We’re 13 games into the 56-game 2020-21 NHL season.
The Red Wings are sitting at the very bottom of the eight-team Central Division. I’d like to take a second to give us a better picture of Red Wings players’ performances to this point with the help of some advanced hockey statistics, even though we have a limited sample size right now.
Red Wings players’ PDO
What it is: PDO, called SPSV% by the NHL, for an individual is the sum of a team’s shooting percentage while that player is on the ice (“On Ice Shooting Percentage” or “oiSH%”) and the team’s save percentage with that player on the ice. Analytics nerds agree a player with a PDO at or above 102 is strong.
Let’s take a look at the top five and bottom five Red Wings players in terms of PDO through the first part of the season -- note there is quite a discrepancy in the amount of games some players have played, so we’ll set the threshold at 6 games played at least:
You’ll notice all of the top five players have played less games than all of the players in the bottom five of PDO. This indicates that the top five players for the Red Wings here are being opportunistic.
Furthermore, PDO could be all about bounces -- the old phrase “that’s hockey.” It could be the difference between a player or his linemate hitting the crossbar and sending the puck into the glass or going bar down for a goal. It’s very likely PDO shows extremely opportunistic players, too. This may not be sustainable.
To avoid being tricked by this, we’ll need a bigger sample size. We need to see more players remain in the lineup for longer periods, too. This is a window into how tough it is to lose five impactful players to COVID protocol for a couple weeks.
Points per 60 minutes 5-on-5 -- P/60
What it is: This is simply a player’s own points per 60 minutes in 5-on-5 situations. In this case, we can remove the variable of time-on-ice and games played. I don’t consider this an “advanced” stat, per se, but I feel like we don’t look at it enough.
Again, let’s take a look at the top five and bottom five Red Wings players in terms of P/60 -- again we’ll set the threshold at 6 games at least:
Nothing spells out the frustration for Mathias Brome better than this. Here’s a guy who has been putting in work without anything to show for it. It’s haunting, really. Remember, his PDO was on the lower end which may be an indication that the bounces aren’t going his way or he and his linemates are having trouble finishing.
When you look at this PDO list you get a clue about how badly the Red Wings lack scoring depth, how little their defensemen have been involved in the offense, and also how their forwards with the most minutes have failed to generate goals. That’s why Givani Smith is at the top -- he is cashing in on his few opportunities. Is it sustainable? We’ll need to check back.
Fenwick For % at even strength (FF%)
What it is: The NHL calls this stat “USAT%” -- unblocked shot attempts percentage. This is the percentage of unblocked shot attempts that the team takes out of total unblocked shot attempts. For a player, it is the percentage of unblocked shots attempts the team takes, out of total unblocked shot attempts, while the player is on the ice.
- Note: This advanced stat concept was first developed by blogger Matt Fenwick. Fenwick measures the same thing as Corsi but excludes blocked shots, and Fenwick can be considered a better indicator over a longer period of time as opposed to Corsi, just FYI.
This really helps me handle a few things I hate -- the misleading shots on goal statistic, blocked shots per individual and not the team overall, and the terribly overvalued plus-minus statistic. Fenwick For % is the way to go if we’re trying to show which players are having positive impacts on their team’s play at both ends of the ice. A FF% of more than 50% means that the team produced more shot attempts than their opponent when this player was on the ice.
Let’s have a look at the top five and bottom five Red Wings players in terms of FF% -- we’ll set the threshold at 6 games at least:
The Anthony Mantha case
As you’ll see in the case of Anthony Mantha, he has a strong FF% through 12 games played, but his PDO is trash. Why? Well, there are a lot of contributing factors here. As mentioned, PDO can show how opportunistic a player is and how fortunate bounces are for his team when he’s on the ice.
Keep in mind Mantha spent a lot of time playing with the talented and relentless Dylan Larkin through a lot of these first dozen games. Larkin’s play helped bring up Mantha’s FF%, but he couldn’t help bring up his PDO. And this is a mark of a bad team -- they don’t score with consistency and they suffer an overwhelming amount of goals against.
Regardless, Mantha’s coach hasn’t liked what he’s seen out of him. He’ll need to produce goals when he’s in the lineup to help bring some sense to these statistics. He is facing a bottom line situation -- more goals, yesterday. But his coach is asking him to do much more than that when the puck is not going in -- he needs to back-check with much more urgency, he needs to be efficient in the neutral zone and not turn over pucks, he needs to use his big frame to create takeaways, he needs to go into the corners “like a banshee” -- as a coach once told me, still don’t know exactly what that means but the message was received -- etc., etc.
As for Larkin, his advanced stats are all kind of falling toward the middle of the pack. Again, this is due to the sample size of games we have and players such as Smith and Zadina capitalizing on fewer opportunities. I assume Larkin’s stats will start to rise toward the top once we get a bigger pool of games to analyze.
So what now?
You can see how tough it can be for a coaching staff to try to analyze an individual player’s performance when there are so many variables involved in this team sport. You have to watch the games, after all, and get an understanding of how each player is performing in specific scenarios. These stats -- especially such a limited sample size for a team that has a rotating cast -- are tough to rely upon right now.
Game-by-game analysis is what I would suggest for the Red Wings right now. We’re seeing a revolving door of new players in some of these games to this point -- a little more stability might help, in both the lineup overall and line combos.
Statistic reference sources:
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