How Do the Pittsburgh Penguins Stack Up Against the NHL's Best Teams? by @PandaPSU

There have been many topics of discussion about the Pittsburgh Penguins so far this season. Are the Penguins top-heavy? How does their secondary scoring compare? Who should Ray Shero focus on as trade targets? I compared the Pittsburgh Penguins to the league's other top four teams in terms of points: Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, and San Jose Sharks. Through some data and statistics, I will try to provide a better understanding of these questions and provide some answers.

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First topic: Are the Penguins top-heavy?

This seems like an obvious answer. With two of the greatest players in the game today in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, it is almost hard not to be top-heavy. I broke down the top five scorers from each of the league's top teams.  Let's look at the numbers to see just how top-heavy the Penguins really are:

As you can see, the Penguins top five scorers account for the highest percentage of total points. They are the only team that has their top five scorers accounting for over 50% of the team's total points. To really try to understand how much Sidney Crosby means to the Pens, he alone accounts for over 16% of the team's total points! The next closest is Anaheim and San Jose with their top scorers at a little over 12%. What is really amazing are the Blues' statistics. Their leading scorer, T.J. Oshie, accounts for just 9% of the team's total scoring, and as we continue, you will see how balanced their lineup truly is. Additionally, while the Penguins have been decimated by injuries with a league-leading 289 man games lost, they are one Crosby, Kunitz, Malkin, Neal, or Jokinen injury away from being in some serious trouble this season.

Second topic: How does the Penguins secondary and tertiary scoring compare to the league's best?

While the first sheet of data did not necessarily provide anything earth shattering, these next two comparisons provide much more clarity into some of the issues the Penguins have. Like in the first set of data, I broke down each team by their next best scorers. In this case, you will be seeing each teams number six through ten scorers:

You can already start to see that the Penguins are dropping off. Their secondary scoring is the lowest out of the five teams at 22.25%. Their total goals, assists, and points are also the lowest of the five. What is truly telling here is that Kris Letang, at only 29 games played, is tenth on the team in scoring. Also, Pascal Dupuis at number seven is lost for the season. The other teams are all fairly similar accounting for 24% - 27% of their teams' scoring, but St. Louis is the other anomaly. I touched on it earlier, but their secondary scoring accounts for 32.49% of their total points, which is only an 8% drop off from their top five scorers. To put it another way, their six through ten scorers are only 37 points behind their top five. Compare that to the Penguins, whose six through ten are 141 points behind their top five.

For a final comparison, let's look at each teams eleven through fifteen scorers:

Now it becomes abundantly clear that the Penguins have a problem. Their tertiary scoring is the lowest by far at 11.92%. Two of their scorers in this group are injured (Martin, Vitale), although it appears Paul Martin is very close to returning. Again, all of their totals are the lowest of the group in goals, assists, and total points. They are also the only five that have not returned double-digits in goals scored with only nine. Another thing to note, between the secondary and tertiary scoring groups, the Penguins have six defensemen on their list, which leads the group. Think about the fact that you are seeing names like Brooks Orpik and Deryk Engelland on the Penguins list of top fifteen. Once again Anaheim, Chicago, and San Jose are extremely similar, and St. Louis is leading the bunch again at 18%.

A couple things to note here: the Penguins numbers are slightly skewed because Crosby is so dominate right now, but that being said, the old adage is as true as ever with these Penguins; if you shut down the Penguins top two lines, you will win the game. While many folks will say this is true of most teams, it is more true and more apparent with the Penguins.

Final topic: Based on these statistics, what type of player should the Pittsburgh Penguins target in a trade?

Given all of the injuries, what makes the Penguins success even more remarkable this season is that many of the players are in roles that are not comfortable for them. Deryk Engelland played on a line with Kunitz and Crosby for a while a couple of games ago. Brandon Sutter was moved to wing because the Penguins were so short-handed. Many players that are third or even fourth-line guys are finding time on the top two lines because of necessity. In my eyes, the Penguins could use two wingers, and they would be in a great shape for the playoffs. I do not see Ray Shero making any moves until after Sochi, and the Penguins are in no hurry to make a move since they have built up a thirteen point lead in the Metropolitan division. Also, teams will have a better idea if they will be buyers or sellers at that point of the season. Additionally, much of what Shero will plan to do depends on Beau Bennett. If Bennett can return from his wrist injury and provide a solid top six presence, his focus can shift to only acquiring one winger. Either way, I think some of the names floating around are floating around for a reason. We have heard people like Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler, Mike Cammalleri, Nazem Kadri, Tomas Fleischmann, and Tuomo Ruutu to name a few. I think Ladd and Kane would be the least likely of the bunch here, but never put anything past Shero. Players like Cammalleri (13 G, 8 A), Kadri (11 G, 18 A), Fleischmann (5 G, 16 A), and Ruutu (4 G, 8 A) would provide both the secondary and tertiary scoring the Penguins need, if Shero could acquire two of these players. All of the players mentioned are on teams that are either out of contention, or are on the border of being out of contention. I would not be surprised if you see one or a few of these names on the Penguins come March.

I am of the mindset that anyone can find a stat at any point to prove an argument. With that being said, I tried to provide some statistics that prove some of the theories out there about the Penguins. There is no question that this team has done an amazing job winning in the face of adversity this season. However, some of these numbers suggest that it is only a matter of time before the Penguins injuries and lack of scoring will catch up to them. They will be able to get by in the regular season, but Shero will once again need to bolster his lineup through trades this spring.

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  1. Really well done. Great depth and insight. Worrisome to say the least.

  2. who would you trade? Letang?

    1. I would look to trade two defensemen. My first pick would be Orpik, second Despres, third Letang.

    2. Trade Orpik that blasphemy

  3. Trade Orpik!!!! Blasphemy