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Panic Time or Stay the Course: Evaluating the Numbers One Third of the Way

 

Six wins, nine regulation losses, one shootout loss, 13 points. That’s where the Flyers stand one third of the way through the season. The record is not very good, but is the team bad or are they going through bad luck? Digging into the numbers suggests it is a bit of both.

Goaltending

Ilya Bryzgalov has shouldered almost the entire workload in this short season.  He has worked so much in fact, that due to sample size, it is pointless to look at the statistics of Brian Boucher or Michael Leighton.

Ilya Bryzgalov: 14GP 6-7-1 2.60 GAA .907 SV% .916 EV-SV%

The Flyers record with Bryzgalov in net isn’t very good, despite his GAA being only slightly higher than last season’s 2.48. At the same time, it is no fault of a goaltender if the team in front of him cannot score, so instead, we can look at the one thing a goalie has control over, his save percentage.

Bryzgalov’s SV% stands at .907, following last season’s .909. There’s no way that this is enough to win games as most elite goalies in the league produce a .920SV% or better. The worse news: this seems to be the new Bryzgalov standard. Over his last 88 games played, going back to the 2011 playoffs with Phoenix, Bryzgalov has .903 SV%.

Compared league wide, Bryzgalov ranks 20th among 24 goalies to play at least 56 games from the start of the 2011 season in SV% per Hockey-Reference.

 

Maybe Bryzgalov is overworked, he’s certainly played a ton this season, and it’s very possible he just needs a rest. The Flyers have to hope this is the case, because, barring a compliance buyout, Bryzgalov is in a Flyers uniform for a long time.

Where does Bryzgalov regress? Does he turn it around and go back to the .920 he posted in 3 out of 4 regular seasons in Phoenix? Or is the new Bryzgalov? The longer his issues go on, the more it looks like Bryzgalov is no longer a top goalie in the league.

 

Defense

The defense looks a lot different this season.  Chris Pronger is sitting on injured reserve and probably will never play again. Matt Carle left via free agency to Tampa. Luke Schenn is in via trade. Bruno Gervais and Kurtis Foster are in via free agency.

A quick trip to Behind the Net yielded the advance metrics on the Flyers defenders.

 

Name

Corsi Rel

PDO

Corsi Rel QoC

Corsi RelQoT

On SV%

OZ Start

OZ End

Timonen:

7.9

993

.676

2.327

895

44.8

51.4

L. Schenn:

5

1007

.791

2.197

916

43.5

49.5

Grossmann:

0.2

976

.454

-.599

928

50

44

Foster:

-2.5

1016

-1.231

.173

921

50.7

45.8

Coburn:

-8.1

943

.840

-.401

897

41.9

41.4

Gervais:

-9.5

950

.439

-1.085

899

43.4

46.3

 

What we learn here is that, in terms of puck possession, Timonen and Schenn do the best job of holding the puck for the Flyers. They frequently start their shifts with the puck in the defensive zone and consistently move it forward.

Luke Schenn has not been that bad. A .916SV% is better than his partner, Timonen and the .895 he put up. His PDO suggests his production is also sustainable. This is good for Schenn moving forward, he’s being used correctly. The only concern with Schenn is that his Corsi Rel, being lower than Timonen’s shows the “Kimmo Effect” on Defensemen, being paired with Kimmo makes any Flyers defender better because Timonen is just that good.

As a pair, there’s nothing wrong with Timonen and Schenn. They’re doing their job well and doing it in a sustainable fashion. So well, in fact, that they generate better puck possession than the forwards they play with as evidenced by strong Corsi Rel QoT ratings. They also hold the puck more than their opponents as shown by the positive Corsi Rel QoC.

Grossmann and Foster conversely, seem to be used in a more offensive role, and are not really holding the puck very well in it as they frequently go backwards. Grossmann’s 976 PDO suggests he’s having bad luck though.  So, at least in terms of offensive production, Grossmann’s due for a small point boost, most likely in the assist column.

This is where things get shakey, Grossmann has even puck possession in terms of Corsi, but Foster has the first negative Corsi Rel rating. Foster is also the only Flyers defender with a negative Corsi Rel QoC which means he’s the only person with less puck possession than his opponents on the Flyers blue line.

On top of that, Foster’s 1021 PDO is unsustainably high, showing his weakness at even strength play. Foster is a powerplay specialist, and putting him with Grossmann at 5v5 is a good way to hide his weaknesses.

Coburn and Gervais also play tough defensive minutes, and Coburn struggles but Gervais advances the puck slightly. This pair has been pretty bad though in terms of puck possession, but it’s mostly explained away by the fact that they get deployed in the defensive zone and have PDO’s of below 950. Coburn and Gervais are a pair that is good enough, but they are having bad luck right now. Look for their PDO to regress back to 1000 and their play to improve as it does.

In short, the defense, while makeshift and less dominant than the past, isn’t too bad. They actually possess the puck quite well. It’s really just poor goaltending behind them and not enough scoring ahead of them.

 

Forwards

Speaking of scoring, the forwards haven’t really been doing much of that.

