Analyzing the Florida Panthers’ offense using passing stats and Corsi

Shane O’Donnell is a student at the University of Central Florida. He covers the Panthers for Litter Box Cats and writes about the University of Central Florida’s hockey team on its website.

The following data builds on work done by Ryan Stimson, who originally came up with the idea to track passes. Ryan found out last year that the most important passes (the ones that should be tracked) are the passes that lead to shot attempts. Below is the up to date passing data for the Florida Panthers. All stats taken from war-on-ice.com, and are at 5 on 5 unless specified.

The Florida Panthers are one of the more interesting teams in the Atlantic Division this year, as they have a strange blend of developing youth and grizzled veterans.

They currently stand at 10th in the league at Score Adjusted Corsi, the best known predictor of future goals for percentage. Their defense and goaltending have been equally stellar, as they have the lowest Scoring Chances Against/60 in the league, and a certain Roberto Luongo who’s posted a .928 SV% at 5 on 5(if you haven’t seen War On Ice’s new scoring chance data, I highly recommend checking it out).

The reason why they currently stand at 19th in the league standings is the fact that they’re offense has been dismal. Just going off of intuition, this is a team that lacks a true goal scorer, and isn’t going to have a high shooting percentage. The stats back this up, as they are 29th in the league at Scoring Chances For/60, ahead of only the Buffalo Sabres.

Using the data collected from the passing stats and War On Ice, we can see which players on the team are generating offense for the Panthers, and which players are part of the team’s offensive woes.

Before we get into it, here’s a glossary of Passing Stats Term

SAG – Shot attempt generated, or a pass that leads to a shot attempt by a teammate.

A2 SAG – Secondary assist on a shot attempt.  For example, player X passes to player Y, who then passes to player Z.  Player Z takes a shot.  Player X gets and A2 SAG, and player Y gets a SAG.

SAGE– Shot attempt generation efficiency, or the percentage of SAGs that are shots on goal.  If a player has two SAGs and one missed the net and one hit the net, the player’s SAGE will be 50%.

CC– Corsi Contribution, or the added totals of SAGs and individual Corsi For.  The two added together give us a measure of a players true contribution to the CF totals that are given while the player is on the ice.

iCC% – Individual Corsi Contribution %.  The percent of a players CC to the total CF he experiences while on the ice.  If a player has a total CC of 50, and has been on the ice for 100 shot attempts for his team, his iCC is 50% (he contributes to 50% of his team’s offense when he’s on the ice).

Defenseman

We’ll start with the defenseman because the Panthers have had trouble generating offense from the back end all season long. So far, the blue line has only mustered a measly 59 points in all situations. That’s only an average of 1.59 points per game spread across six different players.

Generating Offense through Passes

Here are the secondary assist (A2) shot attempt generation rates (SAG/60) for the Panthers’ six main defenseman, divided by zone.

Fla1

A2 SAGs mostly give us a measure of playing style, as they help us see who moves the puck around to their teammates the most. Dylan Olsen and Erik Gudbranson are very ineffective passers in the offensive zone, and their work in their own end could also use some help. Rookie Aaron Ekblad is efficient at moving the puck up from the defensive end, while Dmitry Kulikov leads the defenseman in total A2 SAGs.

Next up is the shot attempt generation rates (SAG/60), divided by zone.

Fla2

SAGs give us a good measure of who is actually generating shot attempts, and Brian Campbell is the clear and obvious leader. None of the defenseman has a clear lead over the others when it comes to generating shot attempts in the scoring chance region in front of the net (Rob Vollman’s home plate), though Willie Mitchell clearly struggles when it comes to breaking the puck out of the zone (low D/NZ SAG totals).

Finally, we have the composite shot attempt generation rates (A2 SAGs + SAGs/60) to let us see who generates the most overall shot attempts with their passes.

Fla3

The two best puck movers from the back end, Dmitry Kulikov and Brian Campbell, are 1st and 3rd in relative Corsi Second is Aaron Ekblad, who plays with Brian Campbell almost all the time, and even then, he’s been the team’s third best puck mover. The ability to push the puck up ice continues to be one of the most underrated talents of defenseman league wide.

Generating Offense through Shots

Here we have the individual shot attempt rates for the Panthers’ defenseman.

Fla4
The most trigger-happy defensemen are Aaron Ekblad, Erik Gudbranson, and Dylan Olsen. Ekblad is the shooter in his pairing with Brian Campbell, and their stats show this. Campbell has a high composite SAG rate, and Ekblad has a high iCF rate. From the stats, it looks like Gudbranson and Olsen may not have the best decision-making in the offensive zone. Both fail to pass the puck as efficiently as their teammates, and seem to simply throw the puck on goal instead of looking for a better option.

Overall Performance and Percent of Total Offence

First is the overall Corsi Contribution rate for the defenseman.

Fla5

Aaron Ekblad leads the way as an 18-year-old rookie defenseman. That’s incredibly impressive, and shows us that his incredible performance so far this season could be more than just a fluke.

Next we have the percent of total Corsi For stats, which help show us who drives offensive play while on the ice.

