1/17/19 – The Dallas Stars Can’t Enter The Offensive Zone

When I was looking into the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier I wanted to start getting into how the top teams in the league enter the zone. The Dallas Stars seem terrible at it. They aren’t really terrible at entering the zone, but what they do immediately after they enter the zone tends to be predictable and bad. They also aren’t particularly good at entering the zone with possession either. As with most things related to this team the Stars are good enough to be respectable, but can’t reasonably play with the big kids.

Why is it important to enter the zone with possession? From a statistical perspective it leads to more shots. NHL teams take about .66 shots per zone entry with possession of the puck. That drops to around .26 shots per entry when they dump the puck in. It may not seem like much, but it is. If a team dumped the puck in 100% of the time they would take about 40 less shots attempts per 100 entries compared to a team that always carried the puck in. If a team is shooting 5% on shot attempts we’re talking two to three goals difference on those 100 entries. Think about how many times a team enters the zone per game.

It’s a big deal.

The Stars are actually middle of the pack in possession entries per the data tracked by Corey Sznajder. I don’t think that accurately reflects how serious the problem is though. When you compare the Stars to most of the top teams in the league a pattern emerges.

Many of the better teams in the league are led in entries by their star talent, and many teams in the league have many players who would lead the Stars in controlled entries.
The Calgary Flames are a weird exception.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche have four players who have more success entering the zone than the Stars top forward including two of their very best in Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Going back over Tampa Bay is a bit redundant. You get the point from this article. They’re way better. We get it.

Nashville Predators

Nashville has four skaters show up prior to Janmark. Among those are most of their key forwards.

San Jose Sharks

San Jose has five above Janmark. They also have seven of the top ten.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto: five before Janmark and seven of the top ten.

Winnipeg Jets

Winnipeg has three before Janmark and six of the top ten.

Washington Capitals

Washington has three before Janmark before the Stars rattle some off, but the three ahead of Janmark are considerably ahead of him.

I have to reiterate that this is 10-15% of a season’s worth of data so far so these numbers could be worse, and to be honest I wouldn’t be shocked if they were. The Stars seem to be trending in the wrong direction with the eye test,

So yes, the Stars as a group are in the middle of the pack when it comes to entering the zone with possession. They do it without the top end entry ability of many of the better teams in the league. Watching the Los Angeles Kings and Jack Campbell (!!!!) gobble up the Stars tonight made this seem like a relevant post to get into the world.

This team is screwed unless they find out how to enter the zone more effectively soon.

Why not donate to the cause at our Patreon?

Follow us on Twitter.

1/15/19 – Free of Ryan Kesler, Andrew Cogliano is a Good Value Buy

Devin Shore grew to become a fan favorite over time. He was everyone’s kid brother running around with his tongue out getting extra hyped when he finally scored a goal. Yesterday the Dallas Stars sent him to the Anaheim Ducks for Andrew Cogliano and made a significant upgrade to the roster.

I can’t stress enough that Cogliano doesn’t solve the Stars problems. He isn’t the scorer they need. He’s a speedy winger with a respected defensive reputation, and presumably he is being brought in just as much for his leadership ability as the Stars try to find players capable of dragging teammates into the battle.

He is an interesting value pickup though. Cogliano hasn’t had a particularly great season. His three goals and eight assists aren’t going to wow anyone. His steady string of awful shooting percentages over a four year period isn’t inspiring either. He is however markedly better than Shore while only costing Shore plus an extra million in cap hit.

Cogliano has been skating with Ryan Kesler and Jakub Silfverberg mostly this season. The Ducks have used them in a heavy defensive role where they get only 36 to 37% offensive zone starts. They’re still putting up an impressive 47% Corsi % given the tough minutes, but the heavy defensive zone starts are a new development.

Join me for a deep dive of Natural Stat Trick‘s numbers, won’t you?

Going back to the 2014 season, Cogliano’s most consistent linemates were Saku Koivu and Daniel Winnik. They got close to 50/50 offensive zone starts. In 2015 he began his run of playing with Silfverberg, but they were joined by Nate Thompson. This time they got 60% offensive zone starts.

During the Cogliano/Kesler/Silfverberg era they had a top notch three year stretch from 2016 through last season where they averaged 46% offensive zone starts and a 50-51% Corsi % while garnering Selke Trophy votes. This season the Ducks have pushed them into a heavy defensive role that has had a predictable impact on their numbers.

One thing that stands out, at least the last two years, is that the other two (and Kesler in particular) get a lot of support from Cogliano. Without him on the ice Kesler’s numbers take a noticeable hit. The chart below has Time on Ice, Time Without, and Corsi %’s with Cogliano, without Cogliano, and Cogliano without the player.

