Should he stay or should he go: Craig Adams

Justin K. Aller

A new series at profiling the seasons of the Penguins free-agents-to-be. Based off his 2013 performance should the Penguins look to re-sign veteran forward Craig Adams?

Our series on profiling the class of 2013 free agents for the Pittsburgh Penguins begins today..

Basics

Player: Craig Adams
Role: 4th liner, PK specialist
2013 regular season Box car stats: 48 games played, 3 goals, 6 assists, 28 PIMs, -1
Playoff stats: 15 gp, 0g, 1a, 10 PIMs, +1


Usage

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Adams, like other fourth liners like Tanner Glass and Joe Vitale, were started frequently in the defensive zone against lesser competition and were all out-shot heavily while on the ice. And, that makes sense- if the Pens had a defensive zone draw against the opposition’s top opponents they would probably play the Brandon Sutter (or the Sidney Crosby) line against them. If it was lesser threats then they could use the 4th line that Adams was a staple on, to keep Crosby and Evgeni Malkin rested for the next shift and a potential offensive zone faceoff.

Adams advanced statistics don’t paint him in the best of lights, but given his role that makes sense. A lower line grinder who eats tough minutes, starts out in defensive zone more often than not and doesn’t have a lot of offensive talent himself (or on his line) isn't going to generate a lot of shots, which will explain his negative advanced stats. More important for Adams is keeping a low GA/60, he can't be giving up a lot of goals on the ice, because he's not a player that's going to be celebrating a lot goals for, and he's been largely able to do that at even strength.

Interesting fact

Two of Adams’ three goals of the season came on empty nets (February 15th vs. Winnipeg, March 14th vs. Toronto). This obviously shows that in a full season he’s not going to score a ton of goals, but it’s interesting proof that Adams is still is a player that the coach will trust to play in the final minute of a game when the Pens are clinging to a close lead. To have a long career without much pure skill, a player has to create a niche, and Adams has definitely made a career out of earning the trust of his coaches.

Three Reasons to keep him:

  • 1)It would probably be easy- Adams has signed short-term contracts with the Pens for at or near league minimum without much hesitation or negotiation. At this point in his career if Pittsburgh would be interested in keeping him, he’d probably be willing to stay for a friendly price against the cap. And with the salary cap lowering to $64.3 million next season and with several key free agents, the Penguins could use having a solid, reliable contributor without paying hardly anything for it.
  • 2)PK abilities- Craig Adams led Penguins forwards in 2013 with 2:39 played per game while the team was short-handed (and 3:34 SH TOI/game in the playoffs). He’s been a key cog in what’s been a Top 5-10 PK unit league-wide for the past four seasons. It’s yeoman’s work to eat up tough PK minutes and risk blocking shots, and Adams has been an excellent player on that unit for Pittsburgh in his time here. He’s smart to angle off the puck and get his stick in correct shooting/passing lanes, capable along the boards at working to win puck battles and makes simple and effective zone clears when he gets the chance.
  • 3)Bang for the buck- Despite being 10th out of 12 regular forwards in ice-time per game, Adams was second statistically among forwards in overall blocked shots (37) and in hits (107). He was very solid in his role as a grinding 4th line checker. As the cliché goes “you always know what you’ll get” out of Adams- a consistent effort, a willingness to throw his body at other players or to block pucks without fear or regard for injury. Adams has also played 292 of the last 294 regular season games since the start of the 2009-10 season, he’s been incredibly durable and tough to keep being ready to make the lineup.

Three Reasons to not keep him:

  • 1)Age- As good as Adams was for his role in 2013, he’s also now a 36 year old veteran who doesn’t add much with the puck on his stick. With 799 career NHL games and 92 playoff games, it’s a fair question to wonder how much Adams would have in the tank for next season and beyond. He’s definitely in the twilight of his NHL career, and it seems he’s been there for the past few years.
  • 2)Decreasing Versatility- It’s an old nit, but Adams has gone from a 4th line center to more of a winger now, as he’s been ineffective in the faceoff circle in years past. Part of Adams value is his versatility but as he’s aged it’s tough to keep up skating wise with the center’s responsibilities, so he’s more effective now on the wing. With a similar player in Joe Vitale (small, physical, right-handed shot, effort-guy), it’s reasonable to ask how many players for that niche the Pens need.
  • 3)Lack of offensive ability- Adams scored one goal all season with a goalie in the net. He finished the season with 46 shots in 48 games. He might go on a stretch of 20+ games without registering a point, or even coming close. Of course, his role is defensive minded and focused on playing smart, physical hockey, but ideally one would probably hope for a little more explosiveness or offensive ability out of an NHL player.

Verdict:

The Penguins haven’t seemed willing to trust Vitale to play a lot of penalty kill, and haven’t groomed any other Adams replacements. If CFA would stay for a one year deal near the league minimum, Pittsburgh should take it and move on. With two other core, backbone PK type forwards in Pascal Dupuis and Matt Cooke also looking at unrestricted free agency, the Pens would be wise to retain Adams abilities for that unit. He doesn’t add much, if anything, offensively, but he’s still a very capable 4th line grinder, checker and a guy trusted to play last minute in close games. There will come a year when the Pens need to move on from Adams but until he shows noticeable slippage in his skating, for the price he adds a lot of value.

Your call

Vote in the poll below on the simple question of should the Pens re-sign Craig Adams or should they let him go and add your comments below.

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