Early Season Notes on Player Usage

Fewer offensive zone starts for the Sedins? No problem. (Image via Rich Lam)

We’re 7 games into the 2013-14 regular season (meaning ~9% of the way through), which means that it’s still super early and everything needs to be taken with a grain of salt. In the early going, we’ve made a concerted effort of focusing on game coverage, and news as it relates to Canucks, rather than any sort of in-depth analytical analysis. The reason for that is because of the ridiculously small sample size; there is so much noise in the numbers, and one particularly good or bad game will skew things far too heavily. 

Once we get past the 10-game mark we’ll probably begin to put more stock into the data we have from this season (which will include the highly anticipated zone entry data that we’ve been having tracked for each game). There’s no right or wrong answer for when things will begin to settle in, and give a truer indication of play, so we’ll play it by ear. If you’d like to take advantage of that and get drunk, you should take a drink everytime you see someone use the term "unsustainable". You know, like all that talk about Dan Hamhuis’ poor luck.

With all that being said, I did want to give a plug to Rob Vollman (who has done projections for us in the past), who recently updated the invaluable Player Usage Charts for which he has become known for. If you’re not familiar with Rob, he released a fantastic book this summer that I’d highly recommend to anyone and everyone. 

Read on past the jump for a look at the Player Usage Charts for the Canucks through 6 games (the charts unfortunately haven’t been updated since the game against the Flyers on Tuesday night).

So how do you read the following diagrams? Vollman provided a good summary right here. On the horizontal axis you’ll see the % of shifts guys have been starting in the Offensive Zone. On the vertical axis you’ll see the Quality of Competition that they’ve faced thus far. In terms of the player bubbles themselves, the bigger it is, the more 5v5 ice time the player is seeing. Meanwhile, the dark blue – like in Henrik Sedin’s case – signifies a greater Relative Corsi, while the orange – like the players in the bottom left part of the chart – lets you know that they’ve been getting hammered in terms of possession. Let’s get to it.


“I didn’t pay attention to our offensive zone starts, but I started reading papers and it was all they talked about, why we put up the points we did. It was because we were in the offensive zone,” said Henrik, referring to the way they were deployed under Alain Vigneault. I know it’s good to start in the offensive zone, but I’m not a great faceoff guy. I’m at 50 per cent. I think we scored more starting in our own end and breaking out, scoring on the rush. We want to change people’s opinion of us. We want to show we can play a two-way game. I think we’re more than capable of doing that.”

That was a quote by Henrik Sedin nearly a month ago. At this point they’ve gone from nearly an 80% offensive zone start rate in ’11-’12, to the mid 60’s last season, to 56-57% thus far this year. Yet despite starting the fewest percentage of shifts in the attacking zone since ’08-’09, they’re still managing to crush the possession game while facing the toughest competition out of any of the Canucks forwards.

In last year’s shortened campaign they saw their counting totals decline slightly, but still managed to submit what was probably the best two-way performance of their careers. Given the fact that they’re 33 years old now, and are playing more minutes than they ever have, it’ll be interesting to see whether they’re able to hold up at anything near this pace as the season progresses. For now, though, they’re silencing all of the critics that wondered whether their best days were behind them.

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A few quick notes:

-David Booth seems to be doing it.. again. In 7 games he has only scored 1 goal, and this is leading the league to believe that he has been stinking up the joint. All I’ve got to say about that is that he’s 2nd on the team in penalties drawn (behind just Daniel Sedin), he has been fantastic at entering the offensive zone with controlled possession (more on this in a few days), and is currently rocking a 4.55 on-ice shooting %. My only issue with him is that he has only registered 9 shots on goal, which is a far cry from his rates in the past.

-Speaking of low shot rates, Jannik Hansen will be hard-pressed to reach the 16-17 goals he has been good for over the past 2 seasons if he keeps up the 10 SOG in 7 games rate. I’m not overly concerned about him though, because he has been fantastic driving play as the 3rd man on the 2nd line with Higgins and Kesler.

