2013-14 CALGARY FLAMES: ZONE ENTRIES

Byron Bader
September 10 2014 08:30AM


Zone entries, while in their infancy, are the next big wave of advanced hockey stats that are going to shape our understanding of possession-numbers.  Teams remain curious but cautious about corsi and fenwick stats, but I have yet to hear a team that doesn't see immense value in zone entry stats.  The only problem ... they're not readily available. Corey Sznajder, of Carolina Hurricanes blog 'Shutdown Line', has spent his summer ever so greatly manually tracking zone entries for the 2013-14 and was kind enough to provide FN a sample of the first half (49 games) of the 2013-14 Flames.  

You can follow Corey's great work at www.shutdownline.com or on twitter: @ShutdownLine. As well, if you'd like to help fund this wonderful project of his, here's the link:  www.gofundme.com/allthreezones

Lets have a look at the data.

*If you need a little help understanding the world of advanced stats, click here.

FLAMES FORWARDS

Player TE        S Per E    %CI            S Per CI      %DI              S Per DI    %CI Failed    
Backlund 212 0.52 64.62% 0.57 35.38% 0.44 11.04%
Baertschi 124 0.34 58.06% 0.44 41.94% 0.19 25.77%
Stajan 184 0.45 57.61% 0.57 42.39% 0.29 17.83%
Monahan 136 0.52 56.62% 0.68 43.38% 0.32 20.62%
Stempniak 211 0.50 56.40% 0.66 43.60% 0.30 13.77%
Hudler 226 0.43 54.42% 0.53 45.58% 0.32 15.17%
Cammalleri     188 0.45 54.26% 0.57 45.74% 0.30 20.31%
Byron 91 0.47 52.75% 0.54 47.25% 0.40 12.73%
Jones 151 0.42 50.33% 0.63 49.67% 0.21 15.56%
Colborne 161 0.32 49.69% 0.50 50.31% 0.14 18.37%
Glencross 85 0.44 48.24% 0.63 51.76% 0.25 21.15%
Galiardi 197 0.44 40.10% 0.68 59.90% 0.28 14.13%
Bouma 111 0.42 36.04% 0.65 63.96% 0.30 21.57%
Westgarth 18 0.44 22.22% 0.50 77.78% 0.43 20.00%
Mcgrattan 85 0.46 21.18% 0.94 78.82% 0.33 25.00%
Average 145 0.44 48.17% 0.61 51.83% 0.30 18.20%


FLAMES DEFENSE



Player             TE         S per E    %CI            S Per CI      %DI              S Per DI    %CI Failed    
Wideman 55 0.40 43.64% 0.58 56.36% 0.26 11.11%
Russell 82 0.34 31.71% 0.65 68.29% 0.20 16.13%
Giordano 66 0.30 30.30% 0.50 69.70% 0.22 0.00%
Brodie 123 0.33 30.08% 0.54 69.92% 0.24 13.95%
Butler 86 0.31 22.09% 0.68 77.91% 0.21 17.39%
O'Brien 58 0.21 13.79% 0.38 86.21% 0.18 11.11%
Smid 47 0.32 4.26% 1.50 95.74% 0.27 0.00%
Average 74 0.32 25.12% 0.69 74.88% 0.22 9.96%

TE: Total entries; S Per E: Shots per total entries; %CI: Percent carried-in; S Per CI: Shots per carry-in; %DI: Percent dumped-in; S Per DI: Shots per dump-in; %CI Failed: Percent of carry-ins that failed. The data sets are sorted by %CI.

As the data has suggested previously, the dump-in is not nearly as effective as a carry-in and we see this with the Flames 2013-14 data as well.  For the Flames, the average shots per carry-in is twice as large than shots per dump-in for forwards (0.61 vs. 0.30) and over three times as large with regards to defensemen (0.69 vs. 0.22).  

Who leads the charge?Well Mikael Backlund of course. Baertschi, Stajan, Monahan, Stempniak, Hudler, Cammalleri and Byron had admirable carry-in statistics but, as with any underlying possession number, Backlund is by far the Flames best carry-in artist. He carries the puck in 65% and dumps it in only 35% of the time ... blowing his teammates out of the water.  In addition, when he does carry the puck in he is successful 89% of the time. 

