Mats Zuccarello Has Struggled, But Why?

October 12, 2011, by

Mats Zuccarello was easily one of the New York Rangers top performers in the preseason, especially while playing against the European teams. But his play against NHL competition this year, although it has only been two games, has left people wanting more. In fact, he has played so poorly that coach John Tortorella has relegated him to fourth line duties with Erik Christensen and Mike Rupp. Considering he earned his spot on the roster, this is a pretty big drop for so early in the season.

First things first, it was clear that Zuccarello excelled in the Euro games. This may have been due to the larger ice surface, giving him more room to maneuver. It is more likely that his improved play was because the Euro style is a less physical style of play. Zuccarello wasn’t bumped or checked as much as he would have been against NHL opponents, and due to this was given a little more time to operate. That, of course, is circumstantial and very difficult to really prove.

Of course, when using the “eye” test, it is really difficult to quantify what you see. I am in the belief that Mats Zuccarello is but a stopgap for the Rangers. As Suit so eloquently put it, he has seemed to lack that “elusiveness” that smaller skill players need to be successful. Martin St. Louis has that elusiveness, and it’s what makes him so effective. No one can get to him. Zuccarello has yet to develop that elusiveness, and it is no guarantee that he does (or doesn’t). But you see, that is why some very nice people invented advanced metrics, because the “eye” test is deceiving.

Looking at last year’s metrics, Zuccarello’s overall GVT (5.3) was right in the middle of the pack for the Rangers forwards (minimum of 30 games played). When isolating just his offensive GVT (eliminating his shootout GVT), he falls to the pack of the pack with a 2.0 GVT, ahead of just Ruslan Fedotenko (1.6), Brandon Prust (1.4), Sean Avery (1.3), and Alex Frolov (1.1). His GVT becomes less impressive, as his shootout prowess seems to be the reason why he was so high in GVT to begin with. After all, Zuccarello did lead the team in SGVT (2.3).

Side note: Frolov really only had a 1.1 GVT last season? Fail.

GVT though, is a counting stat, and since Zuccarello only played 42 games, we can more or less double these numbers to get an effective Zuccarello GVT projection for 82 games (10.6 GVT, of which 4.6 is SGVT and 4.0 is OGVT). Essentially, Zuccarello is supposed to be an offensive force, capable of holding his own in the game, and then give the Rangers an advantage in the shootout. Converting this to PVT (points in the standings), Zuccarello is essentially worth extra three points in the standings. This is an example where what I see with my eyes disagrees with the metrics. Numbers don’t lie, they just don’t agree with you. Tough pill for me to swallow right there.

But, GVT isn’t everything. So we can dig a little deeper into offensive zone starts, Corsi (number of shots directed at his net, whether they are blocked, missed, saved, or goals), and QUALCOMP. Using the same minimum of 30 games played, his OZone start of 67.1% was tops on the team, meaning that for 67% of his shifts, he started in the offensive zone. He also ended in the offensive zone on 58% of his shifts. The high OZone start percentage is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not necessarily a good thing either. That said, the 58% of his shifts ending in the offensive zone is pretty impressive.

His QUALCOMP was middle of the pack at -.024, tied with Marian Gaborik for 7th among the forwards. His Corsi is actually pretty good (assuming I’m reading this right), and his 17.8 relative Corsi means that for the duration of the 2010-2011 season, Zuccarello’s shifts led to roughly 18 more shots being directed at his opponent’s net than his net. That bit also surprised me.

Long story short here, his advanced metrics show that Zuccarello should excel over the long haul. So, to answer the thread title: Zuccarello is struggling because he appears to just be in a rut. I say appears here because the analysis above is based solely off of one season, and is a very small sample size to really judge what Zuccarello is truly capable of. So, to all the Zuccarello lovers, be patient, the metrics show a progression back to his “career average”, which again, is just one year of numbers.

Note: These metrics are subject to the flaws of small sample sizes. It’s tough to quantify what Zuccarello can do by only judging one season.

Categories : Analysis


  1. joe says:

    learn the metrics. relative corsi is different from one’s corsi/60

    • Dave says:

      Where did I say that this was Corsi/60? And where did I say that I was even referencing his Corsi/60? I know the metrics. Learn to read.

      • joe says:

        you said a 17.8 rel corsi meant roughly 18 more shots directed at oppositions net while he is on the ice. the definition you gave was for corsi/60 but you referenced his rel corsi.

        I did read.

  2. Walt says:

    The key work for us when dealing with Zuc is patients! He is skilled, but with the smaller ice of north America, he can’t demonstrate his skills as he would on a large sheet of ice.

