"On pace for" arguments at this point in the season sound a little ridiculous, unless you believe that the Kamloops Blazers can really end up 67-0-0-5. Short of JC Lipon and Colin Smith having taken a time-warp back to the 1980s, I have a tough time believing that either player will sustain their current point paces, and Mikaël Lalancette of TVA Sports took the plunge this morning, comparing the output of the Blazers' top line of Lipon, Smith and Tim Bozon with other historically excellent lines in Canadian Hockey League history:
The Blazers have been a scoring machine since the start of the season. The trio of Lipon, Smith and Bozon (a third round selection of the Montreal Canadiens) are making arrows out of all types of wood.
In 16 games, the line Lipon-Smith-Bozon has earned 106 points, one of the best performances of all-time in Canadian junior hockey.
Just for fun, a look at that the performance of a few of the biggest lines in history. These are different eras, which show off just how strong Bozon and his teammate's performances are. [TVA Sports - Translation mine, with a h/t to Rookie]
Lalancette finds the production of Pierre Larouche, Michel Déziel and Jacques Cossette of the 1973-74 Sorel Éperviers to be the tops: They recorded 692 points in the season, and 115 after their first 16 games. Bozon is on a line only slightly behind one of another Habs' legend: Guy Lafleur, Michel Brière and André Savard had 111 points after 16 games.
The Blazers line lands ahead of the dominant 2007 London Knights of Patrick Kane, Sergei Kostitsyn and Sam Gagner, who had 99 points after 16, and shockingly, well ahead of Sidney Crosby, Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Dany Roussin of the 2005 Rimouski Oceanic.
Of course, of the two recent examples, there were three draft-eligible players on those teams. Kane, Gagner and Crosby were all drafted in their dominant seasons. Knowing that we need a bit of an age adjustment, it's tough to compare cross-league, and cross-era. Smith and Bozon are drafted by Colorado and Montreal respectively, and you have to think Lipon will get a look even as a 19-year old. But neither are draft-eligible, and last year the line combined for 90 goals and 221 points. Some improvement is to be expected, but probably not historical highs.
We're also not looking at the full season in perspective for these three. It's easier to sustain a 170-point pace over 16 games than it is over 72.
Here's what I mean:
Stretched out over 72 games, that's 68 goals for Lipon, 59 for Smith and 63 for Bozon, and their point total is much, much higher. That's if they keep up their current pace. How does that match up among other high-scoring WHLers in the last five years?
|JC Lipon (proj.)||2013||Kamloops||68||176|
|Colin Smith (proj.)||2013||Kamloops||59||171|
|Tim Bozon (proj.)||2013||Kamloops||63||131|
|Linden Vey||2011||Medicine Hat||48||121|
|Emerson Etem||2012||Medicine Hat||68||119|
Bozon is the most likely player to miss WHL games during December for the World Juniors in Ufa, Russia. I suspect he will finish the closer to 131 than Lipon or Smith do to their "projected" totals after 176 games. His number is simply more reasonable.
We don't have individual shot statistics for WHLers, and they really should publish them just for moments like these. We've already started to see some expression regression to the mean from Jean-Sébastien Dea, but we just don't know how far Lipon or Smith will fall when the bounces don't go their way.
I can say that the Kamloops Blazers are shooting as a team at a 14.9% rate. WHL shooters last season combined for a 9.7% rate against starting goaltenders, so the Blazers themselves should probably stop scoring goals with reckless abandon at some point. Not only have they won 13 straight games, but they've scored 4 goals or more in their last 11. While they're outscoring the opposition at a hefty 78-35 (not counting shootouts), they've also held the advantage in one-goal games, going 5-0. Eventually, they'll start to come back to earth and probably lose a few close ones.
That said, the Blazers are outshooting their opponents at a very high rate. Despite being in the lead for much of their time on the ice, they've still managed to keep the ice tilted at the opponents' end. They've outshot the opposition 525-449 on the season, and the ice becomes even more tilted when the game is close. In Sunday night's game against Seattle, for instance, the Blazers outshot the Thunderbirds 16-4 as the teams fought for the go-ahead goal. They eventually got it on the first shot of overtime, from Smith, whose name was incorrectly pronounced "Smythe" by the Seattle public address announcer.
Long story short, this is a very good hockey team in Kamloops, but it's probably not "historically good." Those are the results the team has been getting so far, but I suspect they could come back to earth. Last season, the Edmonton Oil Kings found that neither they nor their goaltender were as good as the results they got during their 22-game win streak when the Memorial Cup came around, and the Blazers are on a similar run.