Dan and Bob discuss the treacheries of ‘adulting,’ then do the hockey birthdays, talk about Hossa and Jagr reaching significant goal milestones, the Minnesota Wild’s nice start to the season, and finish the show by talking about the new music they are listening to, including Car Seat Headrest, Young the Giant, and Phantogram.
Bob and Dan reminisce about the Oktoberfest celebration they enjoyed recently. Then, after the hockey birthdays, the boys recap the Wild’s season opener and talk about some things they want to see from the team this year. They discuss whether Eric Staal is not getting enough credit for improving the team, Teemu Pulkkinen joining the squad, and a half-assed prediction for each team in the Central division. Finally, Bob describes his new business idea, a Board Game Cafe, and wants you to help him with some market research!
On Tuesday, the Wild claimed 24-year old Finnish winger Teemu Pulkkinen off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings. He will be 25 in a couple of months, so we pretty much know what his skill set is in terms of his development. But, he hasn’t been given much opportunity to show what he can do over long periods of time (just over 11 minutes per game with DET). Apparently Bruce Boudreau and his coaching staff didn’t like what they saw from the Wild prospects this preseason, but signing Pulkkinen is also just a smart move for a team that needs to improve its scoring to remain competitive in the ever-improving #ConferenceIII.
The best seasons by 22-year-old AHL forwards in this decade, FWIW pic.twitter.com/9c3FRItbSc
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) October 11, 2016
One way to judge a player transaction is to see how the opposing team’s fans react to it. Detroit Red Wings fans have all generally said the same thing since Pulkkinen was put on waivers, “Well that was stupid move by Detroit,” which makes me feel good. Teemu is known for having a Howitzer of a slap shot and has been deployed primarily in the offensive zone (61.5% in 2014 and 67.5% last year, excluding NZ ) so we need to change our perception of what the Wild’s fourth line will do this year.
As I tweeted yesterday, Pulkkinen shows good underlying possession numbers. His 5v5 CF% in his career has been 56.2% (14-15) and 57.7% (15-16).
Let’s take a look at his HERO chart:
Just above where it says ‘Performance Tiers’ in the figure, you can see Pulkkinen’s composite WOWY stats, or how his line mates did in terms of possession and goal scoring both with and without him. His linemates experienced ~58% CorsiFor when playing with Teemu, and just over 50% without him. Similarly, their expected goals scored saw a jump from about even to just over 55% when skating with him. The hero chart takes both his pro years into account, so what that shows is a guy who consistently drives possession and scoring.
But there is another angle that I think could present itself over the next couple of weeks as the season gets going–Pulkkinen has put up excellent power play stats in his limited NHL time. Yes, he’s only got 2 PPG and 3 PPA, but check out his 15-16 PP numbers compared to the other Wild forwards:
I didn’t do that very systematically, it was only intended to be a quick check off the top of my head. So I’m sure I’m forgetting someone in that table–but, you can see how valuable Pulkkinen can be on a second PP unit for the Wild. Notice that Teemu’s expected goals/60 is higher than anyone on the Wild last year other than Parise. With great playmakers like Granlund, Staal, and Koivu, and more finishers like Pulkkinen along with a step up from Coyle/Nino/Zucker, this could be the year that the Wild PP takes the next step. Also, don’t forget that Charlie Coyle ranks among the league leaders in penalties drawn, and Staal has consistently drawn a lot of penalties over the course of his career.
If nothing else, I think Pulkkinen’s success on the team is tied to his success on the power play. The better the team does with the man advantage, the more job security this guy has. Obviously that could mean we don’t see Tuch or EE this year, but Teemu Pulkkinen is better equipped to help the Wild win this year.
My next post will be on the Wild’s penalty kill, but that may not come out until early next week. Check out the podcast this Friday, and see our first episode from yesterday!
Bob and Dan talk about what they have each been doing since the last podcast, then jump back into it with the Hockey Birthdays, a segment on why Phil Kessel doesn’t get enough respect, and the Beer of the Week (this week: Stone Enjoy After Brett IPA). Then, Dan recommends some true crime podcasts, and the guys answer mail bag questions about Pokemon, the MN Twins, and the Chicago Cubs.
