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)

Jul 052013
 

Unfortunately I didn’t have as much time this week as I had hoped to do a full evaluation of unrestricted free agent centers like I did for wingers but it is free agent day and there was some big news regarding centers yesterday with the buy out of Grabovski so I thought I’d throw a little something together where I look at some offensive statistics of some of the top centers available. Let me start off by presenting you with the summary table.

G/60 A/60 Pts/60 IPP GF20-TMGF20 FF20-TMFF20 OZBias
Ribeiro 0.593 1.512 2.11 80.5 0.113 -0.025 102.6
Filppula 0.769 1.334 2.1 75 0.116 -0.878 104.7
Lecavalier 0.799 1.186 1.99 68.1 0.139 0.381 100.7
Grabovski 0.899 0.961 1.86 65.4 0.196 2.406 96
Roy 0.587 1.146 1.73 67.4 0.039 0.747 98.7
Weiss 0.652 0.821 1.47 65.6 0.07 -0.467 103.3
Bozak 0.566 0.775 1.34 54.2 -0.062 0.292 99.8


The numbers above are 5v5 numbers over the past 3 seasons and the players are sorted by Pts/60. I threw in Lecavalier because he was a UFA for a brief period of time and is at more or less the same level as the others. I included Bozak to highlight just how much he doesn’t fit in with the rest of the group.

  • G/60 = Goals per 60 minutes of ice time.
  • A/60 = Assists per 60 minutes of ice time
  • Pts/60 = Points per 60 minutes of ice time.
  • IPP = Individual Points Percentage, or the percentage of goals scored while on ice that the player had a point on.
  • GF20-TMGF20 = How much better are his team mates on-ice goal stats when playing with him than without.
  • FF20-TMFF20 = How much better are his team mates on-ice shot generation when playing with him than without.
  • OZBias = OZ Starts*2 + NZStarts and gives an indication of the players usage.

List sorted by G/60: Grabovski, Lecavalier, Filppula, Weiss, Ribeiro, Roy, Bozak

List sorted by A/60: Ribeiro, Filppula, Lecavalier, Roy, Grabovski, Weiss, Bozak

List sorted by Pts/60: Ribeiro, Filppula, Lecavalier, Grabovski, Roy, Weiss, Bozak

List sorted by IPP: Ribeiro, Filppula, Lecavalier, Roy, Weiss, Grabovski, Bozak

List sorted by GF20-TMGF20:  Grabovski, Lecavalier, Filppula, Ribeiro, Weiss, Roy, Bozak

List sorted by FF20-TMFF20: Grabovski, Roy, Lecavalier, Bozak, Ribeiro, Weiss, Filppula

Some comments on each player:

Mike Ribeiro: Easily the best play maker of the group and is most consistently involved in the play.

Valterri Filppula: Better goal scorer than Ribeiro but not as good as a play maker as Ribeiro but better than the rest.

Vincent Lecavalier: Similar to Filppula in value but better at the possession game.

Mikhail Grabovski: Not a great play maker but a good finisher and good at driving shot generation indicating he is probably good at puck retrieval.

Derek Roy: Kind of a poor mans Ribeiro but much less valuable.

Stephen Weiss: More of a poor mans Lecavalier. Easily had the worst line mates of the group and might do better in a different situation.

Tyler Bozak: Weak at goal scoring, bad at play making, not involved in the play and a drag on his team mates goal production. Not anywhere close to the same league as the others (and maybe be better suited for a different league too).

For me, Ribeiro is probably the best of the group in terms of pure offense because of his elite play making ability. Grabovski and Lecavalier are a little more balanced with better scoring and puck retrieval skills while Filppula is pretty solid all round as well and has the flexibility of being used as either a center or a winger (which is valuable if locking in long-term). It’s difficult to compare Weiss to the rest because he simply hasn’t had near as good of line mates but it is probably safe to say he’d be a bit of a step down from Grabovski, Lecavalier or Filppula. Roy, on the other hand, would definitely be a step back but still a decent consolation prize if on a lower priced contract with shorter term. Definitely not anything more than a #2 center though.

