Archive for the ‘Damned Lies and Statistics’ Category

The Minnesota Wild have had a crazy couple of months—despite playing pretty terrible in terms of puck possession, they have found ways to win games. In the span of a couple weeks, the team lost their two best forwards, Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu to injury. Add onto that the injury to Jared Spurgeon and the condition of Josh Harding, and the Wild found themselves in the midst of a whole heap of adversity. Read on…

The month of January has been a very interesting one the Minnesota Wild, to say the least. They lost their two best skaters to injury in Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise, plus one of the best feel-good stories in the league in Josh Harding, who was really holding the team together through their offensive struggles earlier in the season. And yet, the club is 8-3 during this month, and as of today they sit in the 8th spot of the Western Conference playoffs–with a four point lead over Phoenix, who has two games in hand. The computers give the Wild a 51% chance to make the postseason, and the Yotes a 38% chance, so it’s really anybody’s game at this point. Or is it? Stats guys get a bad rep for being the bearers-of-bad-news, of throwing ice water on everything…and unfortunately today I’m going to step right into that stereotype. Read on…

Stats and narratives…narratives and stats. Which is the chicken and which is the egg?

It sort of depends on who you ask, naturally. Part of what we stats folk try to do is to look at the ‘facts’ or the numbers to try to sort out what’s really going on from what the broadcasters and the media guys create as the cover the teams for those grueling months. A lot of narratives can be debunked with stats, and there is often tension between numbers people and non-numbers people for this reason. But a lot of media people are good at using underlying numbers as well, so the last thing I mean to do is create a false dichotomy. However, as with many things in life–not just in sports–it all depends on your perspective, and looking at things from different angles can yield different stories. Case in point: the Minnesota Wild’s playoff chances. Read on…

The thing about ‘advanced’ stats in hockey is that they’re not really intended to be all that advanced…but compared to the crappy normal stats like +/- they are miles ahead. A lot of stats that look at usage–zone starts and quality of competition–are designed to illustrate a player’s deployment to provide context to his goal production. And the granddaddy of all fancy stats, Corsi, is not really that complicated once you wrap your head around it. The object of the game is to score goals and prevent them from being scored against your team, and since goals come from shots, the Corsi stats are intended to be simply a richer tool for analysis. So, when you think of a “good” hockey player, the tools and skills he owns should lead him to be a good possession player. Things like skating ability, hand-eye coordination, vision, anticipation, etc., these are the building blocks that make up a quality hockey player. Of course, those things don’t always come through in Corsi stats, and today I wanted to do sort of a case study on a Minnesota Wild player who is still very young, and seems to be developing nicely but is still a “bad possession player” by the numbers: Mikael Granlund. Read on…

I’ve been meaning to dust off a couple of stats I toyed around with recently–neither was developed by me but I think they’re interesting and informative. And as is the case with most statistical studies, the results may surprise you.

The first stat is a “Puck Hog” metric that was introduced last year by Ben Wendorf on the NHL Numbers website (folow Ben on Twitter, he’s a good Wisconsin boy!) The stat is very straightforward, and is simply the proportion of Fenwick events for which a player is responsible out of the total number of Fenwick events that occur when he is on the ice. The simple equation is this:

ASR formula

I previously checked out how the Wild players stacked up almost a year ago to the day (freaky.) The first thing I notice about that list when I look at it today is that most of the names are no longer with the team. I included a fair bit more information in my previous post but today I’ll just get right to it. Here are the top 5 Wild forwards in terms of their “Puck Hog” tendencies. For a variety of reasons, defensemen have very low ratios so we’ll just focus on forwards. All stats 5v5, data from extraskater.com Read on…

Ohai! Remember me? I’m preparing to hit the ground running as the NHL season kicks off next week. Just trying to shake the rust off and get some posting done again. The purpose of today’s article is just to sort of show snapshots of the last two Minnesota Wild seasons’ worth of fancy stats. We can always go back and dig up old seasons of data, but I thought it would be convenient to just put some thoughts together in one place. Shall we get started?

