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Deep Dive Part III: What do the Canucks, specifically, have in Filip Hronek?

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
10 months ago
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We’ve finally reached the end of the Hroad.
Welcome to the third and final episode of our CanucksArmy Deep Dive into Filip Hronek.
The first time we met, we tried to track the narrative story of how and why Hronek had developed into a top-pairing-quality defender for the Detroit Red Wings prior to his trade to Vancouver.
After that, we tried to get a bit more specific, analyzing Hronek’s qualifications as a carrier of D-partners and a shutdowner of opposing offences.
Now, in our final article, we’re going to get as hyper-specific as possible, looking at Hronek as a special teams contributor as well as under the lens of as many advanced measures as we can muster.
In this case, we feel the details are necessary. The Canucks, after all, are counting on Hronek to be a major difference-maker on their blueline for the foreseeable future, right down to the finer details of his position.

Power Play

We’ll start with an acknowledgement that the power play is probably the area in which the Canucks need the least help from new members of their blueline.
They’ve already got Quinn Hughes in the fold, who led the league in power play points by a defender with 34 last season, and who is more than capable of running a power play singlehandedly for a full two minutes.
All that said, Hronek is still going to be a huge help on the Canucks’ power play whenever he gets the opportunity.
While Hronek’s 16 power play points in 2022/23 pales in comparison to Hughes’ 34, they were still good enough to rank Hronek in a tie for 26th place amongst D. Hronek’s four power play goals had him ranked in a tie for 11th, one behind Cale Makar and Erik Karlsson.
If there’s one weakness to Hughes’ game to be found, particularly on the power play, it’s in shooting the puck. So, Hronek’s goal-scoring prowess could be seen as a key missing special teams piece, whether he’s joining Hughes on PP1 or just giving PP2 a different look.
Of course, being the second man up on the man advantage is nothing new to Hronek. Last season, Mo Seider played an average of 3:06 a night on the power play to Hronek’s 2:24, and wound up with more than 100 more total power play minutes than Hronek.
And yet, Seider “only” managed 15 power play points, one fewer than Hronek.
Hronek’s on-ice power-play-goals-for-per-60 came out a 9.28, which is higher than Seider’s, higher than Hughes’, and 19th in the league overall.
We have to acknowledge that, on most instances, it would have been Seider facing off with the opponent’s top penalty killers while Hronek faced the second and third units. But that also means that Hronek was often out their with Detroit’s second-tier power players, too. Any way you slice it, putting up top-tier numbers from a PP2 unit is impressive, and this skill alone should have the Canucks rethinking how they arrange their own units.
Just take a look at the visuals:
From HockeyViz.com
With Hronek out there, you can literally see how many more shots come from the right point, but also how much his presence there opens up space on the left side for the forwards.
Conversely, you can see how much the Detroit power play stagnated without Hronek out there.

Penalty Kill

Often thought of as a “do-it-all” defender, if there’s one thing that Hronek didn’t make a priority in Detroit, it was the killing of penalties.
Even in both of his breakout campaigns of 2021/22 and 2022/23, Hronek usually ranked about fourth on the PK pecking order for Red Wings defenders.
In 2022/23, Seider led the Wings in average PK time, followed by Ben Chiarot and Jake Walman. Hronek’s 1:37 of PK time per game, while still significant, ranked him in a tie for fourh on the team with partner Olli Maatta.
Which is not, of course, to say that Hronek is bad at killing penalties or that he should not do so in Vancouver. It’s just not exactly his forte, and certainly not to the same level that the power play is.
Hronek’s rate of power-play-goals-against-per-60 of 5.57 was the lowest of any Detroit defender, and is a significantly low number by any measure. This time, the qualcomp is probably even more of a factor, because it would have been Seider facing off against top power play units, leaving easier minutes for Hronek and friends to clean up.
From HockeyViz.com
That said, singlehandedly reducing your team’s expected goals against on the power play by 16% just by being on the ice is a considerable accomplishment no matter who those PK minutes are coming against. Once again, we get a nice visual as to exactly how much of a black hole Hronek can be on his own side in his own end when he needs to be.
Chances are good that Hronek will wind up killing more penalties in Vancouver than he did in Detroit. If anything, with the amount of responsibilities he’ll have elsewhere, his history here could be an indication that the Canucks will need another defender to lead the PK units from the right side, whether than be Ian Cole or Carson Soucy on their off-sides or someone else entirely.
Either way, Hronek will be out there plenty, and he will be effective when he is.

Miscellaneous

No one should expect Hronek to come in and be the traditional, bruising defensive defender of years past.
He doesn’t hit particularly frequently: 4.50 hits per 60 was middle of the road in Detroit and would be in Vancouver, too.
He doesn’t block much: his 2.50 blocks per 60 were the lowest of any Detroit defender.
That said, Hronek can be a little bit of an agitating presence all the same. He’s successfully goaded scoring forwards Brad Marchand and Vincent Trocheck into scraps before, and they weren’t the first to go after him, nor will they be the last.
As we flip over to more advanced measures, we’ll briefly touch on Hronek’s current $4.4 million salary. It won’t be relevant for very long, as he’s due a new contract next summer, but for the time being it’s impossible to argue that it doesn’t represent excellent value.
Shayna Goldman had his real value at $8.1 million in 2022/23, which represents a surplus contract value of $3.7 million.
For a Canucks fanbase that is used to seeing their defenders in the negatives on such charts, this is a breath of fresh air.
We never got around to running through Hronek’s advanced statline for 2022/23, so we’ll chuck that in here now and see what conclusions can be gleaned from it.
2022/23 Detroit (Even-Strength)CorsiShot ControlxG%Chance ControlHigh-Danger Chance Control
Hronek46.36%48.53%49.52%46.76%44.64%
From NaturalStatTrick.com
They’re not bad enough to be worried about. They’re not good enough to get excited about. They’re what the kids these days refer to as “mid.”
However, given the context of Hronek’s responsibilities in Detroit, the quality of his teammates, and the team around him in general, they make sense. Consider that, whatever the numbers say, Hronek still managed to keep pucks out of his own net.
As well, consider this slightly altered chart:
2022/23 Detroit (Even-Strength)MinutesCorsiShot ControlxG%Chance ControlHigh-Danger Chance Control
Hronek with Chiarot358:4941.34%44.82%45.17%40.36%39.24%
Hronek w/o Chiarot689:2849.29%50.53%51.77%50.33%48.15%
From NaturalStatTrick.com
See? A little context goes a long way.
Remember that secret we let you in on in the last article? The one about Ben Chiarot being a terrible defender that demonstrably drags down the performance of anyone unfortunate enough to be partnered with him?
Here we can see that in high-definition.
Hronek still had to spend a third of his even-strength ice-time alongside Chiarot, and his numbers were predictably terrible during those stints.
As soon as Hronek moved away from Chiarot, his analytics rebounded right back into the good-to-great territory.
All that stuff about the deployment and the quality of the team still stands. All this means is that, in most circumstances, Hronek was able to push past those factors to achieve excellent results…unless those circumstances specifically included Ben Chiarot.
And what circumstances will Hronek find himself facing in Vancouver in 2023/24, and beyond?
At this point, we have to put the hindsight and speculation aside, and turn instead to that trusty old truth-teller, patience.

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