As for Bozak, well, you simply don’t want him on your team. Maybe not at any price no matter what the bargain basement price is. I have tried and tried but I just can’t find any redeeming qualities for him outside of his ability to win face offs which has limited value. There simply is no reason why you would want to play him on any of your top 3 lines. None.

Being a Leaf fan and unable to keep Grabovski, my preference would be Ribeiro or Filppula but might be willing to take a chance on Weiss if the contract was right. Ribeiro’s play making skills with the Leafs wingers should be a good combination and Filppula is a good all round player who could shift to wing down if needed. Weiss seems like a solid 2-way player who might be able to step up his game with better line mates which he’d get with the Leafs. If they sign Bozak, I am not sure what I’ll do. It’ll be a sad day.

 

Mar 142013
 

Mikhail Grabovski is starting to get a little heat in Toronto. The other night against Winnipeg he benched for a good chunk of the game and people are starting to question what is wrong with Grabovski this season. Truth is, there is probably nothing wrong with Grabovski except for his line mate Jay McClement.

When one looks at Grabovski’s stats this season you will actually see that his 5v5 Goals/60 is actually up this year to 0.946 goals per 60 minutes of play from 0.895 last year and 0.924 the year before so his 5v5 goal production is certainly there. It is his assist totals that are down dramatically. The problem is his most frequent line mates are Nikolai Kulemin, Jay McClement and Leo Komarov, none of which are dynamic offensive players. McClement has never scored more than 12 goals in any season in his career and Kulemen had a 30 goal season in 2010-11 but never more than 16 otherwise and has just 9 goals in his last 97 games and Komarov is a rookie not known for his offensive ability. You can’t expect Grabovski, who probably isn’t a dynamic playmaking center to start with, to rack up a lot of assists with a pair of third line players on his wing.

On top of that, Jay McClement is actually a pretty bad hockey player. When the Leafs signed McClement in the summer I questioned the signing because he had terrible numbers in Colorado the previous 2 seasons.  In fact, over the past 2 seasons in Colorado and St. Louis he was 4th last in the league in 5v5 ZS Adjusted goals against per 20 minutes (sadly ahead of only Kessel, Bozak and Lupul). He also ranked 230th of 258 in terms of fenwick % over those 2 years. This season he is last on the Leafs in zone start adjusted fenwick % at a terrible 41.1%.

On top of McClement being pretty bad, the player McClement replaced on that line, Clarke MacArthur, is pretty good. MacArthur has the best fenwick % on the Leafs this season and in the 58:11 of 5v5 ice time he and Grabovski played together this year they had a corsi % of 57.1% while Graobovski has been at 41.7% when separated from MacArthur. Last season when Grabovski and MacArthur played together they were at 56.0% and when Grabovski was without MacArthur he was at 50.9%. In 2010-11 Grabovski’s corsi% was 55.3% with MacArthur and 47.0% without.

In summary, there is nothing wrong with Grabovski. It is the coach that took a good player who had very good ‘chemistry’ with Grabovski off Grabovski’s line replacing him with at best a mediocre 3rd liner to go with the other 3rd liner on his other wing. Maybe when Lupul comes back Carlyle will be forced to put a real top 6 winger on the Grabovski line and then people will stop asking “What is wrong with Grabovski?” but until then, blame Jay McClement (with a primary assist to Randy Carlyle).

 

Jan 172013
 

Earlier today I wrote a post about Tim Connolly and his offensive production at even strength. Shortly after posting that I thought a similar article comparing the performances of Bozak, Kadri and Conolly would be an interesting piece since they are sort of competing for roster spots (more so Kadri and Connolly than Bozak though). Of course, in the mean time Connolly has been put on waivers so to some extent he isn’t relevant anymore but I am including him for interest sake.

Here is a look at their individual offensive performances for the last 2 seasons for Bozak and Kadri and last year for Connolly (since he wasn’t with the Leafs in 2010-11).

