Why isn’t Cal Clutterbuck killing penalties?

Written by Garik

In this offseason, the big move made by Garth Snow was the trade of Nino Niederreiter for Cal Clutterbuck. It was obviously a controversial trade due in large part to the talent and potential promised by Nino and the thought that Clutterbuck was probably at best a third liner.

That said, there were clear reasons to believe Clutterbuck could be an improvement for the Isles in the 2013-2014 season. In addition to being a big hitter, Clutterbuck had decent offensive numbers and was generally solid at driving play forward. Moreover, he excelled on the Wild’s penalty kill.

I can’t stress that last point enough, Clutterbuck was a SUPERB penalty killer in Minnesota. One of the best ways to measure special teams effectiveness is, like measuring effectiveness at EV, to look how many shots are being fired off by opponents on your own net while that player is on the ice. In addition, we’ll also look at the shot differential (corsi) while that player is on the ice because we shouldn’t discount the ability of players to get shorthanded chances too.

The following are the #s of 3 players from the last few years on 1-man PKs:
Player A:
2010-2011: Unblocked shots fired by opponents per 60: 53.1
2011-2012: Unblocked shots fired by opponents per 60: 62.1
2012-2013: Unblocked shots fired by opponents per 60: 60.2
2013-2014: Unblocked shots fired by opponents per 60: 46.1

Player B:
2010-2011: Unblocked shots fired by opponents per 60: 76.4
2011-2012: Unblocked shots fired by opponents per 60: 69.1
2012-2013: Unblocked shots fired by opponents per 60: 62.6
2013-2014: Unblocked shots fired by opponents per 60: 78.1

Player C:
2010-2011: Unblocked shots fired by opponents per 60: 56.7
2011-2012: Unblocked shots fired by opponents per 60: 58.0
2012-2013: Unblocked shots fired by opponents per 60: 59.4

Player A is Michael Grabner, and those are really really good numbers. In fact, the Islander’s on-ice shot-attempt differential on the penalty kill has been 20+ shots better with Grabner on the ice than off on the PK in 2 of the last 3 seasons, and it’s even better this year. Grabner is an elite penalty killer. This should be nothing new to anyone who ever follows the Islanders by the way.

Player B is Matt Martin. Martin doesn’t play with Grabner on PK – he’s been with Konopka, Reasoner and Cizikas (Grabner gets Frans Nielsen, who manages to be a good defensive forward despite losing faceoffs very frequently). Still, it’s quite clear there’s a big dropoff from Grabner to Martin and those numbers suggest that the Islander penalty kill is rather poor when Martin is out on the ice.

Player C is Cal Clutterbuck in Minnesota. His numbers are even more eye popping than Grabner! Like Grabner, in two of the last three years, the Wild were over 20 shots better with him on the ice than without him on the PK – which suggests the effect was caused mainly by him, and not by his linemates. It’s why Clutterbuck had a whole bunch of shorthanded goals with Minnesota, just like Grabner. In short, Clutterbuck is a GRABNER-LEVEL PENALTY KILLER.


Don’t like shots? We can find the same result with goals, if you’d prefer (statistically we use shots over goals because the goal results are affected by things out of the players’ control and rely on small samples – so Martin’s 2010-2011 has the backing of a .940 save percentage behind him, which is basically a fluke).

Grabner:
2010-2011: Isles’ +/- down a man was 5.27 goals per 60 better with Grabner on the ice than without
2011-2012: Isles +/- down a man was 1.65 goals per 60 better
2012-2013: Isles +/- down a man was 2.16 goals per 60 better
2013-2014: Isles +/- down a man is 6.77 goals per 60 better

Martin:
2010-2011: Isles’ +/- down a man was 1.83 goals per 60 better with Martin on the ice than without
2011-2012: Isles +/- down a man was 1.39 goals per 60 WORSE
2012-2013: Isles +/- down a man was 0.71 goals per 60 WORSE
2013-2014: Isles +/- down a man is 3.16 goals per 60 WORSE

Clutterbuck:
2010-2011: Wild’s +/- down a man was 2.74 goals per 60 better with Clutterbuck: on the ice than without
2011-2012: Wild’s +/- down a man was 2.45 goals per 60 better
2012-2013: Wild’s +/- down a man was 4.15 goals per 60 better


So, the Islanders traded Nino Niederreiter for a guy who is a Grabner-level penalty killer. That makes the deal look a lot better! Except you know, for one thing: Clutterbuck isn’t being used on the penalty kill.

This makes absolutely no sense at this point. It’d be understandable if they didn’t use Cal on 4 on 5 for a few games as he got back from his injury. But we’ve gone way past that. And still, Clutterbuck remains off the PK in favor of forwards — particularly Matt Martin — who have a history of far worse results.

This is basically the same thing as using Reasoner-Pandolfo over Michael Grabner on the penalty kill (this actually happened for a time in 11-12), and it makes absolutely no sense. To win, the Isles are going to need to use their players correctly in roles that make sense and for Cal Clutterbuck, one of those roles is as an elite penalty killer.

It’s too bad Capuano hasn’t noticed.




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