18

Cogliano and his speed can still make an impact when he isn’t with Kesler. Kesler missed half of last season then had offseason hip surgery. There was at one point some thought that he might miss all of the 2019 campaign too.

“As of right now, there is no timeline whatsoever,” general manager Bob Murray told the Ducks website Friday. “He couldn’t skate [during the second half of the season]. No push-off on his right leg. He has to rebuild his glutes and quads. That’s what we’re in the process of doing right now. I’m hopeful to have him back before Christmas, but that’s all I’m going to say right now.”

Is it any surprise then, that with Kesler and Cogliano on the ice the Ducks have virtually no drive to the net? These are the shot heat maps from Hockeyviz with Cogliano on the ice in 2019 and 2017 (the last full year Kesler was healthy).

18

That trio opened up a can against the opposition in 2017. 2019 has been a much different story. Kesler is essentially what Martin Hanzal has been for the Stars when healthy. Kesler was a possibility to miss games until Christmas this year, but as of January 14th he has 44 games played. There is no way he’s healthy, and at 34 even if he is he isn’t close to the Kesler of old.

Even when healthy, Kesler’s playmaking ability began taking a hit in the 2017 season. Using the passing data tracked by Corey Sznajder and visualized by CJ Turturo it’s pretty apparent that his playmaking was in decline when you check out his pass quality stats.

18

Looking at the Ducks 2019 tracked data, albeit only ten or so games, shows this even more clearly. Kesler appears done. Turturo updated the viz with the 2019 data. This is the Ducks shot contributions per hour for their forwards. The green bar is shots per hour. Each color after green refers to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd shot assists, or passes that lead to shot attempts. Notice the top and bottom of the chart.

18

Cogliano has been setting up a lot of potential offense in his minutes despite heavy defensive responsibilities and playing with a broken Kesler. Reportedly the Stars are going to use him with Jason Spezza.

18

Say what you will about Spezza, but his ability to generate offense with his passing is still significantly better than Kesler. Playing with Spezza will put Cogliano in more of an offensive role, but expecting him to start producing at a high level offensively would be foolish. He’s a utility guy – the kind of guy all successful offenses need down the lineup. But that line is still going to need a trigger man.

At the end of the day, no matter where Cogliano fits, the Stars turned a young player who has demonstrated little ability to be a consistently successful NHL player into a significantly better player who fits their immediate window, and who could perform significantly better with a new center.

Going back to the data tracked by Sznajder, check out 2014-18 Cogliano side by side with Shore.

18

Yes, Cogliano is 31. Yes, Shore should be improving. Here’s 2018.

18

Cogliano is unquestionably better, He doesn’t cost much more. He should help with the leadership issue. Offensively he makes the team better, even if he doesn’t fix the issue. Defensively he’s at least as good as Shore. He will continue to be an excellent penalty killer.

I see no downside to adding this kind of value.

Good on the Stars for pulling the trigger as long as they understand that this doesn’t fix the problems. It’s a good value play, but legitimately competing is going to require at least one top six scoring forward added to the mix.

Why not donate to the cause at our Patreon?

Follow us on Twitter.

12/27/18 – The Stars forwards are painfully unproductive

The Dallas Stars are screwed, and there isn’t much that can be done about it without some drastic reorganizing of the roster. This is a problem that has been apparent for a while. The reasons for the problems have been apparent for a while. Years of not addressing these underlying causes have put the Stars in a spot where they have a mediocre product on the ice that is wasting the primes of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg, and Alexander Radulov along with the final productive years of Jason Spezza.

This morning head coach Jim Montgomery pointed out that the Stars were “fucking embarrassing” in the morning skate. In the morning skate, friends.

The more composed press scrum after the morning skate is below.

I don’t know how much the morning skate matters, but if matters to Montgomery right now given how poorly they tend to start games. Mike Heika wrote it up just four days ago so it shouldn’t be too surprising to see Montgomery is still emphasizing it. The fact that the players still aren’t meeting the standards of the coaching staff despite this emphasis and the numerous messages sent is a bit problematic.

After a certain point you have to begin wondering if they can meet the standards. At some point this is just a bad team, and there is blame that can be assigned everywhere: the “core players” (however you define them), the depth forwards, the coaching staff, player development, special teams, and the front office. No team is squarely mediocre for just one reason.

This season pretty squarely falls on the forwards though. This chart from Sean Tierney is the Stars forwards Goals above Replacement from Evolving Hockey.

GAR

The Stars top three forwards have generated 21.4 goals above replacement. Collectively the top six have generated 31.5. That seems fine, but it’s nothing more than fine. Those totals rank 11th and 10th respectively across the league. Again, that’s fine. It isn’t good enough, and historically hasn’t been, to cover up for the other flaws on the roster.

