• The One Percent

    by  • October 31, 2011 • Uncategorized • 11 Comments

    If, like me, you think Time on Ice is a fantastic website and you have some computer skills, pop into Vic’s thread about making an FAQ and improving the front end.

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    It’s tough to know what, exactly, to make of the Oilers’ start. The usual red flags are being raised about the rock on which their record is built – 7-2-2 is great, 7-2-2 while being outshot and relying on unsustainable goaltending is less so. With that said, they’ve been torched shotwise in two games and one of those was against one of the best possession teams in the league (Washington) while the other was the second half of a back to back, played at altitude.

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    As has been noted in a number of places, Tom Renney is really matching lines this year. (Data is pre-Blues game.) He’s not only matching lines against other lines but he’s matching lines against places on the ice. Jordan Eberle (66.7%), Taylor Hall (64.4%), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (62.5%), Ryan Smyth (32.5%), Ryan Jones (30.1%), and Shawn Horcoff (27.7%) all have notable ratios of faceoffs in the offensive zone to faceoffs in the defensive zone. The chart at left is a summary of data from the last four years relating to faceoff ratio, based on the 1209 forwards to have played at least 40 games and 10 minutes a night. So, for example, just .7% of players have had between 65% and 70% of their faceoffs in the offensive zone.

    You can see, therefore, that Renney’s running is at the edges of what’s been accomplished in the NHL over the past four years. Just 1.7% of players have had 35% or fewer of their faceoffs in the offensive zone – Smyth, Jones and Horcoff would all join that group if Renney ran his bench this way for the rest of the year. On the flip side of that, only 5.3% of players have had 60% or better of their faceoffs in the offensive zone – Eberle, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins are all on pace to join that group. In fact, the groups of three both have a decent shot at being in the most favourable and least favourable 1% in terms of faceoff starts, respectively – the cutoff is currently at around 65.4% on the fun end and 33.2% on the hard end – four of them would qualify if trends hold. This is a remarkable turnaround from the past couple years, where it appeared that the coaches basically just opened the gates, like a father coaching an atom house team.

    The third column in the table above is the average percentage of the shots taken by the various groups when they’re on the ice. So, for example, guys who enjoy between 65% and 70% of the offensive zone faceoffs have averaged 56.7% of the shots over the past four years; guys who are on the ice for between 25% and 35% offensive zone faceoffs average about 46% of the shots. It’s a pretty big structural difference and presumably explains a lot of the shot numbers for those players, as are set out below:

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    There’s a ton of fascinating things going on from a coaching perspective, and some worrying things as the Oilers play ten of their next twelve on the road. Some graphs:

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    I’ve defined “best players” as Iginla, J. Staal, M. Koivu, Ovechkin, Stastny, D. Sedin, Gaborik, Arnott and Legwand. Your mileage may vary.

    So what does this tell us? The young fellows have been absolutely torched in their limited road sample to date, getting around 30% of the shots when they’re on the ice. When they’re at home, they’ve been sheltered to a level that I don’t recall ever seeing before – I was fiddling around with Darcy Hordichuk’s numbers from last year after he made his silly comment about hitting the Sedins (despite not really being allowed on the ice against guys like the Sedins) and his sheltering wasn’t that extreme. They’re basically playing in a different, lesser league than Horcoff/Smyth/Jones, who have faced what you could quite fairly call an Olympian level of competition so far.

    The next twelve games will tell us a lot, I think, about whether the Oilers are going to be in the playoff discussion this year. It’s going to be absolutely fascinating to see whether the young guys continue to get destroyed on the road and the extent to which Renney is going to be able to protect them. I would expect that he’ll get into a pattern of throwing them over the boards every time the opposition’s first line comes off, something that, outside of Minnesota, he’s had some luck in doing so far. The Oilers have played so few road games to date that you can’t really conclude anything yet. By the end of November, we should have a much better idea as to how things are likely to play out.

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    11 Responses to The One Percent

    1. passive voice
      October 31, 2011 at

      Great title. Quick question: “shots”=shots on net, or are there blocks/misses/both thrown in?