FENWICK

If you don’t know about Fenwick, where have you been living the last two years? Check out my stats glossary for a primer. We start with the dreadful 2011-12 season. If you have small children in the room, tell them to look away. You have been warned. (Data courtesy of (http://behindthenet.ca/fenwick_2012.php?sort=6&section=close)

wild 11 12 fenwick

The less said about this chart, the better. It’s hideous and I hate it. The Wild were DEAD STINKING LAST in FenClose two seasons ago, and it wasn’t close. Even down 2 goals, they could barely drive possession. And when they got any kind of a lead at all, they turtled faster than George Costanza after a dip in the pool. No, don’t look away. Force yourself to absorb the fail. It will put hair on your chest. Okay that’s enough. Let’s see what the numbers looked like after the Prodigal Sons returned.

wild 12 13 fenwick

Alright, a little better. The club improved to a respectable 18th in the league in close situations, but they were still outshot. Baby steps. They didn’t take their foot off the gas as much with a one-goal lead, which provides at least a little hope. Something interesting shows up when we look into the numbers a little closer. In 2012-13, the Wild posted a 51.2% FenClose at home, and a 45.9% clip on the road. Most teams performed better on home ice in this metric, but Minnesota’s differential is the fifth-largest gap in the league. I think this says that they were lousy on the road more than they were better at home. But still. Baby steps. Also of note is that with the sizable roster turnover (anyone remember Darrol Powe? Carson MacMillan?) these numbers are perhaps less predictive and more archival. But they are moving in the right direction.

Next, let’s check out Coach Yeo’s deployment (courtesy of Rob Vollman and Hockey Abstract, http://www.hockeyabstract.com/playerusagecharts)

PLAYER USAGE CHARTS

Wild 2011_12 usage chart

Kind of a mess, if you ask me. Shout out to my man Kyle Brodziak for playing the toughest minutes on the club. PMB’s CorsiRel of 20.5 is less impressive when we recall that he played just 37 games, and the only other player to post a positive CorsiOn was Jarod Palmer, in six games. Again, not much more to say here, the above chart is mostly for reference. Let’s look at the deployment from last year.

mn wild 12 13 usage

Apologies for not posting a cleaner image, but…the site is saying downloading is disabled due to high bandwidth, and Parks and Rec is starting soon so I’m taking the easy way out. When I get a little more time I will flesh out the chart and try to put a full usage table in. 2012-13 provides a much clearer deployment strategy: send out the top line in the Offensive Zone, throw the fourth line out in the Defensive Zone. The high OZ start% and the high QoC numbers are reminiscent of the Canucks’ Sedin strategy, which bodes well for the Koivu/Parise/Pominville line this upcoming year. Mikael Granlund had extremely high QoC numbers over the first month or so of the season, so for him to finish at -0.69 says a lot about the sheltered minutes Yeo started to give him as the season went on. Jonas Brodin’s bubble is quite impressive, and while he benefited greatly from playing next to Ryan Suter, he still had to pull his own weight. Charlie Coyle will almost certainly not get to spend much time with Koivu and Parise this year, so his posession output will be quite telling. I do worry about him regressing a bit this year, and I hope he doesn’t start to tailspin. Check out Jared Spurgeon: slightly sheltered (53% OZ starts,) middling comp (0.34 CorsiRel QoC) but drove possession decently with a 3.0 CorsiRel (2.0 CorsiOn.) If Mike Yeo can continue to selectively deploy Spurgeon, he could really benefit the team and provide some secondary scoring.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Rebuilding is a process, not an event. Signing the two biggest free agents in years sure helps, but they’re not wizards. The team still has a ways to go to really compete with the upper echelon of teams in the NHL, but things are moving in the right direction. Shipping off all the veterans to make way for the youngsters is a prudent move in my opinion, but there might be some bumps along the way as the kids continue to get their feet wet and build chemistry.

The narrative for the Minnesota Wild is quite clearly, “Who will step up this year?” The nice thing about having as many high-level prospects as the Wild is that it really could be anyone. GM Chuck Fletcher, in my opinion, is taking a good approach by not putting pressure on specific young players. In a great piece by ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Fletcher said, “The bottom line is, we don’t need all of them to excel and be perfect right away…We need a couple of them to step up and be productive. We’re not asking these kids to be saviors, we just want them to contribute.”

