The Penguins' Powerplay With and Without Gonchar

With the discussion of whether or not to re-sign Gonchar gaining momentum as July 1st gets closer, I wanted to look at just how valuable he really is to the Penguins' powerplay. Some say that he's the only reason we had a competent powerplay this year, and we should work to re-sign him at almost any cost. Others think he's aging, and that Letang and Goligoski are ready to take up the reigns on the man advantage unit. Each side has valid points to make, but I think the debate will get a bit less foggy if we look at just how valuable Gonchar was this past year. 

A quick note on stats: I counted up the opportunities and powerplay goals as they were recorded in the game summary for each game on the Penguins' website. Because of scorer differences, the totals are slightly different from those reported at NHL.com, but they're not enough to change the overall thrust of the numbers. 

Results after the jump.  

I collected data on powerplay opportunities and powerplay goals for four scenarios: at home with Gonchar (29 games), at home without Gonchar (12 games), on the road with Goncahr (33 games), and on the road without Gonchar (8 games). I've summarized the results in the following table:

 

With Gonchar Without Gonchar
Home

26-for-105

(24.8%)

6-for-47

(12.3%)

Road

18-for-122

(14.8%)

1-for-32

(3.1%)

 

The results are pretty striking. At home, the Penguins more than double their rate when they have Gonchar at the point, converting close to a 25% clip. On the road, the change is even more dramatic: the Penguins are almost five times better on the powerplay when Gonchar is in the lineup. Combining these numbers together, you get the data in the following table:

 

With Gonchar Without Gonchar
Total PP Success Rate

44-for-227

(19.4%)

7-for-79

(8.9%)

 

 

Overall, the numbers seem to pretty clearly argue their point: Gonchar is critical to the Penguins' powerplay success. They're more than twice as good with him than without him. If Gonchar was with the team the entire season, and the powerplay finished with a 19.4% success rate, that would have been good enough for 8th in the league. For reference, the second ranked team had a 21.8% clip this season.

This is pretty strong evidence that Shero needs to work hard to re-sign Gonchar. Letang and Goligoski were nowhere near as effective as Gonchar was on the powerplay, and one summer's rest isn't enough time to make up that much ground. And since every effective powerplay has a defensemen at the point with a lethal shot and a lot of experience, it is definitely in the Penguins' best interest to go ahead and bring back Sergei Gonchar for at least next season.

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