More of Backlund's zone entry prowess later. What about the Flames, as a whole?

I asked Corey to provide some context on the Flames and their zone entries.  Specifically, I was curious who were the best zone entry teams and where the Flames ranked in zone entries.  He informed me that the Flames were in the middle of the pack but the Flames were one of the worst teams in the league at denying opponent zone entries.

He provided me eight additional zone entry data sets - 4 good entry teams (Chicago, Dallas, Colorado and Tampa) and 4 bad entry teams (Minnesota, Winnipeg, Phoenix and Nashville) - to compare. All team data sets include roughly a half season (48-51 games) of zone entry data.  

Team           TE       S Per E    % CI   S Per CI % DI S Per DI % CI F   Opp TE % Opp CI Opp Sh Per CI Opp % CI F
Chicago 3346 0.47 55% 0.62 45% 0.28 15% 2847 46% 0.61 22%
Tampa 2999 0.48 54% 0.64 46% 0.28 15% 2816 47% 0.68 17%
Dallas 2996 0.49 53% 0.67 57% 0.28 18% 2955 45% 0.72 16%
Colorado 2659 0.5 51% 0.67 49% 0.28 17% 2830 43% 0.7 17%
Calgary 2818 0.42 47% 0.59 53% 0.28 17% 3014 50% 0.62 12%
Minnesota 2956 0.42 43% 0.63 57% 0.27 15% 2992 42% 0.67 20%
Winnipeg 3026 0.49 43% 0.74 57% 0.3 18% 3164 45% 0.66 17%
Phoenix 2768 0.58 42% 0.72 58% 0.3 16% 2742 45.00% 0.71 17%
Nashville 2912 0.45 41% 0.69 59% 0.3 15% 3049 48% 0.65 15%


In this sample of nine teams, Calgary sits square in the middle, carrying in 47% of the time while the best team carries in 55% of the time and the worst carries in 41% of the time.  Conversely, 88% of opponents' attempted carry-ins against the Flames are successful, which is by far the worst of the group.  This seems strange given how many close games the Flames were involved in this past year.

Last, I wanted to compare the forwards driving the mail for each of the 9 teams in terms of zone entries and see where the Flames' best entry players measured up.  I chose to include the three most notable players of each team.  If teams had too many weapons to choose from (e.g., Colorado and Chicago) I chose the three players that had the most zone entries.

Player Team          TE         S Per E   % CI S Per C % DI S Per DI %CI F Team Rel CF%
Duchene Colorado 260 0.53 83% 0.6 17% 0.23 15% G 3.96%
Stamkos Tampa 86 0.38 80% 0.43 20% 0.18 10% G 2.32%
Toews Chicago 316 0.5 79% 0.56 21% 0.27 15% G 5.63%
Filpulla Tampa 288 0.48 79% 0.56 21% 0.17 12% G 0.88%
P. Kane Chicago 409 0.52 71% 0.59 29% 0.34 14% G -0.35%
MacKinnon Colorado 219 0.53 70% 0.66 30% 0.23 20% G 2.10%
Seguin Dallas 242 0.61 69% 0.76 31% 0.26 15% G 4.41%
St. Louis Tampa 278 0.6 67% 0.69 33% 0.42 13% G -0.80%
Sharp Chicago 290 0.52 67% 0.63 33% 0.29 18% G 2.20%
Nichuskhin Dallas 222 0.46 67% 0.52 33% 0.36 18% G 0.22%
Landeskog Colorado 299 0.52 65% 0.68 35% 0.23 11% G 3.98%
Benn Dallas 294 0.53 65% 0.7 35% 0.21 26% G 2.38%
Backlund Calgary 212 0.52 65% 0.57 35% 0.44 11%   5.87%
Ribeiro Phoenix 231 0.48 64% 0.63 36% 0.23 15% B 3.37%
Stalberg Nashville 225 0.54 61% 0.76 39% 0.2 14% B -0.14%
Parise Minnesota 155 0.53 61% 0.71 39% 0.25 17% B 8.14%
Wilson Nashville 256 0.43 59% 0.6 41% 0.19 13% B -0.72%
E. Kane Winnipeg 291 0.54 57% 0.73 43% 0.29 16% B 2.06%
Hudler Calgary 226 0.43 54% 0.53 46% 0.32 15%   -1.07%
Cammalleri Calgary 188 0.45 54% 0.57 46% 0.3 20%   3.84%
Boedker Phoenix 252 0.5 52% 0.71 48% 0.26 13% B -1.73%
Pominville Minnesota 213 0.43 51% 0.64 49% 0.22 16% B 7.33%
Wheeler Winnipeg 304 0.45 49% 0.73 51% 0.18 15% B -0.55%
Koivu Minnesota 235 0.45 49% 0.68 51% 0.23 16% B 9.15%
Doan Phoenix 190 0.49 48% 0.63 52% 0.36 20% B 2.34%
Frolik Winnipeg 231 0.47 47% 0.67 60% 0.25 14% B 3.79%
Hornqvist Nashville 238 0.53 37% 0.78 63% 0.38 16% B 4.10%
Average (Bad) 235.08 0.49 52.92% 0.69 47.67% 0.25 15.42% 3.10%
Average (Good) 266.92 0.52 71.83% 0.62 28.17% 0.27 15.58% 2.24%


