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.
|Player||TE||S Per E||%CI||S Per CI||%DI||S Per DI||%CI Failed|
|Player||TE||S per E||%CI||S Per CI||%DI||S Per DI||%CI Failed|
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|
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%|
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.