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Who's the Flyers best player? Answer not as clear as you'd think

The gap between the Flyers' consensus best player, Claude Giroux, and his subordinate, Jakub Voracek, isn't as large you'd think.

"Who's the best player on the Flyers?"

Claude Giroux seems like a no-brainer answer. He was the third-highest scoring player in the league last year despite taking on tough minutes. He is the captain and the acknowledged leader.

But the numbers leave room for debate. Here are some cumulative stats for 5-on-5 play since Jakub Voracek joined the Flyers:

  • When Giroux was on the ice, the Flyers got 52.8% of the shot attempts.
  • When Voracek was on the ice, the Flyers got 54.6% of the shot attempts.
  • When Giroux was on the ice, the Flyers outscored their opponents 3.00 to 2.92 per 60 minutes.
  • When Voracek was on the ice, the Flyers outscored their opponents 3.21 to 2.94 per 60 minutes.
  • Giroux had 0.90 goals/60 and 2.40 points/60.
  • Voracek had 1.04 goals/60 and 2.44 points/60.
  • Giroux kept possession of the puck on 65.2% of his zone entries.
  • Voracek kept possession of the puck on 65.6% of his zone entries.

There is some context that needs to be brought into the picture. Giroux got fewer offensive zone starts (48.2% vs 52.2%), which can hamper production a bit -- though the difference here is not all that large. The trickier question is in quality of competition and teammates.

They faced nearly equal-caliber competition as measured by Corsi Rel QoC: 0.53 for Voracek versus 0.58 for Giroux. However, Corsi Rel QoC tends to almost entirely depend on the quality of the opposing forwards, which may work against a player like Giroux who often sees the opponent's top defensemen. For this comparison, it may make sense to use a different metric called TOI Qualcomp, which looks at the average ice time of the opposing forwards or defensemen. I have not published numbers updated with this year's stats, but I would guess that last year's pattern of Giroux seeing significantly tougher defensemen holds.

However, Giroux has also played with better teammates. Swapping Talbot/Briere/Read for Hartnell/Jagr is a difference that is probably larger than the differences in who they have gone up against. And while it's unclear to me how much such things matter, he has had much more stable lines and presumably more chance to develop chemistry with them:

Giroux's linemates Voracek's linemates
Hartnell, 65.7% Talbot, 41.2%
Jagr, 44.6% Giroux, 26.9%
Voracek, 22.6% Briere, 20.2%
Simmonds, 14.0% Read, 19.4%
Read, 13.6% Hartnell, 19.1%
Briere, 8.0% Schenn, 18.1%
Schenn, 6.3% Couturier, 16.9%

Everything up to now has been about 5-on-5 play, which means we haven't given Giroux credit for his outstanding power play results last year. Voracek was on that unit with him for most of the year, and since his role at the point was different from Giroux's, it's hard to directly compare their performances. It's probably a fair bet that Giroux was more responsible for driving the play on that unit, but how much more is tough to say.

Numbers don't tell us the whole picture of a player's contributions, but they do give us a piece of the picture, often a piece that our eyes or memories miss. I'm not sure I'm prepared to say that Voracek has been the superior player, but the gap between them probably isn't as large as most people would think.