-What on earth happened to Chris Higgins last year, though? Obviously he missed Ryan Kesler, but still.. after registering a -11.5 Corsi Relative while starting 46.0% of his shifts in the OZ last year, he has jumped back up to a 10.7 Corsi Relative (with a 40.3% OZ rate). He has been awesome thus far, and I was very glad to see that he scored his 1st goal of the season last night (bringing his shooting % all the way up to a whopping 4.2%!).

Mike Santorelli’s WOWYs (With or Without You) are amusing. In 57 minutes at 5v5 without Henrik Sedin, he has registered a 41.9 CF%, and the team has yet to score. When paired with the Sedins, though, he has enjoyed a 63.6 CF%, and an 80 GF%. Playing with the Sedins truly is the one time it feels awesome to be the 3rd wheel.

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-Brad Richardson is the new Max Lapierre (except without the dirty plays, and the stigma surrounding him). He’s playing tough minutes next to suspect players and is getting absolutely hammered. I wonder if he misses Los Angeles yet.

-Poor Zac Dalpe. Look at him in that bottom left corner. When the Canucks acquired him from the Hurricanes a few days before the season there seemed to be some optimism that the team had acquired itself a young player that could produce offensively on the cheap. After all, he had 34 goals in 76 NCAA games at Ohio State, and 68 goals in 180 AHL games while in Carolina’s system. Well.. so much for that. In games he was averaging around 4:30 of ice-time per game, starting a ridiculously low 10% of his shifts in the offensive zone, while attached to Tom Sestito/Dale Weise/Yannick Weber. Now he’s the odd man out with Jordan Schroeder back in the lineup.


Dan Hamhuis is the hottest topic of discussion on the team’s blueline, no doubt. He has gotten off to a dreadfully unlucky start to the season (by his lofty standards, at least). There’s no denying that he has had far more suspect moments than we’ve become accustomed to over the past few years, but he has still been crushing the possession game. Unless he continues to be slowly and painfully poisoned.. then all bets are off.

His 25.2 Corsi Relative leads the Canucks blueline by a whopping margin (Bieksa is the only other defenseman in the black), and it has really been a really low suppressed PDO (due to the low On Ice Save %) that has held him back. What’s interesting is that he’s playing roughly 2 minutes less a game, finding himself playing less than Edler, Bieksa, and Garrison. I assume we’ll see him get back into that 23 minute range as things begin to settle back in.

A few other notes:

-Kevin Bieksa has kind of quietly been enjoying a bounce back start to the campaign after a terrible injury-riddled season last year. He’s back in the black in terms of possession (from -5.0 to 7.0), he’s playing substantially more (from 21:56 to 23:33), and he’s taking a considerably fewer amount of penalties (1.5/60 min to 0.5/60min).

-The Canucks are generating the 2nd highest shot attempts/60 in the NHL while on the power play (only behind the Sharks), yet only have 2 5v4 goals to show for their efforts. If that keeps up, they’ll begin to see an uptick in production on the man advantage. I bring that up because of Jason Garrison, who is well on his way to enjoying a monstrous campaign.

He’s logging 24:04/game (including 28:29 in Philadelphia last night), has 7 points in 7 games, and has registered 25 shots on goal (the most by a defenseman). After scoring in the 1st two games he hasn’t found the back of the net since, but if he keeps trending this way, I feel pretty confident that he could be pushing 20 by the time the season is up. I hope for your sake that you drafted him in your hockey pool. Especially if it’s a league that rewards beards.

-Tanev has been solid, despite what could only be described as an abysmal performance in the season opener against the Sharks. He seemed to take a step-back last year, but has regained his form as a reliable bottom pairing NHL defenseman.  

-Ryan Stanton, to my surprise, has proven to be serviceable. As far as I can tell him and Tanev are a pairing that can play anywhere in the ballpark of 12-14ish minutes at 5v5 and not take anything off of the table. That’s huge considering the Cam Barker/Andrew Alberts fiasco of 2013.

