Archive for February, 2013

The final score was certainly not indicative of how Thursday night’s game played out between the Wild and Coyotes. Phoenix ended up with the better Fenwick numbers (23 SOG + 10 MS Wild = 33; 28 SOG + 21 MS Yotes = 49) but to the eye, all their shots were coming from the blue line or the perimeter. Minnesota seemed to be possessing the puck much more than Phoenix, so I’m surprised the numbers came out the way they did. I think part of it is a score effect—to start the third period, the Wild were up 4-1 and Phoenix played very aggressively while Minnesota sat back a bit to end the game.

I tried my hand at tracking scoring chances this evening, and while it was my first effort, I checked them against the PBP after the game:

Period 1 Period 2 Period 3 TOTAL
Minnesota 8 7 2 17
Phoenix 5 3 7 15

7, Cullen–1

9, Koivu–1

10, Setoguchi–1

11, Parise–1

15, Heatley–4

16, Zucker–1

20, Suter–2

21, Brodziak–2

46, Spurgeon–1

63, Coyle–1

96, Bouchard–1

  • Mike Yeo has continued to shake up the lines, going with yet another new combo for tonight’s game: Parise-Koivu-Coyle; Zucker, Cullen, Setoguchi; Bouchard-Granlund-Heatley; Rupp-Brodziak-Mitchell. These lines seemed to work well…Cullen and Setoguchi looked better than they have in some time, and Heatley was being fed good passes in the slot the whole evening. Being able to roll out four lines will help a lot on back-to-back nights like this week, and if the rookies continue to chip in, the Wild’s depth could help them out down the stretch.
  • Nicklas Backstrom’s gave up three goals, but one was a weird redirect off Tom Gilbert’s stick on a strange hop, another was a crazy hop off a dump-in from the red line that took two funny hops, and the third came in the last minute of the game after Phoenix had pulled their goalie. I wrote a while back about watching a Quality Start melt away in front of my eyes, and tonight felt very much the same. Backs has been playing quite well as of late, and tonight’s numbers will drag his recent success down a bit but he has been doing his part to help the team along.
  • Speaking of rookies, Zucker and Brodin are making the most of their minutes. Zucker has three goals so far and Brodin has stepped up to the challenge of playing on the top pair. Only Justin Schultz is skating more minutes per night, and Jo-Bro is not making a lot of mistakes.
  • Not a rookie, but Jared Spurgeon has looked decent since returning from his injury. Pairing Suter with Spurgeon failed miserably, but he is doing alright on the second pairing with Gilbert.
  • The Fox Sports North announcers cited a stat in the first period that they called “Attempted Shots” and it was certainly higher than the shots on goal at the time, so I am curious if they don’t have someone counting Fenwick or even Corsi…I’m going to try to look into it.

I’m not a true believer in momentum, except that the team has been playing better over the last couple of weeks, and they will need to play well as a team to take on the Ducks on Friday. Anaheim is in the “due-for-a-regression” spot that the Wild were in last year, so we’ll see if that starts this week. Backstrom will probably get the night off, so we’ll see if Darcy Kuemper can continue his stellar play and keep the Wild rolling along.

Hockey is a game, and fantasy hockey is a game based around a game (though not a game within a game, that would be Inception!)

In game theory, an important distinction is whether the players have perfect information or imperfect information.

In games with perfect information (chess and checkers are good examples,) all the factors are known by all players. Each player can see all of his opponent’s pieces, and there is no ‘hidden’ information except for the plans and strategies inside the other guy’s head.

In games with imperfect information (most card games, blackjack and poker for example,) some of the factors are unknown by the players, which is where the complexity, the skill, and the intricacies of the game come into play. If everyone knew the dealer’s face down card in blackjack, or what everyone else at the poker table had as their pocket cards, those games would be a lot less fun.

So, do we have perfect information or imperfect information in fantasy hockey? Some would foolishly say it’s the former–they look at the stats for last night’s games or a guy’s production last season, and think it’s perfect information. After all, there’s the numbers right there in black and white, there’s everything that happened in the game, right in the box score. But when I think about how advanced stats like Corsi, PDO, zone starts, and qual comp contribute to fantasy, I think about how they make those boxcar stats look imperfect in an awful hurry. Sure, this guy got that many points, but he did it against really soft competition, or he got some really good puck luck, and those points may not really be an accurate reflection of his skill or a predictor of how many points he can put up going forward.

