Sep 062013
 

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.

Tied Leading Trailing 5v5
2009-10 53.4% 44.3% 58.2% 52.3%
2010-11 46.5% 38.6% 54.7% 47.1%
2011-12 47.7% 44.3% 56.4% 49.9%
2012-13 39.6% 35.7% 55.4% 41.9%

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.

Tied Leading Trailing
2009-10 41.2% 28.3% 30.5%
2010-11 31.9% 27.7% 40.4%
2011-12 33.5% 29.8% 36.6%
2012-13 32.9% 42.3% 24.8%

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.

Tied Leading Trailing 5v5
2009-10 58.0% 55.8% 56.1% 56.8%
2010-11 52.2% 49.8% 58.0% 53.6%
2011-12 52.8% 46.9% 59.2% 53.7%
2012-13 44.0% 38.2% 55.7% 44.3%

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.

Tied Leading Trailing
2009-10 38.6% 20.3% 41.0%
2010-11 33.3% 28.9% 37.8%
2011-12 33.5% 26.8% 39.7%
2012-13 32.2% 42.7% 25.1%

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?

Tied Leading Trailing 5v5
2009-10 52.1% 48.0% 56.1% 52.8%
2010-11 46.1% 41.6% 54.0% 47.8%
2011-12 47.9% 42.1% 55.6% 48.9%
2012-13 43.8% 39.5% 52.2% 44.1%

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 Leading Trailing
2009-10 37.2% 22.0% 40.9%
2010-11 33.6% 28.9% 37.5%
2011-12 33.7% 29.8% 36.5%
2012-13 33.1% 42.0% 25.0%

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)

May 152013
 

After last weeks untimely pinch by Dion Phaneuf in game 4 that led to an overtime goal and the Bruins taking a 3-1 lead in the first round series there was a lot of evaluation of Phaneuf as a defenseman both good and bad. I was intending to write an article to discuss the relative merits of Dion Phaneuf and attempt to get an idea of where he stands among NHL defensemen but in the process of researching that I came across some interesting Phaneuf stats that I think deserve their own post so here it is.

My observation was with respect to Phaneuf’s usage and performance when the Leafs are leading and when they are trailing over the previous 3 seasons. Let’s start of by looking at Phaneuf’s situational statistics over the past 3 seasons.

5v5 5v5close 5v5tied Leading Trailing
G/60 0.222 0.175 0.101 0.156 0.408
Pts/60 0.700 0.670 0.660 0.420 1.020
IPP 30.1% 31.1% 34.2% 20.0% 34.5%
GF20 0.773 0.721 0.640 0.692 0.986
GA20 0.841 0.760 0.943 0.865 0.714
GF% 47.9% 48.7% 40.4% 44.4% 58.0%
CF20 18.316 18.113 18.159 15.195 21.542
CA20 20.686 21.418 21.880 22.982 17.223
CF% 47.0% 45.8% 45.4% 39.8% 55.6%
OZ% 28.0% 26.7% 25.2% 24.2% 34.5%
DZ% 31.8% 30.3% 29.7% 37.5% 28.5%
NZ% 40.3% 43.0% 45.0% 38.3% 37.0%
DZBias 103.9 103.6 104.4 113.3 94.0
TeamDZBias 108.9 109 107 115.2 100.8
DZBiasDiff -5 -5.4 -2.6 -1.9 -6.8

Most of the stats above the regular readers should be familiar with but if you are not you can reference my glossary here. The one stat that I have not used before is DZBias. DZBias is defined as 2*DZ% + NZ% and thus anything over 100 indicates the player has a bias towards starting shifts in the defensive zone and anything under 100 the player has a bias towards starting in the offensive zone. I prefer this to OZone% which is OZStarts/(OZStarts+DZStarts) because it takes into account neutral zone starts as well. TeamDZBias is the zone start bias of the Leafs over the past 3 seasons and DZBiasDiff is Phaneuf’s DZBias minus the teams DZBias and provides a zone start bias relative to the team. Anything less than 0 indicates usage is more in the offensive zone relative to his teammates.

So, what does this tell us about Phaneuf.  Well, there isn’t a huge variation in either the zone start usage or the results during 5v5, 5v5close and 5v5tied situations so the focus should be on the differences between 5v5leading and 5v5trailing which are significant.

