The Pittsburgh Penguins are an organization with the hiring of Jason Karmanos who claim they will put a lot of stock into advance metrics moving forward and will evaluate players differently than the Penguins did under Ray Shero.
The Penguins, though, are overlooking the advance metrics when it comes to placing a value on Nick Spaling and even Brandon Sutter, as the Penguins will be putting the finishing touches on a new deal for Sutter next week that will pay him over $3 million per season on what is believed to be a one or two year deal.
Spaling who will count $2.2 million against the salary cap next season, ranks as one of the worst possession players in the NHL over the last couple seasons when you factor in his quality of teammates.
One stat teams strongly look at when evaluating players is a players corsi in close games (tied, down 1 or up 1), some also call it Fenclose.
The possession numbers for Spaling are bad for a player making over $2 million.
In 2012-2013, Spaling was dead last for Nashville with a 39.8 CF% in close games and the last two seasons Spaling has a combined 5 on 5 corsi in close games of 42%.
To draw some comparisons, Tanner Glass is at 45% over the last two seasons and Craig Adams is also at 45% in close situations
Brandon Sutter’s advance metrics are just as bad at 5 on 5 in close games. He’s at 43%.
Sutter’s possession numbers overall have been extremely poor the last two seasons with the Penguins.
The Penguins argue his lack of linemates but where’s that argument in 2012-2013?
Sutter played on a line with Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke for the most part. Sutter’s possession numbers, 42.4%, second worst on team behind Joe Vitale at 41% in 2012-2013.
Tyler Kennedy was at 49.2% while playing on a line with Sutter that season.
Sutter’s poor possession numbers have been a trend throughout his career. In 2011-2012, his last season with the Hurricanes, he had the third worst possession numbers among Hurricanes forwards who appeared in 25 or more games at 46.4%, though, better than any season with Penguins.
The Penguins are banking on becoming a better possession team, notably in the bottom-6 and they still have Craig Adams among their top-13 forwards and two key cogs on the third line, Nick Spaling, Brandon Sutter who have been notorious bad possession players.
The 5 on 5 corsi of the Penguins third line last season: 44%
The 5 on 5 corsi of the Penguins fourth line last season: 41%
By comparison, Chicago’s third line (53%), Fourth line (53%), LA Kings third line (53%), Fourth Line (50%).
St. Louis fourth line had an astounding 56% corsi rating, Anaheim at 54%.
Corsi rating of Penguins projected third, fourth line
Nick Spaling (45.3%) – Brandon Sutter (42.9%) – Steve Downie (49.1%)
Blake Comeau (53%) – Marcel Goc (50.8%) – Craig Adams (40.8%)
Potential Roster spots: Jason Megna (45.3%), Zach Sill (33%)
Blake Comeau was an excellent possession player last season. Steve Downie also had good numbers for playing a 4th line role. However, the advance metrics don’t tell the whole story. Matt D’Agostini had a corsi of 58.5% in his eight games with Penguins and we all know how he played and same with Steve Downie in Philadelphia.
However, if you buy into the advance metrics, the past shows a third line centered around Nick Spaling and Brandon Sutter is unlikely to be a good possession line this season.
One chance to fix this? Enter Beau Bennett who is a strong possession player but he will be needed in the top-6.
Last season the Penguins took 57.4 percent of shot attempts with Bennett and Sutter on the ice together at even strength for 63:19.