In the words of Macho Man, “And the beat goes on….”
Much like Toews we did last week, doing a preview of Hossa almost seems folly at this point. You can pretty much bank on what you’re going to get in the regular season, and Hossa really is the barometer for the Hawks treat the regular season. He’ll look great to the new year, basically pace himself for the next couple months while picking his spots, close well enough. Then you won’t get eye-popping numbers from him in the playoffs (though he does seems to beat up the Wild ok), some national and even local writers writing one or two articles wondering where he is where we have to cite the underlying stats to show he’s been effective, rinse, repeat. Though I wonder if this season there won’t start to be something of an undercurrent that we haven’t seen before. We’ll get to that.
Last Season: 82 games (yes, all 82), 22 goals, 39 assists, 61 points, +17, 32 PIM, 55.3% Corsi, (+2.8 Relative), 51.1% Corsi of Competition
So yeah, Hossa’s numbers were down last season. The 61 points was only one better than he’d done the previous year, but he played in only 72 games in the previous season. His possession numbers also came down from the dizzying highs they had been at the previous few seasons where he was closer to 60% for than 55%. But he was still one of the most effective possession players on the team. The 22 goals were the lowest since his rookie year, and I’ll include the lockout season in that where he had 17 goals in just 40 games, obviously better than a 22-in-82 pace.
However, before we beseech the Gods Of Time to leave Hossa alone, it’s important to note that for the first time in his career, ever, Hossa shot below 10% at 8.9%. He was basically 25% under his career average. At evens, he shots under 6%, something he’d also never done and his career average usually has him around 9%. To counter that though, this was the second straight season that Hossa suffered a drop off in his shooting percentage at even-strength, which makes you start to wonder… can he not get there anymore?
As far as volume there’s not much to indicate that. Hossa averaged 2.2 shots at evens last year per game, on par with the year before and higher than the lockout season. Scoring chances, as defined by War-On-Ice, were the same as the year before and higher than the lockout year. He averaged a little less than one high-danger chance per game, which is about what he’s put up every year as a Hawk. Look at his shot charts from last year and the year before, really the only difference is that Hossa eschewed some of the lower danger shots more than anything else. But not by all that much.
While it would be ridiculous to suggest that a player who turned 36 during the season didn’t suffer any kind of regression, it would seem Hossa really suffered, like a lot of his teammates last year, from some rotten luck. While Hossa may never get back to the heights of shooting over 10% at even-strength again, to expect him to stay around 5.5-6.0 isn’t any more likely either.
This Season’s Outlook: The big story with Hossa, at least early in the year (and you can be sure the Hawks will be trumpeting it at every turn), is that he’s 14 goals away from 500 (by the way, isn’t it weird that in a sport that prioritizes playoff performance and accomplishment over all more than basically any other sport, they still make a huge deal out of regular season milestones?). If he doesn’t get there, we’ll know something is wrong.
As you can glean from above, any sort of market correction in Hossa’s shooting percentage, even if not back to career norms, should see an uptick in his production. There’s no reason to think playing with Toews as he’s slotted to do that he’s going to see a drop in his opportunities.
It’s at this point for at least the last two seasons that we kind of wonder if the Hawks won’t put Hossa on a more restricted schedule, i.e. have him miss the back half of two games in two nights or the other odd night off here or there. The Hawks would seemingly be deep enough at forward to do this if they wanted assuming injuries don’t really cripple the lineup. Hossa is going to turn 37 this season after all, and keeping him as fresh as possible should be a goal. But the Hawks have shown little interest in this and more to the point, Hossa hasn’t either when he’s been healthy. He went on this plan a little two years ago coming off back surgery, but played the full route last year when healthy and nor was there any whisper of him missing a game here or there. Wait and see.
I also think this season is when you might first hear it whispered about “retirement,” though the Hawks won’t actually let him fully retire instead of getting the Pronger treatment (where he’s LTIRed until his contract runs out so as to avoid cap recapture penalties). He’s got three Cups, he’ll pass 500 goals, he would seem to have a pretty convincing case for the Hall of Fame already. There isn’t much left for him to accomplish. But it isn’t clear that Hossa cares about any of that, and his desire to play seemingly remains as strong as the day he arrived here.
You also might hear whispers of a trade with Seabrook’s extension kicking in, but I can’t see that happening either. Not that teams wouldn’t want him, because even with a small decline he’s still a very effective player and if he were going to fall off a cliff contribution-wise, it probably would have happened already. But if he’s still productive, he’s still productive. A question for another time I guess.