Reports out of Wild training camp so far have mentioned how Granlund looks great so far and Zucker might not start the season in the Bigs, but let’s not forget that both players (plus Niederreiter, plus Coyle, plus Zack Phillips, plus several more) are 21 or less so there’s ample time for them to grow.

The key to this season (as with every season, really) is managed expectations. With the Wild, I’m not really sure what to expect. They’ve turned over their roster so much and are giving so many new players opportunities that it will be exciting/terrifying to see who continues to step up, who regresses, and who gets thrown under the bus. Puck drops next week, you’d better be ready!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, @Hashtag_Hockey

The Minnesota Wild are not built to win right now. When they have their collective heads out of their rear ends, they are perhaps (perhaps) a playoff bubble team, able to beat teams like Phoenix, Edmonton, and Calgary (as they have recently,) but unable to outplay the Chicago/Anaheim/Vancouver level teams.

Unless your name is Barry Melrose, you probably don’t expect the Wild to contend for the Stanley Cup this season. But certainly the same level of horrendous play as last year from January on isn’t acceptable either. And with two massive contracts doled out and a bunch of highly-touted rookies making their debut, the Wild should be showing some improvement over last year. I wrote about managing expectations going into this season, and while it’s unreasonable to expect a top-four playoff seed, we should hope to see at least some movement in the right direction. Today, I’ll dive into the team-level stats (all collected from behindthenet.ca) to break down whether this year’s team is actually an improvement from last year’s. **Side note: it’s tricky to use overall numbers from the 2011-12 Wild because I think they were better than how they played in Jan-Mar because of all the injuries, but not as good as the best-in-the-NHL team they were for the first few weeks of the season. So grains of salt, and all that.

EVEN-STRENGTH

The go-to team-level stat is Fenwick Close, which shows team’s possession in 5v5 close situations—a one-goal game in the first or second period, and a tie game in the third. This stat has proven itself to be one of the best and most reliable indicators of a team’s play. I also really like it because it’s easily interpretable, a simple percentage that everyone can quickly and easily wrap their head around.

MN Wild FenClose 11-12 vs 12-13

The club is playing at least somewhat better in most every category this year compared to last, which is good to see. However, they’re still not cracking 50% at any time except down two goals, which tells me opposing coaches feel fine taking their foot off the gas when they get a comfortable lead against one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league. The “normal” range in Fenwick between the best and worst teams tends to run just about 55% for the best to 45% for the worst. With the Wild sitting just above 45% for all game situations except up two goals, they are still at the basement of the NHL. While the club was dead last in FenClose last year, they are 24th this year. So, hooray I guess? This article isn’t meant to be a comparison of the Wild to the rest of the league, but last year’s team to this year’s team…but a bit of context to keep in mind.

Minnesota has had some fine goaltending from Nicklas Backstrom at times this year, so that’s why they have been able to stick around in a lot of games, but at 46% Fenwick when tied or close, the ice is just tilted against the team. The zone entry/dump-and-chase discussion has blown up recently, and I’m not going to spill many pixels talking about it here but suffice it to say I do think the team is not built for the “Canadian style” of digging pucks out of the corners. Here is a great article I read this week that details why the team personnel isn’t suited for a dump-in game.

It’s generally known that home-ice advantage is less of a factor in hockey than in other sports, but the Wild’s home/road splits are disconcerting:

Season FenClose Home GF/60 SF/60 MF/60 GA/60 SA/60 MA/60
2012-13 51.35% 2.71 26.22 9.64 2.20 23.69 10.66
2011-12 45.45% 2.27 23.28 10.04 2.50 27.21 13.00
Diff 5.9% 0.44 2.94 -0.4 -0.3 -3.52 -2.34

Season FenClose Away GF/60 SF/60 MF/60 GA/60 SA/60 MA/60
2012-13 39.17% 2.10 18.89 8.60 3.36 28.75 13.85
2011-12 44.36% 2.34 26.91 9.63 2.71 31.75 14.31
Diff -5.19% -0.24 -8.02 -1.03 0.65 -3.0 -0.46

