DALLAS — How will Nathan MacKinnon remember this season?
“I’ll try to forget it, honestly,” the Avalanche center said after the morning skate Thursday.
The 21-year-old MacKinnon, speaking hours before the Avalanche finished out its home season with a 4-3 loss to Minnesota, caught himself.
“No, I mean, winning and losing there’s stuff to look back on, and lately I feel we’ve been playing pretty good,” he said. “But we still have 54 losses and I’m sure there will be a big turnaround next year. There’s stuff to learn from, but I want to be as positive as I can. If you dwell on this year, it’s going to be tough coming into next year feeling good about yourself.
“I’m going to reflect and find stuff in my personal game that I need to get better at, but other than that, I’m going to try to forget about it.”
The Avalanche will close out the season with games at Dallas on Saturday and St. Louis on Sunday. MacKinnon will go into the weekend with 16 goals and 35 assists, totals considered underachieving and disappointing in his fourth season after going No. 1 overall in the NHL’s 2013 draft. Even as a rookie in 2013-14, when he won the Calder Trophy and the Avalanche surprisingly piled up 112 points, he had 24 goals and both he and the franchise seemed on the verge of great things.
This season also is a downturn after he had 21 goals in 2015-16. He has utilized his speed and dexterity to get 247 shots on goal, which ranked rank 16th in the NHL entering Friday, but his 6.5 shooting percentage was the worst among the league’s top 20 shooters.
Plus, his flashy play for the 23-and-under Team North America in the World Cup last September added to both his image and expectations.
MacKinnon also is suffering by comparison to the recent No. 1 overall choices, Connor McDavid of Edmonton, who will lead the league in scoring, and Auston Matthews of Toronto, who could crack 40 goals.
“I just want to come back and be effective,” MacKinnon said. “We’re going to have a high pick and (Tyson) Jost is here and wholesale nhl jerseys we have some young guys in the (AHL) and I want to be a good leader for them. I’ve recently been a young guy, only been a rookie a few years ago and it’s pretty fresh in my mind, things to do and things not to do and those are probably the things I want to bring next year.”
The Avalanche is 22-55-3 heading into the weekend.
“I don’t know exactly what went wrong, but when you lose that much, it’s tough to rebound from,” MacKinnon said. “And just the collapsing. When we were down 2-0 and all of a sudden we’re down 6-0 after the third period. We were in a lot of close games and we collapsed.
“We had some tough injuries, losing (Erik Johnson) for most of the year was hard and obviously (Semyon Varlamov) is a great goalie. Every time he made a push, he was thinking about his groin tearing. People gave him some heat for the way he played, but when you feel like you’re going to tear your groin every time you make a save, you feel bad for the guy. He’ll be back next year healthy and we have some motivated young guys coming in.”
Connor McDavid has already made his mark on the ice as a generational talent. Now, he’s making his mark off of it, as well, becoming the NHL’s highest-paid player.
Not bad for a guy who just left his teens five months ago.
McDavid and the Oilers agreed to an eight-year contract extension which will cost $12.5 million per year against the salary cap once it kicks in following the upcoming season. That deal easily tops the dual $10.5 million cap hits of Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, which are currently the highest in the NHL for 2017-18. Anze Kopitar of the Kings has a salary cap charge of $10 million; and Montreal’s Carey Price will earn an average of $10.5 million per season beginning in 2018-19.
The wholesale nhl jerseys deal became official Wednesday at a news conference in Edmonton. Reportedly it is worth $750,000 less per season than originally reported last week.
Of course few would argue that McDavid deserves to be the highest-paid player in the sport. The 20-year-old, 2015 first-overall pick already has 102 assists and 148 points in only 127 career games played. He just captured the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsey Award, signaling his rise as the league’s top player in 2016-17, when he secured the Art Ross Trophy, leading the NHL with 100 points. That he did so as the youngest captain in league history merely adds to McDavid’s growing legend.
While the dollar figure is record-setting by NHL standards, it pales in comparison to what comparable superstars are paid in the other major sports.
LeBron James hauls in a cool $35.6 million per year, nearly triple what McDavid will make. Clayton Kershaw is right behind James, with MLB’s top salary that calls for him to make $35.571 million each season. Saints quarterback Drew Brees leads the NFL with a cap hit of $28 million.
Of course, other leagues generate more revenue and have higher team salary caps than the NHL, and not every penny of an NFL pact is even guaranteed. But it is sobering to see that 67 players in the NBA — 67! — will make more than McDavid in 2017-18. As of today, 52 NFL players will pull in more than McDavid’s reported $13.25 million; and the EA Sports NHL 18 cover boy will make the same as Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel this season, sitting behind 85 other major league baseball players.
Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said Wednesday that McDavid’s signing signals a partnership between the team and player, and that the young superstar could have sought more dollars and agreed to fewer years on the deal than he ultimately did.
In the end, both sides win.The Oilers lock up the face of the franchise for eight years, a major coup, and McDavid pockets $100 million before becoming an unrestricted free agent at 28.
Anze Kopitar signed an eight-year, $80 million contract last January. Given that he was 28-years-old at the time, some fans pondered if it was a good idea to award the Slovenian native with such a long contract given the cap crunch the Los Angeles Kings have faced over the last few years (and will continue to face in the near future). With lengthy, hefty deals handed out to Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik, fans were justified in their concern when considering a stagnating (or worse, shrinking) salary cap.
But when referencing Kopitar, is he an overpaid under-performer, or is he simply unlucky? Last year, he scored 25 goals and tallied 74 total points in 81 games. It was his ninth straight year of leading the team in points scored in all situations (he made his NHL debut in 2006-07). This season, though 33 games, Kopitar has managed a meager 3 goals and 14 assists. Not impressive for a $10 million man.
Did Kopitar suddenly forget how to play hockey or is there something else at play here? Let’s take a look at his numbers from the 2009-2010 season through 2015-2016. In just over 7600 minutes at 5v5, Kopitar is third on the team in Fenwick For% (unblocked shot attempts), clocking in at an aggregate 57.29%, right behind Justin Williams (58.24%) and Jake Muzzin (58.30%). His Corsi For% (all attempts) was 57.66%. Basically, for six years, Kopitar has been one of the best forwards at generating shots-for while actively suppressing shots-against. (He’s fifth overall in the NHL and fourth among forwards who have played at least 4,000 minutes.) It seems unlikely that all of a sudden, Kopitar, who has put up no fewer than 60 points in a full season ever in his career, has seen his production fall off a cliff just because he turned 29 -years-old in August.
Is he doing anything differently so far? Well, not really. Among players with at least 350 minutes, Kopitar is unsurprisingly leading his teammates in CF%. On the surface, his 57.56 FF% might suggest that he’s either missing or having more of his shots blocked, but it’s not very far off from his 57.89 CF%, so it’s not like he’s constantly shooting into legs or bodies.
If his shots aren’t being blocked, perhaps Kopitar’s problem is average shot distance. Currently, his average shot distance is 25.33 feet from the net, which is the third closest it has been in his career. In the two years where his average shot distance was smaller, he scored 41 and 33 even-strength points. For what it’s worth, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Connor McDavid (three of the highest point scorers in the NHL), all have shot distances between 22 and 23 feet. Is 24-36 inches enough to make a significant difference? On the surface, it seems plausible but if that were truly the case, shouldn’t Jesper Fast (17.12 feet) have more than 15 points?
Bergeron only has 12 points in 36 games this season. Yet, Boston Bruins fans have largely been quiet about the center’s offensive numbers thus far. His extremely cap-friendly deal with an AAV of $6.875 million and the Bruins holding down a playoff spot are probably two significant contributing factors. Then again, Bergeron isn’t a newly minted captain. Interestingly, the average distance of Bergeron’s shots is 30.35 feet, which is farther out than Kopitar.
The biggest issue with LA’s top center appears to be lack of shots on goal. In keeping with the comparison to players who have played at least 350 minutes this season, the Team Europe captain is sixth from the bottom in shots on goal (SF), with a mere 47. Granted, he did miss five games with a minor injury but in the same amount of games played, Tyler Toffoli has 68 SF. Both have 10 points. It doesn’t seem like blocks are the problem as noted earlier by the incredibly small difference between his FF% and CF%. What does this mean? Possibly a lot of deflections, as we saw with Brent Burns at Staples Center on New Year’s Eve or he’s simply missing. The good news is that the Kings’ fearless leader is fifth in both individual scoring chances and scoring chances per 60. So while his individual shot rate may be a little lower than it usually is, the lack of scoring mostly seems to come down to luck. (And a bunch of posts.)
That’s right, at the end of the day, Kopitar’s scoring woes are affected most greatly by random variance. His shooting percent is 5.7%, the lowest it’s been since 2008-09 (and maybe in his entire career – though wholesale nhl jerseys the data doesn’t stretch that far back). His PDO (Sh% + Sv%) is, as expected, low, hovering around 98.14. If Kopitar keeps shooting and creating opportunities, his critics will probably have to find something else to complain about. For now, time and patience are required until that elusive mistress Lady Luck graces Los Angeles with her presence.