FanPost

Back to the Future!

Recall the first season back from the 2004 NHL lockout. The NHL needed a makeover to its game and one of those changes was to make the game faster by calling interference penalties. Thus allowing the faster, and usually smaller, player to actually take advantage of being faster which would enable either a more transitional game or more power plays for the infractions being identified and called a penalty. Power play opportunities rose and overall scoring also went up. The next six years those high offensive results had dwindled down across the board in the NHL. The Anaheim Ducks, under Bob Murray tenure, had doubled down on small, fast players to rely upon despite the trend of lack of penalties being called with players like Jason Blake, Dan Sexton, Nicklas Hagman, Andrew Cogliano, Saku Koivu, and Lubomir Visnovsky. Within the four year period, the end results were mixed as the Ducks missed out on the playoffs twice and barely made it to the playoffs from a super hot, Hart awarding performance by Corey Perry.

Let’s review the statistical highs and lows from 2003-2004 season to 2011-12 season.

Power Play Opportunities (PPO) from 2003 – 2011 seasons

Team

2003

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

NHL

14,390

14,390

11,935

10,551

10,225

9,137

8,715

8,132

NHL Avg

347.5

479.6

397.8

351.7

340

304.6

290.5

271.1

Ana Avg

310

480

400

361

309

300

285

271

NHL Per Game Avg

4.24

5.85

4.85

4.29

4.15

3.71

3.54

3.31

Power Play Goals (PPG) from 2005 – 2011 seasons

Team

Stat

05/06

06/07

07/08

08/09

09/10

10/11

11/12

NHL

PPG

2,545

2,099

1,871

1,938

1,665

1,571

1,408

NHL Avg

PPG

84.8

69.9

62.3

64.6

55.5

52.3

46.9

Per Game

PPGPG

1.03

0.85

0.76

0.79

0.68

0.64

0.57

Ana Avg

PPG

87

89

60

73

63

67

45

Goals from 2003 – 2011 seasons

Team

03/04

Pre-lockout

05/06

06/07

07/08

08/09

09/10

10/11

11/12

NHL

6318

7443

7082

6691

7006

6803

6721

6545

NHL Avg

210.6

248.1

236.1

223.0

233.5

226.8

224.0

218.2

Ana

184

251

254

197

238

233

235

201

When comparing the season before the 2004 lockout and the season after the lockout (2003 vs 2005), there’s a significant difference in both PPO and goals scored. But since then, the overall trend of scoring in the league has dropped.

There was no talk about calling interference penalties or calling more penalties at all during this lockout as the bulk of the conversation was centered upon fiscal situations. The first game of the 2012-2013 season was between the LA Kings and Chicago at noon, Pacific time. Not two minutes have been played at that game when an interference penalty was called. I had written a piece about obstruction before, which is where I gathered my information above, and thought it would be interesting to see if the league had changed its stance upon calling interference penalties.

Interference Penalties 2012-2013

Date

19-Jan

20-Jan

21-Jan

22-Jan

Totals

Penalty

21

6

11

15

53

Games played

13

6

7

9

35

Interference per Game Average

1.62

1.00

1.57

1.67

1.51

I only counted penalties called interference. I did not include holding, holding onto a stick, hooking, or goalie interference. It may not seem much as it is being called at least once a game. If first impressions mean anything, then that first game of the year has set a tone for the season. For kicks and giggles I counted all the holding, holding the stick, and hooking penalties. If we are to include those penalties as interference type penalties (excluding goalie interference), then on the first day of the season there were a total of 51 interference type penalties. Unfortunately, I don't have research for interference penalties from previous years. Now let’s look at PPO for this year.

Power Play Opportunites, 2012-13

Date

19-Jan

22-Jan

2011/12

PPO

115

312

8132

PPO Avg

4.42

4.45

3.31

Granted, this is a small sample and the fact that the players are not in sync or in shape may cause an increase in penalties, but it is difficult to discount that amount of interference penalties being called. Then correlating that information with PPO’s and we see there is one whole power play opportunity extra this year than last year. The next query to delve into would be does an increase in PPO also increase the actual power play goals made. Usually, the more opportunities one team has then it would be safe to assume scoring would increase. Then again, one can be like the Ducks’ second game where their power play went non-existent.

Power Play Goals, 2012-13

Date

19-Jan

22-Jan

2011/12

PPG

33

73

8132

PPG Avg Per Game

1.27

1.04

0.57

As you can inspect, the rate of Power Play Goals (PPG) made is nearly doubled that than last year’s rate. In fact, as of Jan 22, 2013, the PPG average per game is slightly better than the return from 2004 lockout, which is 1.03 PPG average per game. Again, this is a very small sample.

During the intermission of the Ducks versus Calgary game, Ducks’ own color analyst Brian Hayward (affectionately known as Hazy) had noticed that on the power play the defensemen may have a difficult time adjusting to the new rules because they are not allowed to clear opposing players out of the crease as it would considered interference. Now that poses a paradox with the new Ducks’ acquisitions of big players to move opposing players away from the crease. And yet, may be not so crazy.

Even though interference was going to be called more often after the 2004 lockout and small, quick players would become a premium, the Ducks went big and mean with a back end consisting of Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Francios Beauchemin, and Sean O’Donnell along with a big shutdown line of Rob Niedermayer, Sami Pahlsson, and Travis Moen. The young Ducks were also huge as their line was made up of Dustin Penner, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry. That roster was developed before current GM Bob Murray was in charge. This past offseason, Murray stopped the Smurf collection and went for the Hulk Smash approach.

The new big acquisitions are 6’3” Daniel Winnik (LW), 6’4” Sheldon Souray (D), and 6’5” Bryan Allen (D) through free agency. There are the young prospects that have or might see time at the parent club level this season with 6’2” Peter Holland (C), 6’1” Rikard Rakell (C), and 6’2” Lindholm (D). Even though many of the players are tall, the players the Ducks have chosen are physical players. Some of their players are not on the high side of six feet, but have that gritty side like Cogliano, Koivu, and Palmieri. With that in mind, the Ducks ranked second overall in power play efficiency with a 60% success rate, scoring three out of five chances. The Ducks also have had the fewest chances on the power play with five, but rank tied for seventh with three power play goals.

If the trend of PPO’s maintains this high rate, then the Ducks may be able to take advantage of the situation. The Ducks are going to need that advantage as their lumbering defense has the penalty kill ranked dead last in the league. Either the Ducks change their penalty killing scheme or become a disciplined team. And if it is the latter, then Hiller needs to stretch many hours before and after because outside from Fowler’s speed or Lydman’s intuition, our defensemen may be owners to a speed pass to the box for some form of interference. 115 PPO’s in the first day of season sets the tone that the league will be cracking down on interference or maybe have an agenda to call at least one interference penalty per game. At least, that’s how the past four days of the season has been called.

Despite the fear of penalties being enforced from the 2004 lockout, the Ducks went big and mean. They Hulk Smashed their way to a championship within two seasons from the lockout. Current GM Bob Murray decided that that pattern was the way the Ducks can regain their championship form. He’s going back to the future, but we fans remain in suspense to witness whether or not the Ducks have the correct pieces like that from championship year.

This article is user-generated. It does not necessarily reflect the views of Anaheim Calling. Please do not link this article as representative of Anaheim Calling content or viewpoints . . . unless it's <em>really</em> really good.

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