Their record reflects this disparity, with an 8-2-1 record at the Xcel Energy Center and a 3-7-1 record away. I looked deeper into the matchups at home and away, and I don’t think there’s much to be found…the Wild played Anaheim and Phoenix twice on the road, Colorado and Nashville twice at home, and one-and-one for Chicago, Detroit, Vancouver, and Edmonton. With a number of rookies on the roster, the youth factor may play into it as well…but ultimately I think that all we can really say is the team stinks out loud on the road. Less than 19 shots on goal per 60 minutes close? Something something Gretzky, something something miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Damn. I do like to see that the team is allowing less shots than last year though, so there’s that.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Season 5v5 GF/60 5v5 SF/60 5v5 Sh% 5v5 GA/60 5v5 SA/60 5v5 Sv%
2012-13 2.1 26.4 9.21% 2.4 28.1 .914
2011-12 1.8 25.8 9.30% 2.4 30.8 .923

Season 5v4 GF/60 5v4 SF/60 5v4 Sh%
2012-13 3.8 46.6 9.18%
2011-12 5.0 48.9 8.97

Season 4v5 GA/60 4v5 SA/60 4v5 Sv%
2012-13 4.6 37.5 .877
2011-12 5.7 48.8 .883

I’m going to go out on a limb here, but when a team’s 5v4 shooting percent is less than its 5v5 shooting percent, that’s not a great sign. The club is 21st in the league with a 15.4% PP conversion rate, but their per-minute shot generation is actually lower than last year. I know that on the man advantage it’s not necessarily about sheer quantity of shots, and I’m not going to start down the shot quality rabbit hole, but adding Suter and Parise have not made any discernible difference on the power play as of yet. No es bueno.

On the flip side, the Wild’s PK is a relative strength–that is, at 82.1% and 15th in the league, when you’re at the bottom of the league in most categories, to be in the middle of the pack is seen as an upgrade. The team is allowing noticeably less shots and goals per 60 minutes of time on the PK compared to last year, even without Darroll Powe, so there’s that. But you can’t win games with a strong PK, you can only avoid losing them, so while we see improvement in this area, they’re going to have to start netting more goals if they want to go anywhere.

I’m going to take off my statboy hat for a second. While I am absolutely a believer in the statistical and advanced metrics value of studying hockey, I am also a big believer in individual psychology and team chemistry. Stats folk get unfairly hit with a false dichotomy because we all know that the human element comes into play. But I digress. What I feel like I’m seeing is a team that is learning to play together and gelling (like Magellan) just a bit. With all the new faces on the roster, it’s taken some time to adjust but I think I’m starting to see some progress. Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin are playing quite well together, Jason Zucker has been a breath of fresh air, and Mikael Granlund seems to be finally finding his way out of the wilderness. He looks like he’s getting a little more comfortable and is showing some of the moves that made him a well-known prospect.

Like I said at the top of this article, I don’t think the Wild are built for a deep playoff run. And of course I don’t want them to be a bottom-dweller in the conference, but for the last few years they have sort of been treading water where they haven’t made the playoffs but haven’t bottomed out to get a lottery pick. The club is set up pretty well to be a mover in the Western Conference, but I’m a bit wary of getting caught up in that cycle again. The shortened schedule may make it more difficult to know who’s going to be a buyer and seller around the trade deadline, but if teams come a-calling looking for maybe a Devin Setoguchi or a Matt Cullen, I hope the organization will listen.

What do you think, will the Wild be buyers or seller at the trade deadline? Leave a comment and let me know! And don’t forget to 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

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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It’s a rainy day in Southern California–a perfect time to stay inside and look at some early returns from the Minnesota Wild’s first three games. I’m having trouble navigating the behindthenet.ca site, so for now I’ll have to settle with just a basic look at Corsi-related stats. Once I figure out what I’m doing wrong over there I’ll be able to dig deeper and get into some more thorough analysis. All numbers posted below are even-strength.