Looking at this list, all the top zone entry players play for the good zone entry teams. However, the differences (in most categories) are pretty negligible.  The only real differences are total entries and carry-in/dump-in proportions.  

Better teams would naturally be more adept at getting out of their own zone and have more chances to enter the offensive zone.  However, maybe this is a coaching difference, but the good teams' best players also attempt to carry-in much more than bad teams' best players.Good teams' best players carry in 72% of the time whereas the bad teams' best players carry in only 53%.  Interestingly, the good and bad teams see the same success with shot attempts, respectively. for carry-ins and dump-ins. Good and bad teams also have similar success at carrying the puck in (85%).   If every player were to have the same number of entries (let's say 300 in 50 games), the best players on good teams would generate approximately half a shot a game more than bad teams just from attempting to enter with a carry-in more often.  

A few interesting things that came out from this data set.  Stamkos is the most effective player at gaining the zone.  In fact, 83% of his attempts are carry-ins and he's successful 90% of the time!  But, once in the zone, his carry-ins and dump-ins generate the least amount of shots. He has the best shot in the league so maybe he doesn't need much? Also, P. Kane is regarded by many as the best carry-in artist in the league. However, he leads the group, and likely the league, in total entry attempts by a wide margin but does not generate the most shots nor does he have the best success rate.  If we factor in carry-in proportion, shots per carry in and carry-in success rates, Duchene, Seguin and St. Louis would appear to be three of the best.

Where do the Flames' best players stack up with this comparison?  Hudler and Cammalleri, two of the Flames three best zone entry players, slot in in the bottom 3rd, each carrying -in 54% of the time. Backlund, on the other hand, is right in there with the best zone entry players.  He carries in 65% of the time, generates as many shots per entry as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.  Moreover, he succeeds at carrying in 89% of the time, which ties him for 2nd with Gabe Landeskog, trailing only Stamkos. 

Also, for the most part the dump-in seems like an irrelevant event to gain possession and create offense. However, there are a few players that may have some ability in the 'strategic dump'.  Those include St. Louis, Hornqvist, Doan and Backlund.  Backlund, being the strongest of the pack, averaging 0.44 shots at the net per dump-in while the group averages 0.26.

SUM IT UP



The Flames are a mid-tier zone entry team, carrying-in to the offensive zone approximately 47% of the time and failing to gain the zone 17% of the time.  On the flip side, getting into the Flames offensive zone is easier than making toast.  Teams are permitted to access the Flames zone 88% of the time which is by far the worst of the nine teams displayed here. 

Backlund is one of the few bright spots of the Flames zone entries.  Backlund does everything incredible when it comes to possession stats and his zone entry ability is no exception.  He is the Flames best asset when it comes to entering the zone. He even stacks up with some of the league's elite in this category. Patrick Kane had over 400 entries compared to Backlund's 212.  If Backlund were to rival Kane's sheer number of entries (400 in 50 games) in the first half of the season, the Flames would have been the benefactor of approximately 1.5 additional shots every game over the first half of the season.  

