HALL VS SEGUIN VS SKINNER: THE STUPIDEST NHL DEBATE OF THE LAST TWO YEARS (PART 3)
In the last instalment, we left off with Jeff Skinner having hands-down won the Calder Trophy over the likes of Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin in the 2010-11 season, despite having been drafted slightly later and being nowhere near as highly touted as those two. This led to a sudden surge in the number of people declaring Skinner the winner of the Taylor vs. Tyler debate (!), and a surprising number of daft suggestions that Hall and Seguin were busts and Skinner should have been the number 1 pick. Riiiiiiight. It is absolutely safe to say that Skinner came out of nowhere that season; no-one, absolutely no-one could have expected that kind of season. Skinner even earned comparisons with Justin Bieber, for crying out loud. I bet he loved that.
As I pointed out in the conclusion of the last instalment, I believe that Skinner was in the perfect situation to succeed, and that is certainly not to take anything away from him. How can you? If a guy puts up those numbers, how can you complain? I won’t complain about the fact the Jordan Eberle suddenly put up 76 points in 11-12 – but that doesn’t mean a lot went right for him to have that kind of season. Skinner got the ice time benefit that Hall had over Seguin, and the better-team advantage that Seguin had over Hall. Not to mention he was helped by a pretty high 14.4% shooting percentage that year; that total isn’t really high, like Eberle’s this past year, but it is well above average. You can’t judge a player’s true shooting ability after 1 or 2 seasons, you have to see at least 3 or 4 years of a sustained shooting percentage in the same range. And this year, his percentage dropped – as we shall see later.
So, there was a new entrant to the competition, making it Taylor vs Tyler vs Jeff. Not quite as catchy, but a popular debate nonetheless.
Hall, Seguin and Skinner – Draft +2
Going into their second NHL seasons, expectations were high for all three youngsters, for three different reasons:
- Hall – was the number 1 pick in 2010, so expectations after a solid but not spectacular year were always going to be high, i.e. could he truly live up to his billing as a franchise player. Hall had good underlying numbers from the previous year, outstanding really for an 18 year old, and towards the end of the season had been getting better and better and better, until a freak accident in a fight with Derek Dorsett put him out for the remainder of the year. He would have pushed for 30 goals had it not been for that injury, which would have made his season look a lot more impressive to “outsiders”.
- Seguin – had a disappointing first NHL season, at least if you look at the box scores, but look deeper and you can kind of understand why. Did play well – brilliantly so on occasion – when called upon in the playoffs and of course he won the Cup as part of a powerhouse Boston team. Couple that with being a former 2nd Overall Pick and expectations were going to be greater.
- Skinner – had come out of nowhere to batter the other two competitors in virtually all areas, had a sensational season by almost all accounts. How would he follow it up? Could he sustain it?
In my mind, the situation for Hall hadn’t really changed. He was still the face of the franchise, helped of course by fellow junior sensation Jordan Eberle and new 1st Overall Pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but he would still be the guy. The competitor, the winner, the one who would take the team on his back to get where they needed to go. He was a star player who hadn’t yet hit his potential, and who was surrounded by a terrible team, yet was still very very good. For Skinner, his situation only really changed in that the surprise of the season before would mean more opportunity for him, although that could come with more responsibility. He would still be though, for all intents and purposes, a young scoring star on an average team, and hopefully he could keep up – if not improve on – what he did in 10-11. Seguin however, was going into a different situation. The Bruins had done what they set out to do, arguably at the expense of Seguin getting a shot to show what he could do, in winning the Cup. With Recchi retired, Ryder signing with Dallas, and Savard not showing any signs of recovery from his concussion, there were slots available. And who better to give that shot to than a top 2 draft pick with elite skills, who when finally given an opportunity shined in the latter stages of the playoffs? No question, Seguin was going to get the benefit of more time, better linemates and more responsibility. The Bruins had to, as having Seguin play another year stuck in the bottom 6 could really hurt his development.