    Let’s face it folks, if Zuc doesn’t work out for us this year he is history. We have some very good young talent coming up, Kreiger anyone, and that will open up a roster spot for Chris. The only thing that Zuc brings to the table is his shoot out skills, and I question his performance here as well. He hasn’t scored in the shoot out over the last 6 or so attemps, so there will be no great loss if he is shipped out.

    • wwpd says:

      thank you. he’s missed 5 of his last 6 attempts. one trick pony and now everyone knows his one trick.

      someone needs to help him work on his backhand!

  3. Sioux-per-man says:

    He sure is fun to watch. His shoot out skills are sick, something like 58% which would be the highest on the team. But the little man has to score goals if he is going to stay. Plain and simple you score you stay, if not, I think Hagelin is right behind him. He is a fast skater, nice size, and can score goals.
    It will be interesting to see who puts up the points on the Whale team this year. I would think who ever has the hot hand will get a call up. I don’t think it is going to be before 15-20 games unless someone is injured. Then again if Newbury keeps putting up hat tricks, and forces a call up, the “hot hand” could be a number of different players on the Whale.
    That is why Zucc is here today. He was a point per game player on the Whale, and he has the upside of winning a shootout.
    He still has to score to stay!!!

  4. Rich A says:

    Not trying to be a wise ….He has struggled? Through all (2) of our games where there were only a few players who showed up for the game? Patience. Patience with him and the rest of the team. While MZA, MDZ, and a few others are not my favorite, they have appeared to improve. Give them time. On another board, people bashing WW for being invisible the 1st two games. LOL. 10 minutes out of 120 and a groin injury, yet he should be waived. Patience will be rewarded with this team. This is not to you, Dave. This is to all the impatient fans out there.

    • Dave says:

      My concerns with Zuccarello stemmed back to last season. I just didn’t really like what I saw. They he struggled a bit the first two games this year, and saw some people venting about it on the internet. Decided to put some numbers to it and see what I got.

    • wingnut says:

      My first post. Greatest blog site out there, very impressed here.
      I agree with you Rich, 2 games have only been played, we have 2 points and more to follow. Now if it was game 20 or 30,we ahve an issue. The kids will grow. even though Im no MDZ fan he also has shown some improvement. There back home now rested from a long euro trip. Our game will improve.
      Once again great site Suit, Dave, Chris and anyone else I may have missed.

  5. Danillo says:

    Zooks did not look bad last game. He looked fine. He is not able to carry 2 other players and dominate a game in 7 minutes of ice time. He has looked good in his limited PP time. Zooks and Richards are the only creative passeers on the team. Its sill for anyone to be down on him for last game and its sill for a bunch of grinders to play ahead of him since we have little offensive creativity. Yes he hasnt scored in his whopping 17 minutes (total for 2 games). He also hasnt been on for any goals against. On another team like Detroit fans would be excited about this guys abilities.

  6. Per says:

    Sorry guys, but Zuccarello hasn´t struggled. The Rangers have played 2 games where he was given limited ice time and crappy line mates.

    Zuke is a top 6 forward, not a 4th line thug. Torts isn’t using him the right way.

  7. The Suit says:

    Everyone needs to simmer on MZA being on the 4th line. This isn’t a permanent move. Torts is just trying to get a look at a bunch of different combos and scenarios to see what works. That’s what coaches do in October.

    Everyone knows MZA isn’t a checking forward, its just a numbers thing. If he can’t make plays in all three zones, he’s not going to get top minutes. But as others said, it’s still early.

  8. Section 121 says:

    I’d like to see these metrics and analysis regarding Stepan, Feds, and Boyle over the first two games.

    My guess is they’d be pretty similar…

  9. jack says:

    Due respect for metrics or stats. With 7 min of ice time and obviously a lack of confidence from Tort. What can you expect when he’s frezeing his butt off on the bench. Zuke is a playmaker and needs ice time and a skilled line to achieve.

  10. hardliner says:

    I don’t understand how Zuccarello in a total of 17 minutes can have played so poorly against NHL level opponents that Torts should have lost confident in him. From what I saw (not all though) he didn’t play worse than most of his team mates. I’m a bit surprised that he wasn’t used more in those two matches considering his great camp and fine play and experience on the European rinks. I would rather say he hasen’t been given a real chance to shine. This is also quite understandable in a larger perspective. Torts needs his asumed top guys to be playing and get in to it. Zuke allready showed he can be trusted, but several of the player on the top two lines need to get into the game for Rangers. I expect to see more from Zuccarello as the season advances and think it’s unlogical to conclude that he is to small or bad not to make it.