Let's get this out of the way first: I'm not a Jeff Carter fan. I haven't been for a few years. This isn't because I don't think he's good at hockey, or that I have a personal vendetta against him. I just don't like him.
So that should make this story even more surprising. Jeff Carter is having a phenomenal year.
|2010 - Jeff Carter||43||17||18||35||8||26||5||0||5||180||9.4||56.1|
The cynic in me will say that Carter truly is not a 40-goal scorer, and that label must be dropped. But he's still on pace for 30-35 goals, which isn't so bad. He's at 0.81 points per game, which is just barely below last year. While game-winning goals are not all they're cracked up to be, he's only one off last year's total. And all this while his shooting percentage is the lowest it's been in four years.
But the really impressive part about Carter's year comes in the numbers you don't see above. He is 15th in the league in faceoff percentage. That's above Sidney Crosby, Eric Belanger, Matt Cullen, and plenty others. The next best Flyer? Claude Giroux at 50.4%. Ruminate on that, because it's truly remarkable.
Then, take a look at this:
|GP||OZ% ||OZRank ||OZfin% ||OZfR ||CorQoC ||CRank ||RelCorsi ||PDO ||PDOR||+/-On ||+/-R
|2010 - Jeff Carter||43||44.7
I had to use a lot of abbreviations there, but let's go through them.
- OZ% - The percent of time Carter is on the ice for an offensive zone faceoff.
- OZRank - Where that ranks among forwards on the Flyers.
- OZfin% - The percent of time Carter ends his shifts in the offensive zone.
- OZfR - Where that ranks among forwards on the Flyers.
- CorQoC - The quality of Carter's competition, judged by their ability to outshoot their opposition.
- CRank - Where that ranks among forwards on the Flyers.
- RelCorsi - How well Carter can outshoot his opposition, relative to his teammates.
- PDO - Adding up the Flyers shooting percentage and save percentages while Carter is on the ice.
- PDOR - Where that ranks among forwards on the Flyers.
- +/-ON - Per 60 minutes, how much the Flyers outscore the opponents while Carter is on the ice.
- +/-R - Where that ranks among forwards on the Flyers.
Okay. That's a lot, I know, but I'll explain what it means one-by-one.
Looking at where Carter begins his shifts, we see that he starts in the offensive zone only 44.7% of the time. This is 9th fewest on the team, ahead of only the fourth line (Powe, Shelley, Betts, and Carcillo). Despite this, he ends his shifts in the offensive zone 51.9% of the time, 4th best on the team. The only ones better are Giroux, Richards, and Carcillo.
This is something fairly simple to grasp: Carter is sent out for defensive zone faceoffs (which he wins more than most players in the league) AND drives the play forward. He turns a potential scoring chance against into a potential scoring chance for. This is phenomenal. (Hartnell, Briere, and Leino are almost the exact opposite.)
In terms of who Carter is asked to play against, he's given the 4th most difficult assignments (Nodl, Richards, and Zherdev are ahead of him). This is based off the opposition's ability to outshoot their opponents. If you want to know who good the players Carter faces at outscoring their opponents, well, he's facing the toughest competition.
So Carter faces a ton of top-quality players. His job this year has been to face the other team's best, starting in his defensive zone. This was a role that Mike Richards so often held, and Carter is doing - perhaps - an even better job than Richards did last year. The main difference? Carter is winning faceoffs. Sure, Richards played a lot on the penalty kill last year in addition to being the 5-on-5 shutdown center. But Carter is still 5th on the team in shorthanded time on ice per game, so it's not like he is avoiding the rough minutes. He's just taking less tough PK minutes, and more tough 5-on-5 minutes.
You could also say he's playing with the 4th best teammates (using shot-metrics), but when he has the 9th best teammates using goal-metrics, it's difficult to say he's not the one carrying his line. It certainly appears as if he is.
Despite the tough situations and tough opponents, Carter is still winning the shot battle. Relative to the team, he's even. When you look at the luck (or, shooting percentages for each team while he's on the ice) he's getting, only four people are getting worse luck. Sure, some of that has to do with the quality of his opponents, but when you look at the job Carter is being asked to do, his ability to control the play, and the below-average (relative to his teammates) goaltending he's receiving, the fact that Carter is still scoring more goals than he's giving up is truly remarkable.
Yes, eight other forwards are better at it than Carter. But those forwards aren't facing nearly as tough of competition nor are they being put into nearly as tough of situations. Despite that, Carter is still a plus-10 at five-on-five, he has a plus-16 Corsi (or a 50.7%), and he's taking the Flyers from in front of their own net to in front of the opposition's.
Oh, and he's still scoring. Second on the team in goals and fourth in points. My great respect for Mike Richards is becoming a deep respect for Jeff Carter. This season at least.