Peter Horachek is 8 games into his 42-game tryout. Things aren’t going so well record-wise, but there is reason for optimism. It’s still far too early into the Horachek era to look at things with a sense of definition, but we are far enough into his tenure as interim head coach to start pointing the microscope in his direction. Well the all-star break is here and the Leafs are off until next week. With nothing else to pass the time, let’s take our first look at how he is utilizing his players.
A standard player usage chart combines Offensive Zone Start % and Corsi Competition % to denote how players are being deployed. Usage charts are often divided into four quadrants:
- shutdown – these players receive a low amount of offensive zone starts and face players with a high Corsi %
- two-way – these players receive a higher amount of offensive zone starts and face players with a high Corsi %
- “ess sheltered – these players receive a lower amount of offensive zone starts and face players with a low Corsi %
- sheltered – these players receive a high amount of offensive zone starts and face players with a low Corsi %
Below is a color-coded sheet of the average Leafs lineup under Horachek. Deep blue denotes players that fall into the shutdown quadrant, moderate blue denotes players that fall into the two-way quadrant, light blue denotes players that fall into the less sheltered quadrant, and white denotes players that fall into the sheltered quadrant. These quadrants only take into account play at 5v5 even strength. The number beside a player’s name is their time on ice per-game in all situations.
- As we can see, 15/18 Leafs skaters fell into the same category – the two-way quadrant. Indeed, everyone but Dion Phaneuf, Cody Franson, and Sam Carrick are getting 48% of their faceoffs in the offensive zone relative to the defensive zone. And virtually every Leaf is dealing with a Corsi Competition % between 50.3 and 51.8 – very evenly distributed competition.
- To recap, Phaneuf and Franson fell into the shutdown quadrant and Sam Carrick fell into the less sheltered quadrant. Everyone else fell into the two-way quadrant. No Leaf fell into the sheltered quadrant. And it should be noted too that Phaneuf and Franson very nearly fell into the two-way category and Sam Carrick very nearly fell into the shutdown quadrant.
- Much to the chagrin of many Leaf fans, Tyler Bozak is still getting a ton of ice-time.
- And, much to the chagrin of many Leaf fans, the fourth line still isn’t getting a lot of ice-time. By the way, forwards ineligible for this chart (i.e. Matt Frattin and Josh Leivo) scored a 7.1 in ice-time; not much better.
- Not much else has changed up front as far as ice-time is concerned aside from Kadri and Winnik getting a sizable boost in ice-time, likely due to the injuries to Joffrey Lupul, Leo Komarov, and Peter Holland.
- Not too much has changed on the blueline either, but what is especially interesting is what has happened to Phaneuf and Morgan Rielly. Phaneuf’s minutes have been cut even more, and, what’s especially interesting is that Morgan Rielly is now leading the Leafs team in average ice-time under Horachek. When we limit ice-time to 5v5 even strength, this disparity just grows larger: Rielly averages 19 minutes a game at 5v5, while Phaneuf averages just 15.4. Oddly enough, Phaneuf and Franson are averaging the lowest 5v5 play amongst Leaf defensemen despite facing the toughest minutes on the team. This is even true using score-adjusted measures.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The bottom line is that Peter Horachek is distributing his players very evenly in terms of difficulty. The gap in usage so far has only come when considering ice-time. This is an interesting contrast to Carlyle who often liked to bury the players he really trusted defensively. It’ll be interesting to see how this trend evolves for the rest of the season and I hope to do a more comprehensive comparison between Carlyle and Horachek at the end of the season once we have more to judge Horachek on.