Category Archives: Damned Lies and Statistics

Why I’m excited for Eric Staal to join the Wild

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.

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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).

untitlederic-staal-total-shots-per-60-over-time

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:

eric-staal-hero-chart

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!

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Damned Lies and Statistics: A brief history of Marco Scandella PLUS why don’t he and Brodin generate offense?

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:

cgymin diag chart 32516

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.

history-1112-MIN-scandma90

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.

history-1314-MIN-scandma90

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.

history-1516-MIN-scandma90

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.

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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.

scandellawowy4ozstart

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.

scandellawowy2cfpct

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.