Eastern Conference: Line/Tier vs. Team Production

Travis Yost
August 02 2013 10:22AM

 

INTRODUCTION

On Thursday, I took a look at how individual tiers for each Western Conference team performed relative to their team's overall production through even-strength adjusted Corsi. Today, the tiers of the Eastern Conference.

Using tiers of players collected per team by total even-strength TOI is a way of getting around some of the issues when looking at line-by-line performance. Over the course of an entire season, dozens of different line combinations are deployed by coaching, normally the result of injuries or roster moves (e.g. trades, free agent acquisitions, mid-season call-ups). The good thing is that these tiers tend to correlate strongly with the most-regularly used line combinations to begin with, so it's not just a series of dart throws at numbers.

As always, context is important. Pittsburgh's run of injuries to all-world talents like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin shuffled the Penguins tiers up quite a bit. Ottawa's situation was even more ridiculous. Zack Smith, a guy with twenty-four career goals, logged the third-most even-strength minutes on the team.

METHODOLOGY

Each team's twelve most-regularly deployed forwards are sorted by even-strength time on ice. Data was culled for each individual at even-strength using Corsi, a proxy for possession-time and scoring chance differential. The number was then adjusted for zone-starts, and then dropped into a weighted tier of most-commonly used forwards. It was then (a) compared to the team's even-strength zone-adjusted Corsi to identify potential outliers; and (b) compared to other team's similar tier.

Not included is the Western Conference Conference. Comparing the two in a year where zero cross-conference games were played only makes the numbers more noisy.

RESULTS BY TEAM

BOSTON BRUINS

 

Loaded, loaded top-six. And yet, all I can think of is this Cam Charron piece on Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot. When the Kelly/Peverley PDO machine came apart at the seams, the Bruins well-oiled machine looked just a hair less intimidating. Either way, the top six or so forwards on this team are so fantastic, they can cover a lot of deficiencies.

BUFFALO SABRES

 

Show of hands, how many non-Sabres fans could peg Marcus Foligno as the team's leading adjusted-Corsi guy last season? One of two qualified roster players -- along with Christian Ehrhoff on the blue-line -- who managed to break-even for an otherwise awful hockey team. 

CAROLINA HURRICANES

 

 

Kind of a weird team here. Of qualified forwards, Jiri Tlusty's 49.4% was the adjusted-Corsi floor. What can sink an OK team like this is getting a .908 save percentage at even-strength, combined with nearly thirty-two shots against per sixty minutes.

FLORIDA PANTHERS

  

 

Peter Mueller, the team's second-best adjusted-Corsi guy last year (Drew Shore being numero uno), still sits in free agency.

 
MONTREAL CANADIENS

  

 

There's an awful lot of debate about the Montreal Canadiens and whether their regular season success was a smoke-and-mirrors show, particularly after being bounced by the Ottawa Senators in round-one. I don't see it. This is a good hockey team from top to bottom, with an interesting balance across the top-nine.

 
NEW JERSEY DEVILS

 

 

Mike Babcock's infamous "possession is everything" quote should probably be rewritten after last year's debacle in New Jersey. Perhaps: "Possession is everything, unless your team's shooting percentages crawl into the gutter permanently and your goaltending duo of Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg sandbag your team on a nightly basis." It really can't be emphasized enough how unlikely it was/is for a team like this to miss the playoffs. It takes a herculean effort, like, say, .905 SV% at evens.

 

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

 

 

 

Balance, balance, balance. I expect tier one to rocket up in the next couple of years. John Tavares really is one of the league's best players. He's twenty-two, remember.

 
NEW YORK RANGERS

  

 

This is the nosedive to end all others. That fourth-tier? That is neolithic incompetence for a playoff team, and a decent playoff team at that. Over 500:00 of ES TOI between guys like Darroll Powe and Chris Kreider ended miserably for New York.

