How much impact should the addition of Anders Lee have?

Let’s be clear here:  Anders Lee should’ve been up from the start.  The only reasons that Lee went down were:
1.  He was waiver exempt; and2.  His skating is sometimes thought to be an issue.

#2 should be a minor issue after last year – even if they did have concerns about his skating – and scout Corey Pronman used to cite that as a probable issue with Lee – his play last year for 22 games suggested that whatever other skills he had more than made up for it.  Again, this is what Lee did last year:
AndersLee Data Table

(A legend for the above table can be found HERE:  )

That’s the stat line of a very plus possession player alongside good linemates, with a great shooting rate and who wasn’t sheltered territorially.  You can see some evidence of his less than great skating in the neutral zone data – where his 37% controlled entry rate is below average for a forward, but his line was such a plus possession line it didn’t matter.  They were only slightly positive in the neutral zone, which may suggest some decline, but the overall numbers are really good and even the neutral zone #s, due to the 51.1% on-ice entry rate, was terrific.

In other words, using skating as an excuse was really just an excuse.  The Isles didn’t keep Lee at first because they didn’t want to lose inferior grinders to waivers.  We’ve gone over this before.

So where does Lee play?  On one hand, I’d think putting him alongside Bailey and Nielsen would make a lot of sense.  You already had Kulemin with Nelson and Strome for 1 and 2/3 games, and it was with Bailey and Nielsen that Lee had the most success last year.  Those two players and Lee should pick up quickly how they played together, and shouldn’t be harmed by a lack of practice.

But it sounds like they’re instead going with a “Kids Line”  Lee-Nelson-Strome.  To a certain degree this makes sense.  If you recall, I mentioned Nelson’s poor shot rate had been compensated for a good bit by Grabovski taking a ton of shots.  Well, in the 22 games he played, Lee managed a shot rate that was near the top of the NHL – 11th in S/60, 39th in attempts per 60 at EV.  That should fit in real nicely.  Course he probably isn’t as good a possession player as Grabbo, but Nelson and Strome should have that fairly well covered.  A kid line SHOULD work – the issue may be more that they haven’t practiced together.

More importantly is Lee should boost performance over Colin McDonald regardless of where he is.  Let’s be clear:  CMac was not the 13th worst forward on this team – that would be Matt Martin, but the team won’t waive him so that’s a moot point.   As we’ve previously discussed:

So what we have here [in Colin McDonald] is a guy who slightly hurts possession, who doesn’t score very much and can draw penalties.

With Lee you lose the penalty drawing and gain someone who may be a plus possession player (WAY too early to say) and who probably can score at least a little (let’s say 15 goals in a full year).  The hope is that when Grabbo comes back – probably next week (although who can say with concussions) – they keep him here.  I have faith they will: the team would’ve called him up earlier if they were willing to keep him up for a short term burst.  The question is who goes – it should be Martin.  It probably would be Conacher.

Neutral Zone Analysis: 2014-2015 Season: Game 5 @ Pittsburgh

Game 5 entries

Above are the Islander Neutral Zone results for Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh. The Isles basically played Pitt even in the neutral zone, or maybe were barely beaten as such while the game was close (Entries were 33-32 Pitt in close, 17-13 with control). As much as it felt like the Isles were losing at even strength, they didn’t really do so statistically by much. Just a failure of special teams, really. And this was against a top team in the league – Pitt is really good, much improved from last year.

Through 5 games, the Isles have basically beaten my expectations in ordinary fancystats. I mentioned that the goal for me was to get 6 points (they got 8) and to be above 50% fenwick close (they’re at 56.7%), so yeah that’s pretty nice. That said, their possession victories have come near entirely in the offensive zone – their neutral zone fenwick is just below even (49.8%), but they are massively outperforming what we’d expect from their entries in the offensive zone (the defensive zone #s are slightly below average).