  • JCDavies

    “What’s interesting is that he’s playing roughly 2 minutes less a game, finding himself playing less than Edler, Bieksa, and Hamhuis”

    How can Hamhuis play less than Hamhuis?

  • JCDavies

    Really guys? You’re still on this “David Booth is crushing the Corsi stats”? He has to score. He is paid more than $4 million and in a salary cap world, that is unacceptable that he has a goal. I guess the right measurement for Booth is that he is a 3rd line checking forward. A vastly overpaid checking forward, but a checking forward indeed. In that role he is good. But I just don’t think it’s paying dividends to have him simply check and posses the puck.

    Corsi is dumb stat. I’ll leave it at that.

    • pheenster

      You’re a complete F%(@#^ idiot. I’ll leave it at that.

      Actually I won’t, because Hockey is a game that involves goals against as well as goals for. These guys can let you know how many goals against have occurred with David Booth on the ice – last I checked, before the MON game, it was zero. Maybe that’s not the case anymore, maybe the Habs scored when he was on, I don’t know… but that tells you something.

      He played a game last week where the Canucks had 10 shots with him on the ice to 1 shot against, in 18 minutes. 1 shot. In 18 minutes of ice time. So basically the opposition played about a whole period against Booth and managed to generate one shot on goal.

      When Booth’s on the ice the other team is in their own end not producing offense. Even if he just did that he’d be a very useful player.

      • JCDavies

        That’s a brutally juvenile response.

        But I can see I’m not the only person who believes the way I do. A player is paid based on his projected overall value, which also happens to include goal scoring. You can’t just ignore his lack of offensive contributions simply because he has a bloated whale sewn to his chest. The man is paid the same amount as Jacob Voracek. Yet, would you rather Voracek on your second line or David Booth?

        Corsi is a statistic that tries to ignore facts that are vital to a player’s success on the ice. One fact might be who a player is lined up with. Another might take into account the quality of opposition a player competes against, heck, using this Corsi argument against itself, Booth tends to play against weaker competition than Higgins or Hansen. And the gap between him and whatever garbage teams like New Jersey, Calgary, Edmonton and Philly are offering up might be bigger than we think.

        Point is he’s not a $4.25 second line winger. He’s a solid — not great — a solid 3rd liner with limited offensive contributions. That makes him well overpaid, no matter what his Corsi suggests, and even that isn’t really defending him.

        You f#%$ing idiot.

        • pheenster

          “The man is paid the same amount as Jacob Voracek. Yet, would you rather Voracek on your second line or David Booth”

          Voracek is in the midst of his team controlled years while Booth is being paid for his UFA years at the moment.

          You can’t buy Voracek on the open market (with all 30 teams bidding) for $4.25 million…

          • andyg

            I’ll give you that it’s not a completely fair comparison. But it is absurd that anyone would think that David Booth is performing well. Goals matter. They put people in seats. And they help teams win games. In fact, goals are the most influential aspect in a game (I can’t believe I have to say this). To say that David Booth’s minuscule offense is totally excusable because he has good puck possession figures against weak competition is simply cheerleading, which is fine, but I wish people would atop calling it astute.

        • JCDavies

          “Corsi is a statistic that tries to ignore facts that are vital to a player’s success on the ice.”

          Corsi doesn’t *try* to do anything, it is a statistic – one that acts as a proxy for the ability to possess and control the puck. It is not to be used out of context and it works better when you use other stats (such as quality of opposition) to build that context. If you want to criticize how people are using Corsi, be my guest. There is nothing wrong with the Corsi statistic, however.

          And while we are on the topic of context, your statistic of choice (goals) really needs to be put in the proper context as well.