With the addition of Eric Staal this offseason, the Wild’s top-six have a good shot to be among the best in the league. Throw in the signing of a new coach who has won four consecutive division titles, and there’s a buzz about the potential new line combinations and whether Boudreau will be able to get more scoring out of the roster that Yeo and Torch could not.
I’ve been pretty excited about the Staal signing, because I really think when you have a proven vet coming off a statistically down year, that gamble is usually worth taking. I’m working on a feature piece on Charlie Coyle’s deployment but I thought I’d talk a little bit first about why I’m excited to see what Staal will bring.
In the above chart, we see that adjusting for playing time, Staal has been a consistently high event player over his career, at least one shot attempt per minute skated while he’s on the ice. Although the very early part of his career was before the fancy stats age it’s a safe bet to say he was similar pre-2007. What’s interesting is that his corsi against numbers have dropped sharply over the last three years or so–and this is with line mates like Elias Lindholm and Kris Versteeg (nothing against those guys).
Everyone knows his goal scoring is down but another interesting note is that his individual event stats have held steady. His total shot attempts declined overall since about ’08 but have really steadied out since about 2012-13. His shooting percentage was way down last year (6.5%) after never dropping below 9.0% in any previous year. I think even with a modest rebound in puck luck, Staal will still rack up the shot attempts with the Wild. We just hope that he doesn’t get over-conservative like Vanek did and defer the shots to Parise or others.
I don’t want to sound like *that guy* but I do worry a little bit about Staal and Parise developing chemistry on a line together. Both guys want the puck on their stick, and you throw in a guy like Charlie Coyle who is expected to step up his goal scoring even more this year… Maybe I’ve had too many flashbacks to the horrendous over-passing that was taking place in the early part of last year but I just want to see this club live up to their offensive potential.
I’ll leave you with one final chart, from ownthepuck.blogspot.ca:
This chart takes the last three seasons into account, and does a good job overall of showing that even if Staal’s individual goal scoring is down, his possession is elite, driven by elite shot generation and well above average shot suppression. If he can adjust to playing on his third team in two years after spending over a decade in Carolina, he could really propel this team forward without eating up too much salary cap. Another attribute that he can bring is stability–recall that the Wild have had very good starts to the season over the last couple of years, so another strong presence in the locker room will not hurt.
Thanks for reading! Still hoping to get a podcast recorded in the next week or so, please keep your eyes and ears open for that. In the meantime, be sure to follow me on Twitter @BobaFenwick and @HTHpod!
I got back from my honeymoon just in time for the Wild to get into their preseason schedule, so I thought I’d share some things I’ll be watching over the next couple of weeks.
- Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle – These two guys have been playing with the club for a while now. Both are 24, which means by many statistical models, their window for development might be starting to close. Zucker has shown flashes of speed and talent that would make him a game-breaker, and Coyle has been very good at drawing penalties, and finally cracked 20 goals last year. Whether they play together or separately, each could really push the team forward if they continue to improve. They are playing together on the top line in today’s first preseason game against the Sabres, though I don’t expect Coyle to stay at center once the regular season begins. We’ll have to see if Bruce Boudreau gets more out of these guys than Yeo could. Which brings me to…
- Bruce Boudreau’s deployment and line combos – I’ll be honest…I’m still not sure how the Wild got so lucky as to snag Boudreau. Coach Yeo had a lot of success but also a lot of roller-coaster stretches too. If BB can steady this team out, that could really go a long way toward having a strong regular season leading into a playoff run, rather than scrambling just to make the postseason as happened each of the last two years. The Central division is still awful, and got even tougher with the addition of PK Subban. But I do like the Wild’s overall roster construction this year, and I’m very excited to see what Eric Staal can do. If he and Pominville can both benefit from some positive regression to the mean, we could be looking at this team a lot differently than in years past. Back to Boudreau, I think Minnesotans liked Yeo well enough, but they’re going to LOOOOVVVEE BB.