So the goal for the next 5 games should be the following: Keep up above average possession numbers, 6 more points, and to win the neutral zone. The team should be now more used to how their linemates and d pairs play, and should get a healthy Lubo back soon, so this should definitely be attainable.

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PS: I was asked in a comment to post who the above Islanders are in my neutral zone tracking. You can see the Islanders by Sweater # below:

Isles Roster #s

Neutral Zone Analysis: 2014-15 season: Game 4 Home vs San Jose

Game 4 entries

Game 4 Neutral Zone #s are below. The Isles outplayed the Sharks by a little bit in the neutral zone, but really outplayed them in the defensive and particularly the offensive zone, getting a ton of shot attempts off of each zone entry. Overall a great game in all 3 zones, with the Sharks’ scoring being pretty fluky. Well done vs a pretty good team.

PS: I was asked in a comment to post who the above Islanders are in my neutral zone tracking. You can see the Islanders by Sweater # below:

Isles Roster #s

Brock Nelson’s disappointing individual offense so far.

Brock Nelson has turned some heads to start this season – particularly those of the media who don’t know any non-Tavares Islanders. 4 goals in 3 games (now 4 in 4) demands some respect after all. But there’s a big number next to that 4 goal, 3 assist stat line that is a bit more alarming: Brock is shooting 80% in those 4 games.

Now anyone with 4 goals in 3-4 games is going to have a fluky high shooting % (unless your name is Steven Stamkos, apparently). That’s not the issue. The issue is this: if you’ve scored 4 goals, and have an 80% shooting %, that means you’ve only taken FIVE SHOTS ON GOAL. And two of Nelson’s goals have come basically on deflections (one in mid-air off his knee), so he arguably deserves to be credited with LESS shots!

This is a surprise. Coming into this season, there were two interesting questions when it came to shot totals. The first involved Mikhail Grabovski, whose shots and shot attempts per 60 tanked last year with the Caps. That question has been answered with a resounding positive so far: Grabovski leads the Isles with over 20 shot attempts per 60 at even strength (for comparison, the last 7 years he’s been at 13.4, and last year he was at 8.448).

The second involved Nelson, who was actually THIRD in shot attempts (corsi) per 60 last year for the Isles at 14.6 attempts per 60, but was only 7th with an average rate of SOG/60 since a high % of his shots were blocked last year. Research tends to support the idea that the % of shots of a player that are blocked is very random, meaning we would’ve expected Nelson to “take a leap” as more of his shots wound up on net. And it also seemed possible, with better linemates certain and his rookie year behind him, that Nelson would take an actual leap and increase his shot totals.

As I mentioned above, that hasn’t happened, and it’s a potential worry. Ignoring the power play (which should net Nelson extra shots, but hasn’t really yet), at even strength, only Josh Bailey, notorious for refusing to shoot, is taking less shots per 60 amongst Isles forwards – Nelson’s shot attempts per 60 through 4 games is only 10.16 – a 30% decrease from last year!

This is important because shot volume is the real key to goal scoring, not shooting %. Shooting %, as you should know, is incredibly fluky (leading to big hot and cold streaks), and your best shooters, barring the rare exception like Steven Stamkos, put up large #s by taking LOTS and LOTS of shots – see John Tavares for example. If Nelson is going to be a 20 goal scorer, year in and year out, he’d need probably to take around 200 shots on goal per year, or a rate of 2.43 shots per game. And that’s to be a TWENTY goal scorer, not exactly a high bar. Right now he’s achieving a rate at half that number, and that needs to change.

Now unlike a Josh Bailey, last year suggests pretty strongly that Nelson has the talent to do better than this. And Nelson’s line (especially when Grabbo comes back) will play well enough that even without scoring, he’s a good player. But by increasing his shooting, he could become truly great. And with Grabbo – a high volume shooter – now out, Nelson’s shot will become increasing important.

He needs to make use of it more. A lot more.