One problem is recognizing who the top six actually are, and how they contribute value. Benn, Seguin, and Radulov are the clear top three. Seguin is 22nd among NHL forwards followed by Radulov (37) and Benn (50). No franchise boosting single performances, but as a trio a quality showing. Spezza, Jason Dickinson, and Blake Comeau are the next three.

Comeau derives none of his value at even strength so far. All of his comes from drawing penalties and being a quality penalty killer. Dickinson and Spezza are 8th and 9th in even strength ice time among forwards so they appear to be generating value despite not playing enough to maximize how much they can produce.

According to Evolving Hockey only nine Stars forwards have generated positive even strength value this year. Gemel Smith, Justin Dowling, Denis Gurianov are among those three which highlights the problem. Mattias Janmark is another, at half of a goal above replacement in 500 minutes. This team is terrible at even strength, and the majority of their production comes from three guys who have spent 258 minutes together.

In those 258 minutes the Stars are fine. With Radulov, Benn, and Seguin on the ice together they hum along at 55% of the shot attempts. In the 1043 minutes without them on the ice the team is a terrible 45%. To take it a step further take Spezza and Dickinson off the ice too. That’s 490 minutes of 43% shot attempt hockey.

The top three guys being 11th in the league in GAR is fine, but the franchise is expecting more out of them than being at the top of the middle of the pack. Given the lack of success of the franchise the past several years, now under three different head coaches, I think it’s more than fair to question if that core group as constructed and used can ultimately be successful.

Starz If the strength of the team is those three players, then expecting them to contribute the most value to the cause by exclusively playing them together implies that you’re banking on the admittedly mediocre depth players to take up the slack in the remaining minutes which they haven’t shown an ability to do.

The table to the right (up?) shows how each of the trio does without the other two on the ice so the idea of rolling one on each line seems optimistic at best – which goes back to the depth issue and usage. How do you split them apart when there is no one to put out there with them?

What the Stars have largely not done is try Dickinson or Spezza with any of those three for any extended period of time. Spezza has skated with Benn and Seguin for close to 50 minutes. and the trio controlled the play to the same degree Radulov and the duo have. Surely a second line of attack can be opened up with Radulov skating with Dickinson, Gurianov, Nichushkin, Hintz…someone?

Another red flag is the usage of Faksa. He’s taking all of the difficult minutes, but he’s getting caved in. Given how much of a burden he has taken on, shouldn’t you expect the rest of the line up to have more offensive opportunities? If they aren’t capitalizing on those chances at what point is killing Faksa’s offensive opportunities not worth it? His results have essentially negated the value generated by Spezza or Dickinson. It doesn’t seem that productive.

The Stars only have a few choices here.

Change how the lines roll and find some combos that work then stick with them for a while. Ideally, yes, you need everyone to be comfortable playing together. But, if half the roster has shown no ability to move the needle does it matter if they feel comfortable playing with the top guys?

Add to the core forward group via trade. This should have happened in the offseason somehow. It didn’t, and now they can’t score. There were opportunities to do it and the Stars, for whatever reason, chose not to do so.

Blow up the entire bottom of the roster. Let Dowling, Gurianov, Hintz, Joel L’Esperance, and whoever else take regular shifts. Punt on Martin Hanzal, Devin Shore, and Brett Ritchie. Hint: this is not going to happen mid-season because the logistics don’t make any sense.

Do nothing. If they take this route they aren’t going to make the playoffs. I don’t know which route they take, maybe a mixture of all of them, but something needs to change. Stability is important, but keeping stable mediocre results isn’t going to make anything useful happen. This team has talent, but whatever it is that is going on is keeping it from truly shining.

Why not donate to the cause at our Patreon?

Follow us on Twitter.

11/14/18 – Devin Nystrom

Alexander Radulov, Tyler Seguin, and Devin Shore lead the Dallas Stars with four goals at even strength.

This is a sentence that accurately describes hockey in the year of our Lord 2018, a year that makes zero sense in most contexts.

Shore’s career high in goals is 13 which should immediately raise some alarms. The five he has in 18 games this season have him on pace for 23. 23 goals from an unexpected source would be a major boost for a Stars team that needs offensive production.

It isn’t going to happen. Shore is shooting damn near 30%. He’s a a career 10% shooter prior to this season. Prior to the injury he was on pace to take 78 shots over the course of the entire season. He took 115 and 123 shots in each of the last two seasons. He’s 3rd from the bottom on the Stars in individual Corsi attempts per hour and 3rd from the bottom in individual expected goals per hour per Corsica. Like last season, he is still not consistently doing the things necessary to create offensive production.

