Better With Popcorn

The Value of Jeff Carter

The Philadelphia Flyers have made it clear that the 2011 offseason will include an attempt at acquiring a number one goaltender. The Flyers low amount of cap space means that they will obviously have to move somebody in order to bring in a marquee net minder. Jeff Carter signed an 11-year, $58 million contract last year that has an annual cap hit of $5.272 million a year. It's been projected that the Flyers need to clear about $5 million dollars in order to sign the big name goalie they desire. Carter is largely viewed among fans as a goal scorer who is a defensive liability. Given that the Flyers scored 259 goals this season (the most of any team in the Eastern Conference), many believe that other players on the roster could absorb Carter’s scoring and that the addition of a goaltender would even out the subtraction of his goals.

The 2010-11 season was the second time in three years that Carter ranked in the top 10 in the entire league in scoring. Steven Stamkos and Patrick Marleau are the only other players on the 2010-11 list that appeared in the top 10 two times in the last three years. Alex Ovechkin, Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuck, and Dany Heatley have all appeared in the top 10 twice in the last three years but failed to score enough goals in 2010-11 to make this year’s list.

Carter has led the Philadelphia Flyers in goals scored every year for the past three years. Since 2008-09, Carter has put up 46, 33, and 36 goals respectively, which averages out to 38.3 goals per season. Of the ten leading goal scorers in 2010-11, only Stamkos and Marleau have scored more goals on average than Jeff Carter.

Ovechkin has averaged 46 goals since 2008-09, the most of any player in the NHL. Sidney Crosby has averaged 38.6 over that time and Kovalchuck matched Carter’s total of 38.3. Elite level players such as Rick Nash (35) and Heatley (34.66) failed to beat Carter’s average.

Carter has largely been pegged as a streaky scorer, a player who produces but produces at random without any kind of consistency. Upon analyzing the top ten goal scorers in the league it was apparent that Carter was actually one of the most consistent goal scorers in the NHL. The longest Carter went at any point this season without scoring a goal was five games. Corey Perry was the only other player in the league to score at such a clip.

In the second column you will find a number titled, “Average of Streaks”. The number was produced by taking the total number of games that the players played without scoring a goal and dividing that number by the amount of individual scoreless streaks the player went on. The point of this number is to try and honestly display how consistently the players score as an alternative to the extreme of “Longest Streak” (I.E. Ryan Kesler went 11 games without scoring, but his other goal less droughts were not as extreme as that one streak). As the numbers show, Jeff Carter ranks among the top 5 in consistency.

Given that pulling the goaltender is a strategy consistently used in the NHL, players are easily capable of padding their stats with “garbage time goals” meaning goals that really don’t help your team. In order to properly showcase the player, it seems only logical to find some way to display how many of his goals were meaningful to his team.

Upon analyzing all of the player’s goals, a little over 36% of Jeff Carter’s goals were scored to give the Flyers the lead. This again places the player in the top-5 of the top goal scorers.

One of the main points that supporters of moving Carter use is that the player is a defensive liability. But upon analysis of the top-10 in 2010-11 it is clearly shown that Carter has the second best plus/minus rating of any scorer on this year’s list over the last three seasons.

If Carter is such a defensive liability then why is he a plus-52 since 2008?

While his biggest strength may be goal scoring, he has tightened up in other phases of his game as well. While he may not be winning a Selke trophy any time soon, it certainly doesn’t seem fair to continue to pigeonhole him as a defensive liability. One would be hard pressed to remember the last time he was circling the center ice line waiting for a breakout pass while his team was grinding away in the defensive zone.

The case for keeping Carter can be made, as can the case for trading him. Upon gathering all of these stats and comparing them against the top-10 scorers this season, it is pretty clear that Jeff Carter is an elite player with unique abilities.

If the Flyers are to move Jeff Carter, they need to make sure that they are getting back a return of greater value. Carter is signed for what is the extent of his prime as a professional hockey player, the Flyers have all the power. While there is extreme pressure from all sides to bring in a goaltender, Paul Holmgren doesn’t have to move Carter unless a deal comes his way that he really likes.

Whether you love Carter or hate Carter, it is clear that he is an extremely valuable player in the NHL.

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George Prax's picture

It seems like every time I turn around one of you guys is writing a blog trying to justify Jeff Carter Wink

But seriously, great blog. I think Carter's somehow become underrated these days.

Chuck Gaston Jr's picture

Why do flyer fans feel the need to justify the best pure goal scorer on their team. He is damn good and worth alot in this market. Not to mention he can play center and wing, and his production for the price is pretty good. I wish Jeff would have hit the open market a few seasons ago because he would have looked good next to malkin or crosby! Great work with all of the stats.

Owen Durkin's picture

The only possible knock on Carter is the absurd deal he is locked into. An eleven-year term with an NMC makes him a bitter pill for any GM to swallow, and will certainly devalue him in any kind of deal, especially with the predicament the team is in regarding cap space. If moved, he'll be sold to the highest bidder, but I wouldn't expect the bidding to be an accurate reflection of his worth. Best trade partner IMO might be WSH, who can afford to move Varlamov with the depth they have. He would also be a good mentor for BOB. Clearly, the Caps, like SJS, need to re-think their core group, and some new blood would be benficial in their effort to make the push to the next level in the playoffs....