The player usage visualization tool at somekindofninja.com comes up on occasion in comments here, but I don't think we've ever posted an update as part of a main article.
Here then, for your quiver, is a look at how the Isles have been used at 5-on-5 through the first 53 games. A few notes before you click and play:
Credits: The data is pulled from behindthenet.ca, the concept of the charts is by Rob Vollman, and the click-ready pictorial execution for your convenience is from Greg Sinclair, the ninja behind somekindofninja.
What it means: "The horizontal axis is the percentage of time the player started in the offensive zone, the vertical axis is a rating of how good the players he played against are, and the bubble sizes are a relative rating of how many shots were directed at the net while the player was on the ice. A blue bubble (good) means more shot attempts were made at the opposing team's net when the player was on the ice, a red bubble (bad) means the player was getting outshot."
How to use it: The best way is to visit the chart on somekindofninja, because that's where you'll get to play with Games Played parameters and mouse over individual player bubbles to get a more detailed view.
Click to supersize
For the above chart, I put the cutoff at 20 games so as to exclude Eric Boulton. (His extremely low level of competition faced drops his bubble far to the bottom (and right), messing with the scale.) That means Ryan Strome is also excluded, but on the regular chart you can see Strome has a blue (good!) bubble with low O-zone starts.
A few general observations:
- Obviously John Tavares and Kyle Okposo are good. But you can see how the Isles seek to leverage their offensive talents by "Sedin"ing them -- using them for as many offensive zone situations as possible, just as Alain Vigneault used to do with the Sedins (while "Malhotra"-ing Manny Malhotra with D-zone starts).
- Okposo and Tavares' bubbles are virtually identical, but Thomas Vanek's is different. Vanek plays with them all the time, but he missed some games with injuries and some other games with being a Sabre.
- That said...their bubbles aren't huge, or anything. They are piling up points at even strength and via the power play, but from a pure overall hockey perspective (the kind that counts chances conceded as well as chances created), they are not quite the dominant line one might assume based just on their point totals.
- Matt Donovan and Matt Carkner each get a disproportionate amount of offensive zone starts, with Donovan unsuprisingly generating more shots for than Carkner.
- The biggest red bubbles are the fourth line plus Andrew MacDonald and Brian Strait. In a sense, their role dictates that: They are used in more D-zone starts than their peers, and they suffer accordingly. However, ye GODS MacDonald's bubble is big and red.
- That said, the only blueliner facing a better level of competition than MacDonald is Calvin de Haan. And he's allll blue. Good sign. Small sample still, but good sign.
- If you want to know where Strome would be, check the unfiltered chart (no minimum games played) or just believe me when I tell you his D-zone start percentage is as extreme as Casey Cizikas', but his bubble is blue and his quality of competition is lower than Josh Bailey's but higher than Cizikas'.
Finally, one word of caution that everyone could use: These tools are cool, but they are not comprehensive. Not only is every data point feeding them (Corsi, quality of competition, zone starts, games played) subject to its own context and interpretation, but any visualization of the data inherently carries its own potentially misleading bias.
The bubbles and colors help conceptualize these many variables, but they shouldn't be seen as the end-all, be-all, no more than any other lone stat (fancy, boxscore, or otherwise) should be. (One obvious example: You shouldn't see Strome's larger blue bubble as proof that he is better than Tavares.)
At minimum, though, this should give you a sense of how the coaching staff has used each player over the long haul, and what general results they are getting in those roles.