I’m sure Shore is a wonderful teammate and a great guy. He does some things that do help the team. What I’m saying isn’t about that. He just isn’t very productive offensively, and these numbers are a mirage. I would say his shooting percentage will come down over time, but he takes so few shots it may linger up there for a while when he gets back in the lineup.

The point is this: many players before him have done this. Eric Nystrom notably did it after the Stars picked him up off waivers. Absurdly high shooting percentages will come back down to Earth, and players need to have the secondary areas of their game together to the point that they can still contribute when the goal scoring hot hand ends.

I like Devin Shore. I have a picture of him on my digital picture frame on the wall, which sounds infinitely creepier typed out than it did in my head. It pays to be honest though, and the reality is this isn’t sustainable offense.

Please do not send anyone to attempt to beat me up this time.

5/21/18 – Finding Offense Within: Valeri Nichushkin

The Dallas Stars need to find some of that sweet offense for 2019. They’re going to have to look under every rock and put on the heavy gloves to dig in every dirty couch they come across looking for spare offensive change. Today we dive into the Soviet Couch and look at old friend Valeri Nichushkin.

The first draft pick of Jim Nill as the Stars General Manager is only two months past his 23rd birthday. He’s coming back from Russia for the 2019 season so he should provide some offense down the lineup. How much he’s going to provide is where the problem comes in.

Val came out of the gates with 34 points as a rookie in 2014 before missing virtually all of 2015 due to injury. In 2016 he had another 29 points. Over his last 86 games in the KHL Nichushkin has 51 points which translates to roughly 30 points in the NHL.

Any number of reasons for this low total can be justified if you are so inclined, but I’m not. If you can score, you can score in the KHL. Ilya Kovalchuk has 285 points in 262 games the last five seasons. Pavel Datsyuk has 69 in 81 over the last two years.

And they’re old.

So if you’re looking for Nichushkin to come back and be a dynamic offensive player you’re probably barking up the wrong tree. He always looks dynamic though which is where the expectations and frustration come from. Look at him dice up the KHL before setting up a tap in goal.

Pass1.gif

Nichushkin has some slick hands. He can stickhandle, he can bulldoze his way to the net, and everything he does looks smooth. The slickness masks a lot of warts. Nichushkin looks the part of a dominant offensive forward, but mostly plays the game of a power forward with limited finishing ability.

Goal1.gif

Razor pointed this out with Nichushkin early on and I’ve never been able to shake it. Val can’t elevate the puck. This is purely anecdotal, but it seems like almost every one of his goals is nearly flat on the ice or a deflection. He can’t, or at least hasn’t been able to, shoot.

As a rookie Nichushkin produced at the rate of a third liner at even strength with third line minutes. The images are from hockeyviz.com.

Val1

After a lost season Val came back for the 2016 season and took a step back to perform at the level of a fourth liner. He was beyond useless on the powerplay in both seasons.

Val2

I pulled a bunch of data from Corsica to further illustrate the point.

Val

I took the even strength data collected for Nichushkin’s two full seasons. 21 forwards got into more than ten games in those two seasons. If you rolled 12 forwards to fill out a lineup from those two years Nichushkin might make the lineup.

Val5.

Maybe.

Those are his rankings in all of the aforementioned stats among the group of forwards.

I ran this poll for a reason.

There likely isn’t much difference production wise between Antoine Roussel and Nichushkin. The difference is in perceived potential or banking on youth. I would bank on youth too if the options are basically split though, honestly, spending legitimate money on either player is probably foolish.

I’m falling into the trap of focusing on what he can’t do. What can Nichushkin do that can help the Stars depth scoring issue? He can crash the hell out of the net and set up his linemates. Nichushkin needs to be on the ice with guys who can follow him to the net and accept passes from him in prime scoring areas. He’s best when the puck is on his stick. Let him have it.

The problem is he’s going to have to earn time with the guys who can do that, and the Stars don’t have many of them. Nichushkin isn’t taking Alexander Radulov‘s place in the lineup, but speaking of Radulov, that’s who Nichushkin needs to study endlessly.

At his absolute best that is who Nichushkin should strive to be: a big playmaking winger with some sand paper. At his worst Nichushkin is a bottom six forward who will drive the play to the other end of the rink which is absolutely valuable. You need guys like that to be successful. You just don’t want to pay them a ton of money when they are apparently relatively easy to acquire (hi Vegas).

5/15/18 – Finding Offense Within: Nick Caamano

The Dallas Stars are going to need to find offense from many different sources to make it back into the playoffs at the conclusion of the 2019 season. Efficient spending will be a key to maximizing how much offense they can add. With this series we’ll take a deep dive into some prospects who could help soon.

One of the biggest surprises of the 2017-18 training camp was prospect Nick Caamano. A 5th round pick in 2016 isn’t supposed to make as much noise as Caamano did, but he drew rave reviews from the Stars coaching staff. He even skated in a couple preseason games.

