January 27 2014 11:05AM
Not a whole lot to get to today. I'm skeptical that the Maple Leafs have truly improved lately, even after getting points in seven of the last eight games. They're still a floundering team, possession-wise, and I think the difference in results between now and every game since November is related to shooting or save percentages. They've had their share of good games (Colorado and Winnipeg are good examples) but still have trouble winning games unless their goaltender is on fire.
I wanted to get to Nazem Kadri, who is currently on pace for a 50-point campaign over a team 82-game season. This would be a career-high, obviously, since this is his first full season in the NHL. I think there was some general disappointment that Kadri "failed" in his miniature tryout on the first line while Tyler Bozak was injured, especially since Bozak got hot as soon as he drew back into the lineup.
One statistic I've really liked is "passes", which was created by Rob Vollman of Hockey Prospectus:
Since shots can be an effective way to track a player's goal-generating performance in a way that's independent of his shooting luck, let's define a sister statistic called "passes", which is the number of passes that directly resulted in shots (you can call them "shot assists" if you want). Unlike shots, this statistic isn't tracked by the NHL, but we can create an estimate by dividing a player's assists by the average number of assists per goal (1.7) and then dividing that by the average on-ice shooting percentage of his linemates. This approach, which could admittedly be further refined by separating out power play time, should provide a decent estimate of how many of the player's passes resulted in shots on goal.
Since "shots" is effectively, the number you get when you divide a player's goal total by his shooting percentage, why not track passes by dividing assists by team shooting percentage? At Behind the Net, you can get the relevant information using the pages found here, here and here. The stats you need are a player's individual goals, assists and shots rate, as well as total team goals and total team shots per 60 minutes of play, so you need total time-on-ice as well.
The rest is mostly simple. I always liked this statistic because the players that score well are the players that you know are playmakers. The players leading in passes this year so far as Joe Thornton (144) Sidney Crosby (134) and Henrik Sedin (126). There can be a small sample issue, and teammate shooting percentage has no way of factoring in conversion rate off shots created by a player and only factors in to all on-ice shots. This is why having a big sample is necessary, and if the calculation yields a surprising result, one needs to take into account some possible alternate factors.
Here's what I have for Leaf forwards this season:
|Passes||Passes/60||Shots + Passes|
Sorted by "shots + passes", which I figure is a useful measure of offensive efficiency. The point I wanted to highlight is that Kadri leads all Leafs in passes. It helps that he's the only regular offensive centreman the team has played with. I'd also like to highlight Phil Kessel, who is so underrated as a playmaker. He's second on the team in "assists per 60" behind just Tyler Bozak, who doesn't have 40+ games this season, but I've put on the list for comparative purposes to look at regular Leafs over the last two seasons:
|Passes||Passes/60||Shots + Passes|
Well, isn't that interesting? Just by doing the math on this, you'll find that Kadri has more passes so far this season (92) than last (72). I should note that this data is only updated to after the Colorado game, giving us 48 games of Kadri from last year, and 48 games from this year. The reason why more passes hasn't necessarily translated into more assists is that his teammates were converting on an astonishing 18.4% of shots a year ago (he led the league by a mile) and just 8.3% this season. Our "passes" statistic tries to eliminate effects from shooting percentages.
I would also point out that the Leafs have increased shots on goal when Kadri is on the ice this year compared to last: they've increased from 22.3 over 60 minutes to 27.4 over 60 minutes. Considering the Leafs have stayed static at 26.5 shots per 60 from this year to last, that only means that if you want to know why the Leafs take so few shots, look elsewhere than Kadri's complacency. The complete lack of offence from Jay McClement is a good starter, compared to the player who held the Leafs checking line C duties last season:
If I were Jay McClement's agent, I'd be pissed off at the way the team was handling my client. McClement had 10 goals and 17 points when he hit free agency last time averaging 13:45 of ice time, and he'd be lucky to have half of that offensive output by the end of this year, even though he's averaging 16:15 more ice time.