 
OTTAWA SENATORS

  

 

I said Montreal wasn't some weird fluke earlier. So, what does one take from this? They're certainly the most positive-balanced team in the Eastern Conference, which helped stave off almost historically bad shooting percentages and an innumerable run of injuries. You've got guys like Zack Smith in the first tier; Chris Neil's not far behind. It also shouldn't surprise that a team with a head coach who consistently talks about shot differentials (i.e., Corsi) is towing this kind of team.

 
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

  

 

For a team that's all about offense, the Philadelphia Flyers sure started a hell of a lot of shifts in the defensive zone. You look at this kind of data and automatically assume that deployed specialists like Fedotenko and Talbot were hurting their tiers, but perhaps understated is that guys like Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds, and Hartnell were all just below the 50% zone start mark, too. Seemed to take a bit of a toll.

 

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

 

 

 

Not that a second-round pick doesn't have value, but it's still hard to understand moving Tyler Kennedy on a roster that's looking to win now. That's a New York Rangers-esque drop-off in the fourth-tier, but in Pittsburgh, the team is buoyed by incredible shooting percentages on the front-lines. Crosby/Malkin, by the way: over 56% of the shot-attempt battle. Stay healthy.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

 

 

This should be the least surprising chart of any, I think. The team just had very little outside of that Steven Stamkos line, and it showed. Good news is that the Bolts hold one of the best prospect pools in the league. Bad news is they're now competing against four teams that got 53% or more Corsi last year. Welcome to the Atlantic.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

 

 

There's just so many things to write here, but so little space. Losing Clarke MacArthur was bad, but to a division rival was probably worse. Jay McClement finishing seventh in TOI seems absurdly high. Colton Orr finishing eleventh in ES TOI also seems absurdly high. Mikhail Grabovski's adjusted-Corsi was higher than fan-favorite Joffrey Lupul's, and he was a compliance buyout. Phil Kessel's contract is expiring. Fin.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS

 

 

 

Tier four includes names like Wojtek Wolski and Mathieu Perreault. Wolski's become one of the poster boys for being weirdly buried in the depth chart in favor of crappier players, like, say, Jay Beagle. My favorite complaint about Wolski is how hockey is a two-way game, and that forwards need to be responsible on the defensive-end, and how that all ties into some scathing indictment of his play. Wolski led the team in CA/20 last year by an unbelievable margin. Defense matters. He knows it, though.

 
WINNIPEG JETS

 

 

 

Positive-thinking: Evander Kane's really good, turned twenty-two years-old today, and is signed long-term in Winnipeg. Negative thinking: Winnipeg just lost their second-best adjusted-Corsi guy to the KHL, because who the hell knows. Burmistrov was .001 behind Laad for the team league.

 TIER ONE, LEAGUE-WIDE

 

 

Boy, you can always find a new way to make New Jersey's season look more bizarre by the minute. Here's their tops competing directly against other teams tops. If that isn't ridiculous enough, remember that New Jersey and Buffalo finished the season tied in points.

TIER FOUR, LEAGUE-WIDE

 

 

Yeah, I think New York and Pittsburgh have a bit of work cut out for them during training camps in terms of identifying guys who can pick up these lesser minutes.

 

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Hockey and hoops. @TravisHeHateMe
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#1 Kent Wilson
August 02 2013, 10:50AM
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The Leafs added a decent possession guy in Clarkson but then deleted two of their best in MacArthur and Grabbo.

Unless the Reimer/Bernier duo stands on their heads this year, it's going to be a bloodbath in TOR.

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#2 truck
August 02 2013, 11:47AM
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Who landed in the 1st and 2nd line groups for Winnipeg?

The lines were a mess and the 2nd line stunk most of the year.

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#3 Geoffrey
August 02 2013, 01:15PM
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Assuming data visualization advice is welcome...

1) Drop the 3D charts. The depth dimension does not indicate any information, leaving only the distraction of attempting to interpret which part of the 'top' of the bar is really the maximum.

2) Why is the axis to two decimal places? Is the data really that accurate and/or necessary?

3) The charts exaggerate the differences between groups by truncating the y-axis. As an example, in your first chart, the adjusted tier corsi (blue) appears 4x larger for T1 than T4, when in fact it is only about 12% larger. Keep the y-axis set to 0 and just display the top portion of the chart if necessary.

