July 17 2013 01:05PM
Reading over Blake's post from yesterday, stumbling across this line, and though back to a day when such a statement would be considered sacrilege:
Burrows hasn’t shown a strong chemistry with Kesler in the past...
The truth is that Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler don't often play together at even strength any more, and when they do, the Canucks tend to get out-scored. This probably something to do with the fact that when Burrows is sided up with Ryan Kesler, the two face some extra-ordinarily tough competition. There's no way to quantify that unfortunately, but we CAN say that Kesler's primary parter on the penalty kill over the last five seasons has been Burrows.
While we can't break down quality of competition or other types of usage metrics over at Hockey Analysis, the player pages are excellent for showing time on ice, goals, points, and shots on goal with and without a particular player. When you look and see how Kesler does with Chris Higgins, David Booth and Jannik Hansen, it re-affirms not only what Blake wrote yesterday, but Thom's contention that the Canucks' haven't exactly benefit from a Burrows-Kesler partnership:
(That is since the start of the 2010-2011 season)
I sorted the table by shots on goal per 60 minutes of 5v5 since there's reason to believe that in the small sample of ice-time we're using there's a very large chance that percentages and luck affect goals and points numbers.
The clear indication is that Kesler and Higgins have something together. Perhaps if they were joined by a third, puck-driving player who play centre and let Kesler play the perimeter on the wing, they'd have even more success. I digress, however. Kesler has scored on 5.8% of his shots when playing with David Booth and 8.1% when playing with Alex Burrows. That makes a very big difference in the small sample, but if we're assuming things even out in the long-run (Booth is a much better player than Vancouverites give him credit for) that's a difference about two goals over 700 minutes. Not huge, but noteworthy.
I won't look at Corsi stats with and without particular players since usage roles change a lot once players dip to the first or third line. What is worth noting is Kesler is 60.3% with Booth and 58.1% with Higgins, and if the Canucks are not going to pick up a certain Belaroussian free agent, re-unification of the American Express line could pay dividends if each player managed to stay healthy for once.
Burrows simply does not fit with Kesler on offence.
Yes, there is a defensive component to hockey. It is unfortunately very tough to measure defence. I mentioned above that basically the only time Kesler and Burrows played with each other was on the penalty kill. That suits our purposes, and we can see exactly how Kesler and Burrows fared in restricting shots on the penalty kill.
Why shots? Because Fear the Fin showed yesterday that it is impossible to predict goals on the powerplay, but you can still predict the amount of unblocked shots, or Fenwick Events, fired at the net. We'll check that out in reverse and see how Canucks have done on the PK since the start of the Mike Gillis era:
|Season||Name||TOI/GP||Goals Against/60||Fen Against/60|
I set the parameters at 1.00 minute of shorthanded time on ice per game between 2008-2009 and 2013. Small sample size did wonders for Chris Higgins and Jannik hansen this past season.
For our purposes though, we have 30 names on the list, and Ryan Kesler is not well-represented in the Top 5, coming in at 12th, 22nd, 23rd and 29th in the four seasons he's represented. Burrows is 2nd, 10th, 14th, 18th and 20th. Again, it's tough to measure quality of competition in these situations and can presumably assume that Kesler played in tougher situations than Burrows when they were separate, but Kesler never seems to have been the team's primary option on the PK.
In 2013, he was hurt. In 2011 and 2012, he played fewer PK minutes than Manny Malhotra. In 2010, he played more PK minutes than any Canuck, but not when Ryan Johnson was playing in games.
It's difficult to put together, but I think there's some indication that Kesler and Burrows haven't exactly been a reliable shutdown unit when together on the penalty kill, nor are they all-world scorers when playing together at 5-on-5. It may be interesting to see just how Tortorella uses all of his shiny new toys in October, but I think he'd be wise to keep Burrows and Kesler separate.