This has taken us a while to get to unfortunately, but one of my favourite hockey metricians, Rob Vollman, collected and published player usage charts from all 30 NHL teams. The Maple Leafs’ chart is quite striking for a number of ways, and you’ll see why below.
Before we get to it, and to fill a bit of space before the jump, I suppose, I’m going to warn you that we might spend a bit of time looking back on the 2011-12 Leafs season, hopefully in more than a “what went wrong???” capacity. Hey, we might find something optimistic that we didn’t know about a particular player a year ago.
After the jump, you’ll see why I like David Steckel. Also, Nazem Kadri.
Here’s the chart itself. The full 30-team doc is available here for free and it’s wonderful to read if you’re interested in statistical commentary. To read the chart, the basic thing to note is the circles. Blue circles represent players with positive Corsi, our name for a shot differential statistic that acts as a proxy for team puck possession when a player is on the ice. White circles represent negative Corsi, and the size of the circle indicates to what degree.
The x-axis (horizontal) indicates offensive zone start rate, meaning that the further a player is to the right, the more optimized his minutes are for offensive usage. The y-axis (vertical) is to place a player’s quality of competition, the higher the better.
Note the difficulty of Dave Steckel’s minutes. As the third-line centreman, while many players are clumped together, Steckel faced a lot of tough situations with the Leafs this year. Behind the Net has him listed at 6th in Corsi Rel QoC on the team among regular forwards, but he saw a lot of shifts that started purely in the defensive zone. They have him at 38%. He’s one of the few Leafs who did his job this season.
This was not lost on Alan Ryder, who in his Leafs commentary:
Steckel was acquired preseason to help address the Leafs’ shoddy penalty kill. He is one of the NHL’s top faceoff men and was routinely trotted out for defensive zone faceoffs, whether or not short handed and more often than not against superior opposition.
Vollman’s take starts by disparaging Jay Rosehill for stretching his graph. Argue all you want about the need for size and toughness in the lineup, but the first thing you need to worry about is having effective hockey players, and Rosehill was the furthest thing from that. Playing quite possibly the easiest minutes in the National Hockey League, Rosehill was hemmed in his own end more often than not.
He also indicated on Steckel:
When studying their forwards take it easy on Steckel, Crabb, Brown or Dupuis’ stat sheets because while the Leafs aren’t too rigid on line-matching, Wilson and/or Carlyle tilted the ice away from players like these.
On other players’ usage geography, Vollman also notes:
Forget Kessel, Lupul and gang (ok not Kessel) because the big circle you see above them is Grabovski’s, with fellow top liner MacArthur in between him and Kulemin. Further down the impressive big blue circle is Kadri’s with Lombardi’s equally big and disappointing white circle sticking out of the side, both hiding Liles’ modest Gardinersized blue circle.
Kadri’s quality of competition and offensive zone start rate were both slightly easier than the NHL average, but he at least performed, with the second biggest blue circle on the team—his Corsi Rel rate of 10.9 was the second highest behind two-way threat Mikhail Grabovski.
By looking at the chart, nothing should come as too surprising to the regular readers of The Leafs Nation. For those of you new to advanced statistics, the usage charts are a good visual way at interpreting advanced statistics, which we cite frequently around these parts.
Kadri and Steckel are the two players who stick out the most to me. Hopefully next season Carl Gunnarsson’s circle earns a blue shade next season, but for a young defenceman playing some of the toughest minutes on the team, his white circle is small enough to earn recognition.