What happen to the Mississauga Steelheads

April 26th, 2017, the Mississauga Steelheads defeat the Peterborouugh Pets 7-0 to win the Bobby Orr trophy as Eastern Conference champions in the Ontario Hockey League. Not bad for a team that was last in the East at one point.

SteelheadsEastChampions

Many people who follow the OHL closely thought last years success would carry over into the next season, and with good reason. The Steelheads would see elite forwards Michael McLeod, Owen Tippet and Ryan McLeod all come back a year older and more experienced. Not to mention the recent second round pick of the Vegas Golden Knights, Nicolas Hague, who has arguably had the best season of any Steelheads defencman. Mississauga would also get draft year goalie Jacob Ingham back, and after being the first goalie selected in the 2016 OHL draft and having a .907 save percentage in 31 games the season before, expectations were high for Ingham.

All signs were pointing up for the Steelheads in the 2017-18 season. But through 65 games, the Steelheads are just 31-31-1-2 through, good for just 7th of 10 teams in the Eastern Conference.

So what happened to make a team with such high expectations struggle to make the playoffs?

Consistency

At one point during the 2016-17 season the Steelheads were dead last in their conference. By the end of the season they were second in the conference and on their way to the OHL finals.

This is why when Mississauga got off to a rough start to their year many people weren’t worried. However unlike last season, this seasons Steelheads team hasn’t been able to string wins together.

To their credit, they have been picking up some wins as of late, but if they want to have the same success in the playoffs that they did last year, they’ll need to find a way to win on a more regular basis.

Defense

There no question who the best defensemen on the Steelheads is. After being drafted 34th overall in last years entry draft, Nic Hague has been having an incredible season. Through 64 games played, Hague has 33 goals and 74 points, good for second in points from defensemen.

However after Hague the Steelheads are lacking. Their number 2 defensemen, and Los Angeles Kings 5th round draft pick, Jacob Moverare has been out with an injury he suffered playing for team Sweden in the World Juniors Championships, and according to reports, it’s very likely he won’t return this season.

There are some up and coming defensemen in recent first round pick, Thomas Harley and 18 year old Issac Walker, however these guys might still be a couple years away from being elite OHL defensemen.

While Hague has been arguably the best OHL defensemen offensively this season, many fans question the defensive side of the game. And when your only top pairing defensemen struggles defensively, it can be hard to keep the puck out of the back of your net.

Goaltending

Jacob Ingham was selected in the 2nd round, 26th overall in the 2016 OHL draft. As the first goalie selected in his draft, expectations were high for Ingham. Despite this he still managed to exceed them in his rookie season last year, with a 17-6-6 record, 2.69 GAA and .907 SVP.

Everything looked up for Ingham going into draft year. He had the starting position with relatively no competition. He had the potential to be the highest drafted goalie in the 2019 NHL draft, and his team was poised to be dominate in the OHL.

However things haven’t gone as expected for Ingham. Through 42 games this season, Ingham has a 15-22-2 record, 3.72 GAA and .880 SVP. On top of this Ingham has lost his starting position during parts of the season to a goalie who had a combined 21 OHL games going into this season.

Before the season began, Steelheads head coach/GM James Richmond acquired goaltender Emanuel Vella, likely to be a backup to Ingham. Despite that, Vella has outperformed Ingham at times, and has often taken the starting job. Vella was even awarded CHL goaltender of the week just a couple weeks ago. However in the games following that Vella would struggle, getting pulled in his first start following the award. This would lead to Ingham getting the net once again.

While the goaltending for the Steelheads this season hasn’t been what was expected, Mississauga have the right goalies to make a deep run in the playoffs. Ingham showed last year that he is capable of being an elite goalie in the OHL. And although Vella has been streaky this season, he’s shown he can be the best goalie in the OHL when he’s on top of his game.

Stupid Penalties 

Nicolas Hague has been the Steelheads MVP this season. With 33 goals as a defensmen, that’s obvious. But on top of leading OHL defemsmen in points, Hague is also 4th in the OHL in penalty in minutes with 101.

It often feels like Hague can’t leave his own zone without taking some sort of dumb penalty. And if he disagrees with a penalty made against him, he’ll make sure to let the referee know.

