Home Analysis Kats Krunch: Player Usage Start to Finish

Kats Krunch: Player Usage Start to Finish

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Zone starts, zone finishes and a bunch of QoC.

Get ready for a lot of charts.

New metrics surfacing rapidly are being put to use. The charts below are being more-widely used to visually demonstrate usage of players in comparison to the level of competition they face.

Plenty of different examples exist.

OZQoC charts were architected by Rob Vollman of Hockey Prospectus. A full explanation is spelled out here.

Straight from the site explaining the charts history:

One of the more popular new developments this year is the OZQoC Chart (Pronounced “Oz Coke”), which is a handy visual representation of how players are being used. At a glance it’s an easy way to understand the roles assigned to each player so we have the context in which to study their statistics.
To accomplish this, OZQoC charts combine two simple concepts on the x and y axis respectively:
1. Offensive Zone Starts (OZ), the percentage of shifts a player starts in the offensive zone
2. Quality of Competition (QoC), the average strength of a player’s opponents.

I originally planned to publish this OZQoC chart for the Leafs back at the end of January 30, 2012. The values represented the usage of players as the Leafs were riding high spirits and a playoff spot with a record of 25-19-5 good enough for eighth in the conference.

Time constraints restricted it for the time being until the data became out of date.

Then things fell apart .. bad. Fire your coach as a last resort kind of bad.

Toronto went on a miraculous slide (8-15-4), slipping out of playoff contention, dropping into lottery pick contention, all while adopting new direction under a new bench boss.

In retrospect, gathering the chart from that point in late January proved somewhat lucky. We have a comparative sample of data to use as a control, a snapshot of player usage under then coach Ron Wilson.

OZQoC Jan 30:

OZQoC Chart as of Jan 30, 2012

It’s unfortunate there isn’t a way to calculate the Rel QoC on a periodic basis, otherwise we could have had a comparison chart indicating the specific use of his players by new coach, Randy Carlyle.

The values listed here are all cumulative over the season but still show a somewhat significant shift in responsibility. This is the snapshot of player usage as of March 26, 2012, with only a smaller sample under coach Carlyle (4-6-2)

OZQoC Mar 26:

OZQoC Chart as of Mar 26, 2012

Quick glance shows the decreasing reliance on Colby Armstrong, along with injury and press box stints.

The first line of Kessel, Bozak and Lupul has been juxtaposed with the Grabovski, Kulemin and MacArthur line in terms of the quality of competition they face.

Other changes see the reliance on Carl Gunnarsson and Dion Phaneuf, where both have faced stiffer competition on a nightly basis.

Even David Steckel has seen his role increase in terms of usage and where he’s being deployed as has Joey Crabb, showing some nominal difference.

ZONE FINISHES

Steckel, Tim Connolly, since demoted to fourth line duty for extended periods, and Cody Franson have shown a moderate increase in where they are standing when the whistle blows the play dead.

Something else popped up while analyzing the data.

Exposure to zone starts has hit the mainstream, but over the same period as the OZQoC charts above, the zone finish data proved intriguing.

I’ve often felt that zone starts are also a part of the conditions such as icings, and strategy where some players are on the ice just for the face off before being replaced.

Player’s specific zone starts from static position is largely a coaching decision, but where the play ends is all about on-ice execution.

Taking into consideration players often change on the fly and are not always likely to be on the ice, whistle to whistle, player finishes still take away the strategic coaching advantage.

Here’s a comparison from January 30 to March 26. Keep note of Dion Phaneuf’s totals.

Zone Finishes as of Jan 30:

Zone Finishes as of Jan 30

Dion Phaneuf led the Leafs in offensive zone finishes at the end of January. As of the end of March, both columns have almost evened out.

Zone Finishes as of Mar 26:

During that span, the Leafs captain has actually had more defensive zone finishes than in the offensive zone, with a spike in neutral zone face offs.

Outlining the accumulated totals from Jan 30 to Mar 26, Phaneuf leads the Buds in defensive zone finishes and slipped to third with 152 offensive zone finishes. Rookie Jake Gardiner took over the lead with the most offensive zone finishes (163), edging Phil Kessel by one (162).

Zone Finishes Differential

Zone Finishes Differential

Adding further salt into the open wound that is Nik Kulemin’s season is the outline of the higher defensive zone finishes both in January and by March 26, then out of the lineup. This spike is also evident in the zone finishes per game (see below).

Attribute some power play usage and starting/finishing in the offensive zone for the spike in Gardiner’s offensive zone finishes, however, and the same can be said of Phaneuf.

One can also make the assumption that the neutral zone spike is due to the amount of goals scored on a porous Leafs crease, necessitating the need for dropping the puck at center ice.

It can’t all be offsides and flipping the pucks over glass that’s cause such an increase. It’s also a testament to putting the captain out on the ice after a goal has been scored. And the Leafs let in a lot of goals, 85 to be exact, in 27 games, or 3.15 per game.

Luke Schenn, another much maligned player, is actually an anomaly when considering zone finishes, both cumulatively and on a per-game basis. The struggling blueliner is showing a positive in offensive zone finishes by a wide margin.

Zone Finishes Per Game as of Jan 30:

Zone Finishes Per Game as of Jan 30

Zone Finishes Per Game as of Mar 26:

Zone Finishes Per Game as of Mar 26

To further complicate matters, Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak both show negatives in offensive zone finishes, while linemate Lupul (who was incidentally injured shortly into Carlyle’s tenure) shows a positive zone finish.

Zone Finishes Per Game Differential

Zone Finishes Per Game Differential

Should I even touch upon Colby Armstrong?

Let’s just leave it at that.

Twitter: @Katshockey

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