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Who is the Best Penalty Killer on the Thrashers?

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The Atlanta penalty kill unit has been a major source of problems for the team so far this season. Through the Colorado game the Thrashers had allowed 63 power play goals against. The teams PK % is 78% which is dead last in the league, the Thrashers have PP goals against is also dead last in the NHL. There is no way to put a happy face on those numbers, our PK unit is really holding the team back this season. Yesterday GM Don Waddell sought to upgrade that unit by adding Eric Belanger.

So if our PK unit is a big problem, could the Thrashers improve their percentage by taking a hard look at how is effective and who is ineffective? In order to answer this question I needed to know which players are on the ice for PP goals against. I went through every single box score on and collected this for every PP goal against so far this season (through the COL game).

Which player has been on the ice for the most PP goals against? Nic Havelid who was on the ice for 38 PP goals against so far this year. In other words Havelid has been on the ice for 60% of the teams 63 PP goals allowed. But does this mean Havelid is our worst penalty killer? Not necessarily since Havelid also was far ahead of any other Thrasher in the number of short-handed minutes of ice time. His 252 SH minutes is way ahead of the next closest Thrasher (181 minutes, de Vries). Given that he sees more SH minutes than anyone else we shouldn't be surprised that he is on the ice for a lot of PP goals against.

So put this in context I took each player's SH ice time and divided it by the number of PP goals allowed when they were out on the PK. This gives us a nice measure of PK efficiency. A really good PK guy will have more minutes between PP goals, while a poor PK guy will have fewer minutes between goals (see the third numerical column in my tables below). The team average is a PP goal against every 6.98 minutes of SH ice time.

So who is above average? Well the runaway leader in Slava Kozlov. The opposition has needed nearly 13 minutes of power play ice time before they get a goal when he is out there killing penalties. That is almost twice as good as the average Thrasher PKer. I have to say that I was VERY surprised to see that Kozlov was this much better than everyone else. Slava is a smart player and very responsible but I had no idea he was so good on the PK this season.

Forwards SH TOI PP GA PK Efficiency Compared to Team Average
Kozlov 90 7 12.86 +85%
Slater 33 4 8.25 +19%
Hossa 123 16 7.69 +11%
Rucchin 119 16 7.44 +7%
Holik 175 25 7.00 +1%
Larsen 161 23 7.00 +1%
Vigier` 155 24 6.46 -7%

The next best PK guys this season are two defensemen, Exelby and Vishnevski. Of course, Vishnevski is now gone, so that leaves Exelby as the most effective PK defenseman so far this year. To put it in perspective Exelby has been 29% better at preventing PP goals against than the team average.

Defensemen SH TOI PP GA PK Efficiency Compared to Team Average
Vishnevski 158 17 9.29 +34%
Exelby 63 7 9.00 +29%
Hnidy 96 11 8.73 +26%
Sutton 144 21 6.86 -1%
Havelid 252 38 6.63 -7%
De Vries 181 31 5.84 -16%

Who ranks at the bottom? Greg de Vries is the worst penalty killer according to this measure. He is 16% worse than the team average and has been on the ice for 31 PP goals against in 181 SH minutes so far. The worst forward is JP Vigier who is 7% below the team average--which is only slightly worse than average.

What I find interesting about this little study is that there are more extreme values on the positive side than the negative side. What I mean is that I honestly expected that the study would show that one or two players have really been torched by the opposition. But that is not the case, de Vries came in last but he is "just" 16% worse than average. The really big disparities are on the positive side where see that Kozlov isn't just better than everyone, he is WAY better--85% better than average.

If I were advising Coach Hartley I'd tell him that the data show that there isn't any one particular member of the PK unit to avoid using--but there are certain players (Kozlov, Exelby, Hnidy, Slater) who should receive more SH ice time--these are guys who could improve the team's PK %.