It’s probably a little early to get too concerned about, but a trend that bears monitoring has emerged in the first week of the season.
After 38 games through Monday night, NHL teams had scored a total of 217 goals for a per-game average of 5.71. That’s almost 0.4 goals per game fewer than were scored in the first year of the new NHL last season.
If you remove the five artificial goals awarded to the winners of shootouts so far this season, the per-game average drops to 5.6, which is only about a half-goal per game better than the dead-puck era that preceded the lockout.
What’s even more astonishing is the number of shutouts that have been recorded in the early going.
Entering Tuesday night’s games, there had already been a total of eight shutouts. That puts the league on pace for a total of 259 this season, which is a whopping 140 more than 2005-06.
One reason for the drop is teams have proven to be far better on the penalty kill this season than last, even though they’re taking more penalties. Through Monday night, there had been 77 goals on 481 power play attempts. That projects out to a total of 2,492 goals on 15,569 attempts, compared to a total of 2,545 goals on 14,390 attempts last season.
All of which means the worst fears of many hockey observers may be coming to fruition. After a season of getting their bearings straight and simply trying to adjust to the new NHL, are NHL coaches beginning to find ways to disrupt the offensive flow?
Perhaps goaltenders, after one year of downsized equipment and reduced mobility, are also beginning to adjust to their new situations.
Whatever the case, the early returns that even with bigger curves in the sticks, there isn’t likely to be a massive explosion in offense over last season.
ZHERDEV THE REAL DEAL: You’ve got to think Columbus GM Doug MacLean is feeling either (a) a little sheepish, or (b) like a genius after playing hardball in contract talks with Nikolai Zherdev this past summer.
His approach almost cost him the services of Zherdev, who was brilliant in his season debut with the Blue Jackets Monday night. After watching that performance, maybe MacLean should have tendered Zherdev a Rick DiPietro contract instead.
JUNIOR JOTTINGS: Several rookies are off to great starts in the Ontario League, including Sam Gagner who is on a three-points-per-game pace through his first six games with the London Knights.
Gagner has three goals and 19 points so far and leads the OHL in scoring, but a couple of other rookies are even more productive when it comes to goals.
First overall pick Steven Stamkos of the Sarnia Sting, thanks to a hat trick last Friday night, and Cody Hodgson of the Brampton Battalion each have seven goals. Stamkos has his seven in just six gamesÂ…
One situation worth watching is in Sudbury, where GM-coach Mike Foligno is in the final year of a four-year deal.
The Wolves have three of the league’s top defensemen in Marc Staal, Jonathan D’Aversa and Adam McQuaid and a high-end forward in Nick Foligno.
The feeling is either the Wolves must load up for a run at the title or, if they feel they can’t win it this year, blow up the team and get a bevy of picks and young players for their older talent.
The problem is that Foligno, who has been a conservative GM throughout his tenure in Sudbury, might not do either, which could put him at loggerheads with owner Mark Burgess, who is growing impatient with the Wolves perennial lack of playoff success.
Ken Campbell’s Cuts appears regularly only on The Hockey News.com. Want to get the inside edge from Ken himself? You can reach him at [email protected].
One of THN’s senior writers, Ken Campbell gives you insight and opinion on the world of hockey like no one else. Subscribe to The Hockey News to get Ken’s expertise delivered to you every issue.