The tortoises and hares among Western Conference forwards, four weeks into the season
Tortoises and Hares: Forwards (2016)
10 games into the year pretty much marks the kick-off of panic season. It becomes easier to slip into panic mode the more players off to bad starts that reside on one team. Now is the time to identify whether there is a usage issue or the player is just riding the wrong side of the percentages. Even then small sample sizes can make it difficult to get a good read on a player but there has been enough to gleam a trend or two, especially as it pertains to usage and power play time.
Anthony Duclair – Arizona (1 goal & 1 assist in 11 games)
Duclair’s big problem is that he has only been involved in 25% of the Coyotes’ even strength goals scored while he is on the ice, which translates to him only having been on the ice for eight even strength foals thus far. That is especially as his on-ice shooting percentage has risen from an unusually high level of 10% last to almost 13% this year. The root causes of this problem are less ice time, both overall and on the power play, getting caved in through the run of play and less favourable linemates. Duclair is currently seeing a minute less of ice time per game than he was last year, with much of that reduction coming on the power play. Than take into account that Coyotes are getting two fewer shots per 60 minutes as well as 0.2 fewer scoring chances per 60 minutes with Duclair on the ice and getting outshot by a three to two ratio and out chanced by a similar margin. That suggests that despite getting 60% offensive zone starts he and his line mates are spending a lot of their time in their own zone. Finally, Duclair’s linemates, especially on the power play have gotten worse as he no longer gets time on the top unit, whereas at even strength he has split his time between clear top six lines and something that may be a third line at best. These factors suggest that Duclair will struggle to hit 40 points this year.
Joel Ward – San Jose (1 goal and 0 assists in 12 games)
Ward looks like a sure bet to get his season turned around as the Sharks are averaging 30 shots per 60 minute when he is on the ice along with almost 15 scoring chances per minutes. His lone goal on the season represents the only goal the Sharks have scored when he is on the ice, representing a 2.5% on-ice shooting percentage. The Sharks are scoring 0.79 goals per 60 minutes at even strength with Ward on the ice despite having an expected goals per 60 rate of 3.25. In all Ward has a PDO of 903 with an expected PDO of just over 100. That bodes very well for his even strength numbers turning the corner in the near future but Ward will not make a full recovery because his power play ice time has taken a big cut this year falling from two minutes last year to 21 seconds per game this year. While he has never been especially reliant on the power play for his production this will make it nearly impossible for Ward to hit 40 points, with 35 being difficult as well.
Robby Fabbri – St Louis (1 goal & 3 assists in 13 games)
Fabbri’s problems are not just percentage related there are legitimate issues as the Blues are not getting the same number of shots or scoring chances when he is on the ice as they were last year. On the most recent edition of the TSN hockey analytics podcast it was suggested that part of the issue might be related to a tendency of the Fabbri-Steen-Stastny line, Fabbri’s most common combination, to feed the puck back to the blueline for shots by less than potent defensemen. That would help to explain the steep decline in the scoring chance rate when Fabbri is on the ice. Another explanation might be that Fabbri’s line is being used in a more defensive role. While he has been getting nearly 55% offensive zone starts overall that falls drastically when he is on the ice with Alex Steen. The news is not all bad for Fabbri he is getting three extra total minutes per game including an extra minute per game on the power play. The shot rate when he is on the ice is trending up as well and it will need to continue to do so if his season is going to turn around, regardless of what happens with his percentages.
Mathieu Perreault – Winnipeg (1 goal & 2 assists in 11 games)
Perreault is another guy who has seen the shot and scoring chance rates when he is on the ice plummet this year. Even worse the Jets are now getting pummeled when he is on the ice as they give up nearly 15 scoring chances and more than 37 shots per 60 minutes when he is on the ice at even strength. This a guy who for the last two years saw the Jets take 55% of the shots when he was on the ice now down at 42%. That means that he, and his linemates, is struggling to even get the puck out of the defensive zone. Thus is comes as no surprise that the Jets are not generating the same type of shot and scoring chance rates as they have in the past with him on the ice. Perreault’s shot rate is up a bit but his scoring chance rate is down, which would partially explain his lower shooting percentage. Another negative for Perreault is that he has largely been used on the second power play unit, which means that even though he still gets lots of power play time it is not as valuable as it once was when it accounted for a third of his production. Perreault’s numbers will undoubtedly improve, especially as his predominantly young linemates acclimate better to the NHL but they will not be what they once were, 0.67 points per game.