Neutral Zone Analysis: 2014-15 season: Game 3 @ NYR

Game 3 Entry data is below:

G3

I don’t have much time to write, but I may come back to this game later. Ignoring all of the various negative and positive things that happened in the game, it was notable to see both Leddy (8 entries! 4 carry-ins!) and Boychuk (2 of those controlled entries are passes) being far more aggressive in this game. I like it a lot.

Unlike some of that game, such as the neutral zone D. Blech.

2 Game Samples are fun to talk about. They Ultimately mean nothing.

I had a tweet get retweeted by a lot of Isles people on twitter yesterday.

Unfortunately, I don’t think people got the point of those first two words – “For Fun”.  Corsi is a useful stat because it strips out things out of players’ control you have in goal based metrics (your goalie’s save percentage, for instance) and because the larger sample size makes it more predictive than goal based metrics at an earlier point.  That earlier point is NOWHERE NEAR 2 games – at around 8-10 games corsi starts to give us a reasonable picture to look at, and around 20 games is where we really start to have a picture that we can talk about somewhat confidently (this doesn’t mean things can’t change after 20 games of course!  But the sample is meaningful).

All the #s in that tweet say are what happened with those guys on the ice so far.  So while Leddy and Boychuk have been on the Ice, the Isles have so far been successful; with Strait and Reinhart, not so much.  That doesn’t mean that’ll continue.  I suspect it will, or I wouldn’t even have tweeted it, but we shouldn’t go overboard.

Calvin de Haan may be back before we get an 8 game sample of Strait-Reinhart (although I suspect Reinhart is the casualty here, due to his waiver exempt status, so we’ll see more of Strait).  But let’s not conclude just yet the pair is a big failure.

Neutral Zone Analysis: 2014-15 season: Game 2 vs Carolina

Game 2 entries

Above are the results of my neutral zone tracking for game 2 of this Islander season.  Again, for quick clarification, “controlled entries” are entries via carry-in or via pass – whereas uncontrolled are by dump or tip-in.  Dump-and-Changes are not counted.  The above is only 5 on 5 play.

Again, 1 game is not a sample size of any predictive value. But the point of these posts is to describe what happened during the game – when we get more data we can talk about prediction – how did the team and each player play in the neutral zone.  (This is not a complete picture there, which we’ll talk about in a future post.)

We have a larger sample of relevant data for this game, since two periods were played in “close situations” – the game was never out of “close” until Bailey’s goal at the end of the 2nd.  (For those who don’t know, “Close” is whenever the score is within 1 goal in the 1st two periods, or tied in the third.  In non-close situations, teams play differently, which can change how stats work).  At that point, the Islanders had basically played completely even with the Canes in the neutral zone at 5 vs 5, with the same amount of controlled entries (Carry ins or pass-ins) made by both teams, while the Isles had one more total entry.

You’ll note that’s not how the overall entries look above – this is a textbook example of “score effects” – given a lead in the third, the Islanders played less aggressively, being more prone to dump and more in a shell, leading them to lose the battle of both total entries and controlled entries.  This isn’t a flaw by the way, we’d expect the entries to be less effective of the Canes during this play by the Isles, and they in fact were – the Isles outshot the Canes in the third actually.  This is why for team data, we’ll be using “close” data.

Looking at the individual data, again there really wasn’t a dominant Islander on the night.  Grabovski led the way with 6 entries, but only 2 were carry-ins (a few were tip-ins).  Brian Strait by the way is credited with a carry-in which was actually a pass-in by goalie Chad Johnson – our tracking system has no way of crediting entries to goalies, so Strait is a lucky bum.

Speaking of which, it’s interesting through 2 games how little our D men are carrying the puck through the neutral zone.  Last Year Travis Hamonic carried in a bunch, and Nick Leddy was known for carrying in a LOT, while Thomas Hickey also was okay at carrying the puck in.  Leddy’s made one entry these two games.  I know it’s a riskier strategy to have your D carry in, and maybe it’s simply due to how the Canes play the neutral zone, but I’d like to see the D be a bit more aggressive in the future.  But we shall see.