Saturday, August 26, 2006

Hemsky And Horcoff

Since the thread below has descended into Canuck talk, I thought I'd take a kick at this here.

Questions of the day: Who was driving the results? Why does Horcoff have so many goals-against when he isn't playing with Hemsky?

There are different things we all see in the games, it probably depends on our backgrounds and the positions we played. Personally, I get more pissed off with turnovers at the blue lines than most Oiler fans, so my opinion on Hemsky is probably not as favourable. Anyhow, an attempt to understand follows, and since my memory isn't nearly good enough on it's own (despite the fact that I often think that it is) I dug a little deeper.

Hemsky and Horcoff on the ice together:

Well, we started the season with Smyth-Horcoff-Dvorak as the line that carried the mail. The played almost every 5on5 shift vs Sakic in Game1 and almost every shift against Naslund in Game2 until Smyth was hurt.

Then there was the ill advised spate of Rita with 10-20 in SoCal ... until MacTavish came to his senses midway through the L.A game and shifted Pisani up there on his offwing. And that trio played against Iggy in the next one and Modano in the one after (Tippet was trying to avoid it though) until Horcoff injures his shoulder in a play I never did see.

Horcoff and Smyth are both back in the lineup quickly, though probably still hurt. MacTavish, true to form, pretends they are both fit, marches them out there against Sakic's line in the first game and they get kicked around by Joe's line. MacT does the same in COL the next one (Q seems to be avoiding the matchup as well by my eye, srange shit ... does he not realize these guys are walking wounded?). And by the time they hit DAL in the next one MacTavish finally decides he has to go with Peca vs Modano and he bumps Hemsky in with 10/94 to take softer minutes. I remember RiversQ crediting MacTavish for getting such a clean matchup with Peca-Modano on the road. Personally I think Tippet just hadn't figured it out, so he was happy to take that matchup. (BTW: Tippet's pre-game interview on TV before the next game in DAL about 2 weeks later was quirky ... almost a wink and a nudge with a "we think we have a good read on their strengths and weaknesses right now ;) " ... he ran Modano at the 94-10-83 line right from the opening faceoff and that trio got their asses absolutely owned. Clearly Horcoff and Smyth weren't back up to snuff just yet, and wouldn't be for a while.)

Okay, all that previous bit was just from memory, but I'm confident that nobody can prove me wrong on that stuff. It was just all so interesting the way that it was shaking out at the time that it has stuck with me, and I'm sure that the Oiler fans that notice this sort of thing are going to agree.

I think that this second game in DAL, the one where they got thumped, that probably coloured my opinion of Hemsky a bit too. Perhaps unfairly, perhaps not.

In any case, up until the first game in DAL, game 11 of the Oiler's season. Hemmer hadn't played much with Horcoff. According to the shift charts, during the first 90 minutes of icetime that Hemsky got in the 05/06 season ... only 2 minutes of it were with Horcoff. But from this point on, up to the shift in philosophy in Game81, Hemsky would play about 88% of his 5on5 icetime with Horcoff, and Horcoff played more at 5on5 so the percentage of his 5on5 icetime with Hemsky (78%) over this significant stretch. And at 4on4 Hemmer played mostly with Peca (just by memory, I don't think we need to check that.)

Horcoff's extra icetime without Hemsky wasn't a helluva lot ... but it's a strange mix. For example, he shows only 20 minutes with Stoll. But it's spread out. A whole bunch of games with about 30 seconds, only a couple with as much as a minute, a lot with none at all. They're both centres of course. Same goes for Reasoner, very similar to Stoll in this regard, even though I'm struggling to remember that. And stunningly high event rates ... most of it bad.

