ZoneStarts and ZoneFinishes through 33 games

With the holidays coming up and the Leafs not playing again until the 26th, I thought this would be a good time to take a little look at how the Leafs’ players are faring in regards to ZoneStarts and ZoneFinishes.  Within this post are a couple of graphs for forwards and defencemen that I feel are pretty good illustrations of their performances.

For those of you unfamiliar with these relatively new advanced statistics, ZoneStarts and ZoneFinishes were first introduced by Vic Ferrari (of Irreverent Oiler Fans) a couple of years ago.  Roughly, the purpose of these stats are to give us the context of each player’s shifts on the ice during even-strength play; ZoneStarts is an indication of where a coach prefers to send a player out for faceoffs, and ZoneFinishes help give us an idea of which players drive the play towards the offensive zone and which ones end up in their own zone.  ZF is calculated by the number of times a player was on the ice when the play stopped and where the next faceoff was*, regardless of whether the player was on the ice for the resulting faceoff or not.
Gabriel Desjardins of the terrific Behind-the-Net stats site publishes the faceoff data for NHL players that is necessary to formulate the ZoneStart and ZoneFinish differential percentages at 5v5 that I’ve used in this post (they are different from Desjardins’ own OPct numbers, which simply take the number of offensive zone faceoffs and divide them into offensive zones + defensive zones, with neutral zone faceoffs).

The formulas for ZoneStart Differential % and ZoneFinish Differential %:

ZoneStart DIF % = Percentage of Offensive Zone Starts (OZS / Total FO Starts) – Percentage of Defensive Zone Starts (DZS / Total FO Starts)
ZoneFinish DIF % = Percentage of Offensive Zone Finishes (OZF / Total FO Finishes) – Percentage of Defensive Zone Finishes (DZF / Total FO Finishes)

Before we move onto the Leafs data, it is important to understand that in general, players’ ZoneFinishes will draw closer to 0 than their ZoneStarts.  As Desjardins stated in this article, "no player ever finishes in the defensive or offensive zone to the extremes that players are started in those zones by their coaches".  Here is a graph on all NHL forwards from 2007-08 to 2009-10 (who played a minimum of 50 games in a season) that demonstrates this point:

As you can see, the higher the ZoneStarts (in blue), the more red points (ZoneFinishes) there are below the blue line, and at the low end on the right side of the graph, there are much more red points above the blue line than below it.

Now let’s have a view of the ZStand ZFn percentages for Leafs’ forwards of 2010-11 so far (minimum 100 faceoffs):

Forwards represented by the numbers on the x-axis:
1 – Bozak, 2 – Mitchell, 3 – Kadri, 4 – Kessel, 5 – Kulemin, 6 – Versteeg, 7 – MacArthur, 8 – Grabovski, 9 – Orr, 10 – Brown, 11 – Armstrong, 12 – Sjostrom, 13 – Brent

Once again, the Kulemin-Grabovski-MacArthur unit is shown to be by far the best option the Leafs have right now.  Besides those three, only Nazem Kadri boasts a ZFn DIF % above zero.  Bozak and Mitchell each have a ZSt DIF % of over 10 % and yet neither one finished above 0 %.  Kessel and Versteeg are doing badly in this aspect, often starting in the offensive zone but getting pounded back into their own end of the rink.  Colton Orr has the worst ZFn % differential on the team at -15.5.  Tim Brent and Fredrik Sjostrom, who have the highest percentages of Defensive Zone FOs on the team, managed a higher ZFn DIF % than ZSt DIF %.

Now onto the Leafs’ Defencemen:

Defencemen represented by the numbers on the x-axis:
1 – Lebda, 2 – Kaberle, 3 – Phaneuf, 4 – Schenn, 5 – Gunnarsson, 6 – Beauchemn, 7 – Aulie, 8 – Komisarek

I don’t know about you but I’ve already seen enough evidence that Brett Lebda is not a good NHL player.  However, to start that high (13.5 %) and finish THAT low (-7.9 %), well that is a particularly damning indictment of Lebda’s terrible play.  Mike Komisarek, on the opposite end of the spectrum as far Zone Starts goes, didn’t do much worse in terms of Zone Finishes.  Dion Phaneuf is doing quite poorly here as well.  Carl Gunnarsson is the only Leafs’ defenceman with a positive ZFn DIF %, with a surprising 8.7 %.

* – For ZoneFinishes, I had to add Goals For while-on-ice to OZF and Goals Against while-on-ice to DZF while subtracting GF & GA from Neutral Zone Finishes.