|2013-2014 Regular Season||73||16||32||48||4||129||12.4||14:16|
Just to be clear, the only time I will use the "ö" for Carl's last name will be in the title. He will henceforth be known as Carl "Hey" Soderberg.
An examination of #34's first full season in Boston reveals a bit of a mixture of positives and negatives. The positives are clear and present, while the negatives are a bit murky and become much more relevant as you start to project the role Soderberg should inherit in the following season with the Bruins. With that, I'll break with tradition and give you a report card organized into 3 sections: the Good, the Bad and the Pretty!
The Good - Soderberg's Offense
Rejoice, Bruins fans! I officially declare the days of the boring, frustrating, maddening offensive play of the 3rd line a distant memory. In fact, I am prepared to GUARANTEE that with Soderberg at the helm, along with Loui Eriksson on his wing, the Bruins 3rd line will out-produce every other 3rd line in the NHL. The Swedish sensation was impressive in converting his shots into goals, ranking only 10th in shots but 6th in shooting percentage. His turnover differential also worked out in his favor at +19 (33 takeaways to 14 giveaways). It should be noted that roughly 1/3 of his offensive production came on the power play (5G & 11A), which is to be expected as he was on the ice for 41.2% of the Bruins power play time. I'd give Soderberg plenty of credit for helping to resuscitate the flat-lining PP for the B's, as he, along with Torrey Krug, is one of the major differences on the PP from last year versus this year.
The Bad - Soderberg's Defense
As I slowly (re: reluctantly) transform myself into a stats guy, I'm forced to cite some concerning issues in Soderberg's defensive game:
- The early returns on his faceoff % is that he is poor at the dot. Soderberg didn't start taking faceoffs regularly until the beginning of February, so take his final record of 139-189 (42%) with a grain of salt. Even so, there isn't much variation with faceoffs, and despite perhaps not practicing faceoffs regularly during the first half of the year, his natural position is center.
- He was never pressed into penalty killing service by Claude at any point during the season, and while Claude usually likes to sequester at least one centerman from PK duties, that centerman is usually David Krejci. When Chris Kelly went down at the end of the season with his herniated disk, it is rather concerning that Soderberg saw zero PK time. That statistic is somewhat clarified when examining...
- Possession statistics - they weren't very good. In a list of centermen who played a minimum of 62 games, Soderberg ranked 96th in CF% Rel at -1.3% (Disclaimer: this list also included Brad Marchand as a centerman so...take that for what it's worth). Soderberg ranked 10th on the Bruins in the same category. This, despite having a Zone Start % of 55.5 and a Quality of Competition that only topped the 4th line and Torey Krug on the Bruins roster.
- Soderberg's WOWY numbers provide some cause for concern as well, confusing as they may be when examining the two most important players to compare - his two linemates. While Chris Kelly's numbers actually improve with Soderberg, Eriksson's CF% actually decreases. However, Soderberg's CF% decreased both times when separated from his linemates, which may reinforce the fact that he skated with defensively adept players. Eriksson's numbers apart from Soderberg could also be explained by initially skating with Bergeron and Marchand during the opening weeks of the season (even my CF% would go up if I skated with Bergeron).
Well there was this:
And there was this:
And strangely enough, there was also this (my penchant for referring back to MTL preseason games might be beginning to show):
A first season in the NHL is enough to test anyone's mettle, and Soderberg handled it very well. However, as I mentioned in "The Bad," one has to get concerned about Soderberg's ability to handle critical defensive situations. With the potential departure of Chris Kelly, and perhaps even Gregory Campbell, Soderberg could be in line to inherit major responsibilities in the defensive area of the game. I'm more than willing to give him a pass for now, as this was his first season in the best hockey league on Earth. At the very least, it will be worth watching whether or not his faceoffs improve, as he will be sure to see plenty of more of those next year. Ultimately, it is a testament to the Swede that when projecting the potential combinations on the forward lines, Soderberg is firmly entrenched as the #3 centerman. Expect to see him there come next season, and let's hope he starts to reap the benefits of playing with a defensive genius like Bergeron.