Top Line: Parise-Koivu-Heatley

The first thing I see is that Mike Yeo has been capitalizing on the club’s three straight home games and using the top line in an opportune way. All three skaters have been started heavily in the offensive zone (65.2% for Parise and Heatley, 62.5% for Koivu) and all have faced soft competition (CorsiRel QoC of around -2.0 to -2.1 for Parise and Heatley and -1.9 for Koivu.) The skaters have jumped on the opportunity and directed pucks on net–Corsi On right around 7 for the wingers and an astounding 19.05 for Koivu. Obviously the sample is small that that’s impressive. The line has looked very good to my eyes, but I see that they haven’t had great puck luck, the three have on ice Sh% just over 4. This line is absolutely driving the Wild offense right now with CorsiRel of 14.5-14.7 for Heatley and Parise, and 31.4 (!!) for Koivu. We’ll see how the coach continues to use the top line on the road, but if the team wants to make the playoffs, they’ll need to get some offense out of the rest of the roster, which brings us to…

Second Line: Cullen-Granlund-Setoguchi

I wrote earlier this week about how I don’t particularly like Cullen on this line, but I see why Yeo has him paired with Granlund. I hope Yeo mixes up the pairings as the season goes on so for now I’ll hold my tongue. This line has been getting the tough competition–CorsiRel QoC of 2.8 for Cullen, 3.0 for Seto, and 3.3 for Granlund! Their possession numbers are paying the price for it, Granlund has a CorsiOn of -4.5 but Cullen (-10.8) and Setoguchi (-13.9) are seeing the ice tilted against them quite severely. Mike Yeo seems to be sheltering Granlund (OZ Start 60%) for sure and Setoguchi a bit (54.5%) with Cullen getting the nod defensively (45.5%). Granlund and Setoguchi have had a bit better luck, but their on ice Sh% are still pretty low (5.88 Setoguchi, 6.667 Granlund, and a big fat goose egg for Cullen.) I’m sure these usage numbers will change as the sample gets larger but I’m surprised to see this line get the brunt of the tough minutes when I thought they would go to better-established two-way players like

Third Line: Bouchard-Brodziak-Clutterbuck

Brodziak and Clutterbuck have a rep for playing solid 200-ft games, so I’m a little surprised to see their middling competition numbers–Bouchard has 0.5 CorsiRelQoC and the others actually negative, though just barely. Bouchard and Clutterbuck have a CorsiOn just over 5 right now while Brodziak is seeing a lot of rubber flying his way, with a -13.3. All three have OZ Start% north of 50 (56.5 Brodziak, 59.1 Clutterbuck, and 61.9 Bouchard) but they are winding up at the other end of the ice–OZ finsih% approaching 40. No es bueno. I like the composition of this line with the three bringing different playstyles to the table, so perhaps they need some more time to gel, but I’ll be keeping an eye on this line because these early numbers point to them being somewhat of a liability.

I don’t really want to get into the fourth line of Powe-Mitchell-Konopka, but the only number I’ll point out is their on ice Sv% of .909 (TM, ZK) and .917 (DP). Ouch.

Blue Line

The Wild blue line is hurting right now, but Jonas Brodin is slated to get the start tonight against Detroit. Scandella is down in Houston but I liked what I saw from him last year so I hope they bring him up soon. Dumba has been practicing with the team but hasn’t seen game action yet–I’d bet the money in my wallet that they don’t burn a year of his ELC but I sure want to see him get a couple games.

Spurgeon and Suter have seen the toughest competition of the defensemen, though their CorsiRelQoC are only about 0.7 to 0.8. Their CorsiOn is not great though, -9.5 for Spurgeon and -16 for Suter. The goalies haven’t helped either, as Suter has an on ice Sv% at .900 and Spurgeon .889. It looks like Spurgeon has drawn a couple penalties, which is good to see, but until the blue line gets a little clearer I don’t think there’s too much to squeeze out of these numbers.

I’m gearing up for continuing my podcast this weekend, should have it ready by Monday–if you have fantasy hockey questions, send them to hashtaghockey [at] gee mail dot com or tweet me @Hashtag_Hockey. Thanks for reading!

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