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A look at Rangers player usage

January 6, 2014, by
Courtesy of ExtraSkater

Courtesy of ExtraSkater

As the analysis of stats develops, one of the major attributes looked at is player usage. John Tortorella was a big proponent of starting his offensive players in the offensive zone, and his shutdown guys in the defensive zone. Alain Vigneault is no different.

To read the chart above: The X-axis represents zone starts and the percentage of starts each player has in the offensive zone. The lower the percentage, the more often a player starts his shifts in the defensive zone. It should be noted that the stat used here (O/D St%) omits neutral zone starts. The Y-axis represents quality of competition faced. The higher up on the Y axis, the tougher the competition faced.

The size of each bubble is ice time – the larger the size, the more ice time. The color represents Corsi (puck possession). Red represents a negative Corsi, blue a positive Corsi. The darker the shade, the more extreme. For example, Brian Boyle has a darker shade of red than Dominic Moore, so Boyle has a Corsi. Anton Stralman is a darker blue than John Moore, so Stralman has a better Corsi than Moore.

From the chart, we can clearly see who the shutdown line is: Boyle, Moore, and Derek Dorsett. These are the only forwards getting less than 50% of their starts in the offensive zone. All other Ranger forwards are on the right side of the 50% mark, meaning AV chooses to start those guys in the offensive zone whenever possible. This is what we expected from AV when the season started.

On defense, the three guys you expect to be the defensive zone workhorses (Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal) all have OZ starts under 50%. This again is what we expected from AV.

There are two interesting points about the defense. The first is that although Stralman, John Moore, and Michael Del Zotto are getting primarily offensive zone starts, it doesn’t appear that the coaching staff is relying on them to drive the offense. For Moore and Del Zotto, the impression –and rightfully so– is that AV doesn’t trust them as much in the defensive zone, thus they start their shifts in the offensive zone. This doesn’t necessarily apply to Stralman, as he has been one of the more consistent defenders.

Zone starts and quality of competition faced generally have a strong relationship with the offensive output, but on the scoreboard and in puck possession. It’s rare when you see a player with less than 40% offensive zone starts contribute offensively.┬áThat said, the guys relied upon –and given the appropriate OZ starts– to contribute need to contribute. Guys like Brad Richards, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Ryan Callahan, and Carl Hagelin have not done that consistently this season.

When AV came on board, we noted that zone starts would become an even larger focus of the team strategy. It was something that Torts was doing regularly, but AV is taking it to the next level. All good coaches matchup their lines based on strengths. Execution on the other hand, well we all know that’s been a problem so far.

Categories : Analysis


  1. Hatrick Swayze says:

    Could you look at this chart and hypothesize that the Rangers are a good possession team? It seems that everyone except for our 4th line forwards are at or to the right of the 50% mark on the X axis. Meaning that the majority of our faceoffs are taken outside of our defensive zone. Perhaps a weighted average would show the average player is somewhere in between the 50 and 60% mark.

    If true, then I’d guess a team like Toronto would have most players bubbles a bit to the left, dictating that they face more defensive zone starts?

    So a weighted average of every player in the NHL would be AT the 50% mark, as obviously every faceoff is a defensive, offensive or neutral zone faceoff for someone?

    Am I analyzing this correctly, Dave? Chart is awesome.

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      I guess my above question would assume that good possession numbers lead to more offensive zone faceoffs than draws in the d zone. I should have mentioned that.

    • Dave says:

      The Rangers are one of the top possession teams in the East:

      • Chris A says:

        That just adds to the frustration of this season.

        The Rangers are actually playing well most nights. If they were able to post something slightly better than an abysmal 5.4% shooting percentage for the first half of the season they would be comfortably slotted in second place in The Underwhelming Metro Division.

        • Dave says:

          Yea, it’s very frustrating. December aside (when they sucked), they’ve been controlling play for the most part, just can’t win.

          • Chris A says:

            Yes, they were brutal for almost that entire December homestand. Of course, the one December game that the team was absolutely dominant, TOR at MSG, they barely managed to win.