Thursday, November 19, 2009

Avalanche Chances - Games 11 to 20

For those who are unfamiliar with the scoring chance metric, a player is given a chance any time someone on the ice has a chance to score. He is given a "chance for" if someone on his team has a chance to score and a "chance against" if the opposing team has a chance to score, just like +/-. The graph is broken down into three game states, EV situations, PP situations (excluding 5v3) and SH situations (excluding 5v3). At EV I've also included a "scoring chance percentage" which is the number of "chances for" divided by the the total number of chances for both teams when a given player is on the ice. The players are all represented by their jersey numbers and initials. Special thanks are due to Dennis King for starting the trend towards counting scoring chances and to Vic Ferrari for creating an application that makes the game-to-game tallying much easier. I myself have been keeping tracking scoring chances for the Colorado Avalanche this year. The first table I'll present here is for games 11-20 and the second for the first twenty games the Avalanche have played this year. If you're curious about how the Avalanche did in the first ten games, I wrote about that earlier this year.

The Avalanche compiled a record of 5-4-1 in games 11-20 compared to a record of 7-1-2 in their first ten. Yet, the scoring chances remained about equal in both segments (46.3% in the first ten and 46.0% in the second). Thanks to some wonderful work by JLikens we know that the Avalanche haven't been doing well territorially when the game is tied. In fact, they were the worst team in the league. This tells us two things for sure. Firstly, that the Colorado Avalanche were a very lucky team in the first ten games of the season (or, if you prefer, they were riding a hot goalie and getting timely scoring, same difference as far as I'm concerned, either way, it ain't continuing forever). Secondly, that territorial advantage generally and outshooting in particular is no guarantee that you're going to win games. Still, Tyler Dellow has shown that, more often than not, the team that outshoots wins the game. The same is most certainly true of outchancing and so far the Avalanche haven't been doing much of either. Many have predicted that the Avalanche will not be able to keep up their early pace and you can count me among them. Nonetheless, I expect to see a lot of ten game segments where the Avalanche put together a record between three and six wins. The road back to the playoff bubble will likely be slow and plodding, but they'll eventually get there.

As for some of the specific players, I noted in my first overview that John-Michael Liles isn't a very good hockey player. He only played four games in this segment and he probably was not fully recovered from his injury but that 20% number is just comically bad. If the Avs could pick one contract to jettison surely it would be the one they've given to Liles. The rest of the defenders had a pretty good time of things. Kyle Quincey's numbers aren't particularly good but he has been taking on tough opposition for the first time in his career so some struggles are understandable. Ryan Wilson has been playing well in a depth role which bodes well for his future and Adam Foote had a very nice bounce-back performance from the first segment.

After a strong first segment, Matt Duchene really tailed off here. His season so far reminds me a lot of watching Sam Gagner's first year with the Oilers. A legitimately good start that quickly faded into poor play because he simply isn't ready for the NHL. There's enough skill that he's able to make a breathtaking play every now and again but, for the most part, the kid gets clobbered by players who are bigger, stronger and just plain old better than anything he's seen to this point in his hockey career. He'll be a fantastic player one day, but that day isn't today. Or tomorrow. Or, if he's anything like Gagner, probably not for a while after that.

Ryan O'Reilly also came back a little bit, but not nearly as much as Duchene. Of the two players, I think I've been most impressed with O'Reilly though the junior results and the draft pedigree lead me to believe that Duchene will have the better career. Regardless, what a fantastic draft for the Avalanche this past June.

A lot of the data here is very similar to what we saw in the last ten games. Ryan Wilson is showing promise while John-Michael Liles is showing just how bad a well-paid NHLer can be at EV. But my goodness look at Wojtek Wolski. According to Behind the Net he's faced the fourth toughest competition among Avalanche forwards (although Vic Ferrari has recently given us some helpful reminders about how these numbers can sometimes trick us) and he's been starting pretty consistently in the defensive end of the ice (at the time of writing he has been on the ice for 26 more D-zone draws than O-zone draws which is the second toughest differential among Avs forwards). And he's just ripping the cover off the ball. The best scoring chance percentage on the team, the second best Corsi rate (-6.52/60... my goodness the Avalanche are bad) and tied for 7th in the league in even strength points. That is one very good player.


Kent W. said...

It's amazing when players just suddenly "get it" as Wolski is this year. He was a pretty "meh" offensive player till now and suddenly he's a tough comp outscorer.

Anyone who is on the plus side of the SC ledger through 20 games on the Avs is a very, very good player. In the two games versus Calgary this year, his line has given whoever they've played against fits.

Scott Reynolds said...

The other thing about Wolski is that he's had some truly "up-out-of-your-seat" plays. When you have a guy who can outscore in a supremely entertaining fashion it's just plain fun to watch. One of my favourite parts of watching the Avs so far this year.