Can we pinpoint when the Canucks started sheltering Cody Hodgson?

Yes, we can.

Read on.

You probably read Thomas’ bit yesterday about how the Canucks pumped up Cody Hodgson’s numbers (if not, do it now), but the claim that the Canucks organized minimal defensive zone starts for Hodgson throughout the season was challenged last night by the Cult of Hockey’s Bruce McCurdy, who rightfully points out:

Gillis’ claim can be verified, or should I say, it can’t because he’s completely out in left field here.

That’s not exactly my definition of “5 or 6 defensive zone faceoffs”. Try 3000% of that. Truth is on a team that saw some pretty extreme Zone Starts (the Sedins and Burrows had loads in the o-zone, Malhotra and Lapierre in the defensive), Hodgson didn’t appear to get special treatment one way or the other. He was decidedly in the middle of the pack.

If Mike Gillis says that Cody Hodgson only got 5 or 6 defensive zone starts, well, then why did Cody Hodgson get over 150 over the course of the season?

My theory is that he didn’t always want to trade Hodgson, but there was a point in the year where he decided he wanted to inflate his value. And it looks like we can prove that.

If you take the 171 from the chart above, which represents the number of offensive zone starts that Hodgson got, and divide it by 157 + 171, you get .521. That means that Cody Hodgson’s offensive zone start rate is 52.1%, the number of shifts he got in the offensive zone compared to those he got in the defensive zone.

Thanks to Behind The Net, we can track Hodgson’s overall zone starts by game:

You can see that between Game Number 500 and 600 (this is overall for the NHL, not for only the Canucks. There are 1230 games in a season) the green line, representing offensive zone starts, begins to increase. So it’s about then that Gillis decided that he and Alain Vigneault should work more offensive starts into Hodgson’s game.

But when, exactly? I went through every game he played in by hand (like a sucker) and counted up the number of starts he got, and tracked it through the year. From there, I graphed Hodgson’s overall total next to his rate in the five previous games:

Quite staggering around mid-season. It was Game 38 that represented the lowest point of Hodgson’s zone start ratio, so we’ll say that Game 39 in when Gillis decided enough was enough, and let’s sell him off.

Game 39 was a 4-1 New Year’s loss to the Los Angeles Kings. The team was on a trip in California and were coming off a big 5-2 win in Game 38 against Anaheim, one in which Hodgson scored.

So Games 39 to 63 represent 25 games where Hodgson was sheltered. Were the Canucks objectively better in that time frame? Let’s see what TimeOnIce says:

  Fenwick Tied PDO
Pre-Sheltering 55.0% 101.7%
Those 25 Games 47.4% 101.9%
Post-deadline 58.0% 99.7%
Total 53.1% 101.3%

Not at all. In fact, the 25 games wherein Hodgson was sheltered represented some of the worst possession hockey the Canucks played on the year. They were 16-4-5 in that run, but were awful with the puck, and their average goal differential was worse (+42.6 per 82 during those 25 games to +54.7 during the rest), so they got a whole lot lucky.

The plan worked quite well, because the Canucks got the percentages from both Hodgson and the team, making him look so, so much better than he actually was.

That said, maybe Gillis’ claim was off. Hodgson had 20 defensive zone starts in that span, not five or six, although there’s a chance that some of those came from icings.