19 games into the 2021 NHL season, William Carrier and Ryan Reaves have combined for a total of two points while being on the ice for 372 minutes.
The two have a combined -7 rating, have cost the Golden Knights 0.7 points in the standings according to Hockey-Reference.com’s point shares stat, and each post a Corsi For Percentage under 49% (the team number is 51%).
To put it politely, they haven’t been good offensively to start the season. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but this should. No player on the Golden Knights has started a higher percentage of shifts in the offensive zone than Ryan Reaves. Reaves has started a massive 57.6% of his shifts in a positive position while his linemate, Carrier, isn’t far behind at 55.3%, good for 4th on the team for forwards.
So, Reaves and Carrer start closer to the opposing goal more often than anyone on the team, yet have failed to score a single goal, have been on the ice for just four goals (three for Carrier), and have allowed seven. They are below 50% shares in every advanced metric including Corsi, Fenwick, shots, expected goals, scoring chances, and high danger chances. In other words, they give up more than they create, by every measurable, despite starting in more advantageous positions than anyone else on the team.
But wait, there’s more! It gets worse… WAY worse, when we look at the seven most important games of the season.
Vegas has played St. Louis, Colorado, and Minnesota a combined seven times in the first 19 games. In those games, Carrier and Reaves have combined to go scoreless and pointless, while registering a -5 rating and allowing three goals while being on the ice for zero goals for. Again, not good.
In those games, the pair started an absurd 81% (Reaves) and 84% (Carrier) of their shifts in the offensive zone. The Golden Knights took 91 defensive zone draws in those seven games, either Reaves or Carrier were on the ice for six of them! That means one of those two were on the ice for just 7% of defensive zone draws while they accounted for 20% of Vegas’ offensive zone draws.
I went back and looked for every draw analyze the situation on each of those six draws. On three of them, Reaves was caught on the ice due to an icing call, Carrier joined in one of those three. Another, Carrier was sent out in a 4-on-4 situation with 39 seconds left in the 3rd period of a game Vegas led 3-0. Another, Reaves and Carrier had just hopped on the ice, were out there for eight seconds and there was a stoppage, they stayed on for the subsequent draw. That leaves one draw where Pete DeBoer purposely put Reaves and Carrier on the ice in the defensive zone. One out of 91.
Yet, despite starting more than 90% of their shifts in the offensive or neutral zone, Reaves and Carrier managed to attempt just nine shots on goal in more than 60 minutes of ice time and they still put up below 50% numbers in every advanced measure as well.
This to me is absurd.
Pete DeBoer is purposely using his worst offensive players in the most advantageous situations.
Normally, you’d want to place your best offensive players in these situations in order to give them the most opportunity to score. However, DeBoer is doing the opposite and there’s really only one explanation that makes any sense.
He does not trust Reaves and Carrier can get out of their own zone if they start there.
Just once, in seven important games, did DeBoer purposely place Reaves and Carrier on the ice to take a defensive zone draw. Yet they still managed to allow 20 high-danger chances, 32 scoring chances, and three goals while out there in those games.
It’s clear DeBoer believes they aren’t capable of starting in their own zone so he protects them with massive numbers of offensive and neutral zone starts, and they still can’t outplay the opposition. They are either the worst, or in the bottom five, on the team in every category while being afforded the most positive situations and playing against the weakest competition.
A change is needed.
600 games of Reaves and 200 games of Carrier should be enough to prove they aren’t ever going to be legitimate scoring threats in the NHL. So, if they can’t be leaned on to keep the puck out of their own net, they shouldn’t be in the lineup at all.
If the plan is to give 80% offensive zone starts to fourth liners, it’s time to find some who can score.
Luckily, it’s only a quarter of the regular season that top defenseman Nate Schmidt will miss action. But, while that story continues to unfold, Vegas’ other top defender Shea Theodore also remains unsigned and the possibility of a holdout is real.
With one defenseman guaranteed to miss a large chunk of time and another sitting in contract purgatory, what are George McPhee’s options? He can ride it out with organizational depth like the team did last season when Marc-Andre Fleury was injured. The GM could make a move for a defenseman, and not necessarily Erik Karlsson.
Maybe, McPhee will wait it out and hope a desirable defenseman will pop up through waivers. Or, he can reach out to an available old chum.
It’s hard for the other team to match lines. A lot of teams only have one superstar line and then it kinda goes down a bit, but for us, on any given day we have lines that can step up and chip in any which way. -Luca Sbisa
In 30 regular season games, Luca Sbisa averaged 19:31 TOI, and averaged 2:22 shorthanded minutes per game. Many of those games he was paired with Schmidt and drawing the opposing teams best players. Although Sbisa was injured for much of the 2017-18 regular season, he added defensive impact when he hit the ice. Some credit the Swiss defenseman for helping Schmidt convert to Vegas’ top d-man.
Also, the veteran Sbisa was a strong, protective teammate that held a presence on the ice. With Schmidt’s guaranteed 20 game absence, signing Sbisa could be a move Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant would appreciate.
The 28-year-old UFA was heavily used early on in 2017-18, and after returning from injury, the coach used him in the lineup, including the Stanley Cup Final. At this time, Gallant could use a familiar veteran like Sbisa to help right the defensive ship. The former Golden Knight knows the organization, system, players, and city. Most importantly the coaching staff is comfortable playing Sbisa.
Depending on Sbisa’s demands, the Golden Knights should be able to re-sign the left-handed defenseman to a deal comparable to what Jon Merrill and Deryk Engelland make per season.
This late in the game they might even be able to get him on a one-year deal. It could be well worth the low money risk for a recognizable insurance policy like Sbisa. Not only will he fill the burden of Schmidt’s suspension, Sbisa would also secure a roster spot in preparation for Theodore’s possible holdout. He’s not a replacement for either but Sbisa could effectively fill important minutes for twenty or more games.