Being on the power-play is a big advantage – teams obviously create scoring chances at a much higher rate than at even-strength. Even if you're not scoring, opponents rarely ever get a goal, or even a quality chance. Every team would tell you they're aiming to draw more than they take…
Last season the Ottawa Senators were short-handed 310 times, good enough for 3rd worst in the league. This wouldn't have been a problem if a) their penalty kill hadn't of sucked and b) if they had drawn more than just 270 penalties. So when it comes to drawing and taking penalties, how do they compare to the rest of the league?
Considering the Sens were a good possession team, I didn’t expect them to be 4th last in the league in this category. (in 2011-12, they finished 16th). With the real possibility some of the offense regresses, they'lll need to improve in other areas. This is one of them.
So who was taking all those penalties last season?
There are two ways I’m going to evaluate players on their ability to take take/draw:
Penalty Rate Differential (PRD): For this stat, I’ll subtract a player’s Penalties Taken/60 from their Penalties Drawn/60. This will tell us how many more penalties a player draws than takes per 60 minutes of even-strength play. This metric is a good means to isolate an individuals ability.
For example, if a player draws 1.6 penalties and takes 1.1 penalties per 60 minutes of ice-time, he will have a PRD of 0.5 (1.6-1.1=0.5). A PRD of 0.5 being good, as he draws more than he takes.
Penalty Plus/Minus (P+/-): This is like regular plus/minus, except it uses penalties taken and drawn, instead of goals for and against. This stat tells us how many more penalties a player drew than he took. This metric is more of a simple barometer of a players impact on the team at large.
For example, if a player draws 8 more penalties than he takes, he will have a penalty +/- of +8. A penalty plus/minus of +8 tells us that he gave his team 8 extra PP opportunities.
I'm only looking at 5-on-5 situations because players tend to take more penalties while on the PK, and in effect, draw more while on the PP (all data from behindthenet).
Now let’s look at the Senators regulars from last season:
– Gonchar had the worst impact on the team, with a P+/- of -16.
– Other than Phillips, all of the Sens defenseman had a negative P+/-. I don’t find this surprising since defenseman don’t often carry the puck, or create good scoring chances *insert joke about Karlsson not being a d-man here*.
– With the best P +/- on the team at +6, Zack Smith did a good job of being an agitator (especially in comparison to his earlier forays in the NHL when it looked like bad penalties would be a chronic issue). If Smith can continue to be a positive P+/- player and score 12 or 13 goals a season, he'll bring good value to that extension.
– Foligno took a lot of dumb penalties last season, but he made up for that fact by drawing an equal number.
– I didn’t include Gilroy or Lee because I don’t have their numbers from just their time in Ottawa. But they both finished the season with a negative P+/-, with Lee being the worst of the two at -12.
So how about the new guys they added/hopefully will be healthy?
– Regin and Latendresse both had high PRD’s in each of their last seasons. If Regin replaces Konopka’s minutes, and Latendresse replaces Foligno’s, the Sens should receive some CAPITAL GAINS!
– If Lundin is healthy and replaces the minutes of Carkner/Lee/Gilroy as the team’s 6th defenseman, the Sens should once again become a much more disciplined team.
– Marc Methot had a worrying PRD of -0.8 last year, but his PRD was only -0.4 in 2010-11, and -0.3 in 2008-09 and 2009-10. One would hope last year is just an outlier.
– With the addition of a few rookies, the Sens were forced to cut ties with Winchester and Butler, who were positive P+/- players last season, but not by much.
– Their replacements, Mika Zibanejad and Jakob Silfverberg, seem like fairly disciplined players, as they combined for just 38 PIM in 218 career SEL games and 6 PIM in 22 AHL games (so far).
– Wildcard here is Borowiecki who seems determined to smash McGrattan's Bingo record for most PIM's, take er easy Boro!
During the offseason, the Senators become a much more disciplined team, which is good since it was one of their weak spots. It seems reasonable to assume this was by design.
In the end, disciplinary play isn’t the deciding factor between good and bad teams, but that doesn’t mean it's not important. In my opinion, being able to squeeze out an extra win or two (especially in a league that influences parity) from something as simple as disciplinary play, is a competitive advantage you can't neglect.