Kesler’s “Disappointing” Postseason

I haven’t been impressed at all with Ryan Kesler this postseason, and not many people are. Abs aside, playoff Kesler has appeared totally different, and less effective, than regular season Kesler. Diving, whining, slashing, all the bad stuff that has made people who don’t watch this team as closely as we do say: “say, that isn’t right”.

Did I consider the possibility that Game 4 may be the last we see of Kesler in a Canucks uniform? Damn right. One of mine and Thom’s many BBM chats, last night:

CAM: What do we trade kes and lu for?

THOMAS: Crosby

THOMAS: They need a goalie

CAM: Hahahahaha

Of course, Thom was joking (I hope he was), but I entertained the suggestion on Twitter this morning, having slept on the idea. Kesler’s a year removed from a Selke Trophy and a 40-goal season and could command high value. After three games of really annoying hockey from the guy, is it enough to ship him out of town?

Straight-up, no, having looked at the data.

I think a lot of fans have been annoyed by Kesler, but I’d like to take a look at exactly what he’s brought to the Canucks this post-season. If I’m a general manager, when I want to move a player out of town for what he is, first, I’ll want to define exactly what he is. For one, have his antics hurt the Canucks this postseason?

  Chances For/60 Chances Against/60 Rate
Season 17.5 15.0 53.8%
Playoffs 12.4 7.1 63.6%

It’s three games, so a ridiculously small sample, but there’s nothing that pops up that conclusively tells us that Kesler has been a worse player for the Canucks as far as puck movement is concerned.

So, what about full seasons? What has happened when Ryan Kesler was on the ice this season compared to last year, his career year?

  Rel Corsi Corsi Rel QoC Dzone% G/82 Shots/G
2011 18.2 (1st) .228 (9th) .500 (9th) 41.0 3.2
2012 11.2 (6th) .581 (4th) .520 (7th) 23.4 2.9

(Data via Behind The Net)

I measured Kesler’s relative Corsi, quality of competition and defensive zone start rate up against Canuck forwards with more than 50 games played (there were 13 in each year). For a primer on Relative Corsi, Corsi Rel QoC and zone start percentage, it’s best to click here.

If you’ve familiarized yourself with the numbers, you’ll see that Kesler was deployed in a slightly more defensive role this season, taking on tough competition and starting in his own zone slightly more than last season. It made a difference of 29 faceoffs at the other end, probably against better players on the opposition since there’s a pretty noticeable jump in Quality of Competition.

Because of this, you’ll see that Kesler’s relative Corsi rate dips, so does his individual shooting rate. I’d say his defence has been just as good this season when you factor all that in: when you play in tougher situations, you’ll be less likely to keep up the same pace of play as you would against the easier matchup.

What about offensively? Well, with how much trouble the Canucks had on the powerplay, let’s take a look at his even strength numbers, specifically even strength goals and points per 60 minutes as well as his individual and team shooting percentages:

  ESG/60 ESP/60 Sh% On-Ice%
2009 0.78 1.96 7.9% 9.6%
2010 0.64 2.29 5.6% 8.7%
2011 1.21 2.00 9.7% 8.4%
2012 0.68 1.46 5.8% 7.7%

In those years, Kesler had 26, 25, 41 and 22 goal seasons, making it not really tough to spot the outliers. His on-ice shooting percentage, which includes the overall percentage of his teammates, has dipped each year since 2009. His point rate in 2010 was out-standing and he actually dipped last season when putting up 41 goals.

Why doesn’t Kesler use his teammates? Maybe because he keeps realizing that none of them put the puck in the net…

Look how his shooting percentage goes up and down, though. It might be easier to visualize the regression:

And look what it does to his goals per 60 rate:

Those are different graphs, I promise you. Kesler doesn’t just get better and worse every year. This season, he had a drop in shooting percentage, which could happen to anyone, but has kept his possession numbers very high.

The Canucks are still getting more scoring chances when Kesler is on the ice as opposed to not, which says something about the way he plays. Is his schtick annoying? Yes. It’s awful. I wish he’d cut it out. Does it cloud our opinion of him? Yes. But Kesler’s been pretty good this year and remains one of the better two-way guys in the league, in my humble estimation.

  • Mantastic

    I agree about Keslers defense being similar to last year. He was on the ice for almost identical goals against.

    But they don’t pay him to just play defense. He’s not a rookie anymore, this is his 7th full season w/ Canucks. They signed him to a massive contract cause they expected him to improve offensively.

    He’s supposed to be on the of best 2 way centres in the league. Yet, has fewer points than Bergeron, Toews, Datsyuk, Backes etc etc. Given the Canucks rely heavily on Kesler and top line to produce offensively, he’s been a bust this year. At a time when they need him desperately (Daniel out), he’s disappeared. He’s sunk under a rock somewhere and it’s hurt this team. Now, if Canucks get booted in the 1st round we know there will be a lot of changes that don’t involve Ryan Kesler elsewhere. Others will have to pay the price cause he couldn’t step up when the team needed him most.

  • Mantastic

    Great post!…

    If Kes was a media-friendly guy..we would be praising him..and looking beyond..trying to get calls.. I have his numbers with Higgins this yr as way of the charts..They ought to be together all the time! …I believe there is still a rift btw Kes and AV…(AV’s praise of an overrated Richards was disgraceful) Kes has been Vancouver’s best player in series..Anyone with hockey sense knows AV has to go..if he doesn’t look for Kes/Schnieder to CBJ (where he played univ)for Nash…and defence..and 1st pick this yr

  • Mantastic

    Very few players can drive poss. by themselves..even Henrik can’t (needs Daniel) Kes needs one other Poss. player to play with either Higgins or Burrows..for most of the yr he has had neither! An inexcusable coaching decision..when he has he’s produced..
    Also, tough to keep playing when you gave the tem yr all 23 minutes a game Canucks PK has been best story..+1.5 in expected goals in series..Kes and Bur have been horses on PK..
    like Det. can’t play best so much on PK.tough minutes..And..still coach throws you under the bus..AV has no spine..and is gutless..Luongo and Kes/Sedins have made him alot of money!

  • Mantastic

    too bad this kind of statistic analysis is not done during the trevor linden era.

    I would like to see what trevor provided statistically like how you analysed here.