Is success partly to blame for Dion Phaneuf’s and Mikhail Grabovski’s poor corsi last year?
I had first intended this to be a comment to Tyler Dellow’s investigation into Phaneuf and Grabovski shot totals for and against when they were on the ice together but once I started pulling numbers I decided it was important enough to have a post on its own and not get hidden in the comments somewhere. Go read Tyler’s post because it is a worthwhile read but he found that the when Grabovski/Phaneuf were on the ice together the Leafs were incredibly poor at getting shift with shots while good at having shifts where they gave up shots and it had very little to do with not getting multiple shots per shift or giving up multiple shots per shift at a higher rate.
This is helpful to know because it narrows the issue: the Leafs’ Corsi% last year with Grabovski/Phaneuf on the ice didn’t collapse because of a change in the rate at which multi-SAF and multi-SAA shifts occurred; it collapsed because the Leafs suddenly became extraordinarily poor at generating the first SAF and preventing the first SAA. If you’re blaming Korbinian Holzer or Mike Kostka or Jay McClement for this, you need to come up with a convincing explanation as to why their impact was felt in terms of the likelihood of the first shot attempt occurring, but not really on subsequent ones.
A lot of people blame Holzer or Kostka or McClement but I will present another (at least partial) explanation. Phaneuf and Grabovski’s numbers tanked because the Leafs were winning. Let me explain.
Here is a table of Phaneuf’s CF% over the last 4 seasons during various 5v5 situations: Tied, Leading, Trailing, Total. Note that part of 2009-10 season was with Calgary.
In Tied and Overall situations Phaneuf’s numbers tanked quite significantly, particularly last season, but where it gets really interesting is in the Leading and Trailing stats. When Leading his stats dropped off a bit to 35.7% last year but he was at 38.6% in 2010-11 and was only 44.3% the other years so pretty bad all round. What’s interesting is his trailing stats have maintained significantly higher levels right through from 2009-10 through 2012-13 with relatively very little fluctuation (compared to leading and tied stats).
Now, let’s look at the percentage of ice time Phaneuf played in each situation.
He played much more in tied situations in 2009-10 but maintained about the same the following 3 years. Where the big difference lies is in the percentage of ice time he played while leading and trailing. He played far more while leading last year and far less while trailing. When you combine this with the previous table, it isn’t a surprise that his corsi numbers tanked. If we took last years CF% and applied them to his ice time percentages of 2011-12 he’d have ended up with a CF% of 44.2% which is a fair bit higher than his actual 2012-13 CF% of 41.9%. This means about 29% (or 2.3 CF% points) of his drop off in CF% from 2011-12 to 2012-13 can be attributed to ice time changes alone. That’s not an insignificant amount.
As for the rest, I believe Randy Carlyle’s more defensive style of hockey compared to Ron Wilson’s is a significant factor. When leading teams play a more defensive game and we see above (and you’ll see with other players if you looked) when leading your CF% tanks compared to when trailing and playing offensive hockey. How much is Phaneuf’s drop off in CF% in 5v5 tied situations last year is due to Phaneuf being asked to play a far more defensive role? Probably a significant portion of it.
When we take everything into consideration, the majority of Phaneuf’s drop off in CF% last year can probably be attributed to Leading vs Trailing ice time differences and being asked to play a far more significant defensive role in tied situations and probably only a very small portion of it can be attributed to playing with Holzer and Kostska or any change in quality of competition or zone starts (which I still claim have very little direct impact on stats, though they can be a proxy for their style of play, defensive vs offensive).
Now, let’s take a quick look at Grabovski’s stats.
Much the same as Phaneuf. His 5v5 tied stats dropped off significantly but his trailing stats maintained at a fairly good level. His Leading stats have dropped off steadily since 2009-10, probably as he has been given more defensive responsibility.
Nothing too different from Phaneuf. If anything more extreme changes in Leading vs Trailing. For Grabovski, 29.8% of his drop off in CF% last year can be attributed changes in Leading/Trailing ice time while I suspect a significant portion of the rest can be attributed in large part to Randy Carlyle’s more defensive game, and asking Grabovski to play a more defensive role in particular.
Now, how do the Leafs as a team look?
The Leafs drop off in CF% is pretty even across the board. They lost 4.1% when tied, 2.6% when leading and 3.4% when trailing. Interestingly that led to a 4.8% drop overall which kind of makes little sense until you look at their leading/trailing ice times.
Tied ice time remained about the same last year as 2011-12 but leading ice time jumped from 29.8% to 42.0% while trailing ice time dropped from 36.5% to 25.0%. So, when we look at the Leafs as a whole and applied this years leading/trailing/tied CF% stats to last years ice time percentages they would have only dropped from 48.9% to 45.6%. The remainder of the fall to 41.1% is due to changes in leading/trailing/tied ice times, or 30.8% of the drop off.
So, to summarize about 30% of the drop off in the Leafs team and individual CF% from 2011-12 season to last season can be directly attributed to changes int he Leafs leading/trailing/tied ice time percentages. This means 30% of the drop off can be attributed to the Leafs being a far better team last year at getting leads and winning games. Or, if you believe that was largely due to lucky shooting you can say 30% of the Leafs drop off in CF% is due to good luck.
Although I haven’t explicitly proven it, I’ll contend that a significant portion of the remainder comes down to Randy Carlye being a far more defensive coach than Ron Wilson was. Maybe another day I’ll test this theory by looking at someone like Phil Kessel and see how his stats changed because Phil Kessel was not given a heavy defensive role last year like Phaneuf and Grabovski were and thus may not have seen the same drop off, particularly in tied situations (quick check: Kessel was 47.3 CF% in 5v5 tied situations in 2011-12 and 42.3% last year so he saw a significant drop off too but not as much as Phaneuf or Grabovski). It may also be interesting to look at how ice time changes impact shooting and save percentages and whether this partly explains the Leafs high shooting percentage last year and maybe what impact it had on their relatively decent save percentages too compared to previous years.
As you can see though, ice time changes can have a significant impact on a players statistics and it is important to take that into consideration in player evaluation like when I looked at Phaneuf’s leading/trailing stats a while back.
(All the stats in this post came from stats.hockeyanalysis.com so feel free to go there, pull the data and analyze whichever team or player you want in leading/trailing/tied situations)