But on the other side of the coin, fantasy doesn’t care about a player’s QoC or his PDO…goals are goals. Let me clarify: if you drafted Patrick Marleau or Thomas Vanek this season, you got yourself a whole heap of goals in the first few games of the season, and you almost certainly won your first couple matchups. Whether those goals came on ridiculously high shooting percentages (they did) or came easier because of favorable zone starts (they did,) they still counted. Last April, I got myself on board the Pascal Dupuis express during my fantasy playoffs, and I enjoyed a nice little hot streak, to the tune of around a point per game over a couple weeks. Did I know that production was unsustainable? Certainly. Did I keep sending him out there night after night? You’re damn right I did! But I digress…

The point I’m trying to make is that the role of more sophisticated stats (or advanced stats, or underlying stats, or fancy stats, or whatever you want to call them, ultimately it doesn’t really matter) is to provide more *context* to a hockey player’s production. And in fantasy, that context can be supremely helpful. It can give us strong signals on whether to buy low or sell high on a team or player, and those signals (if we choose to heed them) can give us a leg up on our competition who is ignorant to even basic stuff like individual Sh%.

These stats don’t give us perfect information, by any means. No self-respecting stat guy (or gal) would tell you that. And we as a community are constantly trying to improve our methods, to develop new numbers and metrics that are meaningful and useful and not downright crazy (if you’re plugged in to the #fancystats community on Twitter, you may have heard about the paper that got accepted to the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference that makes that case that Alexander Steen is one of the most important players in the league. But I digress again…)

Bottom line: in fantasy hockey, we are dealing with imperfect information. But the value of Corsi and Fenwick and the usage charts and all that is that they give us slightly *less imperfect* information. One step closer to knowing when the dealer is about to flip over that suicide king, or that the guy on the button is working with deuce-seven offsuit.


^^The podcast is embedded in this page. Click the play button above to begin streaming, or click here to download an .mp3 file.

Today I interview one of my favorite hockey researchers, Rob Vollman of Hockey Prospectus and Hockey Abstract. Rob has developed a number of great tools and stats that have become a major part of the hockey analytics community.

“A good hockey stat first of all has to be useful.”

“The real achievement is to take something that’s complex and make it simple.”

LINKS:

Hockey Abstract

Rob’s personal page where he puts all his work. This site is a wealth of information–everything from Quality Starts to “Oz Coke charts” (AKA player usage charts) to historical comparisons. Your one-stop-shop for Vollman’s writing.

Hockey Prospectus

Another great site with a ton of great hockey writing from a bunch of today’s smartest minds.

>>E-mail me your fantasy hockey questions at hashtaghockey [at] gmail [dot] com, and follow me on Twitter, @Hashtag_Hockey

I’m working on a cool feature looking at the Wild using some new “puck hog” metrics, but in the mean time I wanted to look at some team-level stats and broaden it to the Western Conference. It’s still early in the season…but with the compressed schedule the timeframes get out of whack. With around a quarter of the schedule in the books, some teams that might be outperforming their true talent might be accumulating enough points in the bank that if they do regress, they could still get a bit of home-ice advantage come playoff time. And on the other hand, with a smaller sample size than usual, the “laws” of regression may not even take effect!

Anyway, what I wanted to do tonight is look at the Western Conference standings (current as of Wednesday, 2/20) and compare them to some team-level rate stats: shots for and against at even strength, and particularly Fenwick ratio. Fenwick has been shown to be a great indicator of a team’s level of play, and accurately predicted the Wild’s demise and the Kings’ surge last season alone.

It is generally accepted that the effects of home ice are less in hockey than other sports. But I still like to look at the numbers (why do people climb mountains? because they’re there…why do I analyze home/road splits? because they’re there!) On the other hand, it’s a little dicey to take a small sample and split it into even smaller samples…I heard on #MvsW the other day that the Kings have played just like 4 home games and 9 road games so far, so appropriate grains of salt necessary here. Having said that, on with the chlorophyl!

(Friendly reminder, if you need a refresher on what Fenwick is, head to my stats glossary.)

