Yesterday evening James Mirtle from the Globe and Mail posted an article on The Curious case of Tim Connolly and the Leafs. It’s worth a read so go read it but the premise of the article is how the narrative around Tim Connolly in training camp is he had a poor year last year and he needs to perform better this year. Makes sense from most peoples view points but Connolly tries to present a different perspective.
Connolly can be prickly to deal with and wasn’t particularly interested in talking about last season, but when pressed, you could tell he felt he did more of value than the narrative – that he’s been an unmitigated bust in Toronto – would suggest.
Here was his answer when asked (maybe for the second or third time) about needing to “rebound” this season.
“Even strength, I think I had my second highest career points last year,” Connolly said. “I’d like to improve my play on the power play and maybe play a bigger role. Penalty killing, I think, my individual percentage was 89 per cent I read somewhere. I was able to lead the forwards in blocked shots.”
He makes two points in there. The first is that he had his second highest even strength points last year and the second was something about individual percentage was 89 percent. Lets deal with the first one first by looking at his even strength points since the first lockout.
(Note: Connolly only played 2 games in 2006-07 so I have omitted it from the table and discussion)
Tim Connolly is actually correct. His best even strength point total came in 2009-10 when he had 36 points followed by his 31 even strength points last year. But let’s take a look at those point totals relative to even strength ice time.
The last column is time on ice per point, or time on ice between points. Last year he was on the ice for an average of 30 minutes and 20 seconds between each of his even strength points. This was his second worst since the locked out season. So, while Connolly was technically correct in saying that he had his second highest even strength point total last season, it was a somewhat misleading representation of his performance.
Now for the individual PK percent. It generated a bit of twitter conversation last night questioning what it actually is.
— Fear The Fin (@fearthefin) January 17, 2013
One might think it is the penalty kill percentage when he was on the ice but that seems like a strange thing to calculate. Is it goals per 2 minutes of PK time? Is it goals per PK he spent any amount of time killing? I really didn’t know so I dug into the numbers deeper by looking at the Leafs PK percentages on my stats site and noticed that Connolly had the best on-ice save percentage (listed as lowest opposition shooting percentage) of any Leaf last season during 4v5 play and that save percentage while he was on the ice was just shy of 89% (88.68%). It seems that maybe what Connolly meant to say was that he had an on-ice PK save percentage of 89%.
How good is an 89% save percentage on the PK? Well, of the 100 forwards with at least 100 4v5 minutes of ice time last year, Connolly ranks 42nd in the league so league wide it isn’t that impressive but considering the Leafs weak goaltending it might actually be fairly good.
Here is the thing though. Single season PK save percentage is so fraught with sample size issues that it is next to useless as a stat for goalies let alone forwards.
One could evaluate Connolly based on PK goals against rate in which he came up 3rd on the Leafs (trailing Lombardi or Kulemin) but that is still fraught with sample size issues. More fairly we probably should evaluate Connolly’s PK contribution based on shots against rate or maybe even more fairly fenwick or corsi against rates. In each of those categories he ranked 5th among Leafs with at least 50 minutes of 4v5 ice time with only Joey Crabb being worse. Furthermore, among the 110 players with 100 minutes of 4v5 PK ice time last year, Connolly ranked 99th in fenwick against rate.
I don’t mean for this article to be a Connolly bashing article. I actually do think Connolly was a little misused and would probably do better with a more well defined role and not bounced around in the line up so much so in that sense I agree with the premise of what Connolly is saying. With that said though, it probably is fair to say that he didn’t have a great season and if he wants a regular role in the top six with time on the PP and PK he needs to perform better as his use of stats to attempt to show he had a good season is really just evidence to how statistics can be misused to support almost any narrative you want. As they say, there are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics.