Home Analysis How Do You Like Them Apples?

How Do You Like Them Apples?

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Here’s the shake. It’s the end of August, it’s been a couple of months since we’ve seen an NHL game played, and four months since we’ve seen the Leafs play. Topics are running thin, especially if you do not have an appetite for CBA articles and you recognize that roster building is on hold until the CBA plays out.

What a great time to bring up primary vs. secondary assists. I come from a school of thought that not all assists are created equal; in fact, I’d be perfectly fine with one assist per goal, while everything else is +/-. This is largely based on the assumption that on most goals the player with primary assist was more responsible for generating the play than the player with the secondary assist. While this may not always be true, it hardly seems like a coincidence that Lupul, Kessel, Bozak, and Grabovski led the Leafs in primary assists. Out of players with more than 10 assists, the four of them also had the highest percentage of their assists as primary assists.

What is also interesting, but not unexpected, is the drop off from forwards to defensemen. Jake Gardiner was the only defenseman well above the 50% primary assist mark, and Liles was the only other defenseman who was at 50% (among those with more than 5 assists), though when looking at volume of primary assists Dion Phaneuf tied Jake Gardiner for the lead among defensemen. When looking at the defensemen on the table below, you can see who truly shows some puck moving capability (Gardiner, Liles, Phaneuf) and who might just be a good first pass defenseman (Franson, Gunnarsson.)

It’s important to recognize that volume is still more important than percentage when looking at the splits. The fact that Komisarek was the primary assist just as often as he was the secondary doesn’t show any playmaking ability. Perhaps if he played in ten games or less and had that split it would be considerable, but four assists in a season still illustrates exactly what he is offensively.

The complete table is here:

Player 1st Asst 2nd Asst % Primary
Armstrong 0 2 0.0%
Aulie 0 2 0.0%
Boyce 1 0 100.0%
Bozak 17 12 58.6%
Brown 2 0 100.0%
Colborne 1 3 25.0%
Connolly 13 10 56.5%
Crabb 7 8 46.7%
Franson 5 11 31.3%
Frattin 7 0 100.0%
Gardiner 13 10 56.5%
Grabovski 23 6 79.3%
Gunnarsson 4 10 28.6%
Gustavsson 0 1 0.0%
Hamilton 0 1 0.0%
Kadri 2 0 100.0%
Kessel 26 19 57.8%
Komisarek 2 2 50.0%
Kulemin 10 11 47.6%
Liles 10 10 50.0%
Lombardi 7 3 70.0%
Lupul 27 15 64.3%
MacArthur 12 11 52.2%
Phaneuf 13 18 41.9%
Schenn 8 12 40.0%
Steckel 2 3 40.0%
Total 212 180 54.1%

When looking solely at the powerplay, the difference between Grabovski and the other “top six centres” is evident. It also makes me eat some humble pie in regards to my John-Michael Liles bashing and shows where he can add value.

Player 1st Asst 2nd Asst
Bozak 4 4
Connolly 1 2
Franson 1 4
Frattin 1 0
Gardiner 3 3
Grabovski 6 0
Gunnarsson 1 4
Kessel 5 8
Kulemin 3 1
Liles 6 3
Lupul 8 5
MacArthur 3 3
Phaneuf 6 9
Schenn 0 1

I’d argue that – with the amount of offensive pressure from cycling, deflecting, and rebounds- the second assist on a powerplay was very likely involved in the play as opposed to what you may see at even strength or shorthanded, but I would still consider it unnecessary to include as a stat.

Much like my last post on penalties, I have created a spreadsheet to accompany this post, and you can find it here. It includes the complete list of each goal the Leafs scored in the past season and the situation it was scored in.

I have included a goal differential column in the data this time as opposed to the leading, losing, tied columns in the penalty tracker. This allows for more flexibility in determining when someone scores (I may wind up doing a follow up post to this about the myth of “clutch”).

While what I’ve shown here is assists, I’ve obviously listed the goal scorers in the spreadsheet as well. And since there is nothing advanced about any of these stats they can be fun for the whole family!

For a couple of interesting reads on whether secondary assists add any value I’d suggest this post from Broad St. Hockey and this post from Arctic Ice Hockey.