A Look at Scott Hartnell's Struggles

Everyone knows Scott Hartnell is struggling.  After watching Tuesday's game from the stands, it became even more clear that he knows he's struggling.  Add in the benching in Thursday's game, and it all adds up to a big slump.

The numbers tell a pretty bleak story:  1 goal in 20 games, 3 goals in 39 games, 0.18 goals per game (down from 0.37 last year), 1.95 PIMs per game, and a minus-2 - the first time he's been in the negative since the lockout.

With the way this season has progressed - the entire team struggling - it's important to put Hartnell's struggles in context.  The problem is that Hartnell has spent nearly 80% of his even-strength ice time with at least 2 of Jeff Carter, Danny Briere, Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, and Claude Giroux.  Because of this, his assists per game are at a career high.

So, where's the context?  For that, we turn to Gabriel Desjardins' BehindtheNet even-strength stats.  After the jump, check for Hartnell's rank among forwards with at least 40 games played in each category.

First, the common ones:

GP G A P P/M PIM Minors
Hartnell 65 12 25 37 -2 127 45
Forward Rank 5th 6th 4th 5th 11th 3rd 1st

The scariest part of that table is what isn't there.  Hartnell leads the team with 45 minor penalties.  Dan Carcillo is in second place with 25.   The only player in the NHL with more minors is Steve Downie, who has 50.  Outside of that, everything else seems to be in line, save the plus/minus numbers.  It's when you get deeper that things better reflect Hartnell's struggles.

First, we should look at who Hartnell is on the ice with.

Rating QualComp QualTeam Corsi QoC Corsi QoT
Hartnell -0.07 0.032 0.067 -0.502 3.246
Team Rank 9th 7th 3rd 11th 1st

Rating is Hartnell's plus/minus relative to the team.  Looking at both the standard and Corsi measurements for who's on the ice with Hartnell show essentially the same thing:  Hartnell is playing against average- to below-average competition with some of the best teammates.  Despite this, his Rating is near the bottom of the team.  That is depressing enough, but it gets worse.

G/60 A1/60 A2/60 P/60 GFON/60 GFOFF/60
Hartnell 0.31 0.92 0.54 1.77 2.54 2.36
Team Rank 11th 3rd 2nd 5th 6th 7th

Here is where we see just how important it is for Hartnell to be playing with top-notch linemates.  Over 82.5% of his even-strength points are coming from assists.  Obviously, some if not most of this could be the result of hard work and good passing.  The high primary assists would point to that.  But our eyes deceive us.  More likely is that Jeff Carter and Danny Briere are capitalizing on their chances, unlike Hartnell.  Taking a look at Carter's goals show that he has a propensity for putting the puck in the tiniest of spots, not that he's putting pucks into empty nets created by teammates' passing skills.

But all of that is stats vs. eyes argument that will never fully be settled.  So, like I've said before, it's important to use both.  And from my perspective, Hartnell's high assist rate is more the result of his teammates than his passing skills.

Taken Drawn Taken/60 Drawn/60 BS A BS F BA/60 BF/60
Hartnell 22 18 1.7 1.4 34 20 2.6 1.5
Team Rank 1st 3rd 1st 5th 4th 6th 6th 7th

Lastly, some good news-bad news.  Here's where most of the complaints regarding Hartnell come from.  As mentioned above, he takes a ton of penalties - second most minors in the league.  These numbers differ from the official NHL.com ones from above, but the point is still being made.  There are only three other Flyers that Desjardins has taking more penalties than they are drawing - Carter, Gagne, and Laperriere.  The three of them combined have 39 minors, according to NHL.com, still lower than Hartnell's 45. 

There isn't much to say about this other than the fact that it's unacceptable.  Any way you spin it, it's bad.

On the other side of the chart you see his blocked shots.  BS A stands for shots Hartnell has fired that have been blocked by the opposition, while BS F is those that he has blocked himself.  Again, these numbers differ from those at NHL.com, but the point is clear.  There is no problem with the blocked shots, as he's right around team-average. 

Conclusion

Everyone knows Scott Hartnell is struggling.  A lot of us have known it for quite some time.  Most other people are only beginning to notice, mostly due to the fact that Hartnell's assists have been steady all season.  But his struggles go far beyond not being able to put the puck in the net.

He's taking far too many penalties and his defensive game is nothing to write home about.  Add to that the fact that the Flyers are paying him $113,513.51 for every point he has scored so far this season ($350,000 for every goal, higher than the $282,608.70 for every Danny Briere Goal), and he has had a bad season.

None of this is to say that he's a bad player, of course.  But when you are struggling to put the puck in the net, you need to help your team out in other areas.  Hartnell (statistically) is doing that by getting assists, but he's not helping his team defensively - the team gives up more goals at 5-on-5 when he's on the ice than when he's off - nor is he staying out of the box.  The best solution would be for Hartnell to start scoring again, but the easiest would probably be for him to stop taking penalties and shore up his defensive game.

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