It’s not only Hague that has had this problem, the Steelheads team as a whole has struggled with discipline this season. If they want to make another deep run in the playoffs, they’ll need to be more disciplined.

Expectations

This season hasn’t gone as planned for the Mississauga Steelheads. Despite high expectations, the Steelheads sit just 7th with just 3 games remaining. Lack of consistency, struggle on defense, shaky goaltending and stupid penalties have all derailed what would have been a great season.

Despite all the struggles, the Steelheads still have star players like Michael McLeod, Owen Tippet, Ryan McLeod and Nicolas Hague. Once the playoffs start, anything could happen. The Steelheads have the star power to make another deep run in the playoffs, no matter what happened during the regular season.

Should Penguins Fans Be Worried?

Before I start: yes, I’m aware that the Penguins have just won back-to-back Stanley Cups, and yes I’m aware Penguin fans shouldn’t be allowed to complain about anything for the next 10 years.

That being said, there are many Pens fans, myself included, that have been worried with the Penguins performance throughout this season, thus I have decided to look into what has been causing this horrific season.

Loss of talent 

It is not a huge surprise that the Penguins are’t playing like the back-to-back champions they are (and yes, I am going to say that as much as I can) considering the players that moved on following their last cup win back in July.

Not to mention some extra depth players, the Penguins lost Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz, Trevor Daley, Ron Hainsey, and long time starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

 

 

Charts from Ziggy. Read more here

 

 

These are major losses, especially when your only ready prospects that could fill in right away are Daniel Sprong and Tristian Jarry, who are solid prospects, but by no means project to be franchise shifting pieces.

Of course management did go out and try to patch this wholes in the lineup, but with the limited cap space they had, they couldn’t find replacements of the same caliber as the ones they lost. That is unless you believe Ryan Reaves, Greg McKegg, Riley Sheahan and Matt Hunwick are equal to the aforementioned players,

This massive loss in talent, especially when you consider the number of players that moved on, would have a huge effect on any lineup. This is why coming into the season it would have been unrealistic to expect the team to play like the powerhouse they were (I’m using the word powerhouse very loosely, because ultimately the Penguins 2017 Stanley Cup run was extremely lucky given how they played).

On top of all this player movement, Pittsburgh also lost assistant coach Rick Tocchet to Arizona, where he has taken over as head coach. For most teams changing coaches, even assistants, isn’t great, but this is a team that has won a cup 2 out of the last 3 times they’ve made a head coaching change, so while Tocchets departure isn’t a good thing, it’s not something that should be raised as a serious reason for the Penguins difficult season.

Finally, we have Jason Botterill leaving town to become general manager for the Buffalo Sabres. Many people would be quick to throw this to the side like Tocchet leaving, however I’m not completely ready to do that.

It was toward the end of the 2017 playoffs when it was announced that Botterill would be joining the Sabres organization. Since then, Penguins general manger Jim Rutherford has been less than stellar.

Starting with the trade that seen Ryan Reaves, a guy known for his fighting in a league where fighting is rapidly decreasing, move to Pittsburgh. The full deal was a 2017 31st overall pick (which turned into prospect Klim Kostin, who just finished up a solid World junior championships with team Russia) and young center Oskar Sundqvist for Ryan Reaves and a 2017 51st overall pick (defenseman Zachary Lauzon.)

No matter your opinion on Ryan Reaves, it’s difficult to defend that trade.

Rutherford followed this up by signing 32 year old depth defenseman Matt Hunwick to a 3 year contract with a cap hit of 2.25 million. Hunwick has arguably been the Penguins’ worst defenseman in his first year of his deal.

Rutherford then signed Greg McKegg to be a bottom 6 center on the team. McKegg didn’t do so well, and has since been sent to the minors.

While is seems ill advised to think an assistant GM could have such an impact on a team, given Rutherford’s performance since Boterill left, maybe it’s possible he had a huge say on transactions in Pittsburgh and now with him gone we are seeing the true Jim Rutherford.

Goaltending

Disappointing.

That’s the easiest way to describe Matt Murray’s performance this season. It hasn’t been abysmal, but this was supposed to be the year Matt Murray proved himself as a top goaltender in the NHL, and all he’s done is created doubt about his abilities.

