Saturday, September 11, 2004
Not Rootin' for Ruutu
While the Finns crushed any hope of the dream revenge match-up between the USA and Canada with a 2-1 victory, one event during the game got me thinking about the Vancouver Canucks.
2nd Period Penalties
J Blake, USA (roughing), 8:14, J Ruutu, Fin (holding), 11:52. M Koivu, Fin (roughing), 15:37. B Rafalski, USA (roughing), 15:37.
Jarkko Ruutu � A study in �Pesternomics�
Regular Season: 71 GP 6-8-14 �13 133PIM 11:28ATOI
Playoffs: 6GP 1-0-1 �3 10PIM 9:12ATOI
World Cup 2004: 3GP 0-0-0 -1 6PIM
Often when we speak of a player, we speak in the positive:
�He brings grit to our team�, �He gives us a level of toughness and grit�, �He�s a face-off specialist�, �He keeps the Gatorade� nice and cold�, �He�s a Power Play specialist�, etc� rarely do we talk about how a player takes away from his team simply by dressing up every night. Unless the player is a minor-league scrub (Nolan Baumgartner), we don�t tend to talk about what a player does that hurts his team.
Well, in the case of Jarkko Ruutu and the Vancouver Canucks, here we the perfect case of a player that is hurting his team with his continued presence in the line-up. If he�s on a World Cup team, you�d think he�d be a pretty good player who could help the Canucks.
Ask any Canucks fan about Ruutu, and you�ll likely hear that he�s a young, sizeable pesky role player who goads opponents into taking bad penalties and inspires his teammates with his hits and work ethic.
What they don�t tell you is that he is a defensive liability who takes numerous bad penalties, putting his team in shorthanded situations, while providing minimal offensive numbers.
Let�s breakdown this guy, shall we?
The Pest Factor
One of Ruutu�s supposed pluses is that he can get under the skin of opposing players and draw them into taking penalties.
Unfortunately, we cannot get detailed stats showing how many penalties Ruutu has caused opponents to take. We can, however, shed some light on other important aspects of his �pesky� game.
One of the attributes of a pest is to draw opposing players into fights. Taking a superior opposing player off of the ice for 5 minutes can actually help the team by tiring out that opposing player along with shedding their availability.
In 2003-04, Ruutu had 7 fights. His opponents were�
David Ling, Sergei Zholtok, Rob DiMaio, Fernando Pisani, Martin Gelinas, Mikael Holmqvist, and Rob Blake(!)
In a March 8th game against Blake, Ruutu absolutely beat Blake like a Congo drum, giving the Canucks a huge boost. Other than that, the players Ruutu fought were either scrubs or secondary players. Only once, during the entire season, did Ruutu managed to goad a good opposing player into a fight.
�Discipline! You must learn Discipline!�
One part of hockey that never gets enough attention is the fact that some players take many bad minor penalties. Due to laziness, slow skating, or a lack of discipline, some players put their team shorthanded more often than they should.
If the league-average Power Play is about 15%, then you are giving the opposition a 15% chance to score by taking a stupid penalty. Putting your team in a shorthanded situation is never a good thing. Players that can play a good game without taking loads of minor penalties (Lidstrom) provide more of a benefit than those who take penalties as part of their style (Keith Tkachuk).
During the 2003-04 season, Jarkko Ruutu had 39 minor penalties in his 71 games. Ruutu ranked 20th amongst ALL NHL players in this statistic. This is quite an achievement, given that Ruutu finished 556th amongst all NHL players in Minutes per Game Played.
Now, we could discount a few of those minors as coincidental, but not many. From my memory, Ruutu�s penalties were of the singular variety, and he was hurting his team greatly despite not actually playing more than 10 minutes a night.
So, more than once every two games, Ruutu was putting his team into a shorthanded situation and giving the opposition prized scoring opportunities. Given a 15% Power Play rate (Just a number I picked), and given that at least 30 of Ruutu�s minors were singular, Ruutu was giving the opposition at least 5 goals. In a low scoring NHL, these 5 goals really become big and cost a team 2-3 wins.
In the playoff series against Calgary, Ruutu had 5 minor penalties in 6 games!
In the World Cup, Ruutu has played 3 times and has 3 minor penalties. When the games count, Ruutu is giving his opponents plum Power Play opportunities.
It was no surprise to me that the US�s only goal in their 2-1 loss came thanks to a Ruutu penalty. If the Finns didn�t managed their 2 3rd period goals, then Ruutu would have been a big reason why the Finns lost.
Pests like Ruutu aren�t generally known for great defensive play, but they should at least be adequate enough to finish break-even at the end of the year.
Not only did Ruutu not break-even, he was horrible!
Ruutu�s �13 was a team worst, by far, and on a team with a large +goal differential that the Canucks had, this kind of defensive performance is inexcusable.
It�s not as if Ruutu was out on the ice constantly against top opposing scorers (That would be the job of Linden, Cooke, and even Keane).
14 points in 71 games. Ruutu�s PPG and Shot% ranked 2nd worst amongst all Canuck forwards behind Brad �Stone Hands� May. Apart from a fluky goal or assist, Ruutu doesn�t provide any positive measure of offensive contribution. When Ruutu is on the ice, he doesn�t provide nearly enough offence to justify the negative contribution he makes with his lack of defence and bevy of minor penalties.
What to do?
Ruutu has been involved in a few trade rumours to date, but the other NHL GM�s must be smart enough to realize that Ruutu isn�t worth much more than a few rolls of hockey tape.
Honestly, given the negative contribution that I feel Ruutu gives to the franchise with his on-ice and off-ice (whining over playing time) �contributions�, the Canucks would be best off by giving Ruutu away to the first team that wants him. Waive him, trade him, give him cement shoes�just get rid of the guy! The more the Canucks continue to play this guy, the more games they will lose overall because Ruutu is truly a negative-impact player.