Table 1. Western Conference Fenwick Close with Home/Road Split

ss 2-20-13 west conf standings fen close

Table 2. Western Conference 5v5 Shots For and Shots Against per 60 minutes

ss 2-20-13 west conf standings sf sa 60

The Best

The Blackhawks and the Canucks are prettay…prettay…prettay good. Expert analysis there, good night everybody! It’s no surprise to me to see that Chicago and Vancouver have almost identical home and road Fenwick rates–great teams play just as well on the road as at home. The Anaheim Ducks are the darlings of the conference so far, and why not? Everyone likes a feel-good story, and the Ducks are loaded with them, from the Boudreau redemption story to the timelessness of Teemu Selanne to the Viktor-Fasth-as-Randy-Quaid-in-that-movie-about-the-old-rookie, there’s narratives flying all over the place. But notice that Anaheim is getting outshot at even strength, and their Fenwick rates are below 50%, and not just barely either. They’re the only team that has a better road Fen close than home…an anomaly most likely but still interesting and worth monitoring. The Nashville Predators are another team that’s rife with storylines, and they are at the league cellar for shots, but dang it all if they aren’t right there in fourth place. Shea Weber seems to be snapping out of his funk, and Pekka Rinne is doing Pekka Rinne things so we’ll see how long he can carry that team. San Jose is in that classic spot where they’re not really as good as they looked for the first two weeks of the season (hi Patty) but not as bad as they have looked for the most recent two weeks, so to be honest I’m just going to set them aside and see what they look like in a couple more weeks. For now, they’re still on top of the Pacific division and their Fenwick rates don’t show anything to panic over. I’m not a Niemi believer, though, so we’ll see where this team winds up.

The Bubble

“The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry when both your goalies get injured.” –Steinbeck. The Blues are putting up eye-popping Fenwick rates, particularly at home, but if the netminder can’t stop pucks, none of that matters. I learned last year not to dismiss the Coyotes, but they aren’t looking like a team that can get to the conference finals again. Kari Lehtonen is a great goalie…when he’s not injured. When healthy, he covers up a lot of their deficiencies, but when he’s out, the cracks in the armor start to show up real quick. Detroit still has as much firepower as any team out there but they’re not getting any younger, and if Jimmy Howard misses time, the Wings will have to work that much harder at winning those 5-4 games. What to say about the Wild…you can only watch so many games where you hear the commentator say, “Parise fires the team’s first shot on net here, twelve minutes into the period” before you start to wonder what it will take to get this thing turned around. I didn’t delude myself into thinking that the additions of two All-Stars would erase all the team’s problems but I had sort of hoped they would figure out a way to get a couple more shots per game.

The Rest

I know we’d all rather just continue to repress all our lockout memories, but I distinctly recall a team down in Oklahoma City that was ripping the AHL a new one. Ah, those were the days. The Oilers have got some great puzzle pieces, but it’s hard to score goals when you’re skating backwards. Devan Dubnyk has been inconsistent, but when he’s on his game, he has looked great. I keep saying the Kings will be fine, buy low on the Kings. But they keep losing, and sooner or later they have to string together some wins if they want to get back in this thing. They are showing great possession numbers, and their shots allowed are lowest in the league, but Quick needs to start stopping some pucks like he did last year. I’m still confident that they will be fine, but if they’re not careful they might run out of time. The Avalanche are just a mess. They had a really good thing going last year with Landeskog and the rest, and this year they’ve managed to piss it all away. Side note: have you seen some of Ryan O’Reily’s dad’s tweets? The dude is on this big crusade about how psychiatric medications are an evil plot by scientists, and schizophrenia isn’t a real thing and on and on and on. We’re talking Tom-Cruise-on-Oprah-level here. Calgary needs to admit they’re in a rebuilding phase–I’d do it like a band-aid and get it over with, but that’s just me. I think I’m actually buying into the Blue Jackets right now…they’ve got something like three first round picks next year, they’ve got a new GM and they didn’t get as much in return for Rick Nash as a lot of people thought they should have, but I think this franchise is starting to find its way out of the woods. It’s unfortunate when a team is playing for next year so early in the season, but rebuilding is a process, not an event.

To sum it all up, I think the Hawks and Nucks are for real, the Ducks are surprising everyone and while I’m not rooting for them to regress, their underlying stats might catch up with them. Nashville is in the same boat with their low number of shots, and the fifth seed through about the eleventh seed are just a few points apart, so I’ll want to see what the bubble teams do in the next month or so before guessing which of them are playoff contenders.

