0
Photo Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Thoughts about Blueliners

I don’t know about you, but the past month has been sports overload. So much is going on, that I’ve found myself having to read even more just to stay on top of everything. We had the Stanley Cup, the expansion draft, the entry draft and the free agent frenzy. The NBA had the same, except no expansion draft. The Olympics have been amazing with some ridiculous performances in many different events. F1 racing has been crazy. The CFL returned. NFL training camps are going and the MLB is gearing up for the final few months and its trade deadline had no shortage of big names moving.

It has been unbelievable if you are a sports fan. But today, I’m going to focus mainly on defenceman stats.

— I like to look at scoring trends for different players. Here are the top-30 scoring D-men at 5×5 over the past six NHL seasons.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Player GP Goals 1st Asst 2nd Asst Total Asst Points
1 Brent Burns 454 59 79 54 133 192
2 Erik Karlsson 391 37 68 69 137 174
3 Roman Josi 427 38 75 52 127 165
4 Victor Hedman 424 48 58 41 99 147
5 Tyson Barrie 424 39 61 46 107 146
6 Dougie Hamilton 429 54 45 47 92 146
7 John Carlson 411 19 65 54 119 138
8 Alex Pietrangelo 413 39 49 49 98 137
9 John Klingberg 413 24 58 55 113 137
10 Morgan Rielly 418 32 54 50 104 136
1 Mark Giordano 439 36 44 53 97 133
12 Kris Letang 372 35 40 57 97 132
13 Dmitry Orlov 448 35 50 47 97 132
14 Mattias Ekholm 441 27 49 52 101 128
15 Ryan Suter 449 22 51 54 105 127
Player GP Goals 1st Asst 2nd Asst Total Asst Points
16 Jake Muzzin 424 30 40 55 95 125
17 Ryan Ellis 360 32 45 46 91 123
18 Seth Jones 421 28 48 45 93 121
19 Alex Goligoski 444 22 42 55 97 119
20 Keith Yandle 453 17 51 49 100 117
21 Jaccob Slavin 429 20 41 55 96 116
22 Jared Spurgeon 412 38 37 40 77 115
23 Darnell Nurse 404 37 32 46 78 115
24 Aaron Ekblad 412 37 36 42 78 115
25 Nick Leddy 440 20 54 41 95 115
26 Torey Krug 414 19 47 48 95 114
27 Duncan Keith 426 16 36 50 96 112
28 Jeff Petry 421 32 41 38 79 111
29 TJ Brodie 424 15 36 58 94 109
30 Drew Doughty 451 15 43 48 91 106

Brent Burns has been outstanding producing goals and points at 5×5. He’s been in a class of his own, however, he is starting to slow down as I will show in the next chart.

This past season Tyson Barrie had 13 second assists and five first assists at 5×5, which led to many suggesting he is the “second assist King.” However, look at the past six years: He has 15 more first assists than second. Only three D-men in the league had 15+ more first assists than second. In his five seasons prior to joining Edmonton he was actually 56-33 (+23). I’ve always chuckled at people trying to downplay second assists, because often they can be instrumental in an eventual goal.

Six years is a long time, so I also looked at the previous three seasons to see how the list has changed.

Player GP Goals Total Asst 1st Asst 2nd Asst  Points
1 John Carlson 201 26 68 37 31 94
2 Roman Josi 199 23 62 33 29 85
3 Brent Burns 208 18 64 39 25 82
4 Thomas Chabot 190 21 61 35 26 82
5 Morgan Rielly 184 20 58 24 34 78
6 Tyson Barrie 204 19 58 27 31 77
7 Darnell Nurse 209 24 52 21 31 76
8 Kris Letang 181 21 55 29 26 76
9 Jake Muzzin 186 16 53 23 30 69
10 Mark Giordano 194 17 52 23 29 69
11 Jeff Petry 208 16 51 24 27 67
12 Mattias Ekholm 196 16 51 26 25 67
13 Shea Theodore 203 22 44 16 28 66
14 Dougie Hamilton 184 29 35 19 16 64
15 Ryan Ellis 166 10 54 28 26 64
Player GP Goals Total Asst 1st Asst 2nd Asst  Points
16 Charlie McAvoy 172 10 53 30 23 63
17 Aaron Ekblad 184 15 46 25 21 61
18 Mikhail Sergachev 201 12 49 25 24 61
19 Victor Hedman 190 20 41 26 15 61
20 Alex Pietrangelo 182 20 40 16 24 60
21 Ryan Suter 207 10 50 22 28 60
22 Dmitry Orlov 202 12 47 24 23 59
23 Erik Karlsson 161 9 50 25 25 59
24 Travis Sanheim 206 15 44 24 20 59
25 Zach Werenski 180 24 35 18 17 59
26 Damon Severson 207 15 43 27 16 58
27 Erik Gustafsson 174 14 44 20 24 58
28 Jared Spurgeon 198 22 36 17 19 58
29 Ryan Pulock 206 9 48 23 25 57
30 Miro Heiskanen 205 15 41 21 20 56

There are 11 new names in the list: Thomas Chabot, Shea Theodore, Charlie McAvoy, Mikhail Sergachev, Travis Sanheim, Zack Werenski, Damon Severson, Erik Gustafsson, Ryan Pulock and Miro Heiskanen. Cale Makar has only played two seasons, otherwise he’d be on the list as well as he has 47 points at 5×5 in only 101 games. We are seeing a change of the guard on the blueline.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Eleven D-men had more goals than Burns the past three seasons. Many younger D-men have hit their stride and are producing more points. John Carlsson scored 94 points the past three years after producing 44 between 2016-2018, a pretty significant increase. Darnell Nurse basically doubled his point totals. He tallied 76 points between 2019-2021, after scoring 39 between 2016-2018. Even some older players found more offence. Jeff Petry tallied 67 points in three seasons after producing 44 in the prior three, while Kris Letang scored 76 after producing 56 in 2016-2018.

