Mar 30, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (40) makes a save against Philadelphia Flyers left wing Michael Raffl (12) during the shootout at Wells Fargo Center. The Bruins defeated the Flyers, 4-3 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Flyers Rink Rats: Michael Raffl, Analytics

It took some time for Michael Raffl to adjust to the North American style of hockey, but once he did, he became a strong presence on the ice. Entering the first year of a two-year contract extension, Raffl is determined to get in the best shape of his life and to seize every opportunity.

Raffl sat down for an interview with an Austrian-based website to discuss his rookie season and his future in the NHL. Raffl admitted during the interview he should have captured the moments when he played on the first line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

Now, the 26-year-old is bent on improving from his 22-point season from last year.

Raffl knows he let several opportunities slip through his fingers during the 2013-14 season.

Raffl’s game is similar to Matt Read. Both players have offensive and defensive skills, but Raffl is not as adept to putting the puck in the net.

Raffl was shuffled up and down the lineup, but never missed a beat wherever he played. If Craig Berube placed him on the first line, Raffl grinded in the corners to make room for Giroux and Voracek. On the third line, he would kick up his defensive game and shut down his opponent. If he was sent to the fourth line, Raffl would use his entire arsenal to create scoring chances.

This year’s training camp will be a huge opportunity for Raffl. Each of the forward lines is looking for a left wing. Raffl, R.J. Umberger and Brayden Schenn are the leading candidates for the top spot on the first line. Raffl has a small advantage, having played several times on the first line, but Berube is not someone who will hand that over.

Next: Trouble in Montreal? Canadiens owner overules  GM in PK Subban deal.

P.K. Subban and the Montreal Canadiens settled their contract dispute this month, but that does not mean the drama is over.

Jack Todd has reported that a highly place source confirmed that Canadiens owner Geoff Molson overruled general manager Marc Bergevin on the Subban contract.

I’m beginning to wonder why Subban wanted to stay in Montreal so much. While his career is still young, Subban has only shown he one of the best defensemen in hockey with more room to grow. The Canadiens have responded by dragging contract negotiations through the last two offseasons. This strife between the Habs and their star defenseman is far from over.

 Next: Don Cherry tells Hockey Canada to ‘smarten up’ and he makes a good point.

Aaron Ekblad is concussed. Robby Fabbri is on crutches. Don Cherry is enraged.

The tells-it-like-he-sees-it personality tweeted his displeasure with Hockey Canada’s Summer Development Camp. The camp is to gauge what players will make the Canadian World Junior team. Flyers prospects Samuel Morin and Travis Sanheim participated in this camp.

Cherry tweeted that players who are “on the bubble” should be playing in the scrimmages against other countries. Players who are locks for the team, like Ekblad, Fabbri and Connor McDavid should not be playing.

This does not happen often, but I agree with Cherry. Players like McDavid, Ekblad and Fabbri should not have to play in games that do not mean anything. Morin and Sanheim are bubble players who could make the squad, depending on their play during the first half of the season.

If the Flyers owned the rights to Ekblad or Fabbri, fans and the front office would not have been happy to see the future of the franchise go down in a meaningless game.

Next: NHL veering toward ‘intelligence explosion.’

Analytics have dug their heels into the game and are ready to make an even bigger impact in the NHL.

Several NHL teams have hired analytics experts to their front office stats in an attempt to get ahead of the competition. Advanced Stats like Corsi and Fenwick are set to become the future of the game. Front office execs should be wary of leaning too much onto numbers.

Numbers do lie and building a team based on numbers alone is not the path to a championship. Numbers are more powerful with context. A middle ground needs to be found because the eye test can be just a powerful.

Numbers do not test a player’s reaction to adversity. Numbers do not gauge the will to win.

It is up to the general managers and scouts to find the correct balance.

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Tags: Analytics Don Cherry Michael Raffl Philadelphia Flyers

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