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Getting to Know Carcillo

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Most people have made up their minds before he even sets foot on the ice, incensed about the signing even though it is just a PTO. So let's stop and take a look at Carcillo's past performance before we condemn the move.

Elsa

The newest addition to the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup is Daniel Carcillo. He was signed to a professional tryout contract with the hope that he will push the Pens' Bottom 6 to play better thanks to the competition angle, and to be used as a measuring stick for the young prospects, because if they can't manage to outperform a replacement level player like Carcillo then they don't deserve to be in the NHL either.

The reactions have been mixed, but lean heavily towards the end of the world angle, but as of right now he is just a PTO and there is probably a roughly 90% chance that he is sent packing when Camp is over. However, I feel we should probably get to know him before we leap to conclusions, and that ultimately we won't know his final fate until we see him on the ice, and wait to see who winds up being too injured to start the season this year.

The Good

As a limited use and somewhat sheltered 4th liner, good is a bit of a relative term.

First and foremost there is his physicality. His real time stats are about what we would expect for a 4th liner. He averaged 1.8 Hits and .30 Blocked Shots per game over the past 4 seasons, as well as a relatively decent .15 Takeaways per game. So he likes to bang bodies and is at least somewhat successful in breaking up plays, whether sacrificing his body or through active stickwork. He does have slightly more Giveaways at .18 per game, but that results in a nearly even turnover differential.

He also isn't overly bad defensively, as over the past 4 years he wound up with an acceptable -4 Plus/Minus and allowed just .32 Goals Against per game, meaning the opposing team scores while he is on the ice just once every 3 games.

Looking at his 5-on-5 numbers is quite similar, he is somewhat negative, a 47.9 GF% and -3.4 GF% Rel, but that isn't bad for 4th line production. And likewise we see a fairly good defensive performance, at .68 GA20 and -.04 GA20 Rel he has shown a habit of being on the ice for fewer goals against than his peers, and you can't really expect much more than that from a 4th liner. We also see that at a .925 Sv% and .003 Sv% Rel, as well as a .961 CSv% and .002 CSv% Rel, he is just slightly better than his peers in regards to preventing the opponent from finding the back of the net. And he accomplished that all while being just slightly titled towards playing in the D-zone, his 5-on-5 ZS% over the past 4 seasons was a 49.5.

He is also surprisingly effective in regards to possession. At Close over the past 4 seasons he was a 54.2 SF%, 54.4 FF%, and 53.7 CF%. And while there is obviously going to be some inflation due to the teams he was on, most of the past 3 years were with big possession franchises in Chicago and LA, his relative numbers also wind up being rather solid. He had a 2.3 SF% Rel, a 2.7 FF% Rel, and a 2.0 CF% Rel. And in keeping with his solid defensive performance, a lot of that had to do with his ability to prevent the opponent from getting shots off. He was a -.8 SA Rel, -1.2 FA Rel, and -1.5 CA Rel. So while he may not have been lighting the world on fire, he was fairly decent in regards to puck possession.

The Bad

Of course there is usually an explanation when something appears to be too good to be true. Carcillo had surprisingly impressive possession numbers, but when we look at his Close zone starts we see that he was fairly sheltered, receiving a 52.0 ZS%. He also faced off against lower tier QoC, as his opponents averaged 49.8 SF%, 49.7 FF%, and 49.6 CF%. So his solid possession numbers were put up while skating sheltered minutes, easier O-zone time against less talented opponents. It could certainly be worse, but that does take away from the impressiveness of his performance. Even his decent goal differential has the caveat that is comes while facing a lower tier QoC, as his opponents averaged a 49.4 GF%.

And if that wasn't bad enough, by looking at player shares we see much of that production comes from the fact that he was fortunate enough to leech off the right linemates to boost his totals. Over the past 4 seasons he has accrued a 23.9% Goal Shares and 50.0% Point Shares, which wouldn't be bad if he were a D but is far below even the lowest Pens forward. Likewise his less than stellar 20.2% Shot Shares, 20.3% Fenwick Shares, and 20.9% Corsi Shares is below the level of almost every Pens forward, bordering on D territory. All in all the numbers indicate that his production comes from riding on the coattails of more talented players and has very little bearing over his own ability or what we could expect to see him bring to our team.