Thanks for reading, make sure to check out my fantasy hockey podcast, and shoot me an e-mail at hashtaghockey [at] gee mail [dot com and follow me on Twitter, @Hashtag_Hockey


^^Podcast is embedded in this post. Click here to download the .mp3 file.

Can’t wait to get on iTunes so I don’t have to embed the files! I’m this close too, there appears to be a problem on the iTunes side…waiting to hear back from their tech support >_>

A player spotlight podcast today, with a twist: I did a top-10 list of forwards and defensemen by CorsiOn (min 10 GP). Talked a bit about how underlying stats like Corsi don’t always illuminate how well a player might do for fantasy, and gave lots of examples. For reference he’s the list.

Defense

  • 10. Davis Drewiske (LA) 16.4, (1+2=3), +1, 4 PIM, 8 SOG, 13:46, 6.9% on ice
  •  9. Dennis Wideman (CGY) 17.5, (3+6=9), -1, 4 PIM, 33 SOG, 24:53, 7.5%
  •  8. Paul Postma (WPG) 18.8, (1+4=5), -2, 2 PIM, 17 SOG, 16:04, 7.1%
  •  7. Zdeno Chara (BOS) 19.2, (2+3=5), +2, 14 PIM, 31 SOG, 25:29, 9.5%
  •  6. Johnny Boychuk (BOS) 19.3, (1+1=2), +3, 6 PIM, 22 SOG, 20:33, 10.9%
  •  5. T. J. Brodie (CGY) 19.6, (0+4=4), +4, 0 PIM, 11 SOG, 17:57, 9.1%
  •  4. Erik Karlsson (OTT) 23.0, (6+4=10), +6, 8 PIM, 63 SOG, 27:04, 5.8%
  •  3. Marc Methot (OTT) 23.6, (0+3=3), +1, 14 PIM, 14 SOG, 22:22, 7.0%
  •  2. Slava Voynov (LA) 26.8, (2+4=6), +6, 2 PIM, 24 SOG, 21:41, 7.7%
  •  1. Alec Martinez IR (LA) 29.7, (1+1=2), +/- 0, 4 PIM, 14 SOG, 18:56, 5.4%

Forwards

  • 10. Anze Kopitar (LA), 25.4, (4+4=8), +/-0, 8 PIM, 19 SOG, 20:55, 6.1% on ice
  •  9. Eric Fehr (WAS), 26.4, (3+2=5), +/-0, 4 PIM, 13 SOG, 9:15 ATOI, 13.3%
  •  8. Brad Marchand (BOS), 26.5, (7+1=8), +4, 4 PIM, 16 SOG, 16:40, 8.6%, (43.8%)
  •  7. Tyler Seguin (BOS), 26.8, (2+5=7), +8, 6 PIM, 37 SOG, 17:39, 11.2%
  •  6. Patrice Bergeron (BOS), 27.4, (2+5=7), +6, 4 PIM, 44 SOG, 18:43, 7.3%
  •  5. Jeff Carter (LA), 28.8, (6+1=7), -2, 6 PIM, 31 SOG, 18:34, 7.5% (19.4%)
  •  4. Kyle Clifford (LA), 30.8, (2+5=7), +/-0, 12 PIM, 12 SOG, 11:37 ATOI, 13.4%
  •  3. Henrik Sedin (VAN), 33.1, (0+10=10), +9, 8 PIM, 19 SOG, 20:0 ATOI, 11.3%
  •  2. Daniel Sedin (VAN) 34.1, (4+8=12), +5, 0 PIM, 34 SOG, 19:03 ATOI, 9.1%
  •  1. Justin Williams (LA) 35.7, (1+4=5), +3, 12 PIM, 44 SOG, 16:29 ATOI, 9.0%

Hey! If you like the Hashtag Hockey podcast, check out the NHL Numbers podcast! They’re not on iTunes yet either so in the meantime check out their pod here.

Join me next week when I will have a special guest, fancy stat innovator extraordinaire, Rob Vollman!

In the mean time, send me any show ideas or fantasy hockey questions at hashtaghockey [at] gmail [dot] com and make sure to follow me on Twitter, @Hashtag_Hockey

hashtag hockey podcast logo chiller

Despite notching an assist on the Wild’s only goal of the game last night, the 20-year old Finn who was styled a Wunderkind entering this year has generally looked like he could not shoot his way out of a paper bag. Mikael Granlund has 16 shots on goal in 12 games this year, just 1.33 per game, while his CorsiOn is a capital-D Dreadful -28.60, which ranks ninth-lowest in the league among forwards with more than five games played. While he has looked better the last couple games and might finally be developing some chemistry with fellow member of the -20 corsi club, Devin Setoguchi, Granlund has just looked overmatched and overwhelmed to me this year.