Typical score effects are when leading a team gives up more shots but of lower quality (defensive shells protect the danger zone in front of the net but allow more shots from the perimeter) and takes fewer shots but of higher quality (probably a result of more odd-man rushes due to pinching defensemen of the trailing team).  Phaneuf seems to take this concept to the extreme but more importantly Phaneuf seems to excel best in an offensive role and struggles in a defensive role. When the Leafs are trailing Phaneuf has  0.408G/60 (10th of 180 defensemen) and 1.02 points/60 (36th of 180 defensemen) but when leading Phaneuf falls to 0.156 G/50 (64th of 177 defensemen) and 0.42 points/60 (137th of 177 defensemen). Furthermore, Phaneuf’s involvement in the offensive zone drops off significantly when leading (IPP drops from 34.5% when trailing to 20.0% when leading).

In terms of on-ice stats, Phaneuf’s CF% drops from 55.6% when trailing (79th of 180 defensemen) to a very poor 39.8% when leading (164th of 177 defensemen).  Some may be thinking this is due to zone starts but Phaneuf is getting above average offensive zone starts both when trailing (ranks 100th of 180 defensemen) and when leading (ranks 154th of 177) and using even the most aggressive zone start adjustments in no way will account for the difference. Similar observations can be made with on-ice goal stats as well. Let’s look at how Phaneuf ranks among defensemen over the past 3 seasons.

Leading (of177) Trailing ( of 180)
GF20 109 25
GA20 125 71
GF% 126 36
CF20 128 31
CA20 174 154
CF% 164 79

That is a pretty significant improvement in rankings when trailing over when leading, especially in the offensive statistics (GF20, CF20). If zone starts aren’t a factor, might line mates be? He are Phaneuf’s most frequent defense partners:

Trailing:  Gunnarsson (364:33, 31.0%), Beauchemin(212:07, 18,0%), Aulie(162:09, 13.8%)

Leading: Gunnarsson (376:16, 32.5%), Aulie(234:17, 20.3%), Beauchemin(166:30, 14.4%)

Playing more with Beauchemin and less with Aulie when trailing ought to help, particularly ones offensive stats, but I doubt that is going to account for that much of a difference. Also, when leading Phaneuf has a 41.2CF% with Gunnarsson and when trailing that spikes to 54.6%. When leading Phaneuf and Beauchemin have a CF% of 37.3% and when trailing that spikes to 57.7%. With Aulie the difference is 36.6% vs 49.3%. Regardless of which defense partner Phaneuf is with, their stats dramatically improve when playing in catch up situation than when in trailing situations.

The same is true for forwards. When protecting a lead Phaneuf plays more with Grabovski and Kulemin but when playing catch up he plays a bit more with Kessel and Bozak but for all of those forwards Phaneuf’s numbers with them are hugely better when playing catch up than when protecting a lead and playing with Grabovski and Kulemin more when playing with a lead should only help his statistics as they are generally considered the Leafs better corsi players.

Let’s take a look at a chart of Phaneuf’s corsi WOWY’s when leading and when trailing.

Leading:

PhaneufLeadingCorsiWOWY201013

As you can see, when leading the majority of Phaneuf’s team mates are to the left of the diagonal line which means they have a better corsi% without Phaneuf than with.

Trailing:

PhaneufTrailingCorsiWOWY201013

When trailing the majority of Phaneuf’s team mates are near or to the right of the diagonal line which means they generally have better corsi% statistics when with Phaneuf than when apart.

So the question arises, why is this? It doesn’t seem to be zone starts. It doesn’t seem to be changes in line mates and it isn’t that the team as a whole automatically becomes a great corsi% team when trailing which Phaneuf could benefit from. When leading Phaneuf’s corsi% is 39.8% which is worse than the teams 41.2% and when trailing Phaneuf’s corsi% is 55.6% which is better than the teams 54.4%. It seems to me that the conclusion we must draw from this is that Phaneuf has been poor at protecting a lead relative to his team mates and we know his team mates have been poor at protecting a lead. Where Phaneuf excels is when he is asked to engage offensively be that when playing catch up hockey or when playing on the PP (Phaneuf’s PP statistics are pretty solid). From the first chart we know that Phaneuf has a slight bias towards more offensive zone starts (relative to his team mates) and when we dig into the numbers further it probably shows that he should be given even more offensive opportunities and given fewer defensive ones because he seems like a much better player when asked to be engaged offensively than when he is asked to be a shut down defenseman.