Bruce Boudreau the only one on the ice as crews resurface. pic.twitter.com/jMqZTIorw8
— Dane Mizutani (@DaneMizutani) September 25, 2016
- The young guys, particularly Alex Tuch – The Wild have generally focused on developing a solid group of prospects over the last decade, but in recent years, vets were brought in and expected to contribute (Heatley, Vanek in particular). That trend continues this year with Eric Staal, though I’m not sure that wasn’t more of a savvy move by management to capitalize on a down year, rather than a campaign like #VanekWatch that we saw. I’m rooting for Staal to turn things around, and maybe he won’t face as much pressure to perform right away that both Heatley and Vanek had. But anyway, my point is that the club hasn’t had a young player turn in a really breakout performance in a long time. Zucker was starting to do that but had seasons derailed by injury. I am most excited to see Alex Tuch when he makes this team because I think he brings a size and skill combination that Minnesota hasn’t had in a long time, but perhaps Bertschy or Downing or even Lucia could turn in surprise performances. I liked Justin Fontaine well enough but he wasn’t really ever that dynamic of a presence. Chris Stewart should get lots of time in the bottom six, but with the depth at the top of the roster, a strong performance by one of the young guys could really change the makeup of the squad.
Thanks for reading!Let me know what you think by commenting on this post, on Twitter, or on r/wildhockey.
The other night after the Wild thoroughly pummeled the Flames in what was a super awkward return-to-Minnesota-and-thanks-for-the-goals game for Niklas Backstrom, I got to thinking about Marco Scandella. [Side note, I always appreciated the time Backstrom spent with the team when they stunk out loud in the early 2000s, and it was pretty lousy of a few fans to jeer him at the end of the game.] Anyway, after we all looked at the possession charts, and after taking into account the score effects, it appeared that Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin had a pretty terrible night in terms of possession:
The x-axis above is the total shot attempts when the player(s) were on the ice, and the y-axis is the net difference (so if they drove possession, they’d be above the red line and vice versa.) Down in the bottom right corner, you see Koivu-Coyle-Parise, but even farther down you see Brodin and Scandella. I checked into their zone starts and didn’t see anything glaring. Then I got to thinking about when they’d played together recently, and I couldn’t really remember a time in recent memory. Naturally I went to the interwebs, and realized they haven’t played together much at all in the last two years.
Scandella started getting paired with Jared Spurgeon at the end of the 2010-11 season, and played the bulk of the 11-12 season with the mighty mite. Shout out to hockeyviz.com for his awesome visualizations, by the way.
Scandella went back to Houston (remember them?) for most of 2012-13, and then had his breakout year in 13-14 and made a name for himself as a good two-way player with a rocket slap shot. In that season, he had the third-most 5v5 ice time of any blueliner, and split time with Spurgeon, Prosser, and finally Brodin.
While Brodin and Scandella were on the ice, the team clocked in at a 46% GF, 45.5 CF/60, and a 48.9% corsi rate. Not terrible, but nothing to write home about. Looking at his WOWYs from that year, when Scandella skated with all other defenders, he had a 65% GF, 51.8 CF/60, and 49.7% CF%. In 2013-14, the pair skated together for just sixty-two minutes on the year, telling us Mike Yeo pretty clearly recognized the two just didn’t complement each others’ games.
Obviously, this season gives us an interesting dataset because we have two guys setting the lineup in the same year. Here’s this year’s info, with some extra data added in.
A couple things stand out here–for a good chunk of this season, Yeo was deploying Scandella with Prosser, Brodin, and Dumba in the same game. I tried to estimate the spot where Torch took over (vertical red line), and you can clearly see that he deployed Scandella and Dumba together until very recently, when Scandella and Brodin have been almost literally joined at the hip. In the middle chart, you can see that Scandella’s power play deployment has dropped, and his possession numbers have spiked wildly–oddly coincidental that his for/against tanked right when he got back with Brodin, don’t you think?
I dug thorough the WOWY number some more, and put together a couple of simple bar charts that look at Scandella’s body of work when paired with each of the other guys who have been regulars in the lineup over the last few years. I wanted to look at more than just this year, so I set it to include 2013-2016.
Scandella and Spurgeon have more than 30% more time together than the next group, which is fairly even among Brodin, Prosser, and Dumba. We all know about Suter’s disgust of being paired with another left hand shot, which is why he’s got less than 200 minutes with Marco.
It’s too small of a sample to make any conclusions but look at that OZ start number for Suter-Scandella. The obvious trend in defensive zone deployment holds for Brodin and Prosser (both around 65% defensive,) but the 57% offensive zone deployment for Scandella-Dumba is probably about as high as you’ll see among any pair in the league.
