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Scoring Chances: A Mid Season Review Part 3

As a follow up to Part 1 and Part 2 of this scoring chance series, I'll be comparing the Flyers to an elite puck possession team in the Los Angeles Kings. Big thanks to Nick from JFTC for sharing his chance data with us and making this possible. For some brief background, the Kings have been a Top-5 possession team the last 3 seasons. They engineered one of the most dominant playoff runs in recent history and won a Stanley cup in 2012. And since then, they've been flat out the best possession team in hockey. So what separates them from a mediocre possession team on the playoff bubble like the Flyers?

For those of you who don't regularly follow the Kings, here is a great piece written by our own Eric T. that will help you get familiar. The Factors that Drive the Kings Shot Differential

TL;DR - The Kings play a low-event, defensive style predicated on winning the neutral zone. They suppress shots and chances against by spending most of the game at the other end of the ice.

Measuring pure offensive talent.

Lets compare the individual players on each roster. Once again I'll be sorting by INV/60 to rank players by their direct involvement in creating scoring plays. For simplicities sake, I'm only going to compare the teams at 5v5 play.

The Flyers

# Name ES TOI(minutes) ES Set Up ES Chance ES Involved SU/60 CH/60 INV/60 SC +/- Chances Against CA/60
93 Voracek 597.2 51 48 99 5.12 4.82 9.95 40 132 13.26
28 Giroux 686.5 52 59 111 4.54 5.16 9.70 6 180 15.73
12 Raffl 347 19 28 47 3.29 4.84 8.13 20 76 13.14
19 Hartnell 517 29 40 69 3.37 4.64 8.01 14 123 14.27
40 Lecavalier 399.8 23 29 52 3.45 4.35 7.80 0 104 15.61
24 Read 554.8 25 46 71 2.70 4.97 7.68 -15 137 14.82
10 B.Schenn 567.2 29 39 68 3.07 4.13 7.19 -2 133 14.07
14 Couturier 620.6 25 45 70 2.42 4.35 6.77 -22 158 15.28
17 Simmonds 546 21 37 58 2.31 4.07 6.37 5 132 14.51
15 McGinn 65.5 0 6 6 0.00 5.50 5.50 4 8 7.33
9 Downie 344.6 17 9 26 2.96 1.57 4.53 -27 92 16.02
76 Vandevelde 51.5 3 0 3 3.50 0.00 3.50 -3 9 10.49
27 Talbot 124.5 3 3 6 1.45 1.45 2.89 -3 28 13.49
18 Hall 262.9 7 5 12 1.60 1.14 2.74 -26 49 11.18
41 Meszaros 338.3 9 6 15 1.60 1.06 2.66 -19 86 15.25
36 Rinaldo 295.9 9 12 12 1.82 2.43 2.43 -27 67 13.59
37 Rosehill 106.7 0 4 4 0.00 2.25 2.25 -17 26 14.62
32 Streit 721 14 13 27 1.17 1.08 2.25 2 173 14.40
44 Timonen 617.1 14 8 22 1.36 0.78 2.14 17 132 12.83
5 Coburn 806.7 13 13 26 0.97 0.97 1.93 -14 193 14.35
26 Gustafsson 314.5 7 3 10 1.34 0.57 1.91 8 77 14.69
22 L.Schenn 558.5 8 7 15 0.86 0.75 1.61 -19 144 15.47
8 Grossmann 695.5 15 2 17 1.29 0.17 1.47 -34 180 15.53
75 Gill 46.8 1 0 1 1.28 0.00 1.28 0 8 10.26

The Kings

# Name ES TOI CH/60 SU/60 INV/60 SC +/-
77 Carter 594.3 7.672892 1.716305 9.389197 13
10 Richards 636 4.716981 3.396226 8.113208 5
11 Kopitar 788.5 3.880786 3.804692 7.685479 66
14 Williams 737.8 5.12334 2.27704 7.40038 44
23 Brown 698 4.813754 1.375358 6.189112 36
74 King 723.1 3.484995 2.240354 5.725349 39
21 Frattin 409.9 3.659429 1.171017 4.830446 5
73 Toffoli 370.5 2.591093 2.105263 4.696356 2
22 Lewis 501 3.592814 0.958084 4.550898 -32
17 Carcillo 252.5 2.851485 1.663366 4.514851 8
70 Pearson 68.4 3.508772 0.877193 4.385965 -2
28 Stoll 584.2 2.773023 1.437864 4.210887 -7
71 Nolan 398.8 2.858576 0.902708 3.761284 -22
57 Vey 143 1.258741 2.097902 3.356643 -2
24 Fraser 246.8 2.188006 0.729335 2.917342 -14
13 Clifford 420.7 1.426194 1.283575 2.709769 -12
8 Doughty 990.9 1.453224 0.726612 2.179837 19
26 Voynov 890.4 0.876011 0.539084 1.415094 4
6 Muzzin 758.3 0.632995 0.55387 1.186865 37
27 Martinez 482.9 0.745496 0.124249 0.869745 17
33 Mitchell 792 0.530303 0.075758 0.606061 26
2 Greene 328.1 0.182871 0.365742 0.548613 10
44 Regehr 829.2 0 0.144718 0.144718 -30