Speaking of what he could bring to our team, one thing that stands out his his TOI. Over the past 4 seasons he has averaged 9.1 minutes a night, which is sub-4th line minutes. And what is more, that involves almost no special teams play. Usually you expect your 4th liners, especially those that lack offensive talent, to be able to contribute to the PK. But Carcillo accrued just barely over a minute of PK time over the past 4 seasons COMBINED. That comes out to less than a hundredth of a second per game. And his PP usage wasn't much better, just over a tenth of a second per game. And when it comes to a close game and the need to rely on players who can make a difference, he falls to 5.6 Close minutes per game. He is basically skating enforcer minutes, seldom seen goons that have little impact on the game itself.

And as far as lack of offensive production is concerned, he certainly doesn't offer a ringing endorsement for the notion that he is still an NHL forward. Over the past 4 seasons he has accrued just 12 Goals and 25 Points, which comes out to just .07 Goals and .15 Points per game. Sure he could be worse, but that isn't exactly a difficult benchmark for the young forward options in the system to try to surpass. And his team-based on-ice performance isn't any better, at .63 GF20 and -.13 GF20 Rel the team sees the puck go into the back less often when he is on the ice. And the on-ice shooting numbers aren't any better, at 6.6 Sh% and -1.1 Sh% Rel the team scores less frequently when he is on the ice.

Mostly what is bad about him is a complete lack of offensive skill, which in itself is quite similar to most of our recent 4th line options and even a few of the players Carcillo will be battling with in Camp this year. Certainly doesn't seem to be anything that gives me the impression that he has anything to offer that our young untried players aren't capable of. He is literally a replacement level player at this point in his career, and before long I expect he will fade away to Europe or the minors and then quietly retire.

The Ugly

The biggest problem with Carcillo is precisely the issue many of us, and the Penguins front office, had with James Neal. He seems physically incapable of remaining in the lineup for a full season, and unlike Neal he doesn't have the offensive talent to offset the shortcomings.

Mostly what people are concerned about is his tendency to make himself at home in the penalty box, and oftentimes we see that resulting in disciplinary action from the league.

Over the past 4 seasons he has racked up 320 PIMs via 54 minor penalties, 26 major penalties, which should all be fights because he is also credited with 26 fights over the past 4 seasons, and 8 misconduct penalties. He did, however, come out nearly even in regards to drawing almost as many penalties as he has taken, so most of the time he takes another player off the ice with him, although roughly half of those instances are because it was a fight. This results in him taking some sort of penalty once every 3 games, with an average of 2 PIMs per game played.

His tendency to toe the line in regards to dirty plays has resulted in an increasing tendency to face disciplinary action. He has been suspended 7 different times in his career for a total 25 games, 17 of which came in the past 4 seasons alone. He is most certainly a repeat offender, so it become increasingly likely that he will be suspended again for any borderline infractions. And the length of his suspensions has been escalating, culminating in an "Indefinite" suspension on January 1, 2012 that wound up resulting in his missing 7 games, and then a 10-game suspension o May 23, 2014 that was later reduced to 6 games. So chances are his next suspension will also be quite lengthy.

However, even if he could clean up his act and avoid suspension, he also has some serious health issues.

He has been out of the lineup with health concerns 8 times in his career, missing a combined 100 games. That may not have been a big issue were it not for the fact that 5 of those were for recurring knee issues, which accounts for 89 of the games he has missed. And its not as if that was in the distant past either, 80 of those missed games have come in the past 4 seasons alone. So a player with recurring knee problems that will be turning 30 this year, chances are he is already on the downswing of his career.

Based on the last 4 seasons and his career progression, between suspensions and injury we are looking at him missing around 33% of the season, so if he is signed we can only reasonably anticipate him being available for about 55 games this year. Even at league minimum, is it worth taking a risk on somebody so injury prone?

All in all we can look at his overall numbers to get a relatively decent picture of what kind of player we could expect him to be. If he could remain healthy, limit his time in the box and clean up his act just enough to avoid suspensions, we could be looking at somebody similar to Tanner Glass. Now for some that is a big red flag, and there are indeed other internal options that could be better choices. However, as far as 4th liners go there isn't much more you could ask for than a physical player who is defensively responsible.