Meanwhile, fellow rookie Charlie Coyle has found himself in the enviable position of skating alongside Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise beginning with just the second game of his career. Coyle has not dented the scoresheet yet and actually has less shots per game than Granlund, just 6 SOG in 5 GP (1.2 shots per game.) Coyle is one of just five Wild forwards with a positive CorsiOn this year (Koivu, Parise, Coyle, Brodziak, Clutterbuck.) Both are getting difficult minutes, with Coyle’s QoC number at a hefty 1.15 and Granlund’s at 0.80. But one thing Coyle is doing better than Granlund is drawing penalties: 3.1 drawn per 60 minutes vs 1.0 taken for Charlie, 0.4 drawn, 0.8 taken per 60 for Mikael.

Like a lot of folks, coming into this season I thought Granlund wouldn’t have much trouble adapting to the NHL game–he had played at a high level in one of the toughest European leagues for several years, and showed promise in the AHL before getting injured. Now I’m wondering what factors may be contributing to his poor start to his Minnesota career. The rinks are a different size in the SM-liiga, bigger than the NHL but smaller than Olympic size if my research is correct…but Granlund played a number of games with Houston during the lockout so that’s probably not it. I’m starting to wonder if his role as a playmaker and his lack of size and defensive skill aren’t a great match in Mike Yeo’s system. While Coyle gets to skate with All-Stars and his direction is pretty much, “hey kid, shoot the puck when they pass it to you,” Granlund is responsible for setting up guys and creating chances, and thinking three moves ahead in the NHL chess game has got to be tougher than the AHL or the liiga. Plus, Coyle has gotten his assignment and stuck with it, while Granlund has skated a few games with Cullen, a couple with Bouchard, and even one with Konopka. The constant for 64 has been Setoguchi, who has had an equally dreadful season start though he has shown signs of life lately. I don’t really want to get into a chicken v. egg argument, but Granlund and Setoguchi have been tied together for the first quarter of the season and one figures that if Yeo was going to split them up, he would have done so by now.

I feel like I’ve written a lot about line combos the last few weeks, and my reaction has been…alright yeah, I guess I like that. Sure, that could work too. At the risk of being a broken record, I do like the newest iteration of the Wild’s second line with Dany Heatley rejoining Setoguchi with Granlund as the pivot. Heatley and Gooch played together in San Jose, and again last year on the Wild’s top line. They do seem to have some good chemistry, and let’s face it, Heatley hasn’t resembled a first-liner for three years. I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that his place on the team is on the second unit for a while, so we’ll see how he reacts.

I am trying to remain patient with this team, and Setoguchi in particular, but one can only watch so many games where the team goes 10-minutes at a stretch without putting a shot on goal before wondering when it’s time to give guys like Jason Zucker a shot. We may already be seeing signs of this, as Bouchard and his expiring contract were a healthy scratch last night against the Canucks…you can only roll the dice so many times before you have to get new dice.


^^The podcast is embedded in this post. Click the play button above to begin streaming, or click here to download the .mp3 file.

I’m still working on figuring out how to get the podcast on iTunes, so please bear with me as I get the technical details figured out.

Today, I look around the league and suggest a couple of Anaheim Ducks and New Jersey Devils to pick up, plus a stat toolbox on PDO and a feature on how to make effective trades. Enjoy!

Make sure to follow me on Twitter, @Hashtag_Hockey or e-mail me at hashtaghockey [at] gmail [dot] com.

