Posts Tagged ‘mike yeo’

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 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.

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.

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.”

//

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!

//

//

Matt Cullen is a good ol’ Minnesota boy, the pride of Virginia MN, proud alumnus of St. Cloud State…the prodigal son returneth after playing for five teams before the Wild. He does a lot of things right, he buys into the system, he gives 110%, he skates hard, he’s a mentor to the younger guys. And at the ripe age of 36, he belongs on the third line. He’s a quality guy who plays quality minutes, but he shouldn’t be used outside of a bottom-six role. He makes memorable plays, like late in the game Tuesday at home vs Columbus when the Wild were killing one of the four penalties they took in the third period, Cullen dove for a loose puck and swatted it the length of the ice. He plays committed defense and still has a quick shot but he just doesn’t do enough on offense for me to think he belongs on the second line, where Mike Yeo had been playing him alongside Mikael Granlund until recently.

Tonight’s lines were Parise-Koivu-Heatley; Bouchard-Granlund-Setoguchi; Cullen-Brodziak-Clutterbuck; and Powe-Konopka-Mitchell. While the Bouchard-Brodziak-Clutterbuck line was an interesting experiment and sort of made for a nontraditional pairing, I like the lines that the Wild put out much better–Cullen in the bottom six and a healthy Pierre-Marc Bouchard in the top six. Bouchard showed that he can still put pucks past goalies tonight on a beautiful 200-ft play that started when Marco Scandella collected the puck behind the Wild net and made a nice breakout pass to Bouchard, who dished it off and then had it returned to him as he entered the Blue Jackets’ zone with speed and zipped a snap shot right over Chris Mason’s glove for the game winner. It was the type of play that the Wild just didn’t seem to have the ability to make last season–plus it was just nice to see some production from anyone not named Parise.

The Wild got off the schneid tonight after going 0-2-1 the three previous games. They should have beaten St. Louis but I guess just to hang with one of the top teams in the conference is something to hang your hat on. Though the Wild got just 11 5v5 shots while the Blues had 25, so perhaps the score was deceiving in the first place. Minnesota was able to hang with Detroit for a little while, but that game quickly unraveled.

We might have seen our first glimpse of the top defensive pairing of the future tonight, as Ryan Suter looked a lot better and young Jonas Brodin was impressive as well. A lot has been made about the Wild’s thin blue line, but I am hopeful Scandella and Clayton Stoner can prove themselves to be at least serviceable on defense.

While some may not consider it a “real” rivalry, the Minnesota-Chicago games are always entertaining, and despite the technicality that the franchise moved to Dallas, the two teams always dial it up a notch. The Wild will be undermatched on Wednesday but perhaps they’ll find a way to hand the Blackhawks their first loss of the season.

Updated team-level fancy stats:

Fenwick (all-inclusive): 0.494

PDO (5v5): 0.995

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out my weekly fantasy hockey podcast, and follow me on Twitter, @Hashtag_Hockey!

Backstrom misplays puck, Erat scores NSH @ MIN 1-22-13

^^Having trouble embedding NHL videos into my blog so here’s the link.

Just a few thoughts on the first three games of the Minnesota Wild season so far–plus the start of a recurring column looking at Wild team possession stats.

  • How much time does it take to turn a Quality Start into a non-Quality Start? For Niklas Backstrom on Tuesday night, it took about seven minutes. Backs played a great game though two periods and change, and then Martin Erat was the beneficiary of a botched 4-on-4 pass from Parise intended for Spurgeon, and Erat was off to the races. Backstrom skated waaaayyy out to the top of the circles and Erat mercifully decided not to go full-Lucic, but Backs mishandled the puck and it turned into a goal. Crappy play but honestly I’m just glad there was no collision and no injury. Backstrom is not the most durable goalie in the world and I’m not quite sure what he was trying to accomplish there. But at that point it was 2-1 against and the Quality Start was preserved even though the team found themselves behind late in the game. I normally try not to target guys from my hometown team on my fantasy squads, but Backstrom was there in like the 18th round so I picked him up. Of course I wanted the Wild to come back and win but I was also aware of Backstrom’s stats, so real late in the game I knew they would give him the hook and he would get tagged with just over a 2 GAA. But then good ol’ Pierre-Marc Bouchard gets called with a questionable slashing call and Mike Yeo has to put Backstrom back in for the PK, and he promptly gave up his third goal of the night with like 17 seconds on the clock. His final line was 0-1, .885 Sv% and 3.03 GAA. I’m not sure I would call it a choke job by Backs because that was just a weird fluky play that never should have happened, but as a proponent of Quality Starts, I feel like his final line wasn’t reflective of how well he played for 53 minutes, but that’s why they play 60.
  • So this Zach Parise guy is prettay, pretttaayy good. I’m sure I’ll examine the Koivu-Parise-Heatley line in the near future, but for now I want to mention the club’s second- and third-lines, though they don’t really look like a clear no. 2 and no. 3 but sort of a hodge podge, with Granlund centering Cullen and Setoguchi on the “second” and Brodziak (YOU’RE MY BOY BLUE) playing the pivot between Bouchard and Clutterbuck on the third. Granlund is looking sharp, he’s a fantastic puck mover and at least so far, he knows how to avoid contact so hopefully he won’t get lit up. I see the value of putting him on a line with Cullen–Granlund could learn a lot from a vet like that but I don’t really think Cullen belongs on that second line. Setoguchi looks great, too. I heard a story about how he got hit by a truck before last season so I’m really liking how he’s played coming in to this year fresh. And the Brodziak-Bouchard-Clutterbuck line is definitely interesting to watch–three guys with three different skill sets but they seem to have good chemistry. Hopefully that line is something that will work out and stay together to do some damage. Brodziak and Clutterbuck are really good two-way players and they have the ability to turn defense into quick offense.
  • Obviously, it’s WAAAY too early to put any meaning into these figures, but I’ll be tracking the Wild’s Fenwick and PDO in this space. As of now, the Wild have played three games with a Fenwick in their favor (.556 vs COL, .526 vs DAL, .513 vs NSH) for a total Fenwick of .533 which is promising. Yeah, Parise is good, I think I mentioned that. I just pulled these numbers myself from game reports and that figure is all-game Fen, not 5v5.
  • PDO, on the other hand, is limited to even-strength, and the club has been playing well but you can’t say they’ve been lucky. Their PDO is right at a normal level, (1.003 vs COL, 1.036 vs DAL, 0.955 vs NSH) for a total PDO of 0.992. I’ll chart these numbers probably starting next week, with just three games a visual look wouldn’t really be anything to look at.
  • I am proud to say I started a fantasy hockey podcast last week, and while I’ll get more into analysis for this season, for the very first few pods I wanted to share some tools that the savvy fantasy player should have in his/her toolbox for smart analysis of players. Episode 1 covers goalie stats, specifically even-strength Sv% as a better indicator of goalie play, and why Quality Starts are better than just W-L record. Check it out!

Thanks for reading, and make sure to follow me on Twitter, @Hashtag_Hockey. Until next time!

//