With that being said, Backlund's deployment in the latter part of the 2013-14 season changed dramatically from the data presented here.  As well, the Flames record vastly improved and their corsi-related possession stats also improved quite drastically.  Backlund being a driving force behind that change. Once Corey's completes his analysis for this year, I wouldn't be surprised to see Backlund's latter half zone entry counts rivaling players like P. Kane, Toews, Sharp or Landeskog.  

Backlund be real good.  Don't ever change, Mickis.

Fb039371a1a1b706383cb72243cb4446
Byron has a background in psychology, economics and business and is a business researcher/data analyst by day. His love for hockey is as deep as the ocean is wide. Tell him your questions and let him into your heart. Twitter: @Baderader; Email: byron.bader@gmail.com
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#1 Dougie & The Fro
September 10 2014, 08:50AM
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Bader, write more stuff, but not so much more that the quality suffers. Excellent article.

So why doesn't Backlund score more? He does everything well, except put the biscuit in the basket. Is it bad luck, bad line mates, too much passing when he should be shooting?

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#3 Bean-counting cowboy
September 10 2014, 09:08AM
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Awesome article! This is the stuff I crave. Mikael FRIGGIN Backlund!

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#5 backburner
September 10 2014, 09:40AM
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Great article.. a very underrated skill.I thought maybe it was Hartley's system that nobody would carry in the puck.

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#6 RexLibris
September 10 2014, 09:55AM
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Excellent.

Very well stated.

I'm hoping to get some time to review all of Corey's data later this month. Identifying the correlation between zone-entries and success, and properly weighting in within the larger context is going to help colour in a lot of currently vague areas (ie: good teams know how to win, etc).

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#7 Baalzamon
September 10 2014, 10:01AM
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I'd love to see zone exit numbers for TJ Brodie. I feel like he (and Giordano) would be really good there.

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#9 iggyfan
September 10 2014, 10:25AM
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If we were to remove the dump ins that were for line changing purposes, it would most likely increase dump in success in terms of shots on net.

Has anyone done these stats without including dump ins for the purpose of line changing, or are these stats controlled for it? I don't think we can get a clear picture without it.

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#10 Craig
September 10 2014, 10:37AM
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As soon as Backlund signs long term I'm getting his jersey. /swoon

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#12 mk
September 10 2014, 12:59PM
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Great article Byron.

My only caution about this data (regarding zone entries) is the possibility of other factors coming into play. Given that players make decisions on the ice, and do not choose between dump-ins/carry-ins by weighted random choice; it is possible that the set up of the defense, availability of linemates and current energy of the player will factor into the choice. I see that line changes are not included, which is a great start.

Another way of looking at this idea is to say that players will choose to dump it in when the defense is well set up; whereas if they carried it in, they're unlikely to be successful. Thus, the data set it biased: players will dump-in on low-yield situations as it is 'less risky'. I almost feel as if the quirky Kane data supports this idea: he forces more entries than other players, which gives him a higher total count of shots, but his rate of carry-in success is lower.

How exactly you would be able to control for these other factors, I'm not sure. But it would really solidify the value of zone-entry analysis.

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#13 Stubblejumper
September 10 2014, 01:09PM
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Terrific work Byron (and Corey).

As a flow game (unlike football etc with discrete set-piece chess-like plays) the ability to gather relevant data and analysis that can be used for predictive and coaching/strategy purposes is very difficult.

However I found your analysis insightful and something that will stick with me as a youth coach.

Thanks..:)

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#14 Koolmoedee
September 10 2014, 01:18PM
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Byron Bader wrote:

Thanks, man. I appreciate it.

I don't know why Backlund doesn't score more. I think previously it was the linemates thing, zero powerplay time and a really low shooting percentage. But I honestly think the Backlund we saw in the last 3rd of the season last year is going to be the Backlund we see going forward.

But he'll never score like some of the guys on this list. He's amazing at getting out of his own zone and getting into the o-zone and creating something. The only thing missing is the elite scoring component.

I have a couple of guesses:

Backlund had a shooting percentage of 10.1% last season, which tied him with Rick Nash and Tomas Plecanec, and put him 0.1% more efficient than Nathan MacKinnon. However, Backlund only shot the puck 178 times in 76 games ranking him 95th in the league in total shots.