//

Shake ‘em up, shake ‘em up, shake ‘em up, shake ‘em. Mike Yeo is playing the lineup card like Ice Cube plays craps. He put Mikael Granlund and Devin Setoguchi on the fourth line with Zenon Konopka earlier this week at Phoenix, and while they seemed to respond to his “message,” the team still lost. Now, Yeo is moving Dany Heatley off the top line, to the second line with Bouchard and Matt Cullen, while Charlie Coyle will get time with Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise versus the Canucks. I think this is less of story than it seems to be on its face…Heatley has not played like a top-liner in years, and if Coyle is the guy they want to see next to Koivu and Parise, might as well get him started earlier. The team is floundering so there’s not a lot to lose. Between the line changes and the trade with the Rangers, I like the club’s approach that the status is definitely not quo–they signed Parise and Suter to build a playoff-worthy team and if players aren’t producing, they need to know that their lineup spot is not safe (unless your name is Matt Cullen…)

  •  Cue the sad trombone…the team’s only two players with a positive CorsiOn are Cal Clutterbuck (9.02) and Kyle Brodziak (2.56), and their on-ice Sh% are sub-4%. Womp womp. I honestly think that if Brodziak was having a better year, he may get a look at the 2C spot, but his numbers from the last half-dozen games have been capital-t Terrible.
  •  I do like what my eye has seen from Jonas Brodin so far, and he’s been playing well enough to keep his top-line assignment. Yeo trusts him enough to send him out for DZ-faceoffs (56.9% of the time he’s been deployed in the Wild zone.) He’s also been logging the sheer quantity of minutes that will help him develop, and even a couple on the man advantage.
  •  Mikael Granlund is just lost out there. I can’t really figure it out, he played against top competition in the SM-liiga and tore it up over there, and then looked fine in the AHL during the lockout. Granlund’s CorsiRelQoC is still just a shade under 1.0, so he is getting tested, but he is flunking that test. Mike Russo has written that Granlund may be the “odd man out” with the new line combos, so we might see him as a healthy scratch in the near future. Which would be a shame, but perhaps the kid just needs a little time to get himself together. But he won’t benefit from playing bottom-six minutes alongside Konopka or Rupp, and sending him back to Houston may be the wrong move too, so I sure hope he gets it figured out.
  •  I wonder if Ryan Suter and Shea Weber call each other late at night after practice, “No I miss YOU more,” …”No I miss YOU more,” “No I miss YOU more.”

//


^^^Podcast embedded in this post. Click the play button above to stream the podcast or download the Hashtag Hockey Episode 3 mp3

I recorded today’s podcast at a lower audio quality so apologies in advance if it’s tougher to hear…I’m still getting this figured out.

Today I gave a quick stat workshop where I covered on-ice shooting percent/save percent, offensive zone start percent, and a general description of corsi-based stats.

Links:

www.behindthenet.ca

Your one-stop shop for advanced stats, including all the stats mentioned in today’s podcast.

Behind the net FAQ: 10-part advanced stats tutorial

A great series of articles explaining the advanced stats that I use in my writing and podcasts.

Hashtag Hockey Stats Glossary

A description of the stats written by me

Thanks for checking out the podcast, you can e-mail me at hashtaghockey [at] gmail [dot] com, and make sure to follow me on Twitter, @Hashtag_Hockey

//

weber spurgeon

Did you watch the 30 Rock finale? Do you remember the scene where Liz Lemon gets onto an elevator with Conan O’Brien and she shoots him down, prompting him to wonder when he will ever lose his virginity? I bring this up only because the shot had a weird green-screeny look to it, like they weren’t actually in an elevator but on a stage. My theory on this is that because he’s 6’4″ and she’s 5’5″ they couldn’t actually frame the two of them standing shoulder to shoulder, so they had them do it in front of a screen (these are the things that I think about sometimes…) And the only reason I bring this up at all is because, like a lot of people, I’ve seen Ryan Suter’s lousy Corsi stats and have started to wonder about that huge contract and whether he will be the same player as he was in Nashville…we’ll come back to this later.

After watching the Minnesota Wild beat the Chicago Blackhawks earlier this week, I’m staying cautiously optimistic about the team’s potential this year, but I’m not deluding myself either–they still look like a team that’s developing a number of young players and  building team chemistry. Between the injuries last year, the new faces this year, and the lockout-shortened training camp/lack of preseason, I’m sticking by my it’s-too-early-to-really-know-anything stance. They hung with the Blues and Blackhawks, undoubtedly two of the conference’s better teams, but they also let the Blue Jackets hang around with them, so I’m not too sure what to make of them yet.

Back to Suter. Imagine you start your NHL career paired up with a guy who’s 6’4″ (without skates) and 230 or so pounds. He’s like Leroy Brown–baddest man in the whole damn town. He clears out the crease with the greatest of ease, lays bone-crushing hits, sometimes goes a little too far, and will go toe-to-toe with any opponent. You play your first seven years in the League with this man, your playstyle literally develops alongside his. Then, you get your opportunity to get capital-p Paid so you go to Minnesota, where they pair you up with this guy. Jared Spurgeon is listed at 5’9″ and 185 pounds. If you believe that, I’d love to talk to you about a fantastic real estate opportunity in beautiful northern Minnesota.

