Unconventional Wisdom - GvT and PS

Kirk Irwin

With the team still working on getting back to full health in time for the playoffs, we now find ourselves back at 12 healthy forwards and 7 healthy D. So let's look at those players performance this season and who should play where.

I was out of town for the past few days, so I am just a bit behind my usual schedule for these stats based posts, and as such haven't had time to prepare what I had intended to work on. So instead I decided to go ahead and look at our old fall backs Goals vs Threshold and Points Shares, as well as our new combined statistic that I looked at last month. I chose to focus on the current NHL lineup, so that we can use the information in an attempt to determine who should be skating with whom until we get the rest of our players back before the playoffs.

The bubble charts are all created similarly, with the X-axis representing the player's offensive contributions: OGvT, OPS, or THAC0; the Y-axis representing the player's defensive contributions: DGvT, DPS, or AC; and the bubble size representing the combined values. Players farther to the right therefor are our better offensive players while those higher up are our better defensive players. I chose to use the per Game values in order to account for certain players who have not played as often as others. The axes intersect at the average values of the 19 players, while I also included Forward and D averages. The blue lines represent the average values for the 12 forwards while the red lines represent the average values for the 7 D.

GvT

Offensively there is a pretty clear separation from what remains of our Top 6 and the other options. Sidney Crosby, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, and Jussi Jokinen are all well above average offensively. Neal and Kunitz also have the distinction of being above average defensively, while Crosby is a little above the forward average and Jokinen is straddling the line

The next tier includes Brandon Sutter who is above average defensively but just slightly below average offensively, Brian Gibbons who falls in practically dead center average, and Jayson Megna who is just a little below average both offensively and defensively.

Then we have Tanner Glass and Lee Stempniak who are about even, although Glass is a little better defensively and Stempniak is a little better offensively. Beau Bennett is a little further behind them, but all 3 are below average offensively and defensively. Craig Adams is a lot further down offensively, but he is also above average defensively, so he is kind of in a world apart from the rest of the forwards. And Taylor Pyatt is way down below average in all respects, being the lone negative player on the list.

On D Matt Niskanen is well above average both offensively and defensively, clearly the top D on the team. Olli Maatta is the next best offensively, although he is just a little below the D average defensively. Deryk Engelland is the next best offensively, although he is well below average defensively. Brooks Orpik is the 2nd best player defensively, although he is a little below average offensively. Rob Scuderi is also above average defensively, although he is much worse offensively. Simon Despres is a little more below average offensively than Orpik, as well as being just a touch below the D average defensively. Then there is Robert Bortuzzo, a hair better offensively than Orpik, but well down even below Engelland defensively.

PS

We see a similar grouping of our Top 6 forwards, with Crosby, Neal, and Kunitz in a world of their own above average both offensively and defensively with Jokinen a little behind them just a little below average defensively but still above the F average.

The next tier now includes a fairly tight grouping of Gibbons, Megna, Bennett, Stempniak, and Sutter. They are all below average both offensively and defensively, although defensively they are just slightly below the F average and Gibbons is actually straddling the line.

That leaves Glass, Adams, and Pyatt down in the bottom tier. Glass is the best of the three, both offensively and defensively, and manages to remain a positive overall. Adams is better defensively than Pyatt, although Pyatt is just a little better offensively.

On D we still see Niskanen as the best D, above average offensively and defensively. Maatta this time is now above average both offensively and defensively as well, although not to the extent that Niskanen is. Engelland is the next best offensively, but he is below average defensively. Orpik straddles the line of the D average defensively, but is below average offensively. Despres is a little better defensively and a little worse offensively than Orpik. Bortuzzo and Scuderi are both just slightly above average defensively, while Bortuzzo is slightly better offensively than Orpik and Scuderi is well down below everybody else.

EXP

The combined numbers allow us to get an idea of who should be where. Although we have to decide how to accomplish that. One option is to stock up on one solid top line, since we basically have enough options to dress a 1st line and two 3rd lines. The other option is to spread it out more by using the four of them in two pairs with a 3rd player joining from lower in the ranks. Either Kunitz-Crosby-Neal with Jokinen getting two of the lesser wingers or else Kunitz-Crosby and Jokinen-Neal with the lesser wingers.

The options to fill-in the holes in the Top 6 then leave us with the remainder fleshing out the 3rd line. This is a situation in which the numbers don't quite match up with what we expect to see them used based on experience. However, we can assume that at the very least we know Crosby will be the 1 C, Jokinen the 2 C, and Sutter the 3 C. The wing options seems to be Gibbons and Megna with a slight lead over the grouping of Stempniak, Glass, and Bennett.

With the current injuries, we don't actually have a 4 C, which means it falls to Adams by default. Pyatt looks like he has no business being dressed, and for a very long time the eyeball test suggested that as well, although his recent goal scoring streak makes that unlikely to happen. I still think the team would be better off with Engelland as a 4th line winger rather than dressing Pyatt, or if he does play that he shouldn't be more than a 4th liner.

On D we have a similar decisions to make. Do we match the top offensive D together, match the best defensive D together as a shutdown pairing, or else try to balance it by combining offensive and defensive players together to cover up for their weaknesses. As mentioned, dressing 7 D, whether playing Engelland as a forward or just having a rotation available, does appear to be a better option than using Pyatt.

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