Ice time is pretty important in ice hockey, but sometimes we don’t talk about it very much. So today, I went over to War on Ice and generated a series of charts so we can briefly discuss things.
Today I’m focusing on two specific areas: defensemen and what I call “floating forwards.” All the charts that follow are based on rolling five-game averages of even-strength ice time.
GIORDANO & BRODIE
In the, “Well, duh,” category, Giordano and Brodie’s even-strength usage is virtually identical all season long with tiny, tiny variations.
WIDEMAN & RUSSELL
Aside from the short period when Engelland was on the second pairing with Russell (also see below), the team’s second pairing has been pretty much locked-in. As with Giordano and Brodie, only minor variations once they got together.
THE THIRD PAIRING
Things were all over the place early, primarily with some experimentation by the coaching staff with Engelland and Smid’s placement and ice time. However, over the past two months or so, things have stabilized. Granted, it’s helpful (somewhat) that Smid was injured. The coaching staff seems quite pleased with Diaz and Engelland as a third pairing – an offensively-minded guy with a more stay-at-home guy, ala the first and second pairings – and I think this comfortability explains why Wotherspoon never really got in up here.
This is my favourite chart, and not just because it’s pretty. Each of these guys has seen fourth line duty at times. Each of them has seen second and third line duty. Most recently, Bouma’s been with Backlund and Jones on the shutdown line. Byron is now on the fourth line after being on the second and third line (with Colborne and Raymond) for a bit. Jooris was also used with Raymond and Colborne before the last re-shuffling and has also seen time in the past on the shutdown group. His peak of ice-time was when he was the de facto second center behind Sean Monahan; the fact he could win draws and was right-handed made him incredibly valuable to the coaching staff in key moments. And Paul Byron has quietly drifted down in ice time all season long. I don’t think it’s anything related to his play, but rather the mere fact that other guys are hotter at any given moment – and can bury chances – so they get more time to get those chances.
The nice thing about these guys is that they are versatile enough to be used anywhere, and as you can see, that’s where coach Hartley has used them. Anywhere and everywhere.
SUM IT UP
Based on these charts, it’s easy to explain some deployment decisions that the Flames coaches have made. On defense, they seem to value stability above all else. Up front, they seem more likely to shuffle things around to protect guys or give more time to the hot hand.