Monday, July 27, 2009

Well kids, what did we learn today?

Duh, I dunno.

That was usually my answer, but I hope the Oilers can get better ones from Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano.

I'd like to look at the 5-on-5 results of these two players over the past two years to see if we can see signs that they're starting to "get it". Actually I think Vic looked at this for Gagner after Year One, but I may have dreamt that. Nevertheless, it's worth looking at now. I don't intend this to be a definitive study but I do have some assumptions and hypotheses that I am working from:

- Assumption: 20 game samples should be large enough to show something, especially if we focus on measures where the numbers are reasonably large like shots and faceoffs. It's still probably not enough but likely the best we can do.

-Hypothesis #1: Both players were really really bad to begin with but have trended upwards ever since.

- Hypothesis #2: They're nearly capable of treading water at 5-on-5 given the typical liberal amounts of protection afforded these types of players. By this I mean favourable starting positions and generally actively seeking easy matchups.

- Hypothesis #3: Gagner is showing better progression than Cogliano at 5-on-5. (I'm just throwing this one out there. To my eye, this is the case but as always the eyes are often deceiving.)

- Important note #1: It might be hard to isolate these two players because they have played together alot - especially in 07/08 - so the last hypothesis will probably the most difficult one to address with much certainty. I could attempt to further look at them with and without each other, but I think that will kill the sample sizes. For the time being, I'm willing to just accept this as a limitation.

- Important note #2: I'm going by games played and I'm not looking at icetime. This could be a big deal, but I'm blatantly avoiding it right now.

First things first, let's get an idea of how sheltered these two players were on the Oilers. Probably the best way to look at this is to check out where they have been starting their shifts relative to the team. Using, I have the Oilers' team faceoff differential (offensive zone minus defensive zone) vs. the starting faceoff zone differential for Gagner and Cogliano for the last two seasons in 20 game increments (22 games in the last one):

Ugh, this team sucked in 07/08. But anyway, Gagner and Cogliano have been sheltered quite a bit as Oilers under Craig MacTavish, particularly to start the 07/08 season. The beginning of that year was crazy - the Oilers were pinned in their zone at 5-on-5 and yet MacT managed to get the kids an even shake. That's no small feat. Now the team is predictably still in the red in this department, but better, and the two players in question still enjoyed sheltering to some degree right up to the present.

Just to support this point a little bit, we can look at the Gabriel Desjardins' Quality of Competition player rankings within the team. Among forwards in 2007-2008, Gagner was 9th and Cogliano was 12th, but they were very close. Meanwhile last year, they moved up to 8th and 9th respectively. I think we can be reasonably confident that MacTavish ensured that they both started their shifts favourably in terms of zone and opposition.

Now for some results:
At least 2007-2008 fits what we might expect and basically what I swear Vic posted last offseason. They were pretty bad to start 2007-2008 but as we can see by the zone shift chart below (which is really just graph 2 minus graph 1, or Shift End Diff. - Shift Start Diff.) these guys were treading water after their first season. It's also interesting to me that although the team's year-end performance in 2007-2008 was pretty unsustainable, the kids did finish off the year at a pretty decent clip. After looking at a decent underlying trend, can we still say MacT was totally nuts for starting to believe the hype a little bit?

Gagner looks pretty reasonable after the first quarter of 2008-2009 by the Zone Shift measure despite all the bad press he was getting because he couldn't buy a goal. His line is pushing the puck forward during the first 20 games of 08/09 and that's a wonderful thing.

However, it appears that Cogliano and Gagner start to deviate at this point last year. Gagner just trends downwards after this point while Cogliano seems to be holding steady. Is this real or some kind of artifact? An injury maybe? I don't know, but it is interesting. There must be some kind of explanation and I'm taking suggestions. Including that there's not much value here.

Lastly, there's the Corsi. Frankly this is kind of all over the place and is also less flattering than the faceoff position data. It really doesn't look like they're getting better by this measure. I think this is probably just an example of how young players don't develop in a linear fashion. Furthermore, it's probably also a good example of how variable the actual level of play can be for players in their first and second years in the league. I imagine that vets see their GF/GA data move around a lot, but their Corsi and faceoffs are probably a little more consistent.


Blogger RiversQ said...

Thanks for posting this Vic. I didn't have the patience to fix it last night so I just pulled it.

7/28/2009 10:56 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

??? I didn't post anything, Riv.

I think it's interesting stuff. I'm trying to remember what happened with these guys over that timeframe; when did they decide they wanted Gagner to play exclusively at centre in 08/09? There were bouts of some strange stuff with Gagner, playing wing with Stoll and Reasoner vs L.A's top line, that sort of thing, in 07/08.

7/28/2009 11:56 am  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Oh weird. I had it sitting as a draft over the weekend and when I posted it last night it went behind your last two posts so I yanked it. Now it's here - weird.

With regard to your comment, I didn't put it in the rambling post but I checked the EV icetime and Cogliano and Gagner played apart way more than I thought in both years. So that could certainly be part of it.

7/28/2009 1:36 pm  
Blogger Showerhead said...

When did Gagner start playing with Cole this past year? It's odd that at the 20 game mark his performance goes south because I thought that was roughly the same time they were united. Maybe I saw Cole a little bit good but there looked to me to be a guy who got the puck moving in the right direction pretty often and I thought it might be reflected in Gagner's zone time.

A few thoughts, in maybe a random order:
Fascinating to see just how clearly the kids were sheltered, especially early on in their careers. I don't see how anyone in their right minds could suggest Edmonton has been trying to win at the expense of their prospects' development. Give those sweet starting spots to Hemsky or some relatively cheap pickups who could beat down the soft parade (I'm thinking the Satan, Sykora, Carter, etc type of player) and I wonder how much better off Edmonton's record would have been.

It's encouraging but also sad that both kids seem so near to being able to tread water. If all goes well they'll be honest to goodness contributors to the winning of hockey games by the end of this season... and while that's great and necessary for them to take the next step and the ones after that... they're going to get paid richly for the combination of their ages and point totals. Frustrating. Is there a way to know how good Gagner would be if he had played junior until now? Maybe the dev time was worth it, and certainly from a PR perspective having an "emerging star" is nice to say... but you guys are right when you point to Edmonton's ticket sales and say that they should be able to afford to do things properly and still fill Rexall, no?

Lastly, the more work people do on Cogliano, the more I want him to remain an Oiler until such a time comes when we know what we've got. It could be quite good at its peak, though I still don't expect Hemsky-esque point totals.

7/28/2009 4:15 pm  
Blogger Jim Philips said...

Those are things that we hope as whole but it is a pity that it isn't becoming true. At least I know where may money is on pph free demo

5/30/2013 11:54 pm  

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