And since I'm tired of typing, and I think my wife has probably figured out that I'm not on the internet looking up advice on how to fit hardwood on the stairs ... I'll leave it at that for now. I think you know where this is going anyways. If you need a hint: defensive zone faceoffs. I think I know of a way to rip something compelling here off of the data, just by grabbing the guys that were on the ice 7 seconds after the play-by-play sheet shows a faceoff, that to negate the rounding error in the shiftcharts ... but my theory is that if I walk away and wait ... mudcrutch will eventually do it. So I'll try that first. :-)


Blogger T-Hup said...

Interesting stuff Vic (yes, this is my first post here, I've decided to migrate over and start posting on two Oilers-related fansites....I just couldn't bring myself to enter the fluff-factory that is HFBoards).

ANYWAYS...I've been going over this in my head for the last few weeks, ever since the Sykora signing and a bit before that (when it was looking like the Oilers were going to add PS to their platoon of forwards). There's a lot going on here....and this is proof I'm not just thinking about which defenseman the Oilers should be trying to add to complement Smith on the top-pairing (count me in the "we need another guy" camp on this one).

Ok, here's what I see the likely start-of-season lineup looking like.

EXT: Peterson, ?????

????? = one of Schremp/Mikhnov/Jacques. If I had to bet, I'd say Jacques.

(NOTE: I include Peterson here because I think, if you've got 14 forwards, at least five of them have to be able to play center).

This is my guess with how MacT will attack game one, but some observations:

- Sykora: the way I see it, the guy could be Dvorak with hands. Now I don't know if he's an "outscorer" per se, however the guy spent several years in New Jersey's ultra-defensive system. Maybe he's a better match with Smyth-Horcoff than Hemsky is at even strength? Or does MacT continue Ales' "Trial by Fire" with the idea of creating a Palffy clone out of 83?

- Lupul and Stoll might be the two best shooters among the forwards, corps (OK, Pisani's in this argument too, but let's leave that for a minute), and neither is exactly a guy who's used to playing ultra-soft minutes at this point....therefore, might throwing Hemsky with these two and letting them feast on weaker opposition be the way to go? I don't think you'd want to play such a trio together on the road in a place like San Jose (damn, I still cannot believe that the Samsonov-Stoll-Hemsky line didn't get scorched more often by the Sharks).

- Torres and Pisani look to have some degree of chemistry between the two of them. Reasoner would SEEM to be the natural fit at center, and if circumstances facilitated a 2nd strong even-strength line late in road games, Moreau could quite painlessly slide in on LW here. However, if Pouliot shows the ability to create some offense, might having Reasoner with Moreau and Winchester on the fourth line make more sense? (SIDEBAR: I'm hoping the Leafs are well out of the playoffs come early March and go into sell-mode...I'd LOVE to see Mike Peca brought back here as a deadline rental).

- What IS Brad Winchester's role/upside anyways? Is he only filler material for another seaosn unitl all of Jacques/Mikhnov/Schremp are on the team? Which of those three is the favorite to make the team this year.

So, I conclude we could see two totally different sets of line combinations this year; one for home games and road games against lesser opponents, and one on the road in tougher barns (Calgary, Dallas, etc.) We'll consider only the top 12 forwards for simplicity's sake:

Lineup 1 (home):

Smyth Horcoff Sykora
Lupul Stoll Hemsky
Torres Pouliot Pisani
Moreau Reasoner Winchester

Line 2 gets sheltered heavily, and shuffling to get RPM together late in games happens as required.

Lineup 2 (Tougher Road Games):

Smyth Horcoff Hemsky
Lupul Stoll Sykora
Torres Reasoner Pisani
Moreau Pouliot Winchester

The key here is making sure Hemsky still gets minutes and some degree of "education". Nights like these the Oilers will pretty much roll with 10 forwards, with Moreau getting pretty heavy PK time and possibly sliding on the ice with Reasoner and Pisani for the shift right after an Oiler powerplay.

Man, if they could bring Dvorak back for in the 800k range, and then rent-a-Peca at the deadline, assuming they can make that move (and the inevitable move for another d-man) without giving up any of their top 10 forwards....wouldn't that be sweet? But that's awhile down the road....