Just two cents from a fellow data scientist...

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#4 kadrimania
August 02 2013, 02:20PM
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Can you add a graphic of "quality" scoring chances or "quality" puck possession? I think the results will be very different.

Also, I am willing to re-up my friendly 2012/2013 season bet with Cam who indicated the leafs would collapse and not make the playoffs last year with their elevated PDO and near league low Fenwick Close.

Double or anything - anyone - willing to put their online reputation on the line in my bet.

The bet - the leafs - will again make the playoffs.

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#5 PopsTwitTar
August 02 2013, 11:09AM
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These are rosters as of the end of last season, right? So Boston's #s in Seguin, for example?

When I see some of the results on the 4th lines around the league, I just shake my head in disbelief that more teams dont just staple them to the bench and give their minutes to the top 6. Im not sure anyone could convince me that teams wouldnt be better off playing 3 forward lines exclusively.

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#6 Kent Wilson
August 02 2013, 11:23AM
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@PopsTwitTar

Yeah...a lot of 4th lines are used to spell off the top-9 when they're tired. Course, 4th lines could probably be better if coaches/GM's didn't insist on playing certain below replacement level "role players" in those spots as well.

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#7 garik16
August 02 2013, 11:46AM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Yeah...a lot of 4th lines are used to spell off the top-9 when they're tired. Course, 4th lines could probably be better if coaches/GM's didn't insist on playing certain below replacement level "role players" in those spots as well.

Kent, I agree, but to me the issue is kind of what PTT is saying here, in that too many coaches will be rolling their 4th lines even late in games in situations that make no sense.

For an Isles' perspective, there's no reason whatsoever you could justify rolling the 4th line down a goal in the 3rd period under 5 minutes, yet it'd happen repeatedly (even Eric Boulton, goon, got minutes in one such game).

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#8 Kent Wilson
August 02 2013, 12:43PM
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@garik16

Brent Sutter used to love to put the 4th out after an icing call for the opposition. Seriously. Even in games the Flames were losing.

Used to drive me nuts.

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#9 Elizabeth
August 02 2013, 02:30PM
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@PopsTwitTar

It's not an issue of them being not able to go out again, it's an issue of them being more tired than the other guys (who belong to a deep team where the coach rolls his 4 lines) by the third or OT.

@garik16

If the 4th is populated with actual NHL-ers then that cuts down the situations where it doesn't make sense to send them out. Chicago's 4th(in TOI) line was out in the final minute of a tied Game 6 because it was the best defensive line that didn't involve Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Turned out they are ok at offense too.

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#10 Corey
August 02 2013, 10:58AM
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Carolina doesn't look too bad here. Although, they did lost two decent possession guys in Brent & LaRose and they'll probably be replaced with guys from the AHL. Those two combined for only two goals last year, so I don't expect it to have much of an impact, but I think the team's underlying numbers could drop next season. That is, unless Lindholm is really good right off the bat.

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#11 PopsTwitTar
August 02 2013, 11:33AM
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@Kent Wilson

Eh I dont buy "tired" hockey players. These guys are in unreal shape. Yeah maybe a shift or two a game a guy might not be ready to go back out 2 minutes later, but with whistles and TV timeouts, most of these guys would be fine. But yea, you know, "intimidation" and all that.

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#12 Mantastic
August 02 2013, 12:24PM
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@PopsTwitTar

i thought the tiers were based off TOI, so line changing towards the end of the season should have very little baring on total TOI numbers.

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#14 Badger M
August 06 2013, 12:49PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

The Leafs added a decent possession guy in Clarkson but then deleted two of their best in MacArthur and Grabbo.

Unless the Reimer/Bernier duo stands on their heads this year, it's going to be a bloodbath in TOR.

Predicting Team Fenwick using data from previous years is a fool's game.

The Islanders were a terrible possession team until they added Visnovsky, a puck-moving defenseman. Who's to say the Leafs won't be a good possession team if/when Jake Gardiner is given a bigger role?

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