If Backlund had 300+ shots like Patrick Sharp, Phil Kessel, and Alex Ovechkin, Backlund too would be a 30+ goal scorer.

Why didn't he shoot more? First of all, as we all know, Backlund wasn't deployed in an offensive role until later in the season. Secondly, Backlund was much more of a puck carrier/distributor than a pure shooter. Thirdly, he missed 8 games.

Goal-wise, I think it's reasonable to expect Backlund's totals to improve if he plays a full season in an offensive role. Just playing 82 games instead of last year's 76 would likely make him a 20-goal scorer instead of 18. Add two months of not riding the bench to last year's totals and he's probably in the 25+ goal neighbourhood - the same neighbourhood populated by Landeskog, MacKinnon, and Filppula.

As for Backlund's assist totals, my eyeballs tell me that many of Backlund's passes went for naught last season. Not only did his linemates fail to convert, they often failed to continue the cycle or maintain possession. Guys like Kane, Toews, and Duchene obviously play with better linemates than Backlund does.

I think if Backlund ever gets to play with elite wingers, both his goal and his assist totals would soar. If you dropped him between Kane and Hossa, Backlund would be a star.

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#15 beloch
September 10 2014, 01:22PM
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Great article Byron!

I went over to have a look at Corey Sznajder "How I spent my summer" article and he includes zone entries against defenders, with the Flames blueline as an example of shame (albeit with only a 22 game sample so far). Our favorite duo, Brodano, got murdered in zone entries against! This is one stat in which they are not elite. I wonder if it's a product of the system the Flames play or something else... This is worth adressing, both on this blog and by the team itself!

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#16 Jeff Lebowski
September 10 2014, 01:22PM
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The LA - CHI series last year was extremely telling of the importance of zone entries.

My guess is, this is THE stat teams are focusing on.

Tactically one could see in games where CHI was playing well that their possession into the zone was unhindered.

Where LA turned the corner is when they pressured the puck carrier in the NZ and forced a horrible decision. They just went hard at the body of the puck carrier, while aligning the remainder of team to limit the puck carriers ability to make the first guy miss (if you get what I'm saying - deke the guy by spacing the defenders)

That series, as I watched, is a textbook example of zone entry hockey tactics.

See for yourselves.

Also, as I've mentioned previously, this is why JG is so valuable even if he isn't a 100 pt guy (exaggeration). He is so deft, so quick that he can carry the puck in tight spaces (d lined up at blue) so I predict he will be a zone entry machine at worst, a zone entry point producer extraordinaire at best.

Again, as mentioned, this is why quality centres are so valuable (and spoken highly of). Centres who can make plays (stickhandle, great hands, dekes) open two pass lanes, like Backlund does.

Think of all the Flames centre prospects who deliver this.

Even Colborne. He is a centre. This is why. Imagine a 4th liner who can carry the puck in, wait out with his reach the defenders and pick out his wingers for shots or tip ins.

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#19 Jeff Lebowski
September 10 2014, 01:41PM
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@Byron Bader

Yep. I think about a time in the not so distant future when, as the centre drives down the middle lane - the opposition collapses on him - and he opens the lanes for his wingers. A guy like Poirier will get the puck, drop the shoulder and go hard at the net.

I think CGY forwards will be so frighteningly good at this because our centres are so skilled. Janko Unchained.

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#20 Greg
September 10 2014, 01:55PM
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@Byron Bader

Great article Byron! Really enjoyed it, and learned a lot about zone entry #fancystats.

My take-aways:

1) Backlund is awesome

2) I think I see where the GM/Coach distaste for Baerstchi was coming from finally... he almost never gets dump-ins back, and he coughs up his carry-ins a lot. That would seem to indicate some being-too-cute and not-battling-for-the-puck, both of which would get you in the dog house with management.

3) I think you hit on something there with the Stamkos shot numbers. It seems like the "Shots per ..." stats would need to be controlled for shooting percentage somewhat. If Stamkos shoots, say 15%, his shots-per might look bad compared to someone shooting 5%, even if he's clearly doing better. (I'm assuming that includes all shots, not just the first one).