Bozak:

Season ESTOI Goals Assists Points TOI/Pt
2011-12 1121:53 14 20 34 33:00
2010-11 1190:08 8 12 20 59:30
Combined 2311:01 22 32 54 42:48

Kadri:

Season ESTOI Goals Assists Points TOI/Pt
2011-12 263:24 4 2 6 44:04
2010-11 382:22 3 7 10 38:14
Combined 645:46 7 9 16 40:22

Connolly:

Season ESTOI Goals Assists Points TOI/Pt
2011-12 940:12 11 20 31 30:20

What is interesting is of the three, Connolly had the best TOI/Pt last year, even better than Bozak who benefited from playing primarily with Kessel and Lupul. Kadri’s most frequent line mates were Lombardi, MacArthur and Connolly while Connolly’s played with almost everyone but had the most minutes with Crabb, Kessel, Lupul, Lombardi and MacArthur (between 180 and 260 with all of them). It seems Connolly was far from the least productive Leaf forward at even strength.

That said, it seems irrelevant now what Connolly has done so more important is to look at Bozak vs Kadri. Overall they have had similar point rates over past 2 seasons but Bozak was much better last year. If all that came from playing with Kessel and Lupul then maybe Kadri is at least equally good.  And when you factor in that Bozak is a downright terrible defensive player I’d almost certainly give Kadri ice time over Bozak.

To put the above stats into perspective, here are Grabovski’s over the past 2 seasons.

Season ESTOI Goals Assists Points TOI/Pt
2011-12 1126:42 18 23 41 27:29
2010-11 1232:33 19 24 43 28:40
Combined 2359:15 37 47 84 28:05

Clearly Grabovski has produced much more at even strength than any of the other three and pretty consistent too. To put Grabovski into perspective though, Malkin had an even strength point every 16:37 last season. That’s domination.

 

Oct 302012
 

Offensive players generally get all of the attention but defensive players are often just as valuable to a team.  Ask any NHL fan who the top offensive centers in the league are and they will quickly ramble off a few names from Crosby to Stamkos to Getzlaf to Malkin, etc.  Ask a fan to list the top defensive centers and the task becomes a little more difficult.  So, I decided to look into defensive centers a little further.

What makes a valuable defensive center?  Well, they should play against tough competition, they should give up fewer goals than expected, and they should be trusted to play a lot on the penalty kill.  So, with that in mind, I decided to set the following parameters in my defensive center search.

1.  I limited myself to players who have played >2000 minutes of 5v5 zone start adjusted ice time over the past three seasons.

2.  I only considered players who had an average opposition goals for per 20 minutes of ice time above 0.800 (i.e. only consider players who played against tough offensive opponents, must have OppGF20>0.800).

3. I then eliminated all forwards with a goals against per 20 minutes of ice time >0.800 (i.e. eliminate players who didn’t get good defensive results, must have GA20<0.800).

4.  I then took each players on ice goals against rate and divided it by his line mates goals against rate to ensure that they are performing better than their line mates and make their line mates better defensively (GA20/TMGA20 < 1.00).

5.  I then eliminated any players who didn’t have >300 minutes of 4v5 PK ice time over the past 3 seasons.

After doing this I got the following list of players sorted by GA20/TMGA20, or in English  sorted by how much better defensively they were than their line mates.

  1. Brandon Sutter
  2. Samuel Pahlsson
  3. Mikko Koivu
  4. Frans Nielsen
  5. Travis Zajac
  6. Martin Hanzal
  7. Mike Richards
  8. Brooks Laich
  9. Jordan Staal
  10. Joe Pavelski

Honorable Mentions:  Logan Couture, Pavel Datsyuk, Mikhail Grabovski and Alexander Steen missed the cut due to not having enough PK minutes.  Couture would have been slotted second behind Sutter, Datsyuk between Pahlsson and Koivu, and Grabovski and Steen immediately after Hanzal.  Plekanec, Kopitar, Bergeron and Legwand met the PK ice time criteria and would come in after Pavelski except that their line mates had a better GA20 when not playing with them so they were cut from the list.

All in all I am pretty happy with the defensive forward list above.  They all make sense and the only real surprise on the list might be Frans Nielsen but that is mostly because I don’t pay attention to he Islanders (who does really?) and this haven’t really paid much attention to him.  For a player on the lowly Islanders to meet these criteria it probably means he is a pretty good defensive player.

It is interesting to see Sutter and Jordan Staal both make this list as they were traded for each other this past summer.  When I compared these two players after the trade when down I suggested that Sutter is one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL and this certainly backs that up.

What do you think?  Am I missing someone from this list of elite defensive centers?