“I like him. I like him a lot,” said Hitchcock. “He’s got moxie. He’s a 19-year-old kid, but he’s got the moxie of an older player. He’s made a great account of himself, and nobody in this world would have thought he would have hung in this long. He’s still here, and when we play on Thursday he’ll be here again. That’s a good sign.”

That 19 year old kid was barely 19. He’ll turn 20 a couple weeks before camp starts in September. He was the youngest player in his draft year. Until he was traded to the Hamilton Bulldogs at the end of this year his OHL career was spent with the Flint Firebirds. You may remember them from this nonsense.

The 6’2 left shooting winger has put up respectable, but not eye popping, numbers in juniors with 121 points in his last 131 games over two seasons. Those numbers don’t suggest “future superstar”. With the right secondary skills and system fit he could provide bottom six offense fairly soon.

Given that he isn’t one of those eye-popping forwards very little video is out there of him in action. What you can see from the little that is easily accessible is a big power forward type that scores most of his goals by driving to the net.

Here he is scoring during the Hamilton playoff run by entering the zone with speed and going right to the net.

CaamanoGoal1

Not to throw unnecessary shade at our Russian friend, but this is the kind of play we always wanted to see more of from Val Nichushkin.

Caamano kills penalties too. Below is a short handed goal from earlier this season.

CaamanoGoal2

For a guy without a lot of hype that’s a nice bit of work on the breakaway. He deked the hell out of the goalie and showed some nice edge work. Check out his right skate as he comes in on the keeper.

That celebration is fun too.

In his brief six game run with the Texas Stars to end last season he registered three assists. This is one of them.

CaamanoAssist

There’s some playmaking ability in there on top of the ability to drive the net. At even strength this year he was really good. Using the numbers pulled together by prospect-stats.com we can see that he had the 10th most shots of any forward in the OHL at even strength.

Shots

(We’ll talk about number two later).

Of those shots, 45 were High Danger shots from in close. Only four forwards in the league attempted more at even strength. When you combine High Danger chances and Medium Danger chances Caamano shoots up to second in the league among forwards.

Shots2

(We’ll talk about number six later.)

The same holds true on the powerplay. Caamano finds ways to get to the net. The problem has been that he can’t score from distance. If he learns to use his playmaking ability more consistently he could be a valuable player going forward, but even as is if he can kill penalties, drive the net, play a responsible game, and occasionally score that’s a bottom six forward.

 

Antoine Roussel is a free agent looking for a raise from the two million he’s already making. Brett Ritchie is making close to two million for 14 points in a depth role. The Stars got 31 points out of the duo for close to four million. The Stars need depth scoring, but if someone like Caamano could step up to take one of their spots you’re probably getting similar production for less than half the price. All of the excess cash can then be funneled to a higher priced acquisition.

It’s entirely possible Caamano isn’t ready, but a year after the coaching staff seemingly fell in love with him it isn’t a stretch to think he could make the roster in a depth role out of camp if he has another strong showing.

5/9/18 – Miro Heiskanen’s European Fancy Stats

I’ve been doing some digging to get ready for the upcoming NHL Draft. I would like to give as much information as I can reasonably find on each of the players I think would be reasonable targets for the Dallas Stars at the 13th pick so I’m diving deep.

Spoiler alert: very near the top of that list is Finnish forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi. His profile is coming soon. In looking him up I came across something I didn’t realize existed: fancy stats for Liiga, the top league in Finland. Also playing in Liiga is Stars uber prospect Miro Heiskanen. So natural curiosity made me look him up.

Simo Teperi appears to have put the stats together based off of the work of Micah Blake McCurdy. The full list of player cards can be found here. This is how Heiskanen looked last season.

Miro

Let’s look into it piece by piece starting with his scoring rates.

Scoring

We knew Heiskanen got first pairing ice time, but it really sticks out when the visual aspect is added. The fact that his even strength goal scoring and primary assists per hour each individually made him score at the rate of a first pairing defender is something I didn’t realize.

ShootingZone

His point totals could have been even better. Miro’s IFK teammates only shot 4% with him on the ice. Bump that up a little and the assists will be racked up quickly.

Impacts

IFK was solid at generating shots and goals without Heiskanen on the ice. They were dominant with him on the ice though. The goal for these charts is to be in the upper right hand corner as much as possible.

Finnish teams don’t score against him, but they allow goals. The heat map shows how that happens. Remember that Heiskanen plays on the left side. I marked the areas of the ice to take note of on the chart below.

HeatMap

Teams just don’t get shots against IFK with Miro on the ice. The only red that shows up is on the fringes of the left face off circle outside of the prime scoring area. The left wing probably bares more responsibility for that than Heiskanen anyway given how tidy the area in front of the net looks.

