Challenging Nick Foligno

Almost as priceless as Foligno’s goal celebration is the expression on the woman’s face on the right hand side of the photo.

In his end of the season media availability, Senators GM Bryan Murray reflected on a few needs that he will need to address in the offseason.

 “I think up front, we’re always looking for somebody to step in and score goals. I think that line where Alfie played with Turris, if we had one more guy that could score consistently there or be a 20 or 25 goal scorer that would really make our team different as well. I think beyond that, we could fit guys within the system into what we’re doing.”

When asked whether an internal option like Nick Foligno could help fill that goal quota, Murray did not hesitate.

“That’s exactly what I asked Nick today. ‘Are you going to be that guy? Are you going to be the guy that improves this summer strength wise and getting up and down the ice a little better?’ He thinks he can and I’ve challenged him a little bit in that area.”

Much like Don Brennan suggesting which former Ottawa 67s player the Senators should target, the question of whether or not Foligno can get better seems like an annual offseason occurrence. And to Nick Foligno’s credit, he has improved his point totals for the second consecutive season in a row – establishing a new career high in regular season points with 47.

In fact, on the surface, it seemed like most of his surface numbers were near or better than his previous career highs.

Year GP G A Pts +/- PIM Hits BkS PPG PPA GW SOG Pct
2007-08 45 6 3 9 0 20 51 11 0 0 0 44 .136
2008-09 81 17 15 32 -10 59 97 18 7 7 2 145 .117
2009-10 61 9 17 26 6 53 78 23 2 4 2 83 .108
2010-11 82 14 20 34 -19 43 119 41 5 5 3 149 .094
2011-12 82 15 32 47 2 124 196 30 1 3 3 153 .09

(Note: You will notice that the 1,021,031 goaltender interference penalties that Nick took this season are conspicuously absent from the statistics below.)

Considering that it looked like Foligno took a considerable step forward this past season, it was shocking to learn that his average ice-time was down and that his power play ice-time was the lowest that it’s been since his rookie season.

Year  TOI/G 
PP TOI/G
2007-08 9:09 0:24
2008-09 13:40 2:18
2009-10 14:18 1:41
2010-11 15:34 1:45
2011-12 14:38 1:19

Having finished sixth amongst Senators forwards in average ice-time per game and seventh in PP TOI/G (behind such offensive stalwarts such as Chris Neil, Colin Greening and Stephane Da Costa), in many ways, it makes what Foligno did last season even more impressive.

With a lack of power play points that had so often boosted his offensive totals in other years, Foligno did most of his damage at even strength and did so despite having one of the lowest shooting percentages of his career. In fact, his shooting percentage actually benefitted from the four empty net goals that he had. Without those four tallies, he would shot a paltry 7.3-percent.

Proportionate to his 5v5 ice-time, of NHL forwards who played in more than 40 games, Foligno had the 37th best points-per-60 minutes rate in the league at 2.40. Of the forwards who played in 80 or more games, Foligno had the 20th best mark in the league – finishing ahead of big name offensive talents like John Tavares (2.37), Anze Kopitar (2.25), Zach Parise (2.18) and Daniel Alfredsson (2.16).

Now obviously, unlike many of these other players, Foligno benefitted from playing the bulk of his regular season minutes on Ottawa’s third line; away from the opposition’s best players.

As a decent puck possession player, management could gamble on Foligno; giving him more ice-time, better linemates and special team minutes.

He could be a very effective and cost-efficient solution, seeing as how management wouldn’t have to go into free agency and bid against 29 other teams who are looking for their own 20 to 25 goal guy for their top six. Moreover, with a number of promising young prospects who hopefully will be vying for top six jobs in the one to three seasons, there’s no reason to risk overpaying a short-term UFA solution who will only serve to block these same prospects down the road.

Should Foligno emerge and prove competent, it would also save the organization money that they can allocate elsewhere – like their need for a top four defenceman.

Considering how the Foligno-Turris-Alfie second line was arguably Ottawa’s most effective in the postseason, perhaps this Foligno gamble is one to seriously consider and move forward with.

In fact, do yourself a favor and take a look at how effective the trio was when they played together at 5v5 – Foligno’s presence on the team’s second line had significant positive effects on Alfie and Turris’ rate of production. (Note: Look at what each of these players did without Foligno being on the ice with them. Third major column.) 

From a personal standpoint, I’d like to see Foligno be given a lengthy audition on the team’s second line. I just hope he’s up to the challenge.

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