(Photo credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
Luke Schenn has received a lot of criticism early this season, mostly stemming from poor plus/minus numbers that can largely be attributed to being on the ice for five goals against in the second game of the season against the NJ Devils, two of which were random deflections, and two others which were shots from well outside the scoring chance area that the goalie would probably like to have another chance at.
There are a lot of problems with judging a player by goal plus/minus (here’s a fantastic article about that: Why Plus/Minus is the Worst Statistic in Hockey), the main one being that goals are pretty rare events in hockey and there’s a lot of variance that goes into them, such as shooting% and save%, so you need a very large sample size for goal plus/minus to be representative of skill or control. This is partly why it’s better to look at shot-based plus/minus. You have a much larger sample that helps cut down on variance and give you a better idea of how a player is affecting play on the ice.
Schenn’s even strength PDO (on-ice shooting% + on-ice save%) through eleven games is 92.9, which is incredibly low. While he has been on-ice this year, the Flyers have shot 6.9%, which isn’t too bad, but is below the team average. There’s a good chance that number goes up for Schenn as the season progresses. Team save% is what has really hurt Schenn’s reputation in the early going — 86.6 team save% while Schenn has been on-ice so far. That is ridiculously low and can almost certainly be expected to move towards a more reasonable team average around 91%.
Looking at how Schenn has impacted the team’s even strength shot attempts through eleven games, he has a Corsi% (on-ice team shots on goal + shots missed + shots blocked) of 48.7%, which is 2.8% higher than the 45.9% number the team has had with him on the bench, so he is positively impacting team shot attempts so far. Also, his offensive zone start% is 47.2%, meaning he has started more of his shifts in the defensive zone than the offensive zone, yet his offensive zone finish% is 52.6%, which suggests he is helping the team get up ice and on the attack. Some of this may be related to the strong play of Michael Del Zotto, who has been his partner for much of the early season, but it’s too early for there to be enough data to determine such with any certainty.
One thing that leads me to believe Luke is at least partly responsible for his positive early season results is in the zone exit data from last year that we have thanks to Jess Schmidt (do yourself a favor and follow her on Twitter – @2_for_slashing) who spends all year tracking and recording how the team does exiting their zone and entering the opposing zone. Last season he was 3rd on the team among defensemen in successful zone exits with 359 total. Streit had 495 and Coburn had 399, but both played a lot more minutes than Schenn did. Of those three defensemen, Schenn was actually second best at exiting the zone with possession of the puck, which he did 58.8% of the time, better than Coburn’s 55.9%. Schenn also led the team in percentage of his exits that were passed out of the zone. 74.4% of his exits were with passes. This is one thing Schenn does well that he doesn’t get a whole lot of credit for. And it shows up in other areas as well. Here’s a chart I made that is intended to show where a player’s skills lie as far as helping the team in shot generation and/or shot suppression:
You can see Schenn is highlighted in green under CF20 (CorsiFor per 20 minutes of ice time), meaning that he outperformed his on-ice teammates in helping the team to create shot attempts on net. He had 18.58 CorsiFor/20 compared to his on-ice teammates number of 18.159. It’s reasonable to assume that Schenn’s observed ability to get the team out of their own zone with possession of the puck is leading to greater shot attempts for at the other end of the ice. Even more, through Jess’s data we can see that the team has gained a successful offensive zone entry based on Schenn’s exits 149 times, or 85.6% of the time. That’s just under Mark Streit’s 86.6% rate and it’s better than Coburn’s 82.4% rate. Not to mention (except that I am about to mention it), Schenn’s success rates at exiting the zone and then leading to an entry for the team are much better than that of Grossmann, who had a 45.2% success rate at exits and only 72.9% led to entries. Here’s a chart showing all this data for ease of reference:
Luke Schenn helps the Flyers get out of their own zone and into the offensive zone with possession, and most of the time he does it passing the puck.
Data used in this post was collected from war-on-ice.com, behindthenet.ca, and stats.hockeyanalysis.com.
Special thanks to Jess Schmidt (@2_for_slashing) for all her work tracking and compiling data.