Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gimme Shelter

In this corner of the internet there are two terrific posts discussing Sam Gagner. In the first link, Tyler points out that Gagner has not been playing difficult opposition, and that he starts his shifts with offensive zone faceoffs far more often than in his own end. Both of which are true and relevant, in my opinion.

Prior to the season, during the Oilers' visit to Jasper, MacTavish discussed the kid line. He said that opponents can match up against one line, but it's very difficult to do that with two lines. And he thought that the Horcoff/Hemsky line would draw the attention of the other team's coach, leaving the kid line to face softer opposition. He actually used the words "softer opposition", which is probably why this stuck with me. Coaches talk about hard minutes, tough ice time, players who play a lot against the other team's best players, etc. Obviously the opposite exists, it is obvious to the eye, plus simple logic says it must. It's rare to hear any coach besides Randy Carlyle address it so frankly, though.

Anyhow, it has been pretty obvious in a lot of Oiler road games that the opposing coach has been jonesing to get his best forwards out against the kids. MacTavish has done a pretty good job avoiding it, but on the road there is only so much you can do. Often he just has had to accept the matchup, and try to give the kids a head start by beginning the shift with and offensive zone draw, or with the Oilers in solid possession of the puck.

Now the upside is that if Arnott is being run at the kids in Nashville, well that chunk of ice time vs his line won't be played against Horcoff's line, so they should do a bit better. And a guy like Gagner should do much better on home ice, where he can be sheltered. And though all players should be expected to do better on home ice, players who can log tough ice time and do well with it ... well the home numbers aren't going to be so much better for them. They probably play better at home, but see tougher ice time there as well.

So for Horcoff, he has a corsi +/- of +54 on the road, and +15 at home. That makes sense, he plays tough minutes, and he's good enough at it that other coaches generally don't like the match-up with their own best players.

On a per-game basis, that's +4.7/game on the road, and +1.5/game at home. For a difference of -3.2. That is shown in the chart below, as are the other Oilers.

We should see the best players near the top, complete players, the guys who can play power vs power and have success. And we should see the weaker players near the bottom, guys with narrower skill sets who need shelter from good opposition to have success.

I think that for the most part we see that here. I expected Horcoff and Visnovsky to be near the top, and Cole to outshine Penner by a wide margin by this measure, so it passes the sniff test. Of course there is surely a lot of randomness in there, and some practical reasons as well (relative health and linemates at home and away, etc.).

Still, there is a pretty strong indication of who is getting sheltered when MacTavish has last change. The surprises for me are Pouliot on the positive, and Brodziak and Moreau on the negative. And whenever something seems irrational on a MacTavish team, we follow the sound of the cowbell. Brodziak has a much better faceoff percentage at even strength than Pouliot (all players should be expected to have worse SH faceoff percentages of course, with fewer players on the wall to win the scrum if the puck goes there). Hopefully we see Pouliot taking the Carbonneau path soon, he's just a better hockey player than Brodziak I think. I'm not going to bother wasting my hope energy on a Moreau demotion to the fourth line, though, because it just won't happen. But you can do that if you want.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Scoring Chances So Far

This is a graphical presentation of the scoring chances for the Oilers this season at even strength, as recorded by Dennis and summed by Scott. This is up to and including the home game vs Dallas, but does not include the game in St. Louis.

The blue bars represent the scoring chance +/- per hour. So for every hour of even strength (EV) play that Visnovsky has been on the ice, the Oilers have generated 3.8 more scoring chances than they've surrendered. So far this season, at EV the Oilers have scored about one goal per seven scoring chances.

The red bars are the Corsi+/- rates for the players (+/- of all shots directed at net), which serves as an indication of the end of the rink in which the player is spending more of his ice time. I suspect that the true value for most players is living somewhere between the ends of the blue and red bars.

The guys who have the better chances to shots rate (i.e. drive shot quality) are Brodziak, Strudwick, Cogliano, Moreau and Staios. Excepting Cogliano, that's presumably largely because they are spending much time in their own end, so a greater share of their few on-ice chances are coming in transition. Skill and the inevitable bounces obviously come into play as well. On the whole everyone is bunched really close at this, however, and I suspect they will become even more tightly grouped as the season wears on.

And as with all hockey stats, they have little value if context is ignored. The quality of line mates and opposition, as well as the situations in which they were sent over the boards, these are obviously huge factors in any hockey player's results.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Just Saying...

Staios is getting killed around the Oilogosphere these days, but here's an interesting tidbit:

Steve Staios for the season:
EV+/-: +11/-12
Fenwick: -60
Corsi: -73

Steve Staios playing with Oilers who did not attend St. Francis Xavier:
EV+/-: +6/-3
Fenwick: +3
Corsi: -3

Now I give you his best buddy, the pride of 163rd St:

Jason Strudwick overall:
EV+/-: +5/-10
Fenwick: -84
Corsi: -96

Strudwick playing strictly with Oilers that lack the Macedonian fighting spirit:
EV+/-: +0/-1
Fenwick: -23
Corsi: -28

Now, there are all kinds of mitigating circumstances here. There's no icetime and surely the forwards in front of them are having a lot to say about the results here as well. (Just to save people from bothering to check there doesn't appear to be anything in the faceoffs to explain this - as a pair they're even to start shifts and finish -26, which is pretty terrible. That would make them right around even without each other.)

However, since I've been dying to post an Ambiguously Gay Duo themed topic here, I'll make a lame attempt at a mangled metaphor and say it sure looks like there are well-defined pitching and catching roles in the 24/43 pairing.

(Just in case no one is familiar with the pic, the "A" stands for Doug "Ace" Weight and the "G" is for Guerin.)