Fla6

This graph mostly just shows us what we already know, as it mostly reveals who is more likely to pass instead of shoot, and vice versa. Interesting to note is the fact that Dylan Olsen is the only defenseman who account for less than 25% of the total Corsi For events while he is on the ice. Given our knowledge of his lack of passing abilities, especially in the offensive zone, it should be safe to say that he doesn’t exactly help his team’s offense when he’s on the ice, and he just may be hurting it.

Forwards

The forwards have been better than the defenseman, though they still don’t have impressive point totals. They’ve combined for only 4.59 points per game, split between 16 different forwards. That’s less than ideal, to say the least.

Generating Offense through Passing

Here are the secondary assist (A2) shot attempt generation rates (SAG/60) for the Panthers’ forwards, divided by zone.

Fla7

Vincent Trocheck, Jussi Jokinen, and Aleksander Barkov distribute the puck to their teammates much more frequently than the other forwards. On the flip side, two staples of Florida’s fourth line this season, Derek Mackenzie and Shawn Thornton, struggle mightily when it comes to passing the puck. The third linemate, Tomas Kopecky, sees a drop in his numbers because of it.

Next up is the shot attempt generation rates (SAG/60), divided by zone.

Fla8

Jussi Jokinen is the clear leader here, with former Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau coming in second. Vincent Trocheck, who started the season in the AHL, is third on the team, while Brad Boyes leads the way when it comes to generating shots in the scoring chance area in front of the net.

Finally, we have the composite shot attempt generation rates (A2 SAGs + SAGs/60) to let us see who generates the most overall shot attempts with their passes.

Fla9

Jussi Jokinen is the clear-cut best passer on the team, though the next three players (Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck and Aleksander Barkov) are all under 23 years of age.

Generating Offense through Shots

Here we have the individual shot attempt rates for the Panthers’ forwards.

Fla10

Sean Bergenheim leads the way, followed closely by former Chicago Blackhawk Brandon Pirri. Vincent Trocheck is impressive again, while another former Blackhawk, Jimmy Hayes, also gets a lot of shot attempts off. Tomas Fleischmann, Nick Bjugstad, and Tomas Kopecky round out the forwards who have an iCF/60 over 12.

Overall Performance and Percent of Total Offence

First is the overall Corsi Contribution rate for the forwards.

Fla11

The leaders are Bergenheim, Trocheck, and Jokinen (again). Other standouts include Huberdeau, Hayes, Boyes, and Bjugstad. More suprising, however, is the opposite end of the spectrum. The three forwards who contribute the least to the team’s offense are Derek Mackenzie, Shawn Thornton, and Dave Bolland. Dale Tallon brought in all three forwards over the offseason, and all three hurt the team’s offense more than they help.
Next we have the percent of total Corsi For stats, which help show us who drives offensive play while on the ice.

Fla12

This chart is much more revealing for forwards than it is for defenseman. For starters, Aleksander Barkov only contributes to less than 40% of the total Corsi events that occur while he is on the ice. Only the aforementioned free agent signings also have a iCC% below 40%, though Barkov is much more skilled than those forwards. Getting Barkov to drive the offense more should be simple; tell him to shoot more. His iCF/60 total is the fourth lowest on the team, despite the fact that he has ample opportunities to pull the trigger. This is one of the rare times where micro stats show something that the eye test should be picking up on. The stats show that Barkov isn’t shooting enough, and even then he’s 2nd on the team in relative Corsi. If he does start pulling the trigger more, it’s scary to think that his possession numbers could get even better than they already are.

After that, Tomas Kopecky is another player of note. Kopecky is having a very poor possession season, but has a iCC% over 40%. He’s the one who’s been driving play on his line, much more so than Derek Mackenzie and Shawn Thornton. Even though his possession stats look bad, I don’t think they represent his play so far this season.

Final Thoughts

Though there is information to be gleaned from efficiency totals (SAGE), I’m of the opinion that a player’s SAGE is more closely linked to factors outside their control than it is to their own passing abilities. I expect Ryan or someone else to take a look at that data at the end of the season, as it would be great to know whether or not to attribute SAGE to player skill or random factors.

The best use of this data may be to help determine lines and pairing. One of the Panthers most efficient lines for a portion of the season was Jimmy Hayes – Vincent Trocheck – Jussi Jokinen. That line featured a shooter (Hayes), a distributor (Trocheck) and a passer (Jokinen). Trocheck gets a lot of A2 SAGs because he moves the puck to everyone in order to advance up the ice. Jokinen, when given space, will find the open man. Most of the time that ended up being Hayes, who was able to cash in on the opportunities given to him. Another efficient line has been Jonathan Huberdeau – Nick Bjugstad – (Insert Random winger here). This makes sense, as Huberdeau is a passer and Bjugstad is a shooter. Putting Huberdeau with a different center (like Trocheck or Barkov) will negate his effectiveness because those two are also passers. By putting him with a shooter, he’s allowed to do what he does best, and it creates offense for the team.

Though offense has been a problem for the Panthers, it’s easy to see where the fix can come from. Players like Bolland, Mackenzie, and Thornton don’t drive play as much as some of the other forwards. Curtailing their ice time a bit, or placing them in a more shutdown role and not expecting offense from them, could lead to more production from the other units. A little bit more production could push this team even closer to a playoff spot, something that they’re more than capable of achieving.

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