Islanders Bits: Is Steve Staios Working Out So Far?

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I have watched some Hall of Fame defensemen carry some decidedly not-HOF partners and come out just fine, so I subscribe to the theory that you can protect a weaker (but ideally smart or experienced) defenseman with a superb partner.

That's what makes the addition of Steve Staios interesting: He's had a rough couple of years (that's putting it kindly; he was a training camp tryout this summer) but he has a good hockey brain and he's been an important defensean in the past. Can pairing him with Mark Streit work? My guess in camp was that it can, but that his body at this age is a risk if subjected to that role for 82 games.

It's too early to interpret much of anything from the advanced metrics, but we'll dabble anyway. It's also too early to make conclusions about him helping anchor the defense or solidifying blueline stability, but writers gotta write about what's happened so far, even if it is only four games.

A Foolish Peek at the Stats

Again, I can't stress this enough: The data sample is too small to draw big conclusions, but we can use it to describe what has happened so far: Staios and Streit have the highest Corsi of the six defensemen used. They also have the highest percentage of offensive zone starts, which means they are placed in Corsi-friendly situations.

As always, this is 5-on-5 data thanks to Behind the Net:

Blueliner Corsi Rel Corsi Rel QOC Zone Start % Off. Zone faceoffs
Mark Streit 17.5 1.380 55.8% 22
Steve Staios 16.1 1.582 56.4% 19
Travis Hamonic 7.2 .703 52.3% 18
Andrew MacDonald 0.0 1.041 48.0% 17
Mark Eaton -12.9 .098 42.3% 15
Mike Mottau -29.9 .772 44.4% 13

If you're unfamiliar with this stuff: Zone Start% is the percentage of faceoffs a player has started in the offensive zone, which is a rough indicator of how a coach uses him (if you are prime Brendan Witt, I put you out for more D-zone faceoffs; if you are Bryan Berard, I put you out for more O-zone faceoffs; if you are Denis Potvin I put you out there until you collapse or the Cup is delivered). Corsi Rel is a measure of how many shots are directed at the opposition net minus against your own net, relative to the rest of their teammates. A high positive number there means the puck is headed the right way when you're on the ice. Think of it as amplified and more relevant plus/minus, or better yet: Think of it as a measure of puck possession. The Corsi Rel QOC up there is taking that to measure of the competition they see. But these samples are small.

You can see by the number of total faceoffs that the difference there isn't great, but I do think these are an indication of the percentages we are going to see: As expected Streit and Staios, Hamonic and MacDonald are going to be used a lot overall. But by percentage, Streit and Staios are going to draw more offensive opportunities (which should help their Corsi). We'll want to monitor if Streit's figures drag over the season, and if Staios might be a factor. My hunch is if we see Staios drag, it's going to be when he's being "a gamer" playing through nagging injuries that accumulate by mid-season.

Eaton and Mottau have by far the worst Corsi so far -- again, small sample -- but have also been put in the least advantageous situations. They have struggled, but they haven't been sheltered with cushy assignments. They are the other end of my strong partner/weak partner theory: Two of those secondary guys together can be dangerous.

Anecdotally we all have our opinions and observations, and I'd wager after just four games those are more reliable than a small sample of numeric data. (There are teammates and situational factors that are hard to account for here, and the quality of competition data can swing wildly in a small sample.) But so far there is no qualitative or quantitative reason to say Staios is holding back Streit, and his two minor penalties thus far (both in the same period) are nothing alarming.

Staios' recent history tells us that's not likely to last all year, but that recent history also includes playing with un-Streit-like partners. It's interesting that Capuano is pleasantly surprised by Staios' mobility and offensive decision-making, and Streit likes his first pass. I am reminded that Streit had Bruno Gervais as a partner for a long stretch two seasons ago.

Of course, wins over the long haul are the great measure of any personnel deployment. So talk to me in December.

 

Islanders and Hockey Is Good Links

Last Night's Games

Lots of games last night, so we'll go with some knee-jerk reactions:

...The Bruins tooled it up in a loss, racking up penalties in a display that I'm certain would be viewed as a disgrace if it were the Islanders. But when it's the B's or the Flyers, it's just old-time hockey.

...Ottawa lost 7-2 to the Flyers and already looks like an embarrassment. They've allowed 30 goals so far. Thirty!

...The Blue Jackets lost again, and absurd defensive displays like this are an example of why. (Since we're talking about bad teams: The Wild lost to the Pens 4-2.)

...Florida lost 3-0 in Washington. They have three wins in five games, but Florida's 5-on-5 goal differential is tied with the Sens for worst in the league at 0.44.

...The Blues were spanked 5-0 in Los Angeles and Jaroslav Halak continues to make Islanders goaltending look permanently stable. (Ugh.)

...Finally, the Rangers should have lost horribly last night, but Henrik Lundqvist kept it 0-0 through two periods and then the Rangers exploded for four goals to beat Vancouver 4-0. Unreal. Blame Luongo or something.

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