When the Flyers traded Scott Hartnell for RJ Umberger and a 4th round draft pick, it was a bit of a head scratcher.
You could try to find the positives in the deal, but the fact of the matter is that Hartnell was, and is, the clearly superior player.The ultimate light at the end of the tunnel was the shorter contract. In the mean time, fans could hope that Umberger could contribute a little bit given he's a better skater than Hartnell, has some positional flexibility, while committing less penalties.
So far, Umberger has been a complete bust on the ice.
I can't be alone in watching nearly entire games at a time without noticing R.J. Umberger -- like, at all. It's still a little unfathomable how Columbus was so close to buying out Umberger, and then they managed to turn him into Scott Hartnell.
Yes, Hartnell's contract isn't pretty but at least he's got 10 points in 11 games to start the year. Umberger, meanwhile, is failing in almost every conceivable way you can measure a player.
The traditional stats
Umberger has averaged over 14 minutes a game this season, almost 12 of which come at even strength. The even strength minutes are good for only 9th among Flyers forwards, while he's spent the majority of his time with Sean Couturier and Matt Read, who are second and fourth among forwards in even strength TOI respectively. He's also contributing slightly on special teams averaging a little over a minute on both the power play and penalty kill.
He's managed one goal and two assists for three points in 11 contests so far, with a goal and an assist coming in a single game. He's a minus-5 (tied for worst among all forwards). And he's got a total of 13 shots on goal for the season.
While he is certainly seeing some pretty difficult minutes playing with Couturier and Read, as we'll see shortly, he is sheltered a bit more than they are and yet is still producing at a lower clip.
It's always nice to take a look at scoring chances because it kind of splits the difference between traditional metrics and "advanced" analytics. One of the biggest counter-arguments that gets thrown back at the "analytics" crowd is the concept of "shot quality", and that's exactly what scoring chances help account for.
Andrew D. is kind enough to track scoring chances for our viewing pleasure. (Note: these totals are prior to the game against Florida on Saturday.)
As you can see, in terms of chances generated, Umberger is bringing up the rear, with only fourth liners in Akeson and Jones trailing him. The fourth line hasn't exactly been a bright spot so far this season.
Of Umberger's 128 five-on-five minutes this season, he's spent over 90 of them with Couturier and Read. The next most frequent forward was Lecavalier with only 21 minutes spent together. As you would expect when playing predominantly with Couturier and Read, Umberger is seeing some difficult minutes. He faces the fourth most difficult competition on the team (as told by Corsi relative quality of competition).
However, Umberger is fortunate enough to see significantly less defensive zone time than his most frequent linemates. While Couturier and Read start their shifts in the defensive zone 43% and 37.3% respectively; Umberger starts in his own end the least among Flyers forwards having played 50 minutes at only 24.4%.
Meanwhile, he actually sees more advantageous offensive zone starts at 31.7% as compared to Read's 21.6% or Couturier's kind of laughable 19.9%. Despite his slightly more favorable zone starts, Umberger has been a disaster from a puck possession perspective.
With Umberger on the ice, the Flyers only generate 39.44% of the shot attempts. For you math majors...that means over 60% of the shot attempts are for the bad guys.
Relative to the rest of his team (meaning comparing the Flyers numbers with Umberger on the ice versus them with him off of the ice) the team does over 10% worse with him on the ice than they do with him off of it. That is the 46th worst in the entire league out of 381 forwards having played at least 50 minutes.
If we look at Umberger's WOWY (with or without you) to see how his teammates do with him as opposed to without him, it looks bleak.
Every Flyer that has played at least 20 five-on-five minutes with Umberger, that's 9 players, has done worse with Umberger than without him. The only exception is Andrew MacDonald. Couturier goes from being a 42% possession player with Umberger to almost even at 48% without him. Read jumps from 48% to nearly 52%.
Wrapping it up
I think it goes without saying that we have a "small sample size" alert here with Umberger. However, it's not a stretch to say that he has had a forgettable first 11 games in 2014-2015.
I started writing this piece without having looked at a single statistic with regards to Umberger. I think it's been clear to anyone that has been watching that he's had a rough start. It gets interesting though when you start to peel back the layers to see just how bad he has been.
It doesn't matter how you slice it, Umberger has been very poor. Whether you're looking at the most basic of numbers, diving a bit deeper into scoring chances, or trying to unwrap as much context as is possible with some of the advanced numbers; it's all bad.