Six-Year FenwickClose%

Travis Yost
September 20 2013 11:58AM

 

 

 

Behind the Net has always been an invaluable resource for checking in on team data, particularly for metrics like Fenwick Close -- a shot-attempt differential that mitigates the damage often inflicted by score effects in hockey games. Unfortunately, the data is usually tabled by season, and it's sometimes difficult to jump back and forth between seasons, particularly when looking at improvement or decline in performance. 

Below, I've compiled the FenwickClose% data for each NHL team, sorted by conference, and dropped into a graph that's not particularly friendly to the color-blind, like myself. I've also grabbed a hold of the biggest one-year risers/fallers, something I think speaks a bit about coaching in today's game. I think it's a nice little tool to gaze at, especially if you want to get a quick grasp of the true best/worst teams of the last six years. 

I think, if you compare this graph to the Western Conference one below, you can see that the true 'power' teams haven't really been there, at least relatively speaking. I don't know if that speaks to the strength of the middle/bottom or speaks about the lack of quality at the top, but it seems to be there. Other than Washington 2008 and Pittsburgh 2012, there hasn't been a team really buzzsawing the competition here.

At the bottom, holy hell, Atlanta. The worst team in the Behind the Net era, in runaway fashion. Interestingly, last year featured three (!) teams that at least didn't get lapped by the Thrashers in the race to futility -- the Sabres, Lightning, and Leafs. Two of those teams fired their coaches and are starting over. The third was a goal away from reaching the second-round of the post-season. Hockey.

And, more on Tampa Bay: what a weird little run they've had. I've talked about how much the move to (and, from) the 1-3-1 has changed things for the Bolts over the past few years. In that system, boring as it's alleged to be, the team was great. They got away from it, and Guy Boucher became history rather quickly.

You also should take notice of the Washington Capitals decline. If you can't make it out, I've separated them from the lot.

 

Not particularly encouraging if you're a Capitals fan.

Let's move on.

Few teams that really stand out at the top here, including the earlier Detroit Red Wings, the Chicago Blackhawks of a few years back, and that terrifying Los Angeles/Chicago duo of the 48-game season. I'm actually more excited than a normal person should be about the prospect of another LA/Chicago playoff series next year. It's somewhat clear to me that they're head-and-shoulders above most of the conference, even if some teams last year -- St. Louis and San Jose -- provide ample competition.

Weird to see the two worst Eastern Conference teams come in the same year, but that's what's happened in 2011. For all of the blogosphere wars between Oilers and Wild fans, I think this is equally ironic and amusing. 

Back to the LA Kings for a minute: a lot of stuff has been expended on that team's run last year, where they seemingly yielded about three shots against per night through the entire regular season. What I think is cool is how this team has come along over the last six years. I've again separated them from the lot, just as I did with Washington earlier. On quick glance, I don't think any team has established more consistent improvement.

 

With the data at hand, I also went ahead and grabbed the biggest one-year risers/fallers over the last six years. Only five teams have improved their Fenwick Close in one season by five or more percentage points, and only five teams have watched their Fenwick Close fall by five or more percentage points in the same. It's kind of tough territory to break.


Can a coach sandbag a team? I say yes. We already know Wayne Gretzky was single-handedly pulling the reins back on the Coyotes for some length of time. When his replacement came (an excellent one at that), the team's numbers spiked, and it wasn't really a gradual thing. 

Other teams in that mix saw coaching flips, too. Montreal just last year picked up Michel Therrien and went off. Guy Boucher adopted the 1-3-1 in Tampa Bay the year they blew up, then inexplicably killed it off. Los Angeles, same thing. Terry Murray in, playoff appearances are had.

The other end of the spectrum here:


You'll immediately see a few things. One, all of the teams are from the Eastern Conference. Two, Carolina's one-year drop-off was excessive, even benchmarked against other teams who had painful declines in their own right. Three, last year's Pittsburgh Penguins are in that group.

I think Pittsburgh's a team to watch next year, obviously. There's so much talent on the roster. And, the Eastern Conference really is open for a superpower to come in and go to work. I'm curious to see just how much carrying Sidney Crosby, et al. are going to have to do in order to get this team over the hump, though. Their bottom-six is a tragedy, and the questions about Marc-Andre Fleury aren't stopping anytime soon. A team with this kind of individual talent can easily get away with 50% Fenwick. But should they have to?

 

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Hockey and hoops. @TravisHeHateMe
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#1 Axel Fant-Eldh
September 20 2013, 12:23PM
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Also, Washington letting Semin walk is one of the stupider decisions made in the NHL over the past 5 years.

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#2 Axel Fant-Eldh
September 20 2013, 12:13PM
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Signing Scuderi and letting go of Kennedy and Cooke is hardly going to help their cause though.

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#3 MathMan
September 20 2013, 12:12PM
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Montreal was most-improved chart twice. Their curve on the last 3 seasons is a big V.

The 10-11 Habs under Martin were a pretty good possession team and a big improvement from the previous year, we figure due to the improvement of their bottom-6 guys and the addition of some guy named PK Subban. Then they were great for a little over 20 games in 11-12, then crashed due to injuries followed by the switch to a big-bodies-banging-down-low coach in Randy Cunneyworth. Then Therrien came in, their guys got healthy, and they're up again.

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#4 Lockout
September 21 2013, 02:21AM
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Fascinating data. I'm a big fan of following fenwick close #'s, for obvious reasons.

It's hard, if not impossible, to garner any actual data from the 12/13 season due to sample size. That year was so screwy. I mean Tor, one of the worst fenwick close teams, made the freeking playoffs. In an 82 game season, that ain't gonna happen. I'm a Canucks fan so I follow their #'s closely. I am enormously concerned that John Torterella will 'sandbag' the Canucks. Historically, he does not have strong puck possession teams (I don't count the lockout yr for reasons I posted above). The NYR have been a pretty crappy fenwick close team in a weak eastern conference. Now he comes to a team like the Canucks - who over the last few yrs have been a decent fenick close team. He has the same players - but I can guarantee the fenwick close #'s will drop. I'm not even sure he knows what 'puck possesion' means or how to attain it.

It will be an interesting case study (Van & NYR). I bet NYR has strong fenwick close #'s next yr, and Van's drop.

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#5 Ralph
September 21 2013, 11:41AM
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@Lockout

On Tortorella: remember that he was a very different coach when he was with the Lightning. He may have changed as a coach, but I think it's more that he came to an NYR team without a lot of talent and created this new conservative system, and kept it for continuity even as Sather assembled more and more talent. NYR hasn't had players like the Sedins or Kesler, or a top-four as good as Vancouver's. I think his style with the Canucks will be different.

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#6 Lockout
September 23 2013, 02:31AM
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Ralph wrote:

On Tortorella: remember that he was a very different coach when he was with the Lightning. He may have changed as a coach, but I think it's more that he came to an NYR team without a lot of talent and created this new conservative system, and kept it for continuity even as Sather assembled more and more talent. NYR hasn't had players like the Sedins or Kesler, or a top-four as good as Vancouver's. I think his style with the Canucks will be different.

Ya, it's a good point. I definitely considered the difference in personnel. LA has been a top fenwick close team for a couple years now, and they don't have the Sedins or a top 4 like Vancouver either. Same with NJD. I'm convinced systems play a big part in fenwick close results. And I don't believe Torts has a clue how to get there. This is a coach who thinks shot blocking is a good thing. He apparently doesn't realize that being top 10 league wide in shot blocking every year means his team never had the puck. He's going to bring, well 'has' brought, his dinosaur philosophies to Vancouver. I am definitely following the NYR and VAN fenwick close #'s very closely over the next year. Will be a fascinating case study how changes in coaches can dictate possession #s.

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#7 Badger M
September 23 2013, 08:55AM
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@Lockout

Carlyle-coached teams have consistently made the playoffs despite low Fenwick numbers.

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#8 Mark Tinordi
September 25 2013, 11:16AM
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Badger M wrote:

Carlyle-coached teams have consistently made the playoffs despite low Fenwick numbers.

That's not really accurate.

05-06 ANA - 52.4% shot percentage (no data on missed shots) at EV; made playoffs

06-07 ANA - 53.4% shot percentage (no data on missed shots) at EV; made playoffs

07-08 ANA - 50.4% 5-on-5 Fenwick; made playoffs

08-09 ANA - 50.5% 5-on-5 Fenwick; made playoffs

09-10 ANA - 46.8% 5-on-5 Fenwick; missed playoffs

10-11 ANA - 45.1% 5-on-5 Fenwick; made playoffs (but outscored by 20(!!) goals 5-on-5)

11-12 ANA - Fired after Game 24; 40% 5-on-5 goal percentage; 0.458 5-on-5 Shot percentage

12-13 TOR - 44.0% 5-on-5 Fenwick; Made playoffs

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