Acquiring a quality shut down defenseman (ideally two) this off season must be the #1 priority of Maple Leaf management and Phaneuf’s usage must shift further away from multi-purpose heavy work load defenseman to primarily an offensive usage defenseman.

 

Apr 172013
 

Even though I am a proponent of shot quality and the idea that the percentages matter (shooting and save percentage) puck control and possession are still an important part of the game and the Maple Leafs are dreadful at it. One of the better easily available metrics for measuring possession is fenwick percentage (FF%) which is a measure of the percentage shot attempts (shots + shots that missed the net) that your team took. So a FF% of 52% would mean your team took 52% of the shots while the opposing team took 48% of the shots. During 5v5 situations this season the Maple Leafs have a FF% of 44.4% which is dead last in the NHL. So, who are the biggest culprits in dragging down the Maple Leafs possession game? Let’s take a look.

Forwards

Player Name FF% TMFF% OppFF% FF% – TMFF% FF%-TMFF%+OppFF%-0.5
MACARTHUR, CLARKE 0.485 0.44 0.507 0.045 0.052
KESSEL, PHIL 0.448 0.404 0.507 0.044 0.051
KOMAROV, LEO 0.475 0.439 0.508 0.036 0.044
KADRI, NAZEM 0.478 0.444 0.507 0.034 0.041
GRABOVSKI, MIKHAIL 0.45 0.424 0.508 0.026 0.034
VAN_RIEMSDYK, JAMES 0.456 0.433 0.508 0.023 0.031
FRATTIN, MATT 0.475 0.448 0.504 0.027 0.031
LUPUL, JOFFREY 0.465 0.445 0.502 0.02 0.022
BOZAK, TYLER 0.437 0.453 0.508 -0.016 -0.008
KULEMIN, NIKOLAI 0.421 0.454 0.51 -0.033 -0.023
ORR, COLTON 0.401 0.454 0.5 -0.053 -0.053
MCLAREN, FRAZER 0.388 0.443 0.501 -0.055 -0.054
MCCLEMENT, JAY 0.368 0.459 0.506 -0.091 -0.085

FF% is the players FF% when he is on the ice expressed in decimal form. TMFF% is an average of the players team mates FF% when they are not playing with the player in question (i.e. what his team mates do when they are separated from them, or a quality of teammate metric). OppFF% is an average of the players opponents FF% (i.e. a quality of competition metric). From those base stats I took FF% – TMFF% which will tell us which players perform better than their teammates do when they aren’t playing with him (the higher the better). Finally I factored in OppFF% by adding in how much above 50% their opposition is on average. This will get us an all encompassing stat to indicate who are the drags on the Leafs possession game.

Jay McClement is the Leafs greatest drag on possession. A few weeks ago I posted an article visually showing how much of a drag on possession McClement has been this year and in previous years. McClement’s 5v5 FF% over the past 6 seasons are 46.2%, 46.8%, 45.3%, 47.5%, 46,2% and 36.8% this season.

Next up are the goons, Orr and McLaren which is probably no surprise. They are more interested in looking for the next hit/fight than they are the puck. In general they are low minute players so their negative impact is somewhat mitigated but they are definite drags on possession.

Kulemin is the next biggest drag on possession which might come as a bit of a surprise considering that he has generally been fairly decent in the past. Looking at the second WOWY chart here you can see that nearly every player has a worse CF% (same as FF% but includes shots that have been blocked) with Kulemin than without except for McClement and to a much smaller extent Liles. This is dramatically different than previous seasons  (see second chart again) when the majority of players did equally well or better with Kulemin save for Grabovski. Is Kulemin having an off year? It may seem so.

Next up is my favourite whipping boy Tyler Bozak. Bozak is and has always been a drag on possession. Bozak ranks 293 of 312 forwards in FF% this season (McClement is dead last!) and in the previous 2 seasons he ranked 296th of 323 players.

Among forwards, McClement, McLaren, Orr, Kulemin and Bozak appear to be the biggest drags on the Maple Leafs possession game this season.