Hall didn’t break out in the way many hoped, i.e. into a 30-40 goal, 70-80 point producer, but he did show strong, steady progression and definite improvement over the year before. He put up 27 goals and 53 points in just 61 games. I’m afraid to tell you boys and girls that that production, is not far off a point per game pace. Is that not what number 1 overall draftees are expected to achieve? As for the injuries, they were becoming concerning, but they do not mean he is injury prone. One was the well-publicised skate-to-the-face from Corey Potter in warm-up, an absolute freak accident that he was actually lucky was not worse. Another was a minor concussion, which most hockey players experience at some point, which cleared up pretty quickly. The other was a shoulder injury he’s had since he was in junior, which he finally got fixed this off-season. If Hall was that good at age 20 playing with a bad shoulder, can you imagine how good he’ll be when he has two fully functional shoulders?! Crazy.
Skinner struggled with injury and luck in 11-12. He suffered a concussion in December and missed 16 games, plus a further 2 through a suspension by the NHL. When he was in the lineup though, he was fairly consistent, only 3 times (that I can see) going more than 2 games without a point. His final output was more akin to what Hall did in his rookie year than Skinner’s own Calder-winning season, putting up 20 goals and 44 points in 64 games. For a 19 year old in only his second season, that is still good production and he still hit the 20 goal mark. Yet his shooting percentage was down, his points per game was down, and people were slightly disappointed that he didn’t have a great follow up year.
Seguin was the real star of the 11-12 season out of these three. Seguin led his team, the powerful Bruins (although they’re not noted for their offensive prowess), in scoring as a 20 year old, and made an unbelievable leap forward from the year before. He put up 29 goals and 67 points, which is over a 200% increase in production year over year! He was confident and he was scoring. Part of it might be explainable not just because of better line-mates and more opportunity, although that certainly is a factor, but also due to a shooting percentage of 12%, up from 8.4% the year before and more in line with what you might expect from a highly skilled forward. Had Seguin fired at a 12% rate in his rookie season, he would scored likely 4 or 5 more goals. If he had fired at 8.4% this year, he would have just scored 20 goals, still good but not the near-30 goal rate he was at this year. That’s a combination of everything: better line-mates, more opportunity, better luck, better player.
2011-12: By The Numbers
Here is the breakdown of each players’ sophomore season (Yellow Cells indicate the player with the best result, Red the worst – and yes, once again I have realised a mistake, Skinner should be listed as the “winner” for 5v4 Time On Ice):
- So, the results on this table are considerably more scattered than the previous year’s, indicating all 3 guys weren’t so different.
- Seguin is the overall “winner” here, leading in 9 categories, to Hall’s 5 and Skinner’s 4 (taking into account my error with the 5v4 TOI), which lines up with what everybody saw from Seguin this year.
- Hall received a lot of minutes and took advantage by posting the strongest point per game number. If he had played the entire 82 game schedule, he was on pace for 71 points (36 goals). I think had he done that, people would be far less “on his back” about his totals, and realising what a talent he is.
- Hall once again played the least games. The injuries are concerning, and those concerns did go back to before he was drafted, but as mentioned above, a majority of the injuries (hurting his ankle in a fight, a skate to the head, the shoulder injury) are either of the freakish kind or go back to before he was even in the NHL and have now been fixed. He does play a reckless style and will have to learn to look after himself a bit better, but anyone calling him “soft” needs to check again. Injured in a fight? The fact he was fighting = not soft. Skate to the head? He wanted to play the game that night despite the gaping wound, docs wouldn’t let him = not soft. Shoulder injury from junior? Hall’s played through 2 NHL seasons with a bad shoulder = not soft. Please can we drop this “soft” BS now please?
- Whilst Seguin once again received the least time on ice of the 3 (although it was a lot closer this year and there really wasn’t much in it), he definitely made it count, proving to be the most effective with the time he did get by leading the 5v5 Per 60 scoring stats by fairly significant margins, though not huge. He was probably helped by the fact that Boston are such a good team, but at the same time you personally have to be at least pretty good to be a part of it.