Heiskanen puts puck on the net too. In the offensive zone you see an abundance of red at the left point into the face off circle, but also in about the same area on the right. He’s so damn good.

Stats

The rate stats look stupid for an 18 year old playing against grown men. They would look great for anyone, but an 18 year old performing the way he did is simply unfair. This was an NHL talent playing in Europe, and he’s going to look so good in North America in just a few months.

CoastToCoast

The Olympics gif posts are here if you need an adrenaline boost this morning.

 

5/7/18 – Finding Fancy Scorers in the Draft

The NHL Draft is just around the corner. This year the Dallas Stars aren’t in a power position. Last year the lottery balls fell their way, propelling them up to the third overall pick where they selected defenseman Miro Heiskanen. This year lady luck is too busy smiling on the Vegas Golden Knights to care about anyone else. The Stars will pick 13th.

A run of futility like this franchise has seen has no one culprit, but if we wanted to blame just one we’d have to pick one of scouting or development. More specifically we’d need to single out the inability to bring young offensive talent into the lineup. The little hockey team in Dallas desperately needs that to change this year.

How do they do that? Target scorers. It seems like a stupidly simple answer, but this is a league that let Brayden Point slide until the third round of the draft because he isn’t 6’2 and 210. Find guys who can create offense, skate, and have the hockey IQ Jim Nill covets. Take a cue from that new undersized head coach and knock size a few rungs down the decision-making process.

Data and the eye test can come together here and make identifying those scorers easier. Canucks Army always does great draft stuff. They put out their spring draft rankings recently. The post has a ton of info. I can’t stress enough that this isn’t the only thing you should focus on the prepare for the draft. The #FancyStats used for the rankings absolutely need to be considered though.

The goal here isn’t to rank the players for the draft. The goal is to find offense wherever it may be “hiding”. I took their data and focused on a few aspects of the offense. Some definitions from the Canucks Army rankings.

Stats.jpg

I sorted this by INV% and then cut off anyone at less than 2.5 shots per game. Arbitrary? Sure, but the focus is on the guys at the top anyway. It’s worth noting that many leagues don’t have stats available (US High School, Russian minor leagues, etc.) so some players won’t show up here.

Also, 5.1 is 5’10. I did a double take, but I’m not a smart man.

DraftFancy.jpg

Twelve guys are going before the Stars pick unless a trade surfaces. Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov, Quinton Hughes, Filip Zadina, Brady Tkachuk, Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, Adam Boqvist, and Evan Bouchard seem to be locks to be in that group.

You may notice that Wahlstrom is a ringer. For the USNTDP he took damn near five shots per game and was a dominant point producer at even strength. The Canucks Army write up included this absurd graphic.

Wahlstrom

Is that good? If he slips at all that’s a guy that should be squarely on the Stars radar from a statistical perspective.

Playmaker Joe Veleno stands out as a center who can get his linemates on the board. Joel Farabee wasn’t quite as good as Wahlstrom, but he’s still pretty great. Another is defenseman Ty Smith, but if all things are equal the pick should be a forward. The name my eyes get drawn to is down at the bottom, Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

He’s low because that measure includes powerplay time. He was a teenager playing in the top league in Finland, Liiga. I would imagine he didn’t get much time to do anything on the powerplay, but you can see that he was really productive at even strength. Teenager producing against adults? Check.

Other names from this list will be available when the Stars pick in the second and third rounds. This draft becomes a home run if they can make those middle of the draft picks into winners with offensive potential. Radek Faksa and Roope Hintz are quality players, but dynamic offense still has to be part of the equation somewhere. It’s up to the Stars to see if any of these guys fit what they want.

 

5/3/18 – Process and Puck Posession of Jim Montgomery

Two things should always be kept in mind when it comes to the Dallas Stars.

You never have any reason to trust anything that comes out of Jim Nill’s mouth if it’s about potential moves, and you should never pay much attention to media amplified coachspeak.

Coachspeak is that generic string of words a coach lays out for media or other outsiders that doesn’t really tell anyone much of anything. It isn’t a lie, but it doesn’t enlighten discourse in any way. It isn’t intended to either because it isn’t for anyone outside of the locker room.

Coachspeak doesn’t even tell players much specifically. It’s a series of mantras intended to trigger memories of how a coach wants players to play or specific traits they need to remember to project outwardly. Every coach does it on every level. We call it “their message”.

War is peace.

Freedom is slavery.

Ignorance is strength.

You know, the good stuff.

Soon-to-be-named Stars Head Coach Jim Montgomery has his own mantras. We’ll surely get to know them well over time. One aspect of his program is his “process” that we’ve seen discussed often since the news of his imminent hiring started to leak. He detailed it for The Coaches Site.

