Phorograph by: Jamie Sabau, NHILI/Getty Images
On the very same day the Canucks acquired Derek Roy, they sent Jordan Schroeder back to Chicago. He hasn’t been back with the team since, as the Canucks coaching staff has preferred to roll with Andrew Ebbett in the lineup and often in their top-nine.
I’m very much unconvinced that this makes any sense in the postseason, and I’ll explain why after the jump.
On some level, it’s tough to compare the performance of Andrew Ebbett and Jordan Schroeder this season because their usage has been so wildly different. While both players have battled soft competition, Schroeder has generally matched up against slightly easier competition than Ebbett has and has also played with more skilled line-mates. Meanwhile Andrew Ebbett’s offensive-zone start rate sits at 41.2%, while Jordan Schroeder’s rests much higher at 60.2%, which suggests that Vigneault trusts Ebbett more defensively than he trusts Schroeder, and that’s fair enough.
The issue is that Andrew Ebbett has been completely crushed by the possession numbers this season, even after you account for circumstance, while Schroeder has come out ahead in "soft" minutes. Maybe Schroeder hasn’t come out as far ahead in his matchups as the coaching staff and management would’ve liked, but the evidence suggests that Schroeder was the better player this season, and it isn’t all that close.
To try and account for the difference in deployment, I piggy-backed off of Mark Parkatti’s work with "expected Corsi" (read more about the methodology here). Using Parkatti’s method, I plugged in the circumstances which Andrew Ebbett and Jordan Schroeder have faced this season and the results matched my intuition, namely that Jordan Schroeder is Vancouver’s fifth best centreman (behind Henrik, Kesler, Roy, Lapierre) and should probably be in the lineup for the postseason.
According to the Parkatti adjustment, based on circumstance and historical data, we’d expect Andrew Ebbett to have a "Corsi-On" of minus 7.5 this season. Ebbett’s actual Corsi-On this year has come in at minus 16.81, so he’s underperformed his "expected Corsi" by well over nine attempted shots per sixty minutes of hockey.
Based on usage and historical data meanwhile, Parkatti’s adjustment expects Jordan Schroeder to have posted a "Corsi-On" of plus .021 this season. Schroeder has actually done somewhat better than that, as he came in with a positive shots attempted differential of 3.75 Corsi events per sixty minutes. So Schroeder’s "above water" underlying numbers this season have probably been more than just a product of "designed success."
The only reason I can fathom for Andrew Ebbett being ahead of Jordan Schreoder on the depth chart, at this point, is his face-off ability. On overall draws this season Jordan Schroeder has been marginally better than Andrew Ebbett, though neither player has been particularly good. Schroeder has won 43.6% of the draws he’s taken this year (a worse clip than Alex Burrows) while Andrew Ebbett has fared modestly worse winning 39.7% of the draws he’s taken (which is Mason Raymond/Chris Higgins territory).
But those numbers are, I’d suggest, somewhat decieving. According to the site HockeyAnalysis.com, with Andrew Ebbett on the ice the Canucks have won 40.4% of defensive zone draws this season (that’s on-ice faceoffs, not faceoffs Ebbett personally took). Sadly that’s the third highest rate among Canucks forwards.
Now Andrew Ebbett has skated for sixty or so even-strength minutes with Maxim Lapierre this season, so it’s very likely that his 40% number is at least somewhat inflated by Lapierre’s proficiency in the face-off dot. With that said, with Jordan Schroeder on the ice, and Schroeder has exclusively lined up at centre this season, the Canucks defensive-zone faceoff winning percentage sits at a ghastly 24.1%.
In looking over these numbers, I was reminded of something Tony Gallagher wrote a few weeks back about defensive zone draws. According to Gallagher, who sometimes pulls things out of his ass but has certainly been around the game for a long time, players in the old days saved their best faceoff moves for draws in either the offensive or defensive end:
Not sure about today, now that they’re keeping the numbers (subjective stat though it is), and centres can talk about that in their negotiations. But the really smart centres don’t try on the draws in the neutral zone, at least they didn’t used to. Only when it was in the defensive zone or the offensive zone would the good ones show their best moves and try their best.
For instance, perhaps the best faceoff man in Canucks history was Brent Peterson, who is still part of the Nashville coaching staff. Peterson’s stats would have been maybe slightly better than average, but it was an absolute stunning development if he ever lost a draw in his own end. On the ones that mattered, he was ridiculously good and he sacrificed draws in the neutral zone to achieve that success.
If we buy into Gallagher’s theory, I think you can make the argument that Jordan Schroeder is more of a liability in the faceoff circle than Andrew Ebbett. I don’t think it’s a very good argument since Schroeder has a better on-ice face-off percentage than Ebbett does in the offensive zone, but yeah. The point is, I suppose, if the Canucks expect their fourth-line to take draws in the defensive zone so that the top-six can keep up a steady diet of offensive zone starts in the postseason, then I guess maybe it makes some limited sense to prefer Andrew Ebbett to Jordan Schroeder.
But it doesn’t really, since Ebbett has been a complete liability at five-on-five this season according to the underlying data. That same data suggests that Jordan Schroeder has been legitimately useful even if the rookie centreman has looked overmatched on occassion.