Artem Anisimov – Chicago (8 goals & 9 assists in 13 games)
Anisimov should be wearing a large ‘R’ on his jersey because there may not be a better bet to regress in the Western Conference. His eight goals have come on 24 shots. He is scoring on every third shot he takes and the Blackhawks are scoring on every shot they take with him on the ice. His shots per 60 minutes have slipped under five while the Hawks are taking just over 23 shots per 60 minutes when he is on the ice, hence the four per 60 minutes. There are some positives such as the extra scoring chance and a half he is getting per 60 minutes but nothing that justifies almost a point and a half per game. Nor is there a great explanation for the 24 power play points for which he is on pace. Given that he only needs 33 more points in 69 games it is not inconceivable that he reaches 50 points this year but there is nothing in his numbers or usage that warrants much long term positivity because there is bound to be a crash. Remember he started last season with 15 points in his first 21 games including nine goals on 32 shots.
Richard Panik – Chicago (7 goals & 4 assists in 13 games)
This has got to be a nice chance for Panik going from largely playing with Andrew Shaw, Dennis Rasmussen and Andrew Desjardins last year to Jonathan Toews, and a rotating cast of opposite side wingers. He is already showing signs of slowing down as he has three points in his last seven games but all the signs are there that Panik could put up 45 points this year. Aside from the linemates he is seeing almost five more minutes per game this year including nearly two more minutes on the power play. The increase in power play minutes per game for Panik this year is greater than the total power play minutes per game he average in the last four years. His two minutes and six seconds of power play time per game is almost double his highest total over the last four seasons. Panik is also making peripheral contributions as his rate has increased with his ice time. Panik has normally contributed a hit and a half per game although last year, his first in Chicago it jumped to two per game. Now in 1.5 times as many minutes per game his hit rate has hit nearly three per game, which equates to 240 over a full season. Last year only two players got 40 or more points and 240 or more hits, meaning Panik has the potential to have an underrated fantasy season.
Marian Hossa – Chicago (6 goals & 5 assists in 12 games)
This was the year this column and many others finally bought into the decline of Hossa and it appears rumours of his demise were greatly exaggerated. He is still averaging three shot per game although that does not explain the six goals, equally as impressive is that he still produces more than three scoring chances per 60 minutes. With those numbers a return to a shooting percentage over 10% would not be shocking. It is not all roses for Hossa though. His ice time is down by nearly 30 seconds per game which does not seem drastic except that his power play minutes are artificially high at the moment as his percentage of available power play time has dropped to 36% but his total time per game has gone up over last year. Hossa could be for real but last year Joel Quenneville had a relatively short leash for Hossa, who saw more time away from Jonathan Toews than with him, a cold streak this year could a similar tumble down the lineup. Otherwise another season nearing 50 points could be in the cards.
Matt Duchene – Colorado (6 goals & 4 assists in 11 games)
There are a couple red flags with Matt Duchene but if anyone on this list is capable of maintaining their current pace, it is him. His shot rate has been consistent over the last three years at 2.5 per game. His power play time is up both in terms of the available percentage he garners and total minutes. The kicker is that his best season saw him score at a per game pace that was better than it is this season. That does not mean that there is no reason to worry. His 21% shooting percentage is high but does not represent a crazy regression like a couple others on this list as Duchene is capable of converting 15% of his chances. It is also concerning that while his overall ice time has not risen his time on the penalty kill has. This looks more like a big year for Duchene than just a hot start, especially if he can bing his assist rate up to match previous years.
Statistics for this column were drawn from Dobberhockey.com Reporting Tools (i.e. Frozen Pool), Corsica.hockey and stats.hockeyanalysis.com