The Kings have a steep drop off in offensive contributions once you get past the established names like Kopitar, Richards, and Carter. Which isn't entirely surprising. They are known as a team that can go into extended scoring funks, and they don't get very much production from the bottom half of the line-up. Whereas the Flyers have a ton of offensive depth, and no shortage of ability to generate scoring chances. You don't see a significant drop off in offensive talent until you get to the Flyers 4th line.

You might be surprised to see our old friends Richards and Carter near the top of LA's list. They're also producing more points per 60 minutes than everyone on LA's roster(except Tyler Toffoli). But they are not the Kings most valuable players. And we'll get into why with the next bit!

Measuring Play Driving Talent:

Flyers Players Sorted by SC +/-

# Name ES TOI(minutes) ES Set Up ES Chance ES Involved SU/60 CH/60 INV/60 SC +/- Chances Against CA/60
93 Voracek 597.2 51 48 99 5.12 4.82 9.95 40 132 13.26
12 Raffl 347 19 28 47 3.29 4.84 8.13 20 76 13.14
44 Timonen 617.1 14 8 22 1.36 0.78 2.14 17 132 12.83
19 Hartnell 517 29 40 69 3.37 4.64 8.01 14 123 14.27
26 Gustafsson 314.5 7 3 10 1.34 0.57 1.91 8 77 14.69
28 Giroux 686.5 52 59 111 4.54 5.16 9.70 6 180 15.73
17 Simmonds 546 21 37 58 2.31 4.07 6.37 5 132 14.51
15 McGinn 65.5 0 6 6 0.00 5.50 5.50 4 8 7.33
32 Streit 721 14 13 27 1.17 1.08 2.25 2 173 14.40
40 Lecavalier 399.8 23 29 52 3.45 4.35 7.80 0 104 15.61
75 Gill 46.8 1 0 1 1.28 0.00 1.28 0 8 10.26
10 B.Schenn 567.2 29 39 68 3.07 4.13 7.19 -2 133 14.07
76 Vandevelde 51.5 3 0 3 3.50 0.00 3.50 -3 9 10.49
27 Talbot 124.5 3 3 6 1.45 1.45 2.89 -3 28 13.49
5 Coburn 806.7 13 13 26 0.97 0.97 1.93 -14 193 14.35
24 Read 554.8 25 46 71 2.70 4.97 7.68 -15 137 14.82
37 Rosehill 106.7 0 4 4 0.00 2.25 2.25 -17 26 14.62
41 Meszaros 338.3 9 6 15 1.60 1.06 2.66 -19 86 15.25
22 L.Schenn 558.5 8 7 15 0.86 0.75 1.61 -19 144 15.47
14 Couturier 620.6 25 45 70 2.42 4.35 6.77 -22 158 15.28
18 Hall 262.9 7 5 12 1.60 1.14 2.74 -26 49 11.18
9 Downie 344.6 17 9 26 2.96 1.57 4.53 -27 92 16.02
36 Rinaldo 295.9 9 12 12 1.82 2.43 2.43 -27 67 13.59
8 Grossmann 695.5 15 2 17 1.29 0.17 1.47 -34 180 15.53