Monty

Those seven items are…something.

If were four out of seven in a game, were probably going to win that game. And if weve got five or six, the games actually become lopsided in our favour. Like I said, its simple.

Number one, two, and four stick out quite a bit here because Montgomery has been billed as a possession-focused modern coach. His teams racked up the Corsis in the NCAA so a focus on hits and faceoffs and blocked shots seems surprising because of how relatively insignificant they are to winning hockey games.

I settled on these seven because they give the team a clear understanding of what to do when it comes to the small details of the game, and it will lead to big results.

Then it starts to make more sense.

Its about keeping things simple and boring, really. Simple and boring work well in sports. Through my playing career, I noticed that if I thought about simple things, small details about my game, I usually had really good games; when I worried about the big things like results, I played nervous and didnt play well.

Coming up with the process was a way for me to relate to my team about what will give us success. When were playing bigger games, we always come back to the process and it allows us to play consistently in the big moments when the pressure is on. We always say, were about the process because it keeps things simple.

…It helps with the mental component, toowhen moments get big, we talk about staying in the moment and focusing on our process. We should be focusing on our next shift, or the next face off. The simplicity of the process allows our players to mentally lock in.

Breathe out of your eyelids. Don’t think meat, pitch. This process he lays out is much more of a mental trick to help players focus. If you look at each of the seven they’re mostly vague and hard to measure outside of hits, odd man rushes, and the 60% faceoff goal.

So these are small things that help players focus on smaller aspects of the game, but what does the overall picture look like from his mind? Fortunately a video is floating around out there if you want to get a free trial or subscription to The Coaches Site. I did because I was curious after seeing that is was titled “Puck Possession”.

Ok, now we’re speaking language that sounds more like what I’ve seen in Denver video, and that reflects the numbers his teams put up.

The video is 31 minutes long. It contains a brief Q&A after 25 minutes of him speaking about the intricacies of how he coached Denver up. It includes slides stating the principles he follows offensively and in transition plus video clips of his team executing.

I pulled all of the slides and interesting quotes of his from throughout.

He started off with a bang.

If we feel like we possess the puck for 60% of the game we’re going to win at least 80 percent of our games.

And how does he envision doing that in general?
Slide1

What Montgomery did throughout this video is that missing piece that we don’t see as outsiders. He went into detail about how he teaches his team to get and maintain possession. That starts with a strict focus on skaters protecting the puck and winning puck battles.

He then spent time going over faceoffs, but we’re here for the sauce.

Slide3

Penetrating the dots is quite the #HockeyAfterDark way to say generating scoring chances.

And we must end up penetrating inside the dots. It’s great to possess the puck outside the dots, but if you’re not generating scoring chances then that’s the number one telltale sign for us when we do our analytics. We do scoring chances after the game, and we want to know how many we’re generating inside the house compared to our opponents. And usually if we have a big advantage there we win the game quite handily.

If you generate more scoring chances than your opponent you tend to win games. I’ll be damned. This was the first of many instances where Montgomery indicated how important it is to him to create meaningful offense.

Slide4

“If you can breakout through the middle you’re gonna have success.”

The keys to everything he wants his teams to do come from the blueline. It seems like the clear focus for him will be coming up through the middle instead of up the boards constantly like the Stars did under Ken Hitchcock.

We want to preferably break out through the middle because that’s where we feel you gain the most speed at the other team’s blueline.

And oh my sweet lord this quote:

We want players that want the puck, and you gotta demand the puck.

He then illustrated how this looks with several clips, but this one impressed me with how quickly his guys moved the puck.

Breakout 64.png

It’s about making a pass to get to the next layer, and get past the forwards to create odd man rushes and easy entries.

Easy entries? What a nice thing that would be to see.

Now we move to the neutral zone. Montgomery has already mentioned speed a couple times. He does here too.

If you can carry the puck in with speed into the opposition’s end, D-zone breakouts and neutral zone counters are the two that create the best scoring chances.

He has two neutral zone schemes he likes to follow. The first one he took directly from the Chicago Blackhawks.

Slide5.jpg

If you’re looking for more promising signs of his focus on offense, he shared his thoughts about how the forwards should be thinking in the neutral zone.

They have to have some creativity to read open ice and trust their offensive instincts.

The other scheme he calls Climb, but he took this one from the Los Angeles Kings.

Slide6

Taking cues from two of the best possession teams of the decade seems like a splendid idea. This scheme has all players below the blueline with the defenseman bringing the puck forward, or “climbing”.

You really have to teach your defensemen to be patient so you can expose and create open ice.

John Klingberg, Julius Honka, and Miro Heiskanen. Inject all of that into my veins.