          • JCDavies

            What does the total goal stat tell us about the player? What does it tell us that goals per game or goals per 60 minutes wouldn’t? What would GPG and G/60 tell us that total goals wouldn’t? How would quality of teammates and opposition impact goal totals? What about zone starts and power play time? I could go on but I think you know the answers to this…

          • JCDavies

            No I do. And thanks for your reply.

            Total goals tells us a person can put a puck in the net. If the player’s role is to score, which I do think David Booth is on the team to provide goals, then its a valid way to measure someone’s performance over a season.

            While I’ll never win over people on the Internet with my anti-Corsi beliefs, I do think goals tells us a lot more about certain players than Corsi does. And the elephant in the room here is that David Booth is playing against weaker competition than either Hansen or Higgins.

            I do hope one day the boys at Canucks Army take a real look at dollar value for performance of each Canuck. That might be hard to do, I’m sure, but I would like to see what a players real worth in a cap era is relative to what he is actually paid. (This might take an economist, not a hockey blogger to figure out — but I don’t want to prejudice the guys here!)

  • pheenster

    I actually agree with Geez here, on the Booth part at least. I think that guy has turned into a statistical anomaly: great underlying numbers but of limited actual use as a goal-scorer (which is indeed what he’s getting paid for). Would like to be proved wrong on this but he’d better pick it up or he’s headed for Buyout Lane.

      • pheenster

        You’re contradicting yourself. He either provides value for the portion of the salary cap he consumes or he doesn’t. To provide value at $4-million plus he needs to be generating actual offense that wins games (i.e. Goals). Scoring wins games, not scoring chances. Lots of possession and no finish equals a good third line checking forward. Those can be had for significantly less than what Booth is being paid.

          • pheenster

            How many $4 million players are paid for their Corsi? Forwards are always paid based on their offensive contribution. Money is how we measure everything in society. I can’t believe you are even contracting yourself by siding with Gillis and his admirers on this.

          • pheenster

            He’s doing no such thing. Stop putting words in his mouth.

            All he’s saying is that the play driving ability Booth has has value. He in no way said it has 4 million dollars of value, he really very clearly left it up for debate.

            Try reading for a change.

          • andyg

            And what I am saying is he has very little value considering his cap hit, production, and even his dang Corsi!


            Alright I’m cool. Anyone needing a drink as bad as I do? LOL.

          • andyg

            As fans we need to realize that what we see is what we get.There is no way to upgrade this team unless as NMOO said we sell the future.

            My biggest worry this year is that the team starts playing well and the ownership pushes for a big trade to help in a play off run.

          • pheenster

            That’s a big IF. And if he does, I’ll be the first to apologize. But if we are still singing his Corsi praises in place of goal production, I’ll just shake my head.

          • pheenster

            Don’t you know already? Geezermoney loves putting words into ppls mouths. He likes to throw a hissy fit whenever someone makes a comment he doesn’t like about his Canucks. LOL

          • andyg

            Where have I argued that Booth is value added at $4.25?

            I’m simply saying he’s a useful player when healthy.

            Booth is part of the 10/50/31 core I’ve mentioned a number of times.

            A big reason why the Canucks are sliding down the other side of the mountain is because they are too dependent on players in their UFA/prime earning years.

            Booth’s contract is a part of that to be sure…

          • pheenster

            So the problem with Booth at $4.25-million is the fact that he’s too old rather than the fact that he can’t put the puck in the net? If Booth has four or five goals already we’re not even having this conversation. You know that, right?

          • pheenster

            I hate to break this to you, pal, but you’re just not that difficult to understand.

            You know what the funny part of this exchange is? If you weren’t having it with me, you’d be arguing the other side. Which makes you still a douche.

  • pheenster

    So let’s just play a hypothetical game here.

    What if the Canucks just dumped Booth.

    Then what? Ok, we have 4.25 million more in cap space. Then what? We trade for someone else, destroying our prospect pool more and making NM00 cry frosty, delicious tears that are used on frosted flakes.

    Then what? Our rental leaves, we have a ton of cap space, and then we over pay for a UFA next summer.

