If you look at the individual statistics of the Avalanche centers, one area does not impress - face-off percentage. After O'Reilly and Duchene, it falls off pretty badly. As a team last season, the Avs won draws at a 49.5% rate, which is not terrible, but also not terrific. However, the Avs just lost their best face-off guy, Paul Stastny. Here's where the rest of last year's Avalanche centers landed:
- O'Reilly - 51.8%
- Duchene - 50.3%
- Mitchell - 50.0%
- Cliche - 46.0%
- Talbot - 44.4%
- MacKinnon - 42.9%
And then there are the new guys:
- Briere - 48.9%
- Winchester - 48.5%
This does not leave me feeling particularly enthusiastic about this upcoming season in the face-off circle; the Avs will be starting a lot of shifts chasing the puck rather than controlling it. They are set on the top 2 lines at center with two out of Duchene, O'Reilly, and MacKinnon. Mac in the circle is something they'll have to live with until he figures it out, or drop O'Reilly in when it's critical. The 4th line seems to be filled appropriately by Winchester. It's that 3rd line spot that cries out for new blood - someone who can win face-offs consistently (and kill penalties, etc.).
Finding someone for that 3rd line center spot isn't all that hard. I just filter some stats and see who comes out at the end. My criteria are these:
- Inexpensive - Less than $2M AAV
- Some playing life left - Less than 34 years old
- Face-off percentage well in excess of 50%
- 12 to 15 minutes TOI average
No one meeting these criteria are left after the Free Agent Feeding Frenzy (tm), so it might also help if he is currently in the employ of a team that might trade with us (i.e., not Central Division).
After some fiddling about with CapGeek (blessings and peace), Extraskater (blessings and peace), Yahoo! Sports (eh, whatever), and The Hockey News player pages, I extracted these names:
- Zack Smith (OTT) - 26, 52.7%, $1.89M AAV
- Dominic Moore (NYR) - 33, 54.6%, $1.50M AAV
- Brad Richardson (VAN) - 29, 55.2%, $1.15M AAV
All 3 are better at the dot than anyone on the Avalanche, kill penalties, and are true 3rd line guys taking a heavier load in the defensive zone. Brad Richardson is an old friend, and Vancouver is rebuilding. OTT just signed David Legwand (grin) so maybe OTT is in the mood to deal for a center. I doubt Moore would want to come to Colorado after his brother, Steve, was treated with indifference by the organization following his career-ending injury, but you never know. It's also a trade, so he may not have any control over the situation.
Joe, Patrick... If you are reading this, these are your targets. Go get one.
A final note to Joey Hishon - Kid, if you want to make the team, look at these statistics. Bulk up, use those slick hands, and learn to cheat like hell.