We haven’t even gotten into the offensive zone yet. When he finally really started talking about offense he began by referencing Wayne Gretzky.

Sure.

Slide7

For us, we call it the Gretzky cutbacks and delays. The best offensive mind ever, I think he introduced this. I think the Russians were doing it way before Gretzky introduced it to everybody, but I think you’re crazy if you don’t learn and teach what Gretzky did.

He went on to explain what the significance of the cutbacks and delays can be offensively.

The most important thing is when he pulls up or does a cutback, you don’t always have a play to make. When we talk about puck possession at Denver, if we can’t make a play we’re going to put the puck to the goal line. And we always have a middle lane drive that is going to the strong side post…Every defensive team is the most vulnerable when the puck is behind the goalie because all eyes and stick positioning and feet positioning are most vulnerable if you can create puck possession behind the net.

Once they get the puck behind the net the offense kicks in. Montgomery referenced being in a triangle down low, and moving the puck low to high frequently. If they move the puck from low to high then the defensemen are a critical part of the offense.

Slide9.jpg

The defensemen have to be involved to keep the puck moving and create mismatches. The Stars absolutely have the personnel to make this work.

So, that got longer than I expected. In short, I’ll let Montgomery sum up what he has going on.

“We feel that in this day and age to score goals, you have to empower everyone to do it.”

He has his “process”, but make no mistake this is about offense. Denver attacks the net and protects their own so naturally winning net battles will happen. I don’t know how they ever got 50 hits in a game honestly.

When he says that Denver would win four of those pieces of the process, 3-7 are almost certainly the most commonly won pieces, but even then they aren’t the ultimate goal of what Montgomery wants. He wants his teams playing offensive hockey, but he wants them to focus on details so they don’t get lost in the moment.

It probably isn’t worth worrying that he’s out of touch with modern hockey. He pretty clearly gets it, even if the note about hits is a little troubling.

“If you don’t have any questions it looks like we might be able to hit the beer earlier.”

Yeah, he’ll probably fit in here.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s stupid. Let’s calm down.

3/27/18 – Should Marc Methot be in Over Julius Honka?

I didn’t intend to make this about Julius Honka, but somehow things always seem to be about him. I suppose that happens when your team has a bad record, you have consistently good numbers, and you can’t get in the lineup.

This is really more about Marc Methot. When he came back from his extended injury absence he re-entered the lineup in place of Honka. Honka and Stephen Johns had been going pretty well in his absence.

 

Derek brought this question up and it did get me thinking more about Methot. He got injured on January 6th. He came back on February 16th. In that span with him out of the lineup the Stars went 10-4-1. Since that time they are 3-11-2.

There is zero chance Methot is solely to blame for the dramatic swing, but the question of his impact on Johns made me curious what kind of impact he does have on the defense pairs.

I pulled the defense pair stats from Corsica and did 10 seconds of Excel Magic to pull up their expected goal rates per hour to see which pairs had been the most effective at maximizing potential goals for and limiting potential goals against at even strength for the full season.

DPairs

The top two pairs have barely been on the ice together so we’ll crown Esa Lindell and John Klingberg as the Stars best defense pairing. Dan Hamhuis and Greg Pateryn have been really good too, with most of their value coming in the defensive end. We’ve seen that Pateryn does have some offensive value, so I do wonder if this pair could do better if Pateryn was allowed to be slightly more active.

The third most effective pairing has the duo of Julius Honka and Stephen Johns, which goes to the question Derek put out there. Methot has actually been a member of the two three least effective pairs the Stars have run. (And Jesus, Johns has had six different partners).

Is there a reason he is in the lineup over Honka? He isn’t one of the Stars top penalty killers so his value is going to have to come at even strength, and it’s pretty obvious the value is less than what Honka brings.

Does he give you a better chance of winning? I don’t think so, but does it really matter? They’re effectively out of the playoffs. I think Honka gives you a better chance of winning so #TeamTank might prefer Methot, but in the interest of next season you really need Honka to play the rest of the stretch unless you feel like you already know what he is.

Does Hitchcock even feel there is an issue? Methot is doing exactly what is being asked of him so asking Hitchcock to bench him seems like an unreasonable proposition. Why would he scratch a guy doing the job asked of him without an order from up high to get Honka more ice time? I don’t see it.

If the Stars did truly want to see Honka over Methot, they at least have to consider his trade value. He has five million dollars coming to him. Determining that Honka needs to play over him is a tacit admission that he’s the Stars 7th defenseman….making five million dollars. They gave up a 2nd round pick for him, and almost certainly aren’t recovering a pick that high in return for him. Would benching him over Honka the last two weeks hurt his value more?

tl;dr #FreeHonka