Friday, September 2, 2011

Habs: Spacek with Top Defensive-zone Passing Percentage Among Defensemen

Subban with lowest success-rate

The Montreal Canadiens are successful when generating offense off of the transition (takeaways in the defensive or neutral-zones). They play their best hockey when their defensemen and goaltender are able to move the puck up to the speedy forwards quickly and accurately. The famous "first pass" is essential; whether it takes place in the neutral or defensive-zones.

*I began tracking passing percentage late in the season, players without any regular season numbers were either injured or did not play substantial minutes late in the season*

1. Jaroslav Spacek
(81%) Regular season
(74%) Playoffs
This is a great example of where statistics dispute perceptions. When questioned, many Hab fans would question Spacek's ability to make a strong first-pass. In fact, his regular season success-rate is tops among Montreal's returning defensive-core.

2. Hal Gill
(78%) Regular season
(63%) Playoffs

Gill's success-rate in this metric dropped 15 percentage-points during the playoffs. Gill's drop is a product of playing against Boston's top players, while being an important cog in the Habs' penalty-killing unit. When Gill's minutes are dropped into the 15 to 17 range, his defensive-zone passing percentage will return to last season's regular season range.

3. Carey Price

(76%) Regular season
(80%) Playoffs
When Price is unsuccessful with a pass attempt in the defensive-zone it usually results in either a phenomenal save or a goal against. That said, Price's high success-rate is a testament to his defensemen's ability to communicate,"target-up" (position themselves for an easy outlet pass), and number 31's puck-handling ability.

4. Andrei Markov
(75%) regular season
(N/A) playoffs

Markov's return will certainly help the Habs transition game. His vision, and tape-to-tape passing ability will also help the Habs powerplay. He has a nearly unequaled ability to find the cross-ice seam while coming out of the d-zone, skating through the neutral-zone, or on the powerplay in the offensive-zone.

5. Josh Gorges

(73%) Regular season
(N/A) PlayoffsGorges passing ability is often underestimated. Fans and media alike speak of Gorges good stick and warrior mentality. People wince at the hits he takes while recouping loose pucks, but few recognize his ability to find the open man coming out of the d-zone. Gorges passes are usually short and on the tape. He resists the urge to make the long, exciting pass; choosing instead to make the low-risk, high percentage play.

6. Alexei Yemelin
(73%) World Hockey Championship
(N/A) Regular season
(N/A) PlayoffsMost of Yemelin's successful passes come from using his defensive-partner. That said, he's shown himself to be willing to take a hit to make a play. His vision is good, but the question that needs to be answered is whether the smaller ice and quicker tempo will allow him the time needed to make the right pass at the right moment. 

7. Yannick Weber
(71%) regular season
Limited minutes on defense in playoffs 

Weber didn't play enough minutes on the back-end during the playoffs to create a tangible grade in this metric. He did, however have the seventh-best success-rate among defensemen during the regular-season. his regular season total equalled the team's average.

8. PK Subban

(67%) Regular season
(62%) Playoffs
PK had the lowest passing percentage in the defensive-zone in both the playoffs and regular season. This is due in large part to strength of opposition and a lot of penalty-killing minutes. PK does everything on the ice quickly. However, a strong first pass is often about patience. Waiting and recognizing the right moment for that first pass should become Subban's main focus of improvement this off-season and through training camp.

The Prospects

Mark Mitera

(100%) AHL regular season game (limited viewing)
Mitera remains the only defenseman I've scouted who has played significant minutes and produced a perfect defensive-zone passing percentage. Even more impressive is that Mitera's success isn't simply the product of some easy d-to-d passes while setting up the transition, but comes from some perfect tape-to-tape passes to forwards while they were moving quickly through the neutral-zone.

Nathan Beaulieu
(78%) QMJHL/ Memorial Cup/ Canadian Junior evaluation camp
Beaulieu enjoyed most of his passing success in the Memorial Cup and QMJHL playoffs. His success-rate dropped significantly during the junior evaluation camp. I'm hoping he sees some action during exhibition games in order to determine if his struggles at that camp were just an anomaly.

Jarred Tinordi
(62%) OHL/ USA junior evaluation camp
Tinordi has all the tools; he's big, he's strong and he has a solid hockey IQ. That said, there are still some aspects of his game that concern me; and his passing percentage is one of them. Tinordi often stops skating when he has the puck. Because of this he is unable to create seams for his outlet passes. He has the wheels to create these lanes, it's up to him to find the confidence.

Morgan Ellis
(59%) QMJHL (limited viewing)
Ellis is a difficult player to evaluate. He's yet to have the opportunity to play with quality players. Because of this it's hard to determine whether his passing percentage is the product of his ability, or the product of the inability of his teammates to target-up. More viewings are necessary. A trade to Shawinigan wouldn't hurt either.

Darren Dietz
(43%) WHL (limited viewing)
Dietz was scouted early last season. At the time he was only 17-years-old and visibly nervous. I look forward to scouting multiple games of his this upcoming season. Confidence and experience should see his passing percentage and overall risk/reward numbers increase substantially.

1 comment:

  1. I saw Subban play a game for Hamilton and was impressed by the way he squared his shoulders and delivered a great pass. I thought he had a good idea of where he wanted the puck to go even before he possessed it. I should think that he will show improvement there as he further adjusts to the higher level of play.