4) The bad team / good team ratios are fascinating... almost makes it seem like the primary difference between being good or bad is just carrying the puck over the blueline more. I could see this stat being very useful for coaches (where as Corsi and PDO should help GMs do their jobs better).

5) Also, this line of analysis could be just what the NHL needs to help boost offense. Carry-ins should lead to more shots, as well as more turnovers. If teams start recognizing the benefit of possession, we'll get more of that, less of dump-and-chase.

6) Last thought on the good/bad team ratios. It looks to me like the "bad" teams are mostly just trying to play "safe" hockey. When they do carry it in, they fail less, and they generate more shots, indicating they are more selective about when they do it. Small differences, and small sample size though. Will be very interesting to see as more teams adapt to this... I wonder if teams will find they improve their success by carrying it more, or will they find they have to play "safe" because they just aren't good enough to carry it.

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#21 Greg
September 10 2014, 01:55PM
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Sorry, that was a long post... I just got so excited by the new stats and insights with it! :)

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#22 Jeff Lebowski
September 10 2014, 03:12PM
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Remember the Brent days? Bouwmeester skating the puck to centre then dumping it in. 25 min/night.

Hartley and his style (make plays) is just taking hold. Just watch ...

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#23 The Last Big Bear
September 10 2014, 04:13PM
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STATSGASM!!

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#24 wot96
September 10 2014, 05:32PM
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The Last Big Bear wrote:

STATSGASM!!

You, uh....need a towel?

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#25 RexLibris
September 10 2014, 11:26PM
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@Jeff Lebowski

JG's ZE will be interesting to watch.

I suspect some of his success/failure ratio will be the defenders who play him and their individual approaches and the speed with which a useful strategy emerges and is then adopted by others.

For instance, Gaudreau is smaller, quicker, and "shifty" in that his lower center of gravity allows him to perhaps move laterally with less noticeable tells than a larger forward. This might leave some defenders who typically rely on their size and strength to compensate for their reactionary gap.

Others who perhaps have a more stick-checking style may have to adopt a less aggressive approach and work on angling off Gaudreau towards the boards where he will be forced to pass it off. My guess is this is closer to what will eventually become the standard method of dealing with him in his first year.

The gambit there evolves into "to whom is the puck passed and to what extent is it a blind meant to free Gaudreau to find open space so as to reacquire the puck in a more favourable shooting angle?

I've watched something akin to this evolve over the years with Ales Hemsky and his zone entries. When his linemates were competent he excelled and making them productive players. However, when paired with subpar linemates it meant the defender had little risk of approaching Hemsky aggressively and forcing the pass because it invariably ended up on the stick of someone who was less of a scoring threat.

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#26 Jeff Lebowski
September 11 2014, 07:21AM
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@RexLibris

Good points. Penticton starts tomorrow. First chance to gauge him. I'm looking forward to CGY - EDM especially.

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#27 Jeff Lebowski
September 11 2014, 08:34AM
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As for Penticton:

-will the jets nation guy do the analysis again this year? Pls make this so. -JG & Ferland (slower to come for Ferland b/c injury but by end ...) steal the show. Glimpses from others but dominance from those two. -CGY gets in a bunch of scraps. Either in defense of team mates or to audition for Burke love. -fan expectation goes thru roof on prospect depth. Flames scope other teams d prospects and perhaps a swap ? However, listening to BT, I think he wants to give everyone in org a chance to show their true colors during the hardships of a season (but not necessarily a full season). He wants to know who is talk and who digs in. From players to front office. How else to really know?

Also, I want to see Wolf take pregame skates in Penticton even though in eligible to play. Just want him to stand at centre and death stare the other team. If they touch any of our skill: Kanzig gets them in dub, Smith in OHL, Wolf in AHL So basically no place to hide from retribution - immediate and long lasting.

I would not be upset to see the nucks and coilers bleeding and crying after playing CGY. Just plant the seed now.

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#28 Sobueno
September 12 2014, 12:12AM
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Oh man can't wait for the Cal-Edm game Saturday! My buddy I'm going to the game with is a big Oilers fan. It's going to be so satisfying watching JG undress Nurse on his way to putting up 5 points (that's a totally realistic expectation, right??). Nothing worse than an Edmontonian talking smack about their crap team.

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