Haven’t dusted this one off in a while. Let’s take a look at some stats and stuff. But we’ll start with the stuff. My boy Rob Vollman over at Hockey Abstract.com sent me this player usage chart.
Interesting stuff here, and a nice illustration of some points that will come later. As we see, Bolland, Sharp, and Kane are drawing the usual tough assignments that have been a staple of Bolland’s career. What they’re not getting is the nearly impossible zone starts that Fabulous Weapon is usually saddled with. Last year, Bolls started something like 63% of his shifts in the defensive zone. As you can see this year, it’s more 50-50. That makes some numbers to come up later quite scary, but we’ll get there.
Also interesting that Q hasn’t ignored the early-season trends on his blue line, because it’s Hammer and Oduya being trusted right now with the toughest assignments, i.e. opponents and zones. And I don’t think anyone would disagree with that right now with how things are going. Won’t, or can’t, last forever but it is encouraging that Q is recognizing who is playing best right now. Though he’s actually been better with that than he has with his forwards, as you’ll remember two years ago there was a solid, month-long stretch where Brian Campbell was closing out games and taking the tougher assignments, as he was playing best.
That’s the combined CORSI and Relative CORSI of Sharp-Bolland-Kane. It’s kind of terrifying. For those who don’t know the difference, CORSI is the amount of shots taken vs. those against over 60 minutes, and the Relative is what it is compared to the rest of the team.
There are a couple easy explanations, though I’m not sure they explain it all. One is obviously Bolland’s inability to consistently win a draw, and now no longer has the wingers to claw it back. In the past, he’s been riding with Ladd, Bickell, Versteeg, Shaw, Stalberg and Frolik, and while they’re all different players they all share a dogged puck-pursuit. Secondly, Bolland almost always had Keith and Seabrook behind him. When he does now, they’re not playing up to their abilities, so they’re not helping the shelling as much as we can expect them to later in the season.
What is worrying is that Bolland’s line is starting a fair amount in the other zone, and they’re still getting killed. It’s been masked by Kane’s power play exploits and the fact that he’s so skilled and destructive he doesn’t need a lot of offensive zone time to make things happen. But if you’ve watched just the past two games, you’ve seen this trio getting skull-fucked for long stretches.
It’s not that Kane and Sharp can’t work together, but when they’ve been at their best is with Toews between them. Jonny Revelator wins draws for them to get them the puck, and can also get it back in any zone through his pursuit and strength. This is something the Hawks are going to have to address. I’ve already been banging on switching Saad and Sharp, or in Bolland’s absence moving Sharp to center to combine with Saad and Kane (there are a lot of candidates to fill in alongside Hossa and Toews, but Kane and Sharp need something a little more precise). But I’ll be yelling about that for a long time, I think.
The problems are also demonstrated by the fact that all three of Bolland, Sharp, and Kane finish their shifts in the offensive zone anywhere between 5%-7% less than they start, so you can see which way they’re heading most of the time on the ice.
This is Brandon Saad’s CORSI and Relative CORSI, which lead the team. It’s also Top 25 among forwards in the league.
That’s Oduya’s Behind The Net Rating, which measures how many goals the Hawks are better off for every 60 minutes he’s on the ice vs. every 60 he’s off. That’s 10th best among d-men in the league.