Kings Players SC +/-

# Name ES TOI CH/60 SU/60 INV/60 SC +/-
11 Kopitar 788.5 3.880786 3.804692 7.685479 66
14 Williams 737.8 5.12334 2.27704 7.40038 44
74 King 723.1 3.484995 2.240354 5.725349 39
6 Muzzin 758.3 0.632995 0.55387 1.186865 37
23 Brown 698 4.813754 1.375358 6.189112 36
33 Mitchell 792 0.530303 0.075758 0.606061 26
8 Doughty 990.9 1.453224 0.726612 2.179837 19
27 Martinez 482.9 0.745496 0.124249 0.869745 17
77 Carter 594.3 7.672892 1.716305 9.389197 13
2 Greene 328.1 0.182871 0.365742 0.548613 10
17 Carcillo 252.5 2.851485 1.663366 4.514851 8
10 Richards 636 4.716981 3.396226 8.113208 5
21 Frattin 409.9 3.659429 1.171017 4.830446 5
26 Voynov 890.4 0.876011 0.539084 1.415094 4
73 Toffoli 370.5 2.591093 2.105263 4.696356 2
70 Pearson 68.4 3.508772 0.877193 4.385965 -2
57 Vey 143 1.258741 2.097902 3.356643 -2
28 Stoll 584.2 2.773023 1.437864 4.210887 -7
13 Clifford 420.7 1.426194 1.283575 2.709769 -12
24 Fraser 246.8 2.188006 0.729335 2.917342 -14
71 Nolan 398.8 2.858576 0.902708 3.761284 -22
44 Regehr 829.2 0 0.144718 0.144718 -30
22 Lewis 501 3.592814 0.958084 4.550898 -32

What can we glean from these scoring chance differentials? The Kings roster is significantly better at controlling play than the Flyers. Despite their short-comings in generating pure offense, LA dramatically out chances their opponents. They win based on the sheer volume of these differentials and time spent in the offensive zone. And this should make intuitive sense to us as hockey fans. You can't score if you spend the whole game pinned in your own zone, and the Kings thrive by forcing their opposition to do exactly that.

For some perspective, The Kings have five players above +30 in scoring chances. And they are led by Anze Kopitar who has posted an insane +66 so far this season. The Flyers have only one player above the +30 mark, with Jake Voracek at +40. You will also notice that the Kings have significantly more defensemen producing strong chance differentials.

I think we've stumbled onto some interesting answers to my original question, whats the big difference between elite teams and the Flyers? Philly lacks either the personnel or the system to control the puck and drive strong scoring chance differentials like the Kings.

System or Personnel?

Is Craig Berube's system preventing the offensively talented personnel from reaching their full potential? Do we need to be more like the Kings and play low event, smothering defensive hockey? Or is the problem simply a lack of 3-zone talent on roster? Luckily we have a recent coaching change that should give us clear evidence of systemic changes influencing the Flyers. We can use fenwick close to evaluate the last 3 seasons of Flyers play. Shot metrics like Fenwick correlate strongly with scoring chances.

2011-2012 under Peter Laviolette Flyers Fenwick Close% 51.1

2012-2013 under Peter Laviolette Flyers Fenwick Close% : 48.5

2013-2014 under Craig Berube Flyers Fenwick Close% : 47.8

There has been no significant change in the Flyers performance under Craig Berube, who pledged to revitalize the Flyers commitment to defense. These players have performed poorly under two different coach's and under two different systems. I don't think the problem is offensive versus defensive focused systems. The problem is a lack of play driving personnel. The biggest change in the Flyers overall performance came after the departures of Jaromir Jagr, Matt Carle, and JVR, and the career ending injury to Chris Pronger. And Flyers management has compounded these losses by adding average to below average talent in Nick Grossmann, Mark Streit, Vinny Lecavalier, and Luke Schenn.

How do the Flyers get back to being an elite team?

The biggest lesson from this analysis should be that offensive talent doesn't do you much good if you can't spend time in the offensive zone. If the Flyers want to get back to being a perennial contender, they need to make some personnel changes. Play driving talent is a necessity for keeping up with the elite teams. So how do we get there?

Step 1 - Get rid of the one dimensional talent. Namely, Nick Grossmann, Vinny Lecavalier, Zac Rinaldo, and L.Schenn. All of these guys are proven drains on their linemates. They are acting like anchors, driving down the Flyers possession numbers and killing their ability to control the scoring chance battle. Whatever likable characteristics they might possess, they are far outweighed by their weaknesses. Its time to move on and trade these guys while they still have some value.

Step 2 - Acquire some puck moving talent to fill out the back-end. The Flyers have a solid core of forwards with some puck possession talent. By far their biggest deficiencies are on defense. There is a looming disaster on the horizon when Kimmo Timonen decides to hang up the skates. At 38 years old, Kimmo is still the most successful Flyer's defender at driving play. His contributions need to be replaced, and quickly. Finding some long term blue line solutions should be paramount for Paul Holmgren.

Step 3 - Hope that Couturier and Brayden Schenn pan out. Right now, neither of our young centers has been especially effective at driving play forward. But they haven't been part of the problem either. A viable 2nd center behind Giroux would go a long way towards filling out the Flyers forward ranks. Both of these guys are still very young, and could still develop into that guy.

This item was written by a member of this community and is not necessarily endorsed by <em>Broad Street Hockey</em>.

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