LBC's Florida Panthers 2013 Season Preview - Part 1: The Forwards

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

With the season set to start on Saturday, it's time for season previews; today we'll focus solely on forwards.

The season previews will cover the Panthers' forwards, defense, and goaltending. Please refer to the small glossary at the end if a certain statistic is new to you.

Off-season

The loss of Mikael Samuelsson to Detroit was a big one. Acquired mid-season from Vancouver, Samuelsson played tough minutes on the second line, played more minutes on the powerplay than any non-first line player, and led the Panthers with 5.76 PPP/60.

In hopes of replacing his secondary scoring, the Panthers signed Peter Mueller, a talented forward with a history of concussion problems. Mueller scored at a top-six rate at 1.63 ESP/60, and went two-for-three in the shootout column. Anaheim Ducks enforcer George Parros was signed to a two-year contract, and is expected to play the same role in South Florida.

For training camp, the Panthers have invited two free agents to participate: Alex Kovalev, and Marek Svatos.

2011-12 Regular Season Stats - NHL.com
Player Team GP G A Pts ESG ESA PIM SOG SOG/GP S% TOI/GP ES TOI/GP
Fleischmann FLA 82 27 34 61 21 18 26 217 2.65 12.4 19:05 15:47
Weiss FLA 80 20 37 57 14 25 60 149 1.86 13.4 20:30 15:57
Versteeg FLA 71 23 31 54 14 21 49 181 2.55 12.7 19:54 15:53
Kopecky FLA 80 10 22 32 8 16 32 143 1.79 7.0 17:16 13:07
Goc FLA 57 11 16 27 8 15 10 97 1.70 11.3 17:37 14:22
Matthias FLA 79 10 14 24 9 13 49 133 1.68 7.5 13:48 12:05
Bergenheim FLA 62 17 6 23 11 6 48 185 2.98 9.2 16:24 13:28
Mueller COL 32 7 9 16 6 5 8 82 2.56 8.5 14:39 13:04
Santorelli FLA 60 9 2 11 7 1 18 117 1.95 7.7 12:24 11:16
Skille FLA 46 4 6 10 3 6 28 76 1.65 5.3 11:57 11:23
Smithson NSH, FLA 67 1 5 6 1 4 34 37 0.55 2.7 11:42 9:43
Upshall FLA 26 2 3 5 1 3 29 53 2.04 3.8 12:43 11:04
Parros ANA 46 1 3 4 1 3 85 17 0.37 5.9 6:22 6:22

The Top Six

The top line of Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Versteeg, and Stephen Weiss is expected to continue their role in 2013. The trio scored 70 goals and 172 points, becoming one of the best lines in franchise history. However, only Versteeg was able to keep a positive corsi at even strength. Don't expect the same dominant offensive totals, as players shot nearly 10% when the trio was on the ice.

The second line shouldn't face much regression. Sean Bergenheim, Marcel Goc, and Samuelsson handled the tough minutes, allowing the first line favorable zone starts. While the line didn't produce much offense, despite generating more shots than allowing, the possibility of Scottie Upshall filling the void left by Samuelsson could be an intriguing answer. In 2010-11, he played 82 games and scored 1.82 ESP/60 for the Blue Jackets and Coyotes, and enjoyed four straight 30-point seasons from 2007-08 through 2010-11. Of course, he needs to be healthy, and that has been a concern.

The Bottom Six

With the top six forwards handling most of the tough minutes, the bottom six can take advantage of slightly easier competition, relatively speaking; most especially allowing rookie Jonathan Huberdeau to get his feet wet in the pros. Tomas Kopecky, who won 52.6% of his faceoffs, could center a line with Huberdeau and newcomer Peter Mueller. Mueller has never been trusted by his coaches in Colorado and Phoenix to play tough minutes, understandable given his age and injury history, and this newest of opportunities should boost the much needed scoring depth, as well as his own confidence.

Shawn Matthias, Mike Santorelli, Jack Skille, Jerrod Smithson, and George Parros (along with whomever gets signed out of training camp) finish out the rest of the forwards. Smithson, acquired from Nashville last year, is a terrific faceoff man, winning 56.1% of his draws, and is used primarily in defensive roles during the regular season. Jack Skille possesses a physical game (10.8 Hits/60), but hasn't yet lived up to his draft potential (2005 seventh overall selection), scoring only 37 points in 138 NHL games.

Santorelli returned to Earth after a 20-goal campaign in 2010-11, and struggled to find a role with the team a year ago. Placed on waivers during the off-season, Santorelli won 45.2% of his faceoffs and had a team on-ice shooting percentage of just 4.6%. Matthias finally found a regular NHL role, but still struggled a bit in his third-line assignment, despite the easy competition.

George Parros is expected to be a healthy scratch most nights, and punching people in the face when he's on the ice.