Here’s where Scandella-Spurgeon really shine, posting nearly a 54% shot attempt percentage when together. With this type of visualization, we can look across the “Scandella apart” rows to get a sense of his true ability since each bar reflects a larger proportion of the player’s minutes. When apart from almost all the other guys, Marco was just about even in Corsi percentage. When apart from Spurgeon, it was a little lower, but the main takeaway is their excellent possession when together.
Conversely, the Scandella-Brodin pairing just seems to be on their heels out on the ice. The team’s CF/60 has been just 43.28 with those two, and when you compare that to numbers like 59.39 (Scandella-Spurgeon) and 52.45 (Scandella-Dumba), you start to just get a sense that Brodin is the one dragging down the offense. Don’t get me wrong, I love what Jo Bro does defensively, but the numbers are not kind. If I can find the time, I’ll try to look through some game footage of the last five games or so when they have been paired together. In the meantime, hit me up on Twitter @BobaFenwick if you have other theories about what might be going on.
If you watched the game tonight, there’s a pretty good chance that like me, you didn’t get to see the new Star Wars yet. So no spoilers alright!! But, if you happened to tune into the game, you got a chance to see Minnesota mop the floor with the Rangers. For the second game in a row, the Wild gave up a tidy two goals, but hung a big old crooked number on offense. These are the good times, so remember them well when the puck luck dries up. Continue reading HTH game recap 11-17-15 vs New York Rangers: Now y’all are just showing off
It seems we’ve been transported through some kind of inter-dimensional portal and ended up in a world where the Minnesota Wild are capable of putting up more shots in two periods than they can usually do in a full game plus overtime.
For as bad as the final score looked, the actual possession game was somewhat closer. To get everything kicked off, Charlie Coyle made a nifty power forward move in the slot and drew a penalty, which turned into about the easiest goal of Thomas Vanek’s career. Did you know that Charlie Coyle leads the Wild in penalties drawn (12) and he’s only taken 3 and leads the team in penalty differential (+9)? He’s really making more aggressive moves to the net this year, and the opposition is just getting pushed around. In past seasons, Coyle had a bit of a reputation for playing under his size, so it’s great to see him throwing his weight around out there.
When the squad is finding success immediately on the power play, you start to get the feeling it’s going to be one of those nights. Despite the first goal, at about the ten minute mark of the first period the Wild turned on the afterburners. Jason Zucker ended up making some space for himself in the low slot, and hammered home a goal that was definitely something Parise would be proud of.
In a game with 57 shots on goal and 94(!) total shots attempted by both teams, you start to drool at the prospect of the shot map. Well, without further ado:
Apart from the two goals scored from Mister Darcy’s doorstep, the Wild did a great job of defending the danger zone tonight. There is a very clear trend of the Canucks’ shots coming almost exclusively from the perimeter. I count eight blocked shots from the home plate area. Conversely, Minnesota put pucks on net from all over the place, but even the shots from the blue line are really closer to the top of the circles. Here’s a closeup of the Wild’s getting to the high danger area.
Everything was clicking for the Wild tonight, and certainly they all won’t be this easy. But having said that, it feels great to be on a hot streak right now, on offense and defense. Kuemper has made four quality starts (#MisterDarcy) and they say Dubnyk is ready to go, so I expect to see him on Thursday as the Wild take on the Rangers.
Hopefully they can keep things rolling, and strike while the iron is hot to make some noise in the ever-dangerous Central Division.
Quick side note: tonight’s game featured a number of players we talked about on the most recent podcast in a very fun name game, so be sure to check it out!
There’s a lot of depressing shit going on in the world today, so Bob and Dan decide to have a lighter-hearted episode this week. They tried a new twist on the name game, as Bob quizzes Dan on, “Pokemon or Big Data” and Dan quizzes Bob on pairs of brothers playing in the NHL.
Then, the guys showcase a handful of classic examples of NHL players doing car commercials–either dealerships or rentals. Evgeni Malkin, Adam Graves, Alex Ovechkin, Max Talbot, Mario Lemieux, and Wayne Gretzky are all featured. Finally, Dan gives Bob some advice on getting engagement photos taken.