Brayden Schenn has recently become the focal point of fan outrage because of his exploits on the 1st unit powerplay unit. Take a quick glance at social and comments on our own website and you will spot a noticeable theme.
Michael Raffl with the deflection in the spot where Brayden Schenn is on the 1st PP unit. hmmmmmm #RafflForPP— Ryan Gilbert (@rgilbert526) March 1, 2015
Schenn needs to be taken off that first line PP. We need Lecav on it— HomeBoyzNetwork (@HomeBoyzNetwork) March 1, 2015
Brayden schenn is out of position or slow to the puck every fuckin shift. He's has no business being on first pp unit— Kevin Gollie (@flyersphan28) March 1, 2015
The gist of the popular sentiment is that Schenn is irrelevant if not downright terrible on the PP, and that ex-Flyer Scott Hartnell was infinitely better in the same role. Some of this criticism is grounded in an undercurrent of disappointment relative to some sky high expectations when the Flyers traded Mike Richards for "the best player not in the NHL".
But the recent spike in Schenn detractors is more simply explained. He "looked bad" on the powerplay during a nationally televised match up with the New York Rangers last Saturday.
An embarrassing whiff on a shot that Scott Hartnell would have most assuredly roofed to the top corner, right? Our perception of a player can wax and wane with very visible mistakes like the one above. Rarely does perception alone provide a true accounting of how a player is performing.
Who has performed better in the role?
It's relatively straightforward to compare the two players. Their roles have been nearly identical on the top unit. Much like Hartnell before him, Schenn is tasked manning the high slot on double screens, providing Giroux with a shooting threat from the circle, and generally running amok in the high traffic areas.
If you follow along with our post-game by the numbers feature, you are already familiar with how we track scoring chances at BSH. Combined with readily available production numbers, we can use this data to paint a picture of who is contributing the most and the least to the Flyers on the man advantage. And we can compare it directly to last year's results with Hartnell.
In nearly 200 minutes of ice time, Brayden Schenn is currently outpacing everyone in creating scoring chances on the powerplay. Not even Giroux and Voracek have put as much rubber at the net as Schenn. He has performed better than Hartnell in that role in almost every respect. Per minute of ice time, Schenn creates more scoring chances and has nearly matched Hartnell's production to a tee.
As a whole, the Flyers PP was ranked 8th in the league last season with a 19.7% conversion rate. In 2014-2015, the team sits in 3rd place with a 23.3% conversation rate. The powerplay certainly hasn't suffered much of a set-back with the transition from Hartnell to Schenn.
Rather than being a downgrade on the first unit, Schenn has been an adequate if not better replacement for Scott Hartnell at a far cheaper price. That being said, Schenn isn't producing at nearly the rate we'd expect given such a high degree of involvement in scoring chances. So what gives?
Is finishing talent a concern?
A persistent Schenn critic might counter that Schenn's high chance rate means nothing if he can't finish on those opportunities. Fair enough.
Is there any evidence to suggest that Schenn has a problem cashing in on the power play?
Brayden Schenn's season-by-season individual shooting percentage at 5v4 via Puckalytics.com
The bad news: Brayden Schenn is rocking the worst shooting percentage of his career at 5v4, and second worst among regular power play contributors on the teams. Only Vinny Lecavalier has had a harder time converting on shots this season.
The good news: Schenn's career numbers suggest he's a much better shooter than this current low point. Since arriving in Philadelphia during the 2011-2012 season, he's only dipped below 10% once.
Shooting percentages have a habit of going through wild swings throughout the course of a career. Even one of the league's premier power play producers in Claude Giroux has seen his percentages go through similar peaks and valleys.
Claude Giroux's season-by-season individual shooting percentage at 5v4
All it takes is a little patience and time. If Schenn's underlying numbers are any indication, he will have a bright future on the Flyers top power play unit.
* * *
(Special thanks to Ryan Gilbert for laying the ground work for this post