|The Caps' "Big 3", also their top-3 scorers. (Getty Images)|
Top 10 Top-3s in Total Points
1. Vancouver (Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler) - 271 points
2. Anaheim (Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf) - 254 points
3. Tampa Bay (Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier) - 244 points
4. Dallas (Brad Richards, Loui Eriksson, Mike Ribeiro) - 221 points
5. Chicago (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp) - 220 points
6. Philadelphia (Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Mike Richards) - 210 points
7. Calgary (Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay, Olli Jokinen) - 209 points
8. San Jose (Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski) - 209 points
9. Washington (Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin) - 204 points
10. Detroit (Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk) - 201 points
Some notes - Vancouver easily dominated with their top-3 group this season, but as a point of reference... last season the Caps' top-3 (again, Oveckin/Backstrom/Semin) scored a total of 294 points between the three of them in 2009-10. That especially puts an exclamation point of the Capitals' drop off this season; between Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alex Semin, a combined ninety points basically vanished into thin air. Though the Caps' improved defense helped make the drop off seem less dramatic than it actually was, the Caps' top trio definitely had something wrong last season. Not only did their total points drop by a lot, but their total combined points-per-game average dropped from about 3.59 points-per-game to 2.48 points-per-game (both calculated over 82 games). Both drops (points and points-per-game) are equivalent to that of an elite NHL player, such as Steven Stamkos, who had 91 points and a points-per-game average of 1.11. Basically, in terms of sheer stats, the difference from the top-3 scorers on the Caps in 2009-10 and 2010-11 is like having Steven Stamkos' production disappear from the roster. That's crazy.
Diamonds in the Rough
Ten teams (Washington, Carolina, Philadelphia, Ottawa, Columbus, Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Los Angeles, and Anaheim) have top-3 scorers composed entirely of first round draft picks. Five teams (Boston, Montreal, Detroit, Nashville, and Dallas) have top-3 scorers in which none of the three are first round picks. However, despite all this, most players are first round draft picks - save for some very big name players who were drafted very late in the draft, if they got drafted at all.
Perhaps the best example of this is Martin St. Louis, who is one of the top wings in the NHL despite being undrafted. He has won the Lady Byng, Hart, Art Ross, Lester B. Pearson, Stanley Cup, and has been named as an NHL All-Star multiple times. At age 36, he lead the Tampa Bay Lightning in scoring with 99 points, also ending 2nd in the NHL in points. He had a 1.21 points-per-game average last season. In fact, the only other undrafted player on my spreadsheet is Chris Kunitz, who finished 3rd in scoring on the Pittsburgh Penguins sheerly because Crosby and Malkin were injured for much of the season.
While there aren't many high-scoring undrafted players in the NHL (basically there's St. Louis, and that's mostly it), there are quite a few that were drafted in the sixth round or later. Four players were actually drafted in a round that doesn't exist anymore - Dustin Byfuglien & Tobias Enstrom (8th round) and Matt Moulson & P.A. Parenteau (9th round) were 2nd and 3rd in their respective teams' scoring, behind a first round pick (Andrew Ladd for Winnipeg and John Tavares for New York). Other late drafted players that have made big impacts include Henrik Zetterberg (7th round) & Pavel Datsyuk (6th round) in Detroit, or Sergei Kostitsyn (7th round) in Nashville, or Joe Pavelski (7th round) in San Jose. Still, at the end of the day, 57% of all top-3 scorers in the NHL are first round picks, while the other 43% comprises all 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th round, and undrafted players.
Under Performers and Over Performers
Only two teams dramatically under performed in combined points-per-game average in 2010-11 when looking at career numbers - the New Jersey Devils' top-3 (Patrik Elias, Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac) and the Washington Capitals' top-3 (Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin). The NJ top-3 averaged about .41 points-per-game less than their career numbers in 2010-11, while the Caps' top-3 averaged about .44 points-per-game less in 2010-11 than their career numbers. Only two other teams had their top-3 under perform when compared to their career numbers (Colorado Avalanche and the Minnesota Wild) and the change was much less remarkable (.11 and .01 points-per-game, respectively). Every other NHL team had their top-3 groups out-perform their career numbers. The biggest jump is by the Vancouver Canucks' top-3, where Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, and Ryan Kesler averaged more than 1 point-per-game more than their career numbers, explained mostly by Kesler's emergence as an elite scorer in the NHL (though whether he can keep it up remains to be seen) as well as the Sedins' continued renaissance as supreme NHL offensive threats. Also, the Anaheim Ducks had their top-3 have a .57 point-per-game jump over their career numbers. Most of that comes from Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, as Teemu Selanne essentially stayed at his impressive career numbers.
It's interesting to see that every team in the NHL save for 4 had increased point-per-game numbers when compared to career numbers, even though my gut tells me that NHL scoring overall is down (I haven't had an opportunity to check). The Capitals' drop of about 90 points over their last season point totals and a 30-something point drop over their career numbers is surprising (if not shocking) considering that Ovechkin/Backstrom/Semin are in their prime and 2009-10 was, albiet an incredible season, never had a feeling of being "impossible" (i.e. they could theoretically do it again in their careers). While I don't expect the Caps' top-3 to total about 300 points in a season again (though I wouldn't mind it), totally 200 is far too low for their talent level. Caps fans, take heart - things almost have to get better.
For those who want to check out my spreadsheet (please do!), here's a link to the google docs file. Enjoy!