What Might Have Been Or A Preview Of What’s Coming For The 2015-16 Arizona Coyotes
With young, promising prospects like Dylan Strome and Henrik Samuelsson cut leading up to opening night for the Coyotes, I thought it might be an interesting exercise to see how the men who made cut stack up against their competition.
Some of it is not pretty. For the analysis I turned to the Horizontal Evaluative Rankings Optic or “HERO” Chart, a tool that compares a player’s personal output over the past three seasons to established benchmarks for 1st line, 2nd line, 3rd line, and 4th line statistics. It also takes into account how they affect their linemates’ Corsi. It’s provided by @Mimicohero on ownthepuck.com using stats from puckalytics.com and has become increasingly popular in the NHL analytics community due to both it’s comparative ability and how the visuals increase the ease of understanding for regular folks like me.
When the chatter began to keep Strome around, the talk centered around the jettison of grinders like Joe Vitale and John Scott to create that roster spot. Let’s take a look at what Joe Vitale provides the Coyotes:
The good news is that Joe Vitale provides the Coyotes a 4th liners share of ice time, primary assists, and primary points (goals + assists). Unfortunately, the HERO chart shows us that Vitale contributes at below an NHL level in virtually every other category. Considering he’s now inched past age 30 and the team has him under contract for another season after this one, it looks like we can count on Joe Vitale being either an encumbrance on the cap or an encumbrance on the back end of our lineup – both places where we surely have someone in Springfield or could grab someone on the waiver wire who could provide at a better pace and better price. To put it in perspective, Vitale makes more than Tobias Rieder, Anthony Duclair, and Kyle Chipchura to name a few.
Would you really rather see Vitale on the ice than any of those names? Not I. No sir. There’s little doubt Dylan Strome could’ve provided more to the team, though it likely would have hurt his development long term.
John Scott is a bit of a different matter. I feel like we all kind of know what this HERO chart is going to tell us:
Everything about Scott’s individual production is below the NHL level. He doesn’t even rate on the board in primary assists, for example, and is merely a blip below the 4th line radar in goals and primary points. Surprisingly Scott performs at a 4th line level in Corsi overall and a 2nd line level in Corsi Against which may be because when the 6’8″ Edmonton native is on the ice the only offense threatening to be going on is the kind without the gloves on.
It is interesting to note that though John Scott is strictly an enforcer who plays very little actual hockey, his numbers are not a far cry below Joe Vitale’s who does not provide near the same physical presence or “protection” for his teammates – namely young prospects like Duclair and Domi. From my point of view, this is telling me that while I’d rather have virtually any average 4th liner over Scott and Vitale, at the least Scott serves his purpose and leaves the game and the actual minutes to players who can help the team control the puck and do that thing where you try to put it in the net. Add John Scott to the list of things I never thought I ‘d even half-heartedly defend.
Another interesting find among the HERO charts was crowd favorite and newly minted Stanley Cup champion Antoine Vermette. We’ve seen him centering the Domi and Duclair line in the preseason, as well as a regular center on the powerplay rotation. The stats tell us that Vermette playing such a prominent offensive role up the middle is a big part of why the Coyotes will struggle this season:
Beyond his ice time, Vermette averages out as a 3rd liner in production across the last few seasons. On top of this, he has a 4th liners impact on Corsi which has a strong affect on goals for and against across an entire season (and subsequently a strong impact on winning and losing). Vermy may be glad to be home and we’re glad to have him, but it’d be nice if we had someone a little more capable offensively to slot in on the powerplay and on the top two lines if he stays there throughout the season.
Another player with an interesting HERO chart is Kyle Chipchura, a player known for being a grinder and dropping the gloves an occasional time or three.
While Chip also doesn’t provide much in the way of production offensively (though that primary assist number sticks out like a sore thumb), he is one of the better forwards on the Coyotes roster at driving possession. That’s right, Chipchura drives possession at a far higher clip than Antoine Vermette among others. So while there are dull spots and fix’er’ups throughout the lineup, a player like Chip is a bit of a blessing in the bottom six when you have him paired with guys like John Scott.
It’s worth noting before e-mails and comments and the like start flying that HERO charts can be skewed to a degree by things like injury and suspension if the time missed is significant. One need only look at one of my favorite Coyotes in Mikkel Boedker, whose HERO chart says he’s virtually a borderline 3rd/4th line winger despite an offensive leap in 2013-14 and another burgeoning in 2014-15 before he went down to injury.
For my part, based on his past two seasons (counting the abbreviated season last year) Boedker is clearly a top six forward in individual production when healthy. As for possession, that remains to be seen. Based on the preseason, he’s still got a little too much one-man-show and carelessness in his play to truly drive possession like a top six forward typically would.
Samuelsson and Strome among others would have been improvements over some of these players in the offensive department, most certainly. It’s possible we could see Samuelsson get his chance again during the season, but ultimately there are more holes in the Coyotes boat than their are buckets to empty it.
If our defense solidifies and Mike Smith returns to form, coupled with at least one of the Domi/Duclair pairing breaking out into a real point scorer and Calder Trophy threat, the Coyotes could have a pretty entertaining season. If the above stats and analysis hold the team down as much as it appears they will, however, you can go ahead and start watching YouTube clips of Auston Matthews prior to the 2016 NHL Draft.
If we get really lucky, maybe we’ll get both.
Editor’s note (10/8/2015): And now reports are coming out that John Scott has been waived for an intended assignment in Springfield.
John Scott on waivers.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) October 8, 2015
Interesting. Who is about to get called up?