Jake Muzzin is more productive offensively than he gets credit for. He was 16th over the six-year span and 9th the previous three seasons.

Barrie produced 77 the past three years, while playing on three different teams, and scored 79 in the prior three years in Colorado. He’s remained a consistent producer, but I do wonder if we will see a bit of a dip the next three seasons with the emergence of Evan Bouchard.

The Oilers should have no issue producing offence from the blueline at 5×5 with Nurse, Barrie and Bouchard.

— Nurse’s new contract is reported to be eight-years at $9.25mIn May, I thought the market would sit at $8m AAV for Nurse and Dougie Hamilton, but that changed when Cale Makar got $9m/year and every year was an RFA season, and then Seth Jones signed for $9.5m and Zack Werenski signed for $9.53m. The market changed, and Nurse and Hamilton benefitted. Nurse will need to keep producing like he has 5×5 with his high-priced contract, and keep rounding out his game defensively. Nurse has improved each season in the NHL, and if he maintains his play from last year he will be good value. He will be 34 when his new deal expires, so age shouldn’t be that much of a concern for a bigger-body defender who skates as well as he does.

— With Nurse signing the Oilers have Nurse, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zack Hyman locked up for at least the next four seasons. Courtesy of PuckPedia Edmonton has 14 players signed next year with $12m in cap space. Nurse, Barrie, Bouchard, Cody Ceci and Duncan Keith on the backend with McDavid, Draisaitl, RNH, Hyman, Warren Foegele, Zack Kassian and Devin Shore up front and Mike Smith in goal. Jesse Puljujarvi will be re-signed and I suspect Kailer Yamamoto signs a two-year deal this summer. So the main parts of the team are in place for a few seasons. They will want another goalie next year, and there will be some trades, but there likely will be more stability in the lineup in the next few seasons with open spots filled by young players like Ryan McLeod, Dylan Holloway, Philip Broberg and Dmitri Samorukov. If one of the young goalies emerges that would be a huge bonus.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

— You likely will see lot of “Nurse had a career year” and got paid takes. Many will point to his goal totals and say he doubled his SH%. Sure, but interestingly enough they won’t mention how in 2020 he had a 2.9 SH%. Nurse has the third most 5×5 goals among D-men in the NHL the past three seasons. He has a 5.5SH% in that time. His points/60 have improved at a reasonable rate from 1.04 to 1.14 to 1.19. Claims he got paid off of a massive career year are misleading. Yes, he scored more goals last year, but he had fewer assists. His P/60 were slightly above 2020 and 2019. Nurse’s offence has been consistent for three seasons, while his decisions with and without the puck defensively is where I have seen the biggest improvement.

— I also find it interesting how people downplay Nurse’s offensive production with McDavid. Oscar Klefbom, Ethan Bear, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and others have shown just because you play with McDavid doesn’t mean you will produce. Nurse has been very consistent offensively for three years. He produces with McDavid. That should be considered a positive considering both will now be here for the next five seasons. Nurse’s overall offence didn’t have a massive spike last year. He had 1.04 P/60 in 2019, then 1.14 in 2020 and 1.19 in 2021. Yes, his goals were up last season, but his points weren’t up much. Where he did improve was his decision making with and without the puck.

— Edmonton paid a premium to sign Nurse. No doubt. Much of that was due to the recent contracts of Werenski, Jones and Hamilton. A fair question is: Why didn’t the Oilers sign him to a long-term deal last season when he signed a two-year extension in February, 2020? They likely would have had to offer him an eight-year deal at $8m for him to sign. Remember when Oilersnation was freaking out over that ask? Turns out Nurse was correct in how he valued himself.

— Bouchard is training with Nurse this summer, and that will only help him. Nurse’s game has improved the past three seasons due to the tireless work he does in the off-season. Not just lifting weights, but the work he’s done on his skating and puckhandling. I spoke with Bouchard at the end last season and he was so excited to work on the things he learned, and saw, by being in the NHL all season. Of course he would have liked to play more, but he was adamant the lessons he learned just watching and practicing were beneficial.

I expect Nurse-Barrie to start the season as the top pair, mainly because continuity to start the season is important, but I believe Bouchard will be in the top-four midway through the season. And I expect he will split PP time with Barrie, and might take the first PP spot eventually due to his shot. He has a cannon, but he also is very good at getting shots through. He will be 22 when the regular season begins, and his smarts combined with the additional strength and speed he will have from training with Nurse this off-season makes me think he is poised for a breakout season.

Jordan Eberle joined Frank Seravalli and me on the DFO Rundown to discuss his moving from New York to Seattle. He had some good insight into how Barry Trotz is able to get the most out of his players. And how Lou Lamoriello makes everyone feel important. Interesting stuff.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Recently by Jason Gregor: