Beware of What Zone Starts are Telling You, Part I: Coaches' Deployment

Jeremy Davis
November 03 2016 03:02PM

It’s early in the 2016-17 NHL season, but it’s never too early for Canucks fans to start complaining about player deployment! This season has already seen its fair share of head scratching decisions when it comes to who plays when (and with who), and it’s not going to get any easier on Willie Desjardins and his crew if the team keeps on losing.

NHL coaches can’t slip much past the general public these days, what with the ease of access to massive amounts of data, and deployment is no different. One of the most commonly cited events are zone starts, purported to be both an indication of how coaches deploy players and context to explain high or low shot differentials. As it turns out, both of these connections may be greatly exaggerated, meaning these numbers might not be telling you what you think they are.

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Kris Russell is slowing, and with him the Oilers' second defence pairing

Jonathan Willis
November 03 2016 02:55PM

Kris Russell had a phenomenal debut with the Edmonton Oilers. Playing on his off-side along with Andrej Sekera on the second pairing, Russell’s strong play gave the Oilers two quality defence pairings through the first few games of the season, a luxury the team hasn’t had since Lubomir Visnovsky and Sheldon Souray were haphazardly discarded at the start of the rebuild.

Unfortunately for Edmonton, the honeymoon is now over. Russell’s play has fallen off, and those concerns about the second pairing are once again worth noting.

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Here's why the Flames are burning a year on Matthew Tkachuk

christian tiberi
November 03 2016 02:30PM

Matthew Tkachuk will play his 10th NHL game tonight, burning off the first year of his ELC, meaning his contract will expire a year earlier than it needs to. With four points in nine games, it's a bold move for the team. 

Tkachuk, from a points perspective, isn't producing enough to say he is a vital contributor to this team. Since he is not providing any additional wins through his points contribution, it would be good from a contract perspective to send him to London and bring up Hunter Shinkaruk and have him produce at a similar rate for no ELC loss.

On the other hand, Tkachuk is simply playing out of his mind, regardless of whether or not it shows up on the scoresheet. By looking at the possession numbers, you can certainly make the argument that Tkachuk playing in the NHL is the right spot. In fact among one of the strongest rookie classes in recent NHL memory, he is one of the best possession players.

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We Were Wrong About Bo Horvat

Jackson McDonald
November 03 2016 09:00AM

For a player that's been under the magnifying glass since the age of 16, Horvat remains somewhat of an enigma. His bull-rushes and inside-outside moves have enthralled Vancouverites over the past two years, as he's firmly planted himself in fan favourite territory, but there still seems to be little consensus on just what exactly the Canucks have in the young centreman.

It's pretty clear at this point that the Canucks landed an impact forward when they selected Horvat with their first-round pick in 2013, but over three years later there remains some debate about what his ceiling is, what role he's best suited for, and even what his strengths and weaknesses are. 

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It's time to make a decision on Matthew Tkachuk

Ari Yanover
November 02 2016 10:00AM

Well, there it is: Matthew Tkachuk has officially played nine NHL games. One more, and the first year of his entry-level contract is burnt.

What does he have to show for his professional career so far? 

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