Cannon Conversations: On Sonny Milano’s Usage

The Cannon staff has a spirited debate - again!

The Cannon staff had a debate following the news that Sonny Milano was finally getting special teams minutes for the Columbus Blue Jackets - on the second penalty killing unit. Should he have more minutes at even strength? Or play on the power play? We debate below.

Note: this transcript has been lightly edited to make it more readable, as well as for profanity

Additional note: this conversation occurred before Sonny Milano notched his first of the season late on Thursday night - congratulations to Mr. Milano for getting on the score sheet

MrSwift: Sonny Milano is getting special teams usage!

Torts is putting him on the second kill unit. Seriously.

What a [redacted] waste. He should demand a trade.

Pale Dragon: Hey, it’s more minutes

MrSwift: Minutes where he cannot use his best skill.

Pale Dragon: Which is....?

MrSwift: Goal scoring?

Pale Dragon: Requires shooting

MrSwift: Requires minutes and being put in a situation (LIKE SAY ON THE POWER PLAY) where he can use it. Torts drags him for not playing defense enough and then puts him on the kill? What?

Pale Dragon: Ah yes, I remember now how good he was on the power play last year....errrrrr or not

MrSwift: Yeah, I remember how useful he is in the defensive zone. Or not.

Pale Dragon: My biggest frustration with Milano is that for a supposedly offensively gifted player, he does not create nearly enough offensive chances. Even in limited minutes I’d want to see more iCF to suggest he deserves more time

MrSwift: My biggest frustration with Milano is that he scored the 8th most goals one the team last season in 11 minutes a night in 55 games (more than Jenner, Bjorkstrand, Dubinsky, not to metion Wennberg), and our neanderthal coach jerks him around, calls him out in the media, and doesn’t appear to have any clue how to get production out of him or put him inn positions to succeed, which is a coach’s entire job. The kid’s 21 years old and hasn’t gotten a chance to develop at all because Torts seems clueless about how to use him effectively.

Being asked to generate 4, 5, 6 scoring chances per night when he’s getting nailed to the bench for long periods of time is just absurd. There’s no way a 21 year kid can do that when he’s getting one shift in a third period. There’s more to player development than iCF, and Torts seems to be absolutely ruining Milano because he can’t use him, or won’t.

Last season, Milano had 91 minutes total on the power play last season (per naturalstattrick), registered 4 assists. Only 8 shots, which isn’t admittedly any good at all. But, he also was 10th on the team in power play time, beyond noted great goal scorer Boone Jenner (3 points in 99 minutes, still on the second unit this season). Bjorkstrand got a whopping 142 minutes and mustered a total of 9 points. Wennberg got 170 minutes, 5 points . Foligno got 173 minutes, 4 points (16 total shots on the PP all last season).

Pale Dragon: Milano scored 14 goals last season, but on a William Karlsson-esque shooting percentage

How many shots did those other guys record on the PP last year?

By eye test, Milano was way too tentative on the PP past year. Looking to pass rather than shoot. But he kept getting shifts!

MrSwift: Foligno 16, Jenner 17, Wennberg 21, Bjorkstrand 24

Pale Dragon: This season, he’s better defensively, but what has he showed offensively that suggests he should be playing much more?

Others aren’t producing either, but when no one is clicking, track record matters

MrSwift: Foligno’s track record last season is worse than Milano’s!

He had double the ice time to do the exact damn thing he did!

Pale Dragon: Foligno’s career is better, though

MrSwift: Yeah, Foligno’s a ten year vet. Milano was 20 years old last season in his first full NHL season. Of course his career is better.

But last season, he produced literally no differently on the power play than Milano did in double the ice time. In 2016-17 (the season where half the season the team was great on the PP before coming back to a sustainable percentage), Foligno got 212 minutes to put up 40 shots.

Filtered for the second half of the [2016-17] season (after the streak ended and the unsustainable 30% pp came back to earth), Foligno had 114 minutes, 20 shots, and 5 points.

Pale Dragon: But the issue is more about Foligno or Milano at even strength, and in late game situations

MrSwift: I’m talking about putting him on the power play. Giving him power play minutes.

He has done exactly as much as Nick Foligno the last two years to earn that time.

