Yeah, the title really sucks. But these things happen when you’ve got kids of a certain age. Sue me.
In the first part of my series on Leddy, I stated the reasons why Leddy will average over 14 minutes of ice time this year. Today, I’ll take a look back at how coach Quenneville utilized Leddy in comparison to Campbell and how he fared.
The Chicago Blackhawks are obviously a strong puck-possession team and I don’t expect that to change much this year. Last year, the Hawks took 10% more draws in the offensive zone than they did in the defensive zone. Therefore, on average, defenders with offensive capabilities had the opportunity to get more TOI than those without. This allowed Brian Campbell to get 19 minutes of even strength TOI – and succeed.
The same will be true for Nick Leddy who averaged 14 EV minutes last season. Campbell’s high minutes will need to be picked up by someone. If Leddy picks up about half the difference, he should average at least 16 EV minutes this season. Why do I feel so strongly that Leddy can fill these minutes and have a successful season? Aside from the similarities in their skill sets, it’s based on how Q used them last season and how they each performed.
First let’s look at the Quality of Competition each Hawks’ defenseman faced. The data is from behindthenet.ca. I used Nick Boynton instead of Chris Campoli since Campoli only skated 19 games with the Hawks (although I will accept the argument that what Boynton did for 41 games wouldn’t be considered “skating”). As you can see by the chart below, sorted by QualComp which is a measure of competition based on Plus/Minus ratings, Leddy and Campbell faced almost identical levels of competitions. In fact, their QualComp ratings were more similar than any other two defenders on the team.
(You can click on all charts to enlarge them)
The next chart is sorted by Corsi QoC which is a measure of competition based on Corsi. It gives us a larger sample size by using all shots directed at the net for and against, instead of just goals scored. Again, based on this metric, Leddy and Campbell faced extremely similar levels of competition.
So we know Leddy and Campbell faced the same level of competition, next we’ll look at Zone Starts. As you can see they both had nearly identical statistics, with both of them getting over 60% of their starts in the offensive zone. Seeing a pattern?
But John, even though they played in similar situations, Campbell’s Plus/Minus rating was a team high +23 and Leddy’s was a team low -3! Obviously Leddy can’t possibly fill Soupy’s skates.
Plus/Minus can be deceiving. That’s why many feel that it doesn’t tell us much about a player over the course of just one season, there are just too many variables that influence it and it’s a small sample size compared to Corsi which reduces some of the “noise.” But before we look at Corsi, let’s make some adjustments to those Plus/Minus ratings.
The chart below is sorted by Shooting Percentage plus Team Save Percentage while a player was on the ice 5on5 (Sv+Sh%). Campbell had the good fortune of being on the ice for the 2nd highest Shooting% for the Hawks and the highest Save% (.940) by the Hawks goalies. With those two combined, he had had by far the best Sv+Sh% rating of all defensemen.
Although many factors go into Sv% and Sh% like quality of shots both for and against, a large portion is simply luck. Another thing to consider is what I call “the Turco factor.” Campbell was still out when Marty Turco (.897 Sv%) was the Hawks starter and therefore his Plus/Minus didn’t suffer at the hands of Turco’s poor Sv% as much as the rest of the team.
Leddy, on the other hand, was at the opposite end of the spectrum. When he was on the ice, the Hawks goaltending had a Sv% of only .901. That Sh+Sv% difference between Leddy and Campbell of about 4.5 goals per 100 shots adds up quickly – and much of it has nothing to do with their actual performance.
Notice also that Duncan Keith had the best Corsi ratings of the Hawks defenders. CorsiRel shows that the Hawks were a much better possession team when