for the first 6-7 games of the season and you get a small idea of how good they've been the past dozen games. I'd wager they've been the league's best line over that period.


At 5:40 p.m., November 22, 2005, Blogger alan said...

It's often the case that you have to go far deeper than the raw stats to get the full story. As a Rangers fan, I can tell you that the 4th line of Dominic Moore-Jed Ortmeyer-Ryan Hollweg, is as responsible as any for the team's success, even though they'll never come close to making it to a list like this. I'm sure that most every team has such a line that those of us who don't watch them every game barely even know about, but which is just as vital as the top scorers.

At 11:34 p.m., November 23, 2005, Blogger Grampapinhead said...

Very nice piece. The plus/minus stats don't mean as much as they used to in the new NHL because of all the PP. To get a better picture on the +/- one needs to add the PPG and PPA and subtract those pts from a player total, so you are comparing 5 on 5 stats with 5 on 5 stats.

There are no +/- awarded on PP or PK goals.


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