8/27/2006 2:11 pm  
Blogger T-Hup said...

Oh yeah, I'm not using the HBomb handle here, and I might not have it on Oilfans much longer either.....

8/27/2006 2:11 pm  
Anonymous Big T said...

I wonder if there is a relatively simple way to remove from Horcoff, Peca, Stoll, etc... defensive zone faceoffs. Seems to me that it's tough to get a good comparison between a forward who has a lot of these d-zone draws to say a Torres, who sees very little of this.

Is this even possible with what the NHL gives us??? Maybe EV+/- for the first 30 seconds of faceoffs in the offensive zone, neutral zone, and defensive zone? Percentage of ice-time or percentage of faceoffs taken in each of these zones? Can anyone see any value there or am I just making this more complicated that it needs to be?


PS - Some seriously interesting conversations happening here while I've been gone. keep up the good work boys and girls!

8/28/2006 11:07 am  
Blogger JavaGeek said...

I wonder if there is a relatively simple way to remove from Horcoff, Peca, Stoll, etc... defensive zone faceoffs. Seems to me that it's tough to get a good comparison between a forward who has a lot of these d-zone draws to say a Torres, who sees very little of this.
It's easier than you might expect...

3 1 00:14 FACE-OFF N/A - VAN won - offensive zone. VAN 7 MORRISON vs CHI 13 ZHAMNOV
Every faceoff is both offensive and defensive....
Offensive zone + Win => VAN = OFFENSIVE-win, CHI = DEFENSIVE-loss.
Defensvie zone + Win => VAN = DEFENSIVE-win, CHI = OFFENSIVE-loss.

There were 826 more offensive wins than losses in the NHL last year (or 1.5%).

HORCOFF: Off 217-184 = 54.1% Def 230-222 = 50.9% Overal: 749-672 = 52.7%
STOLL: Off 311-190 = 62.1% (!) Def 205-194 = 51.4% Overal: 765-583 = 56.8%
REASONER: Off 90-80 = 52.9% Def 80-71 = 53% Overal: 275-249 = 52.5%
PECA: Off 150-128 = 54% Def 166-141 = 54.1% Overal: 575-473 = 54.9%

8/28/2006 2:17 pm  
Anonymous Big T said...

Thanks javageek. That's some great stuff! But is there a way to remove (or just distinguish between) the EV+/- for those short shifts that Horcoff, Peca or even Stoll took in the defensive zone.

What I'm getting at is a simple +/- comparison doesn't do a fair job of distinguishing between those players that log a lot of PP time and no PK time and vice versa. It unfairly rewards those that are on the PP and hurts those that are on the PK... hence EV+/-.

Likewise, a few players on each team are usually singled out to be on the ice during a majority of defensive zone draws due to either their defensive/face-off abilities or just so there are two centres on the ice should one get kicked out. For much of the season those guys were Horc, Peca and Stoll.

As you all know, one of these three would be on for the draw and then get off as soon as the zone was cleared. Basically they were out there for a possible EV- with little or no chance of getting an offsetting EV+ like a normal shift. This had to have some effect on there EV+/-. What I'm hoping could be done would be a further refinement to some how remove these short, negative outcome shifts from a players stats to hopefully paint a better (clearer) picture of his actual contribution to the team.

No doubt this would be difficult, but would something along these lines have some value? Is it fair to compare a winger to a centreman given this discrepency?


8/28/2006 6:00 pm  
Blogger Doogie said...

What I'm getting at is a simple +/- comparison doesn't do a fair job of distinguishing between those players that log a lot of PP time and no PK time and vice versa. It unfairly rewards those that are on the PP and hurts those that are on the PK... hence EV+/-.

That's not true at all. +/- counts only EV and SH events. PP goals count for squat in this stat, thankfully.

9/08/2006 12:57 am  

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