After having two great seasons where he lead the Penguins to a Stanley cup championships, technically as a rookie both times, this was supposed to be Murrays year to shine. Instead hes gotten worse, with his 93.43 5v5 sv% dropping to a 90.36%. To make it even worse, his xSVP% is surprisingly risen, from a 91.8% to 92.05%.

With Marc-Andre Fleury in Vegas now, Murray has the starting job, but he still has to be careful. The Penguins have yet another up-and-coming goalie. This time it’s 2nd round draft pick Tristian Jarry.

In the last two years Jarry has been killing the competition in the AHL, so the Penguins have rewarded him by giving him the backup role. In 15 games Jarry has a 5v5 svp% of 91.89%.

While Jarry has been pleasing thus far, it seems unlikely that he is ready to take over the starting job. To Murrays credit, he has been playing better lately, but overall he still needs to step up for the Penguins to be at their best.

Struggling stars

The Penguins defense is having a terrible season. You know what’ll fix it? Trading Kris Letang, their best defenseman.

This rumor is hilarious to me. Assuming the Letang trade, which was first rumored by Nick Kypreos live on hockey night in Canada, actually happens the Penguins best defenseman would be either Bryan Dumoulin or Olli Maatta, and while I like these guys as second pairing defensemen, I’d much rather they stay on the second pairing (this being said one of them normally has to play on the top pairing because of the Penguins lack of defensive depth).

While I disagree with the rumor entirely, I understand the premise. Letang isn’t having a great season, which can be shown with his 5v5 GF% of just 31.67%, but I can’t image the Penguins going deep into the playoffs without at least one solid defenseman (and yes, I know they did it last year, but good luck getting out-shot and out-chanced every night and winning the cup again).

While all the above reasons for the Penguins losing definitely have not helped, I believe none have had a greater impact than the struggles of the “two headed monster”. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the foundation this Penguins team is built on, and are the biggest reasons for the years of the success Pittsburgh has had. So when both of them have a struggling start to their season, is it a surprise the team is struggling too?

Both Malkin and Crosby have had their points production slashed heavily this year, Malkin going from a 2.55 P1/60 last season to a 1.35 this year, and Crosby has struggled even more, going from a 2.31 to a 0.82.

While this is definitely alarming, this isn’t the first time. Just two seasons ago the media was asking if Crosby was washed up, saying his best years were behind him, a coaching change, and lots of wins later and he hoists the Stanley Cup over his head for the second time in his career.

Crosby is aging, but when you’re one of the best in the World, you don’t often fall off a cliff like this. With all the rumors surrounding Pittsburgh and trades, it’s very likely a wake-up call is coming soon, and Crosby has shown in the past that he responds to wake up calls.

If there has been one pleasant surprise on the team this year it has to be the play of Phil Kessel. Kessel is a guy who normally shows up when it matters most, specifically the playoffs, but this season it looks like playoff Kessel has come out to play early.

In the regular season last year Kessel had a 5v5 P1/60 of 1.01. Solid, but this year on a team struggling to score, Kessel is at 1.47. Hopefully Phil is able to stay this good all year, because if Pittsburgh can have this Phil Kessel on a team with Malkin and Crosby playing at their best, they’ll be in good shape.

Overall struggle

If you have ever seen the Penguins defensive pairings on paper then it comes as no surprise to you that Pittsburgh is dead last in 5v5 GA/60, averaging to give up 2.92 goals against in 60 minutes of 5 on 5 play.

So that would mean defense is the issue? Well, not entirely, Pittsburgh is also second last in 5v5 GF/60, with 1.84.

Although being on the bad end of a few blowouts at the start of the season definitely skews those numbers, it still is alarming.

Im much more worried about the GA/60, because as stated above, Pittsburghs two biggest offensive threats are struggling, if they start rolling again, there is no doubt the GF/60 will go up.

But Pittsburgh doesn’t have that same luxury on defense. I know Letang is struggling, but he is not going to single handily turn the Penguins defense around, that’s where a new face could come in handy.

If I was Jim Rutherford I’d be looking into the defenders market for a shakeup move, which is scary because if all the reports are true, that’s the opposite of what he’s doing.

Should fans be worried?

Well, no.

if you are worried about this team here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9QmzB6bSD0&t=233s

 

The NHL standings using a three point system

The NHL point system is broken.

