August 08 2013 09:28AM
Whether it's on a per-game basis or season-to-season, we spend an awful lot of time looking at shot differentials to get a better feel for the strength of a hockey team. Unfortunately, the hockey blogosphere doesn't actively track rolling numbers at the team-level, a study that could give us a better handle of teams truly gaining/fading over the course of a season.
After the jump, a compilation of rolling team Corsi for the Western Conference during the 2012-2013 season.
Pretty simple run of how the data was collected here. I collected team Corsi -- our shot-differential metric, an excellent proxy for puck possession and scoring chance differential -- for all forty-eight regular season games. I then rolled each number through the course of the season, hoping to find some trends that may not meet the eye looking at a raw season average.
As always, context is key here. Most teams will experience natural ebb and flow over the course of the year, and often times, those coincide with player injury, roster moves, lengthy road-trips, etc.
Any confidence in this team repeating last year's blistering 1.375 PPG pace? Outside of the team's second-line, there's not a whole-lot that inspires. Combine that with (a) the addition of Vancouver in the division; (b) the loss of a thirty-goal scorer in Bobby Ryan; (c) what seems to be a mortal-lock for regression in 1314, and you have a team with a rather-dicey playoff outlook.
The NBA's kind of earned the reputation as North American's league of professional tankers as the season inches towards a close. Maybe there's still some hope for the NHL. Calgary brought out every available panzer division for the last twenty games. That's one hell of an impressive nosedive after the playoff-pipedream faded into oblivion.
Fair to say it took the Chicago Blackhawks about fifteen or so games to really gel? After that, this team really didn't look back. They won just about every shot-differential battle to be had over the course of the regular season. And, surprise, surprise: they won the Stanley Cup, too. There's a lesson here about possession being everything and teams that pummel the opposition with sustained zone-time generally win more often than not. I'm sure it's been told once or twice or a thousand times before. Here's a thousand and one.
Not a whole lot to say about Colorado. Bad hockey team. Only two players were above 50% last year for a team mostly buried in their own zone: Ryan O'Reilly, and Gabriel Landeskog. Other side of that coin is Patrick Bordeleau logging a shade under 300-minutes of even-strength hockey, a defensive corps that was more Benny Hill than anything else, and a head coach absolutely lost at the NHL-level.
Any questions about the legitimacy of Sergei Bobrovsky's Vezina nod? This team had a horseshoe lodged firmly up its collective ass as it tried to chase down a playoff-berth, and they *just* missed. For a bad hockey team, though, this unit was actually kind of likable. Maybe it was the underdog role. Maybe it was Jarmo Kekalainen's arrival, a guy who strikes me as someone who knows what the hell is going on. Thing about Kekalainen: if he knows what the hell is going on, he can't be supremely confident about his team's chances heading into next year.
So my runner-up in the "this is the best graph ever" part of this post belongs to the Dallas Stars. Seventeen game stretch, from #29 to #46, where they lost the shot-attempt battle by more than eleven per game. I'm not sure how that's even possible, knowing that at some point, even a bad team can luck their way into a plus-game. Split this season down the middle, and on one side you have a team that could compete for a playoff berth, the other team leading the race for the lottery. Bizarre.
I was admittedly a bit sour on the Detroit Red Wings heading into the year, but I *begins patting self on back* vaguely remember looking at Detroit's performance over the last fifteen or so games as the regular season came to a close, and made note of them as a team with very-real upset potential as the seventh-seed in the West. Then they drew Anaheim. The series was a lot closer than I imagined, but the Red Wings still advanced. My guess is that if graphs like these were more readily-available, a lot [more] people outside of Detroit would've taken Detroit's Stanley Cup bid far more seriously.
Just stare at it. Don't look away. Don't even blink. If you're an Oilers fan who watched even-half of last year's circus, you are a masochist for awful hockey. And if you made it through the entire season, you deserve the Congressional Medal of Honor. You look at a game-by-game basis and wonder if there was any sixty-minute window where this team wasn't getting killed. It was either a bloodbath-loss, or Taylor Hall and the kids working some magic, and the Oilers desperately trying to hold on to a lead as they lay five-deep across the crease.
The 1213 Edmonton OIlers were Wall Street Crash of 1929 bad.
Only two teams managed to win the shot-differential fight against the Kings more than once last season: the Detroit Red Wings and Phoenix Coyotes. They were plus-side in 80% of their games. Any off-night was quickly-erased with five consecutive positive ones. LA's stock amongst some kind of dissipated after Chicago dispatched them in the playoffs, but this truly was one of the most impressive teams we've seen in the Behind the Net era.
The Wild kind of got their shit together the second-half of last season. Like the inverse of the Dallas Stars, almost. In hindsight, wonder if the Wild could've taken down a team like the aforementioned Ducks in the first-round. They had just about zero chance beating Chicago in the first-round. I'd mark them as a team to watch out of the gates this season -- the top-tier talent is there, Granlund and Brodin have another year filed away, and only two teams really stand ahead of them in the Central.
A methodical, painful climb to the bottom. Not a lot of bright spots last year for Barry Trotz's team. They do have a guy named Daniel Bang, though. Anytime you can ice a guy name Daniel Bang, you do it.
This took me by surprise. Phoenix wasn't a bad team last year, and at least when it came to getting the better of possession time, the Coyotes were (a) over the 50% mark; and (b) improved from the team one year ago that had reached the Western Conference Finals. Of course, the team also took a .010 hit in save percentage, saw their shooting percentage dip by half of a point -- these kinds of things add up. Smart money is on Dave Tippett having a decent team next year.
Another team, much like Detroit, that just ignited after-burners at the halfway point of the season. Right around game twenty-five, this team was trending towards break-even. And a shade over twenty games later, they were over the +120 mark. There's a lot of what went into the San Jose/Vancouver sweep-series, but I think this was the first of a handful of ominous signs for Alain Vigneault's team.
Anecdotally speaking, I can't remember a team with more sharp + or - on a per-game basis than the St. Louis Blues. Overall, very good team. But, some bizarre splits. On some nights, they were drilling teams. On other nights, it looked like Hamburger Hill. What to make of this, if anything at all.
Ryan Kesler out of the lineup at the end of February, and didn't return until mid-April. Think the Vancouver Canucks missed his presence? There's been an awful lot written about the absence of Kesler and the trickle-down effect it had on the lineup. This kind of confirms what a lot of people suspect -- the lack of depth forced the onus of production entirely on the shoulders of the fantastic Sedin line. The collective, though, was far less impressive in his absence.
(a) Ralph Krueger's firing was warranted. How in the world did Steve Tambellini hang on for so long?;
(b) The Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks looked like world-beaters during the second-leg of the 1213 regular season. Incidentally, both reached the post-season and made it to the second-round; and
(c) If you're taking a shot in the dark at a disappointing team last year that could right the ship come next season, I think there's a very respectable argument for the Phoenix Coyotes.