2011-12 Regular Season 5-on-5 Advanced Stats - Behindthenet.ca
Player Team GP TOI/60 Corsi On Rank Corsi Rel QoC Rank OZS% Rank PDO Rank
Weiss FLA 80 15.19 -2.57 18/25 0.869 4/25 55.6 5/25 1017 2/25
Fleischmann FLA 82 15.15 -0.34 13/25 0.899 3/25 58.1 4/25 1004 9/25
Versteeg FLA 71 15.13 1.84 11/25 0.809 5/25 55.4 6/25 1010 4/25
Goc FLA 57 13.88 4.70 7/25 1.140 1/25 38.2 22/25 1012 3/25
Bergenheim FLA 62 13.19 6.83 6/25 0.749 6/25 46.1 17/25 977 16/25
Mueller COL 32 12.67 3.40 9/19 -0.004 6/19 57.9 4/19 991 7/19
Kopecky FLA 80 12.65 -2.14 16/25 0.596 7/25 45.6 19/25 1005 7/25
Matthias FLA 79 11.84 -2.12 15//25 -0.166 12/25 49.3 13/25 1003 10/25
Skille FLA 46 11.30 -6.70 19/25 -0.163 11/25 48.2 15/25 967 19/25
Santorelli FLA 60 11.10 0.18 12/25 -0.485 15/25 53.2 7/25 974 17/25
Upshall FLA 29 10.88 3.18 9/25 0.156 9/25 50.3 10/25 981 15/25
Smithson NSH, FLA 69 9.62 -16.36 23/25 -0.644 18/25 36.6 23/25 1004 8/25
Parros ANA 46 6.38 -15.9 18/22 -0.925 19/22 61.3 2/22 1025 4/22

Rank refers to their team. For example, Goc's on-ice Corsi was seventh of 25 Panther forwards last season.

Glossary (from Hockey Prospectus 2012-13)

  • Bottom six: Typically, forwards are considered "bottom six" if they play on the third or fourth lines. The term can be used to describe a player’s role on the team – both in ice time and responsibilities, or their talent level.
  • Corsi: A statistic originally invented by Jim Corsi, who was the goaltender coach for the Buffalo Sabres. Corsi is essentially a plus/minus statistic that measures shot attempts. A player receives a plus for any shot attempt (on net, missed, or blocked) that his team directs at the opponent’s net, and a minus for any shot attempt against his own net. A proxy for possession.
  • Corsi QoC: A measure of competition quality using Corsi as its basis. While a slight improvement on goal-based measures, the scale can be hard to decipher based on the quality of teams faced throughout the year.
  • Corsi Rel QoC: A measure of competition quality using Relative Corsi as its basis. It is less luck-driven than QualComp and more universal than Corsi QoC because it is based on a relative metric. The most statistically sound quality of competition metric currently used.
  • ESP/60: Even strength points per 60 minutes. A commonly used statistic measuring the amount of points a player scores per 60 minutes of even strength ice time. For the 2010-11 season, anything over 1.62 ESP/60 was considered to be scoring at the rate of a top-six forward, though 1.80 ESP/60 is the common benchmark
  • On-ice shooting percentage: The shooting percentage of the entire team when a particular player is on the ice. This metric can be used to look for underlying reasons why a player’s assist totals have moved considerably or to determine the general amount of luck a player has had relative to his career average.
  • PDO: Created by Vic Ferrari, PDO is the sum of a player’s on-ice save percentage and on-ice shooting percentage. PDO is an excellent way to measure "puck luck" or good fortune as it regresses heavily to the mean of 1000. For example, a player with a PDO of 1034 is likely to see his luck drop next year, affecting his plus/minus or point totals. Similarly, a player with a PDO of 971 will likely have a bounceback year.
  • Possession: A term used to describe how well a team directs play at the opposition net. At the moment, the best measures of possession are Corsi and Fenwick. Possession is important to hockey analysts because it has a very high correlation with winning and predicting future performance of a team.
  • PPP/60: A rate stat that measures the number of points a player records per 60 minutes of power play time. Even strength and power play rates are split out to give better insight into which situations a player excels at. Much more liable to fluctuate than ESP/60 based on much less playing time involved, so it’s better to observe a player’s PPP/60 over several seasons.
  • Top six: Typically refers to a squad’s first two lines of forwards. These lines are usually counted on to provide the bulk of the scoring for most teams. The term can be used to describe a player’s role on the team, or their talent level.
  • Zone Start %: The percentage of a player’s non-neutral-zone shifts that were started in the offensive zone. Zone starts use faceoffs as a proxy for all shifts. Players with a ZS% higher than 54% could be considered sheltered or deployed offensively while players with ZS% south of 46% can be considered to be deployed defensively or doing the "heavy lifting".
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