Pale Dragon: Milano was turnover prone last season, and he didn’t shoot enough. Is that the guy you want out there with the game on the line? No. So he threw out Bread for extra shifts, or the March Wennberg line

What if I say I don’t want Milano OR Foligno on the power play now?

MrSwift: The March Wennberg line is gone. Vanek isn’t walking through the door. Do you want Nick Foligno, who has been outshot by 20 this season out there late in games and wasn’t on the ice for a SINGLE CBJ shot on goal (man up or 5v5) against Florida in 18 minutes?

Who are you putting on the power play then?

Pale Dragon: Depends whether we’re talking middle or net front but Wennberg, Jenner, Dubois, Nash, Anderson. Any of them

How many times last season did Milano shoot more than twice on goal? Take a guess

MrSwift: 3

Pale Dragon: 8. 6 of his goals came in those 8 games. But only 4 of the 8 featured him playing over 13:00.

He played over 14:00 14 times, but only scored 4 goals in those games. Scoreless in 10 of them

Shotless in 2 of the 14. 4 shots once, 3 shots once, 2 shots 5 times. Out of those 14 games over 14 minutes

Just pointing this to show that more minutes for Milano is far from a guarantee of more production

I do think he deserves more than 7, but probably not much more than 12

This year he has 3 SOG in 53 shifts

Foligno has 10 shots in 118 shifts

(All situations)

MrSwift: How many are on the power play?

Pale Dragon: I don’t have that in front of me.

MrSwift: [after doing research] 5 of Foligno’s 10 shots are with the man advantage, [per Natural Stat Trick] (in 25:22, I can’t find number of shifts)

Pale Dragon: But 3 of his 4 points are at even strength

We crap on Wennberg for not shooting, but holy crap does Milano need to shoot more

MrSwift: He’s also got 1.5 times the ice time Milano has this season. Milano has played 38 minutes total in 5 games. Yeah, Milano needs to shoot more. But Foligno has been marginally better this season despite being given every single opportunity to succeed.

And again, he’s a ten year vet where as this is Milano’s second season in the league and Torts hasn’t figured out a way to use him at all

Pale Dragon: Is Torts misusing him, or is it possible he’s just not that great?

MrSwift: Has he even been given a chance to be good? The kid is 21 years old and he’s been called out publicly by Torts, yanked up and down the lineup, benched for extended periods, sent to Cleveland, and barely gets 8 minutes a night. How the hell is any kid supposed to develop in those circumstances?

Pale Dragon: Other young forwards in recent years have earned more ice time for this team

MrSwift: My point in continually comparing him to Foligno is that, for the last year and a half, they’ve been basically the same player and yet Foligno gets afforded chance after chance to play on the power play and on the second line while Milano gets shoved to the side. Foligno is a known quantity - maybe Milano could develop if used in a better role.

Yeah, Bjorkstrand had just over double Milano’s iCF last season. He also had double the ice time.

Pale Dragon: BJORKSTRAND had 20 games of 3 or more shots on goal

Of his top 27 time on ice games, only 4 were shotless, but none had a negative +/- and 2 featured an assist

MrSwift: Is that because he shoots more? Or because he doesn’t get yanked out of the lineup after he makes one mistake and then plays more freely? Bjorkstrand doesn’t get the same criticism Milano gets defensively.

Is it possible Milano just plays more hesitantly because he doesn’t want to make a mistake? I don’t know, but it’s plausible.

I’m not trying to ride or die for Milano here, but maybe he hasn’t gotten a fair shake for one of a number of reasons.

Pale Dragon: I think it’s very plausibile that Milano is too tentative

Maybe a longer leash would fix that, but it shouldn’t be necessary. He could work on that on his own

I truly believe that Torts would tolerate mistakes if they came along with scoring chances. Safe is death, right?

There’s two ways to look at it: Milano is bad because Torts doesn’t give him a chance, vs. Torts doesn’t give him more chances because he hasn’t earned it with his play yet. There’s data to support both sides

We’ve had our say - let’s hear yours! How do the fans feel about Sonny Milano? Are the Columbus Blue Jackets misusing him? Or has he failed to make the most of his opportunities?

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