The Hurricanes Need More Out of Jeff Skinner and The Rest of The Offense

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We have officially reached panic mode for the Hurricanes and their offensive struggles. We could sit here all day and complain about the continued struggles of Hurricanes goalies, but nobody wants to do that (anymore). The team has multiple problems, but a big one that I want to focus on is the faltering offense.

Sebastian Aho has been a star, scoring 19 goals and 40 points in 49 games. Teuvo Teravainen has 13 goals and a team leading 42 points. After that, things drop off significantly. Justin Williams has 9 goals and 33 points. Jordan Staal has 14 goals and 32 points.

Where is Jeff Skinner on this list? He sits 5th on the team in points with 31, and he has just 15 goals in 53 games. Last season, Skinner was a top five goal scorer in the NHL with 37 goals. This season, Skinner is on pace for about 23 goals, which is second on the team. That’s just not good enough. Both the fact that Skinner is on pace to score 14 fewer goals than he did a season ago, and the fact that 23 goals looks like it would be the second highest total on the Hurricanes roster is massively disappointing.

Coming into the season, Skinner was expected to continue to lead the young Hurricanes offense. Whether you want to blame the players playing next to him, the coaching staff, or somehow blame his lack of production on the goaltending (please excuse my snarky sarcasm), the team needs more out of their leader of the offense.

You could blame Bill Peters for playing him on the “third” line and complain about Skinner’s ice time. But Skinner is 4th among forwards in average ice time per game with just over 17 minutes, which trails only Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm, and Sebastian Aho. 17 minutes is fair for an offensive minded player who struggles in his own end at times.

Yes, Skinner could have better linemates. You can blame that for his lack of production, or you can blame Skinner himself. Skinner is a guy that many wanted with a C on his chest. Skinner is the guy we expect to be able to carry the players around him and make them better. But, right now I’m not sure if that’s true. It may just be that Skinner just isn’t burying his chances. And he sure doesn’t look pretty on the ice right now.

Despite his lack of goals, Skinner still easily leads the team in shots on goal with 185. Justin Faulk is his closest competitor with 150. It’s not that Skinner isn’t getting chances, he’s just not finishing them.

As you can see in the charts, the offense produces far more shots with Skinner on the ice than without him. Skinner still finds ways to create scoring chances, but something has to give. The team needs him to pot some of those chances.

Maybe changing up the lines will help Skinner return to his elite goal scoring form. Skinner skated with Elias Lindholm and Phil Di Giuseppe in practice. Lindholm and Skinner should be a nice combination, and Skinner has found chemistry with Di Giuseppe in the past.

No matter who you want to blame, the team needs more out of Skinner. He probably needs to go on another late season tear and hit the 30 goal mark if this team wants to make the playoffs. Again, blaming the offensive struggles solely on Skinner would be unprecedented and just unfair. There are 16 forwards dressing each night. All of them outside of Aho and Teravainen need to be better offensively.

Victor Rask has 12 goals and 8 assists this season. That’s just 20 points for our apparent top line center coming into the season.

Clearly, the offense creates more quality chances around the net with Victor Rask off of the ice. I think it’s pretty fair to say that Victor Rask has been an offensive black hole for the majority of the season.

If Rask is an offensive black hole, I don’t think that there is an appropriate term to describe the fourth line. Black hole would be too generous. Joakim Nordstrom and Marcus Kruger have been staples on the fourth line for the majority of the season. Kruger has a single goal and 6 points in 48 games. Nordstrom has 4 points in 52 games. That is…… bad. You might think that Nordstrom and Kruger’s defensive responsibility make up for their offensive woes, but take a look at this.

Like I said, offensive black hole would be a compliment to these two. You would probably have a very tough time trying to find two players who have shot rates that bad. Now, here is the interesting part. Nordstrom and Kruger are probably “known” for their defense, but that may not be accurate.

For Nordstrom, it appears that when he is on the ice the Canes give up more chances down low to opposing teams. So it appears that maybe Nordstrom isn’t quite as good defensively as he is made out to be.

Kruger’s 5v5 shot rates against numbers are fine, but here is where I am drawn to. These charts show the shot rates against with Kruger on the ice for a Canes PK. Kruger was brought in as a good penalty killer, but the team gives up a lot more chances right in front of the net then they do with Kruger off of the ice. He does a good job at taking away the middle of the zone, but right in front of the crease there is a noticeable difference.

You can’t tell me that there aren’t multiple pieces that are below expectations on the Hurricanes offense. Jeff Skinner isn’t burying his chances, and lately it seems as if he can’t create any. Victor Rask, Joakim Nordstrom, and Marcus Kruger are all offensive black holes. I could go more in depth and look into each and every forward, but these four stood out to me as our main underperformers.

Something has to give. Healthy scratches? Sure. That might send a message. But what this team needs is another dynamic scorer in the top six. Adding a guy like Mike Hoffman to the lineup would go beyond just adding Mike Hoffman to the lineup. Adding a guy like him would give the team three lines that are a legitimate threat to score goals. Skinner would likely see less attention from opposing teams if the Hurricanes had more of a threat to face them with. Having Aho, Teravainen, Skinner, and an acquisition all in the lineup and all producing would make this team legitimately dangerous offensively. I don’t think the offense is the sole issue, nor would adding a forward solve all of the team’s issues. But the offense has to be better. Goaltending is going to play itself out. I’m not getting into that again. Bottom line is, you can’t win games if you can’t put the puck in the net.

Special thanks as always to Micah over at http://hockeyviz.com/ for the awesome charts and graphs. I’m still very fresh in analytics, but Micah’s stuff has been a good place to start for me. I highly recommend heading over and checking it out!

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