Phil Kessel, better with Joffrey Lupul?



So far, we’ve looked at how Keith Aulie and Luke Schenn performed during the stretch run compared to their early season minutes. While in both cases there was some improvement for each young defenseman, both players saw their PDO’s increase thanks to the stellar play of one James Reimer.

Today, we look at Phil Kessel, before the trade that brought Joffrey Lupul to his wing and after the trade that brought Lupul along. Just to explain some of the methodology, the Fenwick number is a Corsi variant which counts goals, shots and missed shots fired at both nets when a player is on the ice. It’s a performance number that seeks to track where the bulk of the quality shots were when a player was on the ice. 

That number is adjusted depending on whether a player started his shift in the offensive zone or the defensive zone. We are left with three numbers: the first calculates offensive efficiency, the second calculates his defensive efficiency, and the third tracks his two-way capabilities. 

Pre-Lupul Trade 54 26 42 375 428 181 186 225 214 10.66 12.27 -1.49 6.5% 91.1% 97.5%
Post-Lupul Trade 28 23 19 194 233 83 117 132 130 10.67 13.22 -2.51 10.6% 92.5% 103.1%
Total 82 49 61 569 661 264 303 357 344 10.66 12.60 -1.84 7.9% 91.6% 99.5%

[Legend GP Games played GF On-ice goals for GA On-ice goals against SF On-ice saved shots for SA On-ice saved shots against MF On-ice missed shots for MA On-ice missed shots against OS Offensive zone starts DS Defensive zone starts AdjFF Adjusted Fenwick events for, per game AdjFA Adjusted Fenwick events against, per game AdjFen Adjusted Fenwick number, per game Sh% On-ice shooting percentage SV% On-ice save percentage PDO On-ice shooting percentage plus on-ice save percentage]

And, if you prefer a ‘per game’ chart…

Pre-Lupul Trade 54 0.48 0.78 6.94 7.93 3.35 3.44 4.17 3.96 10.66 12.27 -1.49 6.5% 91.1% 97.5%
Post-Lupul Trade 28 0.82 0.68 6.93 8.32 2.96 4.18 4.71 4.64 10.67 13.22 -2.51 10.6% 92.5% 103.1%
Total 82 0.60 0.74 6.94 8.06 3.22 3.70 4.35 4.20 10.66 12.60 -1.84 7.9% 91.6% 99.5%

[All data downloaded from Vic Ferrari’s wonderful Time On Ice website]

The odd takeaway here is that Lupul didn’t help Kessel generate any more shots than he did when he was playing with a pair of AHLers in the early part of the season. All that happened when Lupul came to the team is that the inevitable correction for those shooting percentages. Individually, Kessel scored .46 goals per game after the trade and .35 in the first 54 games of the season.

So, a variance correction, and all that. Lupul was one of the worst players in adjusted Fenwick out of all NHLers last season among forwards (ahead of only Matt Martin of the New York Islanders and his old Anaheim Duck teammate Brandon MacMillan) so let’s not hold our breath that the Lupul-Kessel combination with Tim Connolly will stay together when all three are healthy. From a strictly performance perspective, Lupul doesn’t appear to give Kessel all that much help up front. Whoever slots in at centre will have to provide more defensive support than Tyler Bozak ever could. It’s worth noting that Connolly was above average in both Fenwick events against and Adjusted Fenwick number last season in his 68 games with the Sabres.

  • Indeed. Factoring in shot distance, however, Kessel was 44th, so maybe there’s something to be said about his increased goal totals. Then there’s always the issue of wanting another scorer, or a guy to complement your strictly offensive game with defense, none of which Kessel has had since coming to Toronto.