- The Time On Ice totals should lay to rest any notion of “Hall gets tonnes of minutes because he plays for a crap team” – the differences in the totals are pretty negligible, with Skinner leading the way. In reality, Seguin averaged only about a shift less per game than the other two at 5v5, and the same at 5v4. It’s around a minute less, which isn’t insignificant, but it’s not the large gap some have made it out to be, in my opinion.
- Skinner’s improved play combined with how good his team was shines through in his plus/minus, a stat which I don’t put a huge amount of stock in but you don’t get a figure that high by being bad at what you do. A great number. Given how bad the Oilers were, Hall’s number is pretty good, whilst Skinner’s is a tad disappointing but not awful.
- The situational stats, i.e. Quality of Competition and Offensive Zonestart %s, are interesting. Hall had a slight push over the other two, in that he was given around 1% less time starting in the defensive zone, but that difference is tiny – they were all given a push. Hall played by far the toughest competition, with the other two playing still above average, but nonetheless weaker, players. For Hall to put up the scoring numbers he did whilst playing those minutes is a testament to how much better he makes the Oilers as a team.
- All three players have really good Corsi Rel stats, particularly Hall and even more particularly Seguin. Seguin’s can be explained in part by him playing with a defensive beast in Bergeron, who is a brilliant possession player, but as mentioned before Seguin earned that right by being able to keep up with him. For Hall to put up the number he did whilst playing with such a bad Edmonton team and against tough competition is once again proof of the difference maker he is, and whilst you may say that is me being bias, it really isn’t. For Hall to be so near Seguin in the Corsi Rel stats whilst playing on two vastly different teams is amazing.
- Hall was absolutely dominant on the powerplay this year, making a huge leap forward over the last year, and Seguin made good strides aswell. Skinner was disappointing with the man advantage this season compared to how he was last season, although his 5v5 Points Per 60 still improved slightly, showing progression. Hall’s dominance can be partly explained by the Oilers being brilliant on that discipline this year, with Nugent Hopkins being a big part of that, but much like Seguin being really good at 5v5, you have to be good to be a part of it. Hall was able to finish the plays and put the pucks in the net, which is precisely what you need to do on the PP.
- The three had identical PK time than last year, with Skinner being entrusted with that responsibility more than the other 2 but still hardly getting any. I would expect all 3 to start being entrusted with that, probably Seguin the most.
- Hall took more penalties per 60 this year than last, but it’s not a huge rise, and he also didn’t draw as many, so that’s disappointing, but he is still drawing more than he’s taking so he’s not hurting the team. In fact none of the 3 are, although Seguin is still only just above break-even. Skinner seems to be a bit of a master at the art of drawing penalties – I wonder if his agility (as a result of his figure-skating) has anything to with that? Seriously?
Conclusion: Seguin won the day, but it was a close race
Seguin was for sure the best player overall in 2011-12, but it wasn’t a runaway victory by any means.
- Hall showed progress from his solid rookie year, following it up by approaching the point per game mark and was on pace for a near 40 goal season. That’s a guy approaching elite status. Injuries still hampered his ability to show the rest of the league what he’s capable of.
- Seguin showed tremendous progress, improving the most out of all 3 players, although there wasn’t really anywhere to go but up after his rookie year. He took the bull by the horns and showed why he was worthy of that 2nd overall pick, and there’s no reason to expect that he won’t continue to improve towards becoming an elite player.
- Skinner had a disappointing year, but injuries were the primary reason for that, as well as a drop in luck with his shooting percentage. Still, he showed progression in some areas and despite everything still put up 20 goals, which at his age is very impressive.
- The biggest questions out of this year are can Hall put together a full season, and which Skinner is the real one? The one who shocked everybody with one of the best rookie seasons in years, or the one who put up a solid if unspectacular year? Given Skinner was drafted with the knowledge that he had fantastic skills and a great shot, I would be willing to bet it’s closer to the former than the latter.