There’s only two games left in the season and it’s entirely possible Mikael Backlund won’t take the ice again thanks to the team’s efforts to lose as much as possible.
As a result, I’d like to use him to introduce With or Without You, an analytic technique I’ve employed in the past but one that might still be foreign to some people. It’s a method of adding further context to a player’s measures – in this instance, his possession rates. We’ll be replicating this across the Flames roster in an effort to gauge each guy’s performance this year as well as inform potential roster decisions/discussions down the line.
First, here are Backlund’s basic possession stats and their concurrent ranks amongst regular skaters on the Flames:
corsi: +1.09/60 (2nd)
relative corsi: +5.7 (2nd)
zone start: 44.5% (4th hardest)
Primer (skip if you are familiar with corsi analysis)
Corsi is the differential between shots at the net for and against while a player is on the ice (at even strength). It is a proxy measure for offensive zone puck possession and indicative of a players overall performance/effect on the ice. Selke winners and dominating players tend to rate highly in corsi, including Datsyuk, Crosby, Kesler,, Karlsson, Lidstrom, Bergeron, Toews, etc. Corsi also consistently correlates with scoring chance differential, which we’ve discovered from counting chances for years.
The zone start stat is a ratio of offensive zone to defensive zone faceoffs at even strength for the player in question. A low ratio indicates more starts in the defensive zone and therefore a more difficult assignment.
As you can see, Mikael was a team leader in terms of possession this year, which is nothing new for the youngster. This is the first year he had such a difficult ZS ratio, but he nevertheless was in the black in terms of corsi. The only other guy on the team to finish above water was frequent linemate Lee Stempniak.
Now let’s take a look at Backlund’s teammates to see how his presence effected their possession ratios.
With or Without you is exactly what it sounds like – a look at how each players results change with or without another given player on the ice. In this case, we’ll investigate Backlund’s effects on his main linemates this season. Numbers are cosi % (stats via Hockeyanalysis.com)
|Player||With B||Without B||% diff|
Now in graph form:
As you can see, everyone but Chris Butler (oddly) benefits from Backlund’s presence this season. Sometimes this can be explained by external factors (like if Hartley only started Backlund in the offensive zone), but considering his usage this season, the general positive effects are unlikely to be due to another variable like that.
I limited the list to players who saw at least an hour of ice with Backlund at 5on5, although even that is a very small sample (effect of shortened season + his injury). The effect was similar last year, though, so we can assume we’re capturing some talent in here.
Backlund isn’t going to be a top-end scorer in this league, but he continue to develop into high quality, highly versatile center who can take on tough minutes, move the puck north and make his teammates better when he’s on the ice. Assuming he can stay healthy, he should be one of the pieces management builds around going forward.