Philadelphia Flyers 2015-16 Full-Season Zone Entry Tracking Data and Observations
With the regular season over, we now have full 82-game entry statistics for the Philadelphia Flyers, on both an individual and team level.
Microstat Tracking is a new feature that attempts to quantify the performance of the Philadelphia Flyers in the offensive, neutral and defensive zones. All statistics are manually tracked by Charlie O'Connor. The last round of metrics can be found here.
All numbers are at 5-on-5.
Zone Entries - Forwards
|Player||Total Entries||Controlled Entry Percentage||Entries Per 60|
Zone Entries - Defense
|Player||Total Entries||Controlled Entry Percentage||Entries Per 60|
|Michael Del Zotto||139||38.13%||8.93|
- At the end of last season, Jess Schmidt of Pattison Avenue wrote a great article making the case that Sean Couturier had taken an offensive step forward in 2014-15, even if his metrics weren't showing it quite yet. Jess proved to be prophetic, as this year Couturier did take the proverbial leap, dominating from a on-ice shot attempt differential standpoint and posting his best scoring rate statistics of his career. One of Jess' strongest pieces of evidence was that Couturier's Controlled Entry Percentage jumped to a strong 55.7 percent last season, and that held up in 2015-16. Despite lacking high-end skating ability, the 23-year old center's 54.07% controlled entry rate was second best on the Flyers. One way that Couturier has made up for his physical limitations is by becoming extremely efficient at the drop-pass controlled entry -- skating full speed at a defenseman, gaining the blue line, and then leaving the puck for a trailing forward while essentially setting a pick play high in the offensive zone. Now that he has two straight seasons of above-average controlled entry creation, it's become safe to say that Couturier has become a plus puck-carrier in the neutral zone, and I believe the development of that skill has had a positive impact on his overall performance./
- If there's one piece of concerning data, it's that captain Claude Giroux's controlled entry percentage surprisingly dipped below 50% this season. In past tracking efforts, Giroux has always comfortably generated more carry-ins than dump-ins, making this season an anomaly to say the least. The concern is that Giroux could be slowing a bit as he enters his late 20s (he turned 28 in January). The Flyers will be paying him like a true franchise player for another six seasons, so they're obviously betting that he'll age more like a Ryan Getzlaf than a Dany Heatley. Luckily, Giroux still grades out strong via other microstats -- he has a solidly positive Neutral Zone Score and is one of the Flyers' best forwards in generating controlled defensive zone exits -- and he passes the eye test as well. One theory for the change is that Giroux's declining controlled entry percentage is more a tactical shift rather than an example of a declining set of skills. After all, Philadelphia has become a more dump-and-chase dominant team under new coach Dave Hakstol, so this could be a case of Giroux playing within the system rather than slowing down. Still, it's something to keep an eye on for next season.
- Total Entries - the number of times that a player successfully gained entry into the offensive zone
- Controlled Entry Percentage - the percentage of a player's successful entries that came with possession (Ex. carry-ins, completed passes to a teammate)
- Entries Per 60 - the number of successful entries for a player per sixty minutes of 5-on-5 ice time/
- You don't need to track all 82 Flyers games to notice that Shayne Gostisbehere is particularly adept at disrupting opponents' rushes in the neutral zone -- his quick stick and aggressive tendencies are quickly apparent to even casual fans. But I do believe that Brandon Manning's solid neutral zone defense does fly under the radar. In fact, many on social media seem to believe that he's barely an NHL player. His solid advanced metrics (51.68% score adjusted Corsi For, +1.92% Corsi Rel) fly in the face of that sentiment, and it's likely that they're at least partially explained by Manning's ability to prevent controlled entries. Only Gostisbehere has a lower Controlled Entry Percentage Against than Manning, and his Break-Up percentage is strong as well. Manning's limitations with the puck will likely keep him from ever being much more than a third-pair defenseman at the NHL level, but a third-pair guy still has value. In fact, one could argue he's the perfect #6/7 blueliner -- unlikely to ever be overpaid due to his nonexistent offensive production, but nowhere near a true liability.
Zone Entry Defense
|Player||Times Targeted||Controlled Entry Allowed Percentage||Uncontrolled Entry Allowed Percentage||Break-Up Percentage||Targets Per 60|
|Michael Del Zotto||425||53.18%||34.11%||12.71%||27.31|
- It's striking how similar the Neutral Zone Defense metrics for Andrew MacDonald and Nick Schultz truly are. Both have the same weakness in their respective profiles -- a passive style in the middle of the ice that leads to a high amount of opponent carry-ins on their side. The truth is, MacDonald and Schultz aren't very different from each other on the whole. Schultz is maybe a bit more sound in defensive zone coverage and on the penalty kill, while MacDonald brings a bit more upside with the puck on his stick. But even if you believe a team is helped by employing a defenseman with a "safer" style, there's probably no need to have two of those types under contract. If Philadelphia enters the 2016-17 season with both Andrew MacDonald and Nick Schultz in the lineup, they'll be unnecessarily tying over half their defense pairings to poor neutral zone performers. In order to use 2015-16's surprise playoff berth as a jumping off point, Ron Hextall would be well served to make sure at least one of Schultz or MacDonald isn't on the opening night roster, whether that's via trade or AHL assignment. /
- Times Targeted - the amount of instances when a Flyers defenseman was directly targeted by an opposing player as he attempted to gain access to the offensive zone
- Controlled Entry Allowed Percentage - the percentage of targets that resulted in a controlled zone entry for an opponent, as the defenseman was unable to break up the rush or force a dump-in
- Uncontrolled Entry Allowed Percentage - the percentage of targets that resulted in an uncontrolled zone entry for an opponent, as the defenseman was able to force the opponent to dump the puck into the zone
- Break-Up Percentage - the percentage of targets that resulted in an unsuccessful zone entry for the opponent, due to the defenseman disrupting the play entirely
- Targets per 60 - the number of times a player has been targeted on a zone entry attempt per sixty minutes of 5-on-5 play
- At the start of April, I noted that Shayne Gostisbehere's full season on-ice shot attempt differentials were not particularly strong, and outlined why I wasn't particularly worried about the metrics. Gostisbehere's strong performance in individual microstatistics and the negative effect of being paired with Andrew MacDonald were my two main reasons. I can now add another argument to my arsenal -- his very solid neutral zone performance. The 22-year old rookie defenseman posted a 51.20% Neutral Zone Score, better than the metrics of both Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds. His overall on-ice attempt differentials were driven down by below-average shot creation in the offensive zone and shot suppression in the defensive zone. Luckily, the prevailing research shows that, for individual players, Neutral Zone Score is far more repeatable than performance in the other two zones. Basically, if a player can be good in one area over the course of a season, you want it to be in the middle of the ice, because that performance is most likely to recur in the future. In my personal opinion, all of the signs point to the Ghost Bear performing at a solidly above-average possession level in 2016-17.
On-Ice Entry Statistics
|Player||On-Ice Controlled Entry For Percentage||On-Ice Controlled Entry Against Percentage||Zone Entries For Percentage|
|Michael Del Zotto||46.93%||46.02%||51.13%|
All Three Zones Statistics
|Player||Offensive Zone Score||Defensive Zone Score||Neutral Zone Score|
|Michael Del Zotto||+4.59%||-2.37%||51.31%|
- The sentiments surrounding young forwards Scott Laughton and Nick Cousins seem to be moving in opposite directions as the Flyers enter the playoffs. It makes perfect sense -- Cousins has established himself as the team's third line center, while Laughton can't even stay in the lineup. But neutral zone metrics tell a different tale. In fact, Laughton has a better Neutral Zone Score than Cousins, though Cousins makes up the gap (and more) with superior results in the offensive and defensive zones. But if you buy the research that neutral zone performance is more repeatable than play in the other two zones, then maybe we're all underrating Laughton and overrating Cousins. We've still haven't even seen a full year of Nick Cousins at the NHL level, so file this debate away for now. But at the very least, it's probably not time to jump Cousins over the higher-drafted Laughton on the long-term organizational depth just yet.
- Zone Entry For Percentage - the percentage of Flyers offensive zone entries out of all entries (Flyers entries and opponent entries) while a specific player was on the ice
- On-Ice Controlled Entry For Percentage - the percentage of Flyers offensive zone entries that came with possession of the puck relative to all Flyers offensive zone entries while a specific player was on the ice
- On-Ice Controlled Entry Against Percentage - the percentage of opponent offensive zone entries that came with possession of the puck relative to all opponent offensive zone entries while a specific player was on the ice
- Neutral Zone Score - The expected Fenwick (on-ice unblocked shot attempts) percentage of a player assuming league-average performance in the offensive and defensive zones. The best way to isolate overall neutral zone play.
- Offensive Zone Score - The percentage over or below the expected number of unblocked shot attempts created while a player is on the ice, considering the number and type of zone entries, and the amount of offensive zone faceoffs.
- Defensive Zone Score - The percentage over or below the expected number of unblocked shot attempts prevented while a player is on the ice, considering the number and type of zone entries, and the amount of defensive zone faceoffs.