 

Name

Goals

Assists

O Start

O End

SH%

Corsi Rel

PDO

On SH%

Voracek

3

8

49.6

53

8.3

20.7

914

8.33

McGinn

3

2

45.7

44.9

11.5

17

1026

8.33

B. Schenn

3

8

55.6

51.3

13.6

16.3

990

8.64

Read

6

4

47.5

50.4

15.8

10.1

985

7.77

Giroux

3

7

48.4

44.5

7.9

1.8

981

5.45

Couturier

2

3

34.7

48.2

9.5

-.3

964

8.22

Briere

3

2

51

42.4

8.1

-.4.4

996

4.41

Knuble

2

3

42.3

41.5

11.8

-4.5

946

7.94

Fedotenko

1

4

38

42.6

8.3

-6.1

1013

10.91

Simmonds

4

4

52.4

47.6

12.1

-.7.7

984

5.19

Rinaldo

0

0

48.5

52.5

0

-8

880

0

Talbot

0

3

32.7

42.1

0

-12.7

946

7.89

 

Words don’t exist to describe how dominant Jake Voracek has been. A 20.7 Corsi Rel is more than DOUBLE the Flyers team leader from last season, Jaromir Jagr, who finished with a 10. The scarier part, he’s doing this with a 914 PDO which suggests that Voracek is having bad luck on his dominant play. Let that sink in, Voracek is having bad luck while still being dominant in terms of puck possession.

Tye McGinn is really impressive. He’s scoring at the NHL level in a sustainable fashion and has a solid PDO and solid puck possession. McGinn’s showing he’s an NHL player and that is bad news for someone when Scott Hartnell comes back and someone needs to sit.

Brayden Schenn is another solid forward. He’s bolstered by a high offensive zone start ratio, but in the zone, he’s creating offense. Schenn is showing that he has a solid NHL future.

Matt Read is another dominant forward with bad luck. A 985 PDO is a bit low as regression drives players back to 1000. Read’s 15.8 personal SH% is a bit high, while his 7.77 On-Ice SH% is a bit low. So don’t fear. His total point production is actually sustainable, but his goal production is not. Look for Read to score fewer goals and start getting more assists as time goes on.

Claude Giroux has struggled. A 1.8 Corsi Rel is down from his 6.9 Corsi Rel from last season, and it shows.  Giroux’s PDO is a 981, which indicates there is some bad luck but his On Ice SH% of 5.45 and Personal SH% of 7.9 are both very low. There’s pressure on the Captain to turn things around. If not, it could be a long season. That said, he’s been money on faceoffs, winning 55.4% of draws so far.

Sean Couturier is once again taking the tough defensive minutes, as shown by his low Offensive Zone start ratio. He drives puck possession forward, but breaks even in terms of shots due to the tough defensive minutes he’s playing. His low PDO shows he too, is having bad luck, but in his case. It’s bad luck behind him as the goalies have an oddly low SV% behind Couturier.

Danny Briere is beginning to show his age. He’s 35 now and has a -4.4 Corsi Rel with a very sustainable 996 PDO. His playoff performance is completely irrelevant if the team cannot make the playoffs. You can’t build from the top down, you have to build from the bottom up and because of that, given the age of Briere relative to the rest of the team, it might be time to say goodbye to him.

Mike Knuble is old and it shows. His 946 PDO is a product of bad luck, and his negative Corsi Rel a product of age. His lack of puck movement in terms of zone start to zone finish is just another sign he’s at the end. He’s candidate one to sit when Scott Hartnell returns from injury.

Ruslan Fedotenko is just Knuble, but without the bad luck problem. Rusty moves the puck forward a bit, but still gets torched in terms of puck possession. His PDO shows this probably won’t change. If Knuble’s luck regressed, Hartnell should replace Fedotenko when the time comes.

Wayne Simmonds is going through a slow start. Maybe it’s the pressure of having to do more without Hartnell being around, maybe he’s not fully recovered from his concussion, but something isn’t working with Simmonds. His Corsi Rel shows he’s losing the puck possession battle as a whole, but his personal SH% shows that he still has his scoring touch. His On-Ice SH% is a bit low, and this is where regression is going to help him. Once Simmonds finds his groove again, he should pot a few more assists to go along with his goal totals.

Zac Rinaldo is a victim of horrible luck. His 0 goals for, while on the ice are a product of that. That said his -8 Corsi Rel is slightly improved from -11 in his rookie season.  Rinaldo’s spark exists when he plays like he did against the Winnipeg Jets where he drew two penalties by keeping his head and using his brain. It also manifests like it did against Washington where he drew a game misconduct against Matt Hendricks who plays the top PK unit for Washington. Those are the things Rinaldo needs to keep doing, because otherwise, he doesn’t have the skill to keep an NHL job.

Max Talbot is also playing a lot of tough defensive minutes, leading to his puck possession time being low. His 946 PDO shows he’s having bad luck on the ice on top of it. Talbot may not have the offensive outburst he had one season ago, but he should snap back a bit towards his mean.

Conclusion

Are the Flyers a playoff team? Maybe, maybe not. They’re going to need to entire forward core to regress to start a push. They’ll need Bryzgalov to get back to posting SV%’s closer to the .915SV% mark as a whole, but the pieces are there, they just all need to fall in the place at the right time, and in a short season, there’s not much time for that.

If not, the Flyers need to make choices, Fedotenko, Foster, Gervais and Knuble may attract some passing interest at the trade deadline. The Flyers have some decent forward prospects in Marcel Noebels and Tye McGinn to go along with Scott Laughton and Nick Cousins.  Noebels is currently with the Phantoms and could benefit from a small NHL showing late this season.

If they move Fedotenko or Knuble, the Flyers should try to get a young defenseman in return, especially given the injury history of Marc-Andre Bourdon and recent issues with Erik Gustafsson. It won’t be a top prospect or high end guy, but someone along the talent level of a Bourdon would work wonders as a depth defender moving forward. If they’re really lucky, a low risk-high reward goalie prospect would be a steal.

Or, the Flyers can just acquire draft picks.

The Flyers have a very young core, this is the chance to reflect that going forward.