unleash Kapanen on the PK?

The Pens dipped to 13th in 4v5 xGA60 last year after finishing 6th in 19-20 and 7th in 18-19. Of their 18 skaters in the playoff lineup, 9 killed 30+ 4v5 minutes in the regular season. When looking at their expected goals, their performances can be stratified into 3 tiers: great, meh, and bad. Unfortunately for the Pens, it's very little great and a lot of meh and bad

Player GP TOI TOI/GP xGF% xGF/60 xGA/60
Teddy Blueger 42 85.27 2.03 17.69 1.24 5.76
Brandon Tanev 32 72.2 2.26 12.75 1 6.82
John Marino 51 92.47 1.81 12.71 0.97 6.68
Kris Letang 54 78.67 1.46 12.03 0.76 5.52
Brian Dumoulin 40 103.7 2.59 11.65 0.7 5.31
Marcus Pettersson 46 34.42 0.75 7.83 0.77 9.03
Zach Aston-Reese 44 80.5 1.83 6.98 0.51 6.85
Cody Ceci 52 128.62 2.47 6.64 0.42 5.9
Frederick Gaudreau 19 30.97 1.63 6.46 0.48 7.01

For context, league average 4v5 xGF% is 11.26%. Blueger grades out well above that, while Tanev and the big 3 blueliners hover around par. The remaining PKers struggled immensely. Ceci and Aston-Reese were leaned upon heavily despite the fact that both have career-wise been pretty poor on the PK.

Another interesting note is Gaudreau struggling. Carter didn't qualify for the minutes here with his short tenure but he's been bad on the PK too. Does that make retaining Blueger that much more pertinent?

Anyway, onto the actual subject. The defense is less of a concern here. Ruhwedel's low key been a great PKer and will give them a 4th blue liner they can actually rely on once he replaces Ceci. The forwards, on the other hand, could desperately use a shot in the arm.

Kapanen has been a positive expected goal driver on the PK every year except his last in Toronto. In the 2 seasons before that however he finished 35th in relative expected goal +-/60 out of 279 skaters who played at least 150 4v5 mins in that span. Too many of the bottom sixers have shown they can't get it done. Kap can at least lead the 2nd unit.

The only logical argument against putting Kap back on the PK would be that he needs to focus on 5v5; it's a bad argument. Despite the notion that Kap finally burst out of a 3rd line role in Toronto and spread his wings, his 13.3 5v5 mins/game this year actually wasn't unprecedented. In 18-19 he played 13.8 5v5 mins/game, and also another 1.6 at 4v5.

There will be some inevitable shooting regression with Kapanen this year. The best way for him to recoup some of that value would be to contribute on the PK like he's capable of and push the team at least back into that top 10 range.

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