The NHL has focused on fixing things that don’t need to be fixed (the divisions) and breaking things that definitely didn’t need to be fixed (Olympic participation). At the same time they have completely ignored what could be the biggest problem with the league: the point system.

Currently, a team who gets a win, whether it’s in regulation, overtime, or the shootout, gets two points. When a team loses in overtime or the shootout they are awarded one point, and if a team loses in regulation they do not get a point.

At first this sounds like a good points system, but if you look into it you quickly find the flaws.

First of all, simple math. A game that ends in regulation awards two points. But when the game is tied after regulation three points are awarded. So, if a game goes past regulation it is now mathematically 50% more important to the NHL. Should a skills competition be worth that much?

So, knowing now that overtime and shootout games are 50% more important, and knowing that hockey is a team game, why is it that a game becomes more important when we get to a time where only a handful of players matter?

So if we can’t use the current point system, what can we use? Well, why not use the IIHF’s point system? It’s used in many different leagues, and is better suited for a league who would rather avoid ties.

Under the IIHF system, a regulation win nets a team three points, an overtime or shootout win gets two points, and an overtime or shootout loss gets one point. A regulation loss is still worth zero points. This way no game is any more valuable than another game, and a team is rewarded for winning the game in the first sixty minutes.

So, the first question that comes to mind when you talk about this system is, what would the NHL look like if they had this system? Well, the standings would’t change much. No team outside the playoffs would sneak in. There would be a little small change in playoff seeding, as well a few changes for the teams outside of the playoffs.

The playoff match ups in the Eastern conference would be the same except Boston would have home ice advantage over Ottawa.

In the Western conference there is a bit more shuffling around with the wild card teams and the central division. The playoff match ups would look like this:

1st in central Minnesota versus 2nd wild card Calgary

2nd in central Chicago versus 3rd in central St.Louis

1st in pacific Anaheim versus 1st wild card Nashville

2nd in pacific Edmonton versus 3rd in pacific San Jose

Take a look at what the standings would look like for yourself:

(info from: https://www.sportingcharts.com/nhl/stats/team-win-loss-record-by-type-regulation-overtime-and-shootout/2016/)

Metropolitan Division
Team W OTW OTL L PTS PTS (Current) Position change
Washington 45 10 8 19 163 118 NC
Pittsburgh 40 10 11 21 151 111 NC
Columbus 39 11 8 24 147 108 NC
Atlantic
Team W OTW OTL L PTS PTS (current) Position change
Montreal 33 14 9 26 136 103 NC
Boston 38 6 7 31 133 95 1
Ottawa 34 10 10 28 132 98 -1
Eastern Conference Wild Card
Team W OTW OTL L PTS PTS (current) Position change
New York R 40 8 6 28 142 102 NC
Toronto 33 7 15 27 128 95 NC
New York I 33 8 12 29 127 94 NC
Tampa Bay 32 10 10 30 126 94 NC
Carolina 28 8 15 31 115 87 1
Philadelphia 25 14 10 33 113 88 -1
Florida 23 12 11 36 104 81 NC
Buffalo 25 8 12 37 103 78 1
Detroit 17 16 13 36 96 79 -1
New Jersey 18 10 14 40 88 70 NC
Pacific
Team W OTW OTL L PTS PTS (current) Position change
Anaheim 40 6 13 23 145 105 NC
Edmonton 37 10 9 26 140 103 NC
San Jose 38 8 7 29 134 99 NC
Central
Team W OTW OTL L PTS PTS (current) Position change
Minnesota 42 7 8 25 148 106 1
Chicago 37 13 9 23 146 109 -1
St. Louis 38 8 7 29 137 99 NC
Western Conference Wild Card
Team W OTW OTL L PTS PTS (current) Position change
Nashville 35 6 12 29 129 94 NC
Calgary 32 13 4 33 126 94 NC
Winnipeg 33 7 7 35 120 87 NC
Los Angeles 25 14 8 35 111 86 NC
Dallas 28 6 11 37 107 79 NC
Arizona 20 10 10 42 90 70 NC
Vancouver 19 11 9 43 88 69 NC
Colorado 14 8 4 56 62 48
W: Regulation wins
OTW: Overtime/shootout wins
OTL: Overtime/shootout loses
PTS: Points using 3 point system
PTS (current): Points using NHL’s current point system
Position change: Changes in a team position within their respective division

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