Don’t misunderstand me–I like Spurgeon fine. He’s a great skater, he sees the ice well, knows how to make a good pass, and he’s got a knack for getting out from behind his own net and over the attacking blue line in just a few seconds. Plus he’s played for Mike Yeo for a year so he has more familiarity with the system than Suter. I’ve got a special place for Spurgeon in my heart because he’s about the same size as me, and us little guys gots to stick together. But he’s not a top-line NHL defenseman. His game is too one-dimensional to be getting top-pair minutes, and I think it’s clear that Suter and Spurgeon just don’t have the chemistry–probably because if you cloned Spurgeon and duct-taped the two together then doused the double-Spurgeon with water, it would still weigh less than Shea Weber after he’s eaten a double quarter-pounder. Seriously, if you gave him a two-handed axe, Weber would fit right in fighting alongside Qhorin Halfhand and the Watchers on the Wall. But I digress…let’s get to the numbers.

I’ve wanted to do some Wild usage charts for a little while now, and they’re fairly informative but it’s still too early and because Yeo has had the same 12 skaters all year there is a lot of overlap. Check out Rob Vollman’s page describing usage charts if you need a refresher. In short, the X axis here is percent of offensive-zone starts (excluding NZ,) the Y axis is CorsiRel QoC (quality of competition,) and the bubble is CorsiRel, with solid bubbles representing players who see more shots at the opponent while on the ice, and white bubbles representing players who are getting rubber thrown at them. Numbers are current as of 1-31-13, I whipped up these charts before last night’s Anaheim game:

Wild fwd usage 1-31-13

Wild def usage 1-31-13

I wrote earlier this week that I’m happy with the way Mike Yeo is switching up the lines, and that extends to the recent shake-up on the blue line. Suter’s CorsiRel bubble actually overlaps Clayton Stoner’s completely, though it sort of looks like a little Death Star right there on the chart (30 Rock, Game of Thrones, Star Wars–NERD TRIFECTA!) Enter: Jonas Brodin. In a Wild system that’s loaded with prospects, Brodin has earned himself a spot with the big boys, and in just four games, he has impressed the coaching staff enough that it looks like he’ll stick around–plus he and Suter seem to have good chemistry so far. I am going to dig more into the Suter-Spurgeon vs. Suter-Brodin pairings in another article this weekend, though with a podcast still to record and the Super Bowl coming up, I’ll have to find the time somehow.

The top line of Parise-Koivu-Heatley is driving possession for the team and getting an almost exact 50-50 split offensive zone/defensive zone. Koivu and Parise are fantastic 200-ft players, while Heatley is as disinterested in backchecking as I have ever seen in a player. Granlund and Setoguchi are still seeing the toughest competition of anyone on the team, and it’s becoming clear that Granlund just can’t handle it. His numbers are downright lousy so far, and I wonder if Yeo will continue his throw-him-into-the-deep-end approach or if we’ll see a shake-up. I’m just saying, Kyle Brodziak did a fine job centering the second line last year through all the injuries, and Matt Cullen still has a heartbeat. Pierre-Marc Bouchard is getting the sheltered treatment, which is fine by me. He’s been making plays and getting game winners, so just let him do his thing. When Granlund and Bouchard get caught together in the defensive zone, though, it’s just brutal.

I will not overreact to Marco Scandella…I will not overreact to Marco Scandella…I will not overreact to Marco Scandella. But look at that big red bubble! It’s way too small a sample, only three games included here, but that’s an OZ St% of 28.6, a CorsiRel QoC of 1.28, and a CorsiRel of 18.6. Plus his on-ice Sv% was .813, so no favors there. Ok, I got that out of my system. I really think this guy can be a solid top-four defenseman for the Wild, so now that he’s back with the team I’ll continue to eagerly watch his progression.

Alright that’s all for now. Thanks for reading, make sure to follow me on Twitter @Hashtag_Hockey, and check back later today probably for my per-game analysis of Suter-Spurgeon vs Suter-Brodin. Until then, LIVE EVERY WEEK LIKE IT’S SHARK WEEK!

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