Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Identical: Part II, Linemates

This is an addendum to the post below. Last season Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault seems to have run a social experiment with the Sedins, one that would have made Dr. Mengele proud.

As you can see at David Johnson's terrific EV (even strength) ice time site, Henrik played away from Daniel for 160 minutes last season, and Daniel was away from Henrik for 140 minutes. This also accounts for the slight difference in their ice time on the season, of course.

The same site will also show that during the time that were apart, Henrik played 62 extra minutes with Pyatt, and Daniel played 65 extra minutes with Kesler. Most of this difference in linemate came during a six game stretch near the end of the season, the one that Jonathon pointed out, when Vigneault played the twins primarily on separate lines. 49 of Daniel's 65 extra 'Kesler minutes' came during these eleven days in March.

Over this time Henrik played mostly with Pyatt, and Daniel played mostly with Kesler. Daniel and Henrik were reunited at times, not much in the first three games (all wins), but they played a bunch together late in the last three games. The Canucks desperately needed a goal, presumably, so Vigneault loaded up one line.

The quality of competition looks to be fairly similar. It appears that no coach in this league is interested in having a Sedin play against their depth forwards or bottom defense pair. If anything Daniel and Kesler seem to have played tougher minutes, as evidenced by more time on ice with Willie Mitchell (41 minutes for Daniel to 32 minutes for Henrik). Granted, much of that came in Phoenix, where Kesler/Daniel played a lot more minutes at evens than any other VAN line, and most of it against Doan/Vrbata/Jovo. Henrik played against Michalek/Ballard a bunch. I still have no idea what Gretzky is doing down there, btw, but whoever he has running the defense from the bench would seem to be switched on.

In terms of faceoffs at EV, both Sedins were neutral. Daniel was on the ice for two more in his own end of the rink than the other end. Henrik had one more offensive zone draw than the defensive zone variety. Again, a slight edge to Daniel, in terms of difficulty of ice time.

So for the most part here, Vigneault isolated teammate quality as a variable during this stretch. And Pyatt just might be the most fortunate bugger around, the worst EV+/- +14 player ever, and a coach-loved guy who drives EV results off a cliff like Matt Greene, Wayne Primeau and at least a dozen other inexplicable NHLers. And Kesler really is as good as he looks on the ice, not a lot of finish though.

Pro-rate Daniel's numbers from this stretch, where Kesler doesn't appear to be much of a step down from Henrik, and his twin takes some of the pressure off in terms of opposition quality, at the very least the best defense pair, plus he affords Daniel more ice time against weaker opponents (with both Sedins on one line, you can control them more, with them separate ... inevitably one or the other ends up there out against your dregs on occasion).

Prorated Daniel ends up, and this is at EV only:
EV Goals: 59
EV+/-: +40
Shots+/-: +475
Fenwick +/-: +733
Corsi +/-: +772**

Now obviously it's a small sample (six games) and the bounces be the bounces, so 59 goals at evens, shattering Gretzky's mark, well that just isn't realistic. But with his historic ability to finish at a high rate at evens, 50 EV goals (which would be second only to Wayne, surely, and in a lower scoring era) is really attainable. And with Luongo behind him, an EV+/- of +60 is realistic. That's Bobby Orr/Wayne Gretzky country. And with any kind of PP year at all, he would be the runaway winner of the Hart trophy, with a closely contested battle for silver between Iginla, Ovechkin and Zetterberg.

And Vancouver fans would be arguing for recognition of Daniel's place amongst the best to have ever played the game, and clamouring for the trade of Henrik, he with Stoll/Reasoner-bad numbers, and would be willing to accept a bag of pucks in return in idiotic trade proposals on radio talk shows and message boards everywhere.

And this is nothing compared to the pro-rated horror of Henrik in the other 76 games, when for about one shift a game he gets the additional own zone shift against quality, and with terrible linemates. That's to follow, when I find time.

My point, and I do have one, is that context matters. A lot. In many cases, if not most, it matters more to the counting numbers than the player's ability does. If you choose to ignore it, you do so at your own peril.

** Corsi number, which include shots directed at net which were blocked, is probably not a good measure for the Sedins. Best to stick with Fenwick+/- for small samples of games, and as with anyone, shots+/- for large samples, and goals +/- if you have a few seasons lumped together. When either one of the Sedins are on the ice, the Canucks are more likely to get a shot blocked than block a shot, which makes sense, anyone who has seen them play a game sees how they own the puck. But it's not there in the right measure for them, they get very few shots blocked relative to the amount of meaningful puck possession that they bring, so Fenwick+/- (shots directed at net, on-goal + missed-shots) is fairer for them and the cycling game that they often play imo.


Blogger Jonathan said...

Vic: You really don't seem to like Pyatt, and I'm a little curious. He's had nice numbers against good competition two years running (albeit with good linemates), so is there more to the picture beyond these chunks he's played with Henrik? I'm not prepared to write off a guy based on six games, so I'm just wondering what leads you to lump him in with guys like Primeau/Greene.

9/24/2008 1:38 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

He's riding the coattails IMO, Jonathon. Plus it meshes with what I see, in admittedly few VAN games watched, so it's easy for me to accept without bothering to dig deeper.

Good players still do well when they play with Pyatt, but they do better when they aren't. And when he's away from the Sedins he's a sinkhole.

I mean when Horcoff was on the Oilers fourth line they were the best 4th line in the league (save a stretch where a deep San Jose squad had Cheechoo and Sturm on the 4th unit in the same era). It doesn't necessarily show up on the stats sheet, and the WOW!-factor(TM) is low, but the guy does so many little things well, that inevitably whatever line he is on gets results. And bear in mind that most fourth lines get their asses absolutely kicked.

Then look at Kesler (again I have bias, I run numbers to prove a point, in this case it was that Torres was flat out too good for the AHL during the lockout, and going just by goals, folks on the ice when they happened, and creating more than you gave back, Torres was 4th in the league iirc. Spezza and Staal were a mile ahead, and Kesler, Torres and McAmmond in a lump just behind. Now Torres was obvious to the eye, and MacAmmond was a real, proven NHLer so you can't be too impressed. But I'd never even heard of Kesler (I'm not a prospophile), and he was the bomb.

Not enough goals-for really ... but everything seemed to happen against the other team's outscorers, and you're either damn lucky, or you own the puck a lot, to get those kinds of results. Plus it speaks volumes about the coach's faith in the player.

So I have bias, but with reason. Plus he's really hard to play against.

Pyatt, not so much.

9/24/2008 2:08 pm  

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