Defense

Player Name FF% TMFF% OppFF% FF% – TMFF% FF%-TMFF%+OppFF%-0.5
FRANSON, CODY 0.469 0.437 0.506 0.032 0.038
GARDINER, JAKE 0.463 0.44 0.506 0.023 0.029
KOSTKA, MICHAEL 0.459 0.435 0.504 0.024 0.028
GUNNARSSON, CARL 0.455 0.437 0.506 0.018 0.024
FRASER, MARK 0.461 0.445 0.506 0.016 0.022
LILES, JOHN-MICHAEL 0.445 0.443 0.503 0.002 0.005
PHANEUF, DION 0.422 0.455 0.509 -0.033 -0.024
HOLZER, KORBINIAN 0.399 0.452 0.504 -0.053 -0.049
O_BYRNE, RYAN 0.432 0.505 0.499 -0.073 -0.074

O’Byrne is a recent addition to the Leafs defense so you can’t blame the Leafs possession woes on him, but in Colorado he was a dreadful possession player so he won’t be the answer to the Leafs possession woes either.

Korbinian Holzer was dreadful in a Leaf uniform this year and we all know that so no surprise there but next up is Dion Phaneuf, the Leafs top paid and presumably best defenseman. In FF%-TMFF%+OppFF%-0.5 Phaneuf ranked a little better the previous 2 seasons (0.023 and 0.003) so it is possible that he is having an off year or had his stats dragged down a bit by Holzer but regardless, he isn’t having a great season possession wise.

 

 

Jan 232013
 

One of the challenges in hockey analytics, or any type of data analysis, is how to best visualize data in a way that is exceptionally informative and yet really simple to understand. I have been working on a few things can came up with something that I think might be a useful tool to understand how a player gets utilized by his coach.

Let’s start with some background. We can get an idea of how a player is utilized by looking at when the player gets used and how frequently he gets used.  Offensive players get more ice time on the power play and more ice time when their team is trailing and needs a goal. Defensive players get more ice time on the PK and when they are protecting a lead. This all makes sense, but the issue is some teams spend more time on the PP or PK than others while bad teams end up trailing more than good teams and leading less. This means doing a straight time on ice comparison between players on different teams doesn’t always accurately depict the usage of the player. If a player on the Red Wings plays the same number of minutes with the lead as a player on the Blue Jackets it doesn’t mean the players are used int he same way.  The Blue Jackets will lead a game significantly less than the Red Wings thus in the hypothetical example above the Blue Jackets are depending on their player a higher percent of the time with a lead than the Red Wings are their player.

To get around this I looked at percentages. If Player A played 500 minutes with a lead and his team played a total of 2000 minutes with a lead during games which Player A played, then Players A’s ice time with a lead percentage would be 25%. In games in which Player A played he was used in 25% of the teams time leading. I can calculated these percentages for any situation from 5v5 to 4v5 or 5v4 special teams to leading and trailing situations. The challenge is to visualize the data in a clear and understandable way. To do this I use radar charts. Lets look at a couple examples so you get an idea and we’ll use players that have extreme and opposite usages: Daniel Sedin and Manny Malhotra.

For those not up to speed on my terminology f10 is zone start adjusted ice time which ignores the 10 seconds after a face off in either the offensive or defensive zone.

The charts above are largely driven by PP and PK ice time but players that are used more often in offensive roles will have their charts bulge to the top and top right while those in more defensive roles will have their charts bulge more to the bottom and bottom left. Also, the larger the ‘polygon’ the more ice time and more relied on the player is. In the examples above, Sedin is clearly used more often in offensive situations and clearly gets more ice time.

Let’s now look at a player who is used in a more balanced way, Zdeno Chara.

That is a chart that is representative of a big ice time player who plays in all situations. We can then take it a step further and compare players such as the following.

In normal 5v5 situations Gardiner was depended on about as much as Phaneuf, but Phaneuf was relied on a lot more on special teams and a bit more when protecting a lead. Of course, you can also compare across teams with these charts:

Phaneuf and Chara were depended on almost equally in all situations except on the PP where Phaneuf was used far more frequently.

I am not sure where I will go with these charts but I think I’ll look at them from time to time as I am sure they will be of use in certain situations and I have a few ideas as to how to expand on them to make them even more interesting/useful.