Thursday, December 17, 2015

Sean Couturier Is A Second Line Center

I was browsing Twitter this morning and I came across the following exchange between Sean Tierney (who I did not follow until today but is a good follow if you like analytics), Collin Mehalick (A+ follow if you like the Flyers), and Muneeb Alam (A++ follow if you like hockey):

 Clearly, my belief is that Coots belongs in the second line center spot (especially if he's flanked by Wayne Simmonds and Jake Voracek), but I wanted to make my list to see where he falls. I'm going to go throwback Bill Simmons category style with this, and we'll see what happens.

The Unquestionable List Of Top Ten Centers That We Can Knock Out Quickly

In no particular order (wink face):
  • Claude Giroux, Flyers
  • Tyler Seguin, Stars
  • John Tavares, Islanders
  • Evgeni Malkin, Penguins
  • Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings
  • Steven Stamkos, Lightning
  • Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks
  • Anze Kopitar, Kings
  • Patrice Bergeron, Bruins
  • Sidney Crosby, Penguins
If you have any one of these guys on your team, they are centering the top line. If you have more than one of these guys on your team, then you have an issue with cap allocation and you probably aren't that good. 

Older Guys That You Would Probably Maybe Take Over Couturier

Age, of course, plays a factor in this discussion. Coots just turned 23. He has like ten years of his prime left (I popped a boner typing that sentence). Long term, I'd rather have him than any of these guys. But I'll entertain this list because I think it's going to end up being unequivocal that Sean Couturier is one of the 60 best centers in the NHL:
  • Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings (37)
  • Joe Thornton, Sharks (36)
  • Henrik Sedin, Canucks (age 35)
  • Tomas Plekanec, Canadiens (33)
  • Patrick Sharp, Stars (33)
  • Mike Cammalleri, Devils (33)
  • Mikko Koivu, Wild (32)
  • Jason Spezza, Stars (32)
  • Alex Steen, Blues (31)
  • David Backes, Blues (31)
  • Frans Nielsen, Islanders (31)
  • Eric Staal, Hurricanes (31)
  • Joe Pavelski, Sharks (31)
  • Jeff Carter, Kings (30)
  • Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks (30)
  • Paul Statsny, Blues (30)
  • Carl Soderberg, Avalanche (30)
  • David Krejci, Bruins (29)
To varying degrees, you could argue that you'd rank these guys over Couturier on a year-by-year basis. I'm fine with including them in this exercise, but if you would rather have Nielsen/Statsny/Soderberg than Couturier, please include your Twitter handle in the comments so I can mock you and then block you. 

Young Guys That Are In The Discussion

On the other end of the spectrum are guys who have the same amount of years left (or more), and that makes the discussion a little gray. Flyers fans - or at least the ones that are not #bad and #dumb - will rave about Coots' upside. I'm sure the fans of these teams would do the same for their guys:
  • Nick Bjugstad, Panthers (23)
  • Mikael Granlund, Wild (23)
  • Jonathan Huberdeau, Panthers (22)
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers (22)
  • Mark Scheifele, Jets (22)
  • Mike Zibanejad, Senators (22)
  • Boone Jenner, Blue Jackets (22)
  • Victor Rask, Hurricanes (22)
  • Vincent Trocheck, Panthers (22)
  • Sean Monahan, Flames (21)
  • Alex Galchenyuk, Canadiens (21)
  • Filip Forsberg, Predators (21)
  • Aleksander Barkov, Panthers (20)
  • Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche (20)
  • Leon Draisaitl, Oilers (20)
  • Max Domi, Coyotes (20)
  • Jack Eichel, Sabres (19)
  • Dylan Larkin, Red Wings (19)
  • Connor McDavid, Oilers (18)
  • Oscar Lindberg, Rangers (24, but in his rookie season)
There are a bunch of no-brainers here. Rookies Domi, Eichel, Larkin, and McDavid look to all be on their way to that first group. Forsberg and MacKinnon are already among the league's best. Zibanejad and Scheifele are especially interesting, because they were taken with the two picks before Couturier. 

(Side note: find me a trio of guys that got drafted back-to-back-to-back with more talent and more confusing names. you can't.)

Guys In Their Early-To-Mid-Twenties
  • Matt Duchene, Avalanche
  • Ryan O'Reilly, Sabres
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov, Capitals
  • Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals
  • Ryan Johansen, Blue Jackets
  • Kyle Turris, Senators
  • Mathieu Perreault, Jets
  • Tyler Toffoli, Kings
  • Derick Brassard, Rangers
  • Bryan Little, Jets
  • Leo Komarov, Maple Leafs
  • David Desharnais, Canadiens
  • Tyler Bozak, Maple Leafs
  • Mike Hoffman, Senators
  • Tyler Johnson, Lightning
  • Artem Anisimov, Blackhawks
  • Brandon Pirri, Panthers
  • Logan Couture, Sharks
  • Martin Hanzal, Coyotes
  • Derek Stepan, Rangers
  • Tyler Ennis, Sabres
Similar to the previous group, there are a few guys here who are almost unquestionably above Coots in anyone's ranking. There are also a lot of guys here who are almost unquestionably below him. 

In Conclusion

On Sean Couturier as a top six center: yes. That's the top ten (10), the guys over 30 (18), guys younger than Coots (20), and guys in their mid-twenties (21). Add it all up and you get 69 players (nice) than could possibly be in the discussion with Couturier. Axe whoever you want to axe, because I'm sure there are at least a couple dozen players that could be chopped off the ballot. Here's how I did that:

The top ten guys, obviously, are above Couturier. 

Factoring in age/the future, Couturier is above just about everybody in the 30+ group. Ignoring age, I'd concede everyone in that group except Sharp, Koivu, Spezza, Nielsen, Statsny, and Soderberg. That's 12 more to bring our running tally to 22 guys above Coots. 

Continuing on in order of descending age, the mid-twenties group are all largely established. I'd be fine putting Coots right smack dab in the middle there, so let's add another 10 to bring our tally to 32. 

The youngsters are tricky, because most will be making about 15% of Couturier's salary next year. I'll concede the four star rookies, MacKinnon, Barkov, Forsberg, Galchenyuk, and Monahan.

Our final tally is 41 centers that we'd rank above Sean Couturier. That leaves a lot of room to concede more names in case I missed any. He's capable of shutting down any line in the league, and he's now paired with a couple of offensive talents - so the sky is the limit. 

On the rest of the league, in bullets form:
  • I would not like to be a Sharks fan because they are a bunch of geezers. 
  • Edmonton and Florida seem to be in great shape for the next few years. 
  • Every team in the league is represented here (70 players divided by 30 teams makes for an average of 2.3 per team), and the most common for this exercise are Detroit (3), Buffalo (3), San Jose (3), Montreal (3), Colorado (3), St. Louis (3), Edmonton (3), NY Rangers (3), and Florida (4). 

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