    2. David Staples
      October 31, 2011 at

      Excellent commentary.

      My take is that RNH looks to have a good stick on defence, but Hall and Eberle weren’t particularly strong on defence last season.

      Best strategy might be for Renney to tell the kids to go gangbusters on offence in these road games, try to make up on attack what they’re going to give up on defence, and not get too worried about what they give up on defence. Give them the old: ‘Have some fun, score some goals, do your best on ‘D,’ this is all a work in progress.’

      It’d be a mistake to overreact if the kids flub it defensively on the road, as they may well do.
      Heck, if that happens, these kids might be bumped down by Quinn and Debrusk from their status as the team’s #1 line.

      P.S. It will also be interesting to see if Horc-Smyth-Jones can make more hay while the sun shines on the road.

      • dawgbone
        October 31, 2011 at

        He’s got a very good stick defensively, but he loves to hang back and swoop in and steal the puck. Not sure how long that’s going to work for him.

    3. David Staples
      October 31, 2011 at

      I also like your way of figuring out Qualcomp here. It’s subjective, but it’s the best of the alternatives, IMO.

    4. Saj
      October 31, 2011 at

      Nice digging. So our offensive “kid” line combined with Renney’s sheltering could result in us having a wide spread between our home and away records. I wonder if it could also lead to lower GF and GA than otherwise, because our best faceoff guys are played in our own end and our worst faceoff guys are placed in the offensive zone faceoffs (though maybe this overstates the importance of the draws on GF/GA – I don’t know).

    5. Julian
      October 31, 2011 at

      Nice job with the charts.

      Can anything really explain the difference in coaching strategies between last year and this? It’s the same damn coach, and same assistant coaches, right? So…. WTF? To go from no sort of matching or zone-faceoff strategies to this? Is it just that there is now a cut-and-dried sheltered line and power line? The only other answer seems to be that Renney just didn’t care at all about winning last year.

    6. Adam D
      October 31, 2011 at

      Julian:

      The fix was in last year and Renney was a part of it, it’s pretty clear. Running his forwards like a waltz, starting Khabibulin again and again and again and again.

      Renney line matched in NY as well, although not to the degree he has so far this season.

    7. Adam D
      October 31, 2011 at

      Also, I would be interested to find out a bit more specific information.

      IE, I’m a lot less concerned if Renney is running RNH against, say, David Legwand, than I am against Alex Ovechkin.

    8. gogliano
      October 31, 2011 at

      Any thoughts on the new D and how it fits in to all of this? The defense are getting some early praise (Potter has looked like a godsend) but V. Ferrari liked to point out prior to the season — an Oiler’s oracle, really — that we’ll over-estimate the D this year because of how good the forwards are likely to be this season.

      Is your focus on the two forward lines an endorsement of the Ferrari/forwards-drive-the-bus line?

    9. RiversQ
      October 31, 2011 at

      Nice post Tyler. I think you’re right about the percentages and the road matchups. The SV% for the kid line is particularly damning.

      It’s too much to ask for, but it would be great to see 50 games of Hemsky from here on out. That either forces the opposition to worry more about the top line (94-10-83) than chasing the kids which makes Renney’s matchup for him or it allows him to put together three lines with at least two proven ES players on each line plus the kid line.

    10. FastOil
      October 31, 2011 at

      I think we are watching a reveal of the internal machinations of a pro sports team. Renney is the same coach he was last year. The lack of line matching last year has an obvious conclusion.

      Many bemoaned the lack of acquisitions to bolster the team this year outside of Belanger. I believe what has happened is that Sutton, Potter, Smyth, Khabi and the rookies have had such a good start that it has surprised management. There is no reason to drag the body off the ground this year. As stated it likely won’t last, but for me the bigger concern is finishing too high.

      I want to win, but after so much crap hockey, let’s not be premature. One more good haul, then go. There is much TBD from our current youth group, so let’s add another high end first and second before the tap turns off.

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