How is Coach Anderson Using His Roster?

Last season, I wrote about Zone Shift and Shift Start location (Desjardins has a description here). Now that we have a few games worth of data, I thought it might be interesting to see how Coach Anderson is using his roster. Shifts that begin in the offensive zone are the easiest--they are much more likely to lead to a shot on goal by the Thrashers. On the other hand, if you start a shift in your own end, that faceoff results in a shot against 25% of the time. Not only do defensive zone faceoffs lead to more shots against, they lead to HIGH QUALITY shots against. Desjardins ran the numbers this summer and found that shots that are fired with a few seconds of a DZ faceoff go into the net at the same rate as shots fired on a 5 on 3 Power Play. In other words, losing a DZ faceoff is the equivalent of giving your opponent a 5 second two man advantage--that's a big effect! If you're the coach you have to game plan these situations.

I have created a table below that shows the breakdown of each player's Offensive Zone Face Offs (OF FO), Defensive Zone Face Offs (DZ FO), and Neutral Zone (NZ FO) in the first three games. The final column is the percentage of faceoffs that are "tough" because they are in the Defensive Zone.

Among Thrasher Forwards, the 3rd line is getting the "tough" draws. Peverley, Kane, Armstrong and Reasoner. Despite starting in the "bad" end of the ice, Armstrong and Peverley are the only two Thrashers forwards with a positive Corsi (Net Shots Attempted) so far this season. That is very impressive. The other thing this tells us is that John Anderson knows how to deploy his players. The right guys are being sent over the boards to do the dirty work that is crucial to winning hockey games.

Who is being protected? Not the 1st line. The Kovalcuk-Antropov-Little line is right around the team average in terms of their share of DZ face offs. The 2nd line comes in slighty under the team average, but it is the 4th line that is REALLY being kept away from DZ face offs. Forget that bluster about the Thrashers having the "best 4th line in hockey"--Coach Anderson doesn't trust them to handle the tough draws in their own end. Boulton and Thorburn have seen just 4 DZ draws over three games. So far, the 3rd line is taking the 4th line's share of DZ draws.

 

ATL Forwards OZ FO DZ FO NZ FO Total FO DZ % of all FO
RICH PEVERLEY 4 12 9 25 0.480
EVANDER KANE 3 11 9 23 0.478
COLBY ARMSTRONG 3 9 8 20 0.450
MARTY REASONER 5 7 4 16 0.438
BRYAN LITTLE 10 13 20 43 0.302
Thrashers Team Avg. 90 111 174 375 0.296
ILYA KOVALCHUK 10 13 21 44 0.295
NIK ANTROPOV 9 11 21 41 0.268
TODD WHITE 13 11 19 43 0.256
MAXIM AFINOGENOV 12 10 18 40 0.250
VYACHESLAV KOZLOV 13 10 18 41 0.244
ERIC BOULTON 4 2 10 16 0.125
CHRIS THORBURN 4 2 9 15 0.133
JIM SLATER 0 0 8 8 0.000
ATL Defense
RON HAINSEY 17 18 19 54 0.333
PAVEL KUBINA 16 17 21 54 0.315
MARK POPOVIC 2 4 7 13 0.308
Thrashers Team Avg. 90 111 174 375 0.296
ANSSI SALMELA 6 8 14 28 0.286
TOBIAS ENSTROM 6 12 24 42 0.286
ZACH BOGOSIAN 7 11 25 43 0.256
CHRISTOPH SCHUBERT 6 4 6 16 0.250

 

At defense we see much less of a spread than we did with the forward lines. Every D man falls somewhere between 33%-25% DZ draws and the team average is right at 30%. The Hainsey-Kubina pairing is getting the most dirty work, and like the Armstrong line, they have managed to post a positive shot differential despite a poor starting position.  Bogosian and Schubert have received the most favorable ES shift starting locations.

Conclusion

It is encouraging to see that the guys who have been given the worst starting positions have ended up with a positive Corsi Number (Net Shots Attempted). It is also encouraging to see that Coach Anderson has had the right players on the ice in those situations. What is discouraging is that the guys getting the better shift start location are not doing more with their territorial advantage--that must improve for the Thrashers to make the playoffs this year.

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