    I don’t see how this would be the smart course of action given where we currently stand. As far as how we got where we stand, I’ll leave that up to NM00 to regail you with the legend of Mike Gillis.

    This is assuming Booth has zero value, which I’ll argue he has plenty of value, it just doesn’t necessarily show up on the scoresheet (or hasn’t been of late, that remains to be seen). The best explanation I’ve heard of Booth’s value is above, it really is like playing a period against Booth and only getting one shot. That’s ridiculously fantastic (and probably a little lucky).

    • pheenster

      Dumping him at this point would indeed be a bad move. He’s far from the only overpaid third-line player in the league. Enjoy his fantastic possession skills for the rest of this season, buy him out next summer and use the cap space to find some secondary scoring (which is what he is supposed to be providing).

      Hey, it’s only game 7 of 82 here. I hope he pots 25 and makes this discussion pointless.

    • pheenster

      I agree that getting rid of Booth right now doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense unless you think that getting Jensen the roster spot and ice time would be worth it (and there’s certainly an argument to be made for that). I don’t really see anyone we could necessarily replace him with at the moment who’d provide what he does — drives play, decent defense, good hustle. The problem as many others have noted is that no matter how important these things are it’s beginning to seem like a pretty big over-pay if he’s not also going to score goals. He’s not really in the category of the tweeners (Higgins and Hansen), he’s supposed to be a scoring forward in the top six. I can see the respective scoring potential of the latter two (well Hansen is a better playmaker than scorer) and for Schroeder and Kassian too but after three years here I’m beginning to wonder exactly what it was that Booth did to score his goals in Florida. Doesn’t seem to have a particularly heavy or accurate shot, seems to play kind of north-south but doesn’t necessarily crash the net or pull it in front, and the shots he does put on net seem to be right into the goalie’s chest. I like him well enough as a player but unless he starts actually scoring some goals I’d agree that he’s a candidate for a buyout — mostly to free up a roster spot for a younger player.

    • pheenster

      On whom could the Canucks dump Booth?

      His contract was essentially given away 2 years ago.

      Considering the cap situation of most cap teams and the payroll situation of most payroll teams, who would take on the contract at this point?

      In-season upgrades are very difficult without giving up quality assets and this organization isn’t good enough to justify (further) depleting the prospect pool.

      “We trade for someone else, destroying our prospect pool more and making NM00 cry frosty, delicious tears that are used on frosted flakes.”


  • pheenster

    Thanks for posting guys! I was wondering what it would look like.

    I must say, edler-Bieksa together has never worked for me. They are a defensive disaster. And yet they’re together while eating the toughest mins? Wonder how long this lasts? Prob until Torts figures out Hammer is their best defensive defenseman

    I’ve never liked Edler eating shutdown mins. He’s better off playing easier mins and dominating out there offensivly. When you have the likes of Garrison, Bieksa and Hamhuis – that’s a luxury for someone like Edler. Something Torts needs to take advantage of.

  • JCDavies

    Stanton has shocked me a little. I’m not sure why but watching him reminds me a little of Willie Mitchell with less of a mean streak. Really poised in his own end with the puck, and great at not leaving the zone too early. Which is good because he seems to see most of his time in the defensive end of things. Also impressive that he’s putting up some points from this type of deployment at 24. All upside at this point as long as he can stay healthy.

    Guys, seriously, especially Hard Puck, don’t let the intoxication of anonymity inflate your egos with false courage. Hard Puck and a few others, in the real world you would have eaten a few by now, I don’t care how brave this place makes you the act itself is getting rather cowardly. Anybody care to get together for some real face to face discussion?

  • JCDavies

    How can Hamhuis(first post) play less than Hamhuis? Same as the Mogilny for Hodgson mentioned in the article I guess. C’mon lets get the names right so we can understand, huh?
    Also how about a last name for players as we are not all familiar with initials? HND? DVD? etc. as you daily posters are.