- With a full season's worth of data, it's fair to make some observations on a Dave Hakstol-coached squad's preferred tactics for driving play. The Flyers generated 91 more entries than their opponents this year, for a Zone Entry For percentage of 50.47%. It appeared back in November that overwhelming foes with raw entries (regardless of type) was a key characteristic of Hakstol's system, and the full-season data bears that out. Despite the advantage in total entries, however, Philadelphia still allowed more controlled entries than they created. The low controlled entry percentage on the part of the Flyers is probably tactical, considering the emphasis that Hakstol appears to place upon a strong puck retrieval forecheck. The 46.48% Controlled Entry Percentage Against, on the other hand, may be more a product of personnel. After all, both Nick Schultz and Andrew MacDonald are poor at preventing carry-ins, and the two defensemen combined to play a major role at 5-on-5 this season. As younger, more talented defensemen like Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim begin to move into the Philadelphia lineup, it will be intriguing to see if that Controlled Entry Allowed percentage starts to drop.
|Total Entries For||4856|
|Total Entries Against||4765|
|Entry For Percentage||50.47%|
|Controlled Entries For||2192|
|Controlled Entries Against||2215|
|Flyers Controlled Entries Percentage||45.14%|
|Opponents Controlled Entries Percentage||46.48%|
|Flyers Shot Attempts (Corsi) Per Controlled Entry||0.91|
|Opponents Shot Attempts (Corsi) Per Controlled Entry||0.91|
|Flyers Shot Attempts (Corsi) Per Uncontrolled Entry||0.39|
|Opponents Shot Attempts (Corsi) Per Uncontrolled Entry||0.34|
|Team Neutral Zone Score||50.20%|
|Team Offensive Zone Score||+2.91%|
|Team Defensive Zone Score||-2.25%|
- Heading into the playoffs, the Philadelphia Flyers as a team hold a solid Offensive Zone Score, a weak Defensive Zone Score, and a slightly-above-water Neutral Zone Score. While offensive and defensive zone shot creation/suppression on an individual level may not be repeatable, they absolutely are repeatable at the team level, so we can be confident that these metrics are meaningful. Philadelphia's strong shot creation performance is not a surprise, accounting for the aggressive 2-1-2 forecheck that the team often employs. And since the majority of the top forwards on the Flyers have Neutral Zone Scores above 51 percent, it's fair to guess that improved depth up front could push Philadelphia from a decent team in the middle of the ice to a strong one. The defensive zone shot suppression, on the other hand, is a legitimate concern. There are a number of possible theories for the Flyers' struggles in this area. Maybe it's the personnel, specifically on the back end. Maybe Philadelphia's emphasis upon exiting the defensive zone with possession of the puck hurts them in positioning or winning the numbers battle along the boards. Whatever the reason, this would be an area that I hope Dave Hakstol uses the offseason to evaluate and adjust, in an attempt to shore up his team's biggest weakness./
- Total Entries For - the total number of offensive zone entries (with possession and without possession) generated by Flyers this season
- Total Entries Against - the total number of offensive zone entries (with possession and without possession) generated by opponents versus the Flyers this season
- Entry For Percentage - the percentage of Flyers offensive zone entries relative to total offensive entries by both teams
- Controlled Entries For - the total number of controlled offensive zone entries generated by the Flyers this season
- Controlled Entries Against - the total number of controlled offensive zone entries generated by opponents versus the Flyers this season
- Flyers Controlled Entry Percentage - the percentage of all Flyers offensive zone entries that came via possession of the puck (Ex. carry-in, successful pass)
- Opponents Controlled Entry Percentage - the percentage of all opponents offensive zone entries that came via possession of the puck (Ex. carry-in, successful pass)
- Flyers Shot Attempts (Corsi) Per Controlled Entry - the average number of shot attempts generated by the Flyers on each controlled zone entry
- Opponents Shot Attempts (Corsi) Per Controlled Entry - the average number of shot attempts generated by Flyers opponents on each controlled zone entry
- Flyers Shot Attempts (Corsi) Per Uncontrolled Entry - the average number of shot attempts generated by the Flyers on each uncontrolled zone entry (Ex. dump-and-chase)
- Opponents Shot Attempts (Corsi) Per Uncontrolled Entry - the average number of shot attempts generated by Flyers opponents on each uncontrolled zone entry (Ex. dump-and-chase)
- Team Neutral Zone Score - The expected Fenwick (on-ice unblocked shot attempts) percentage of the team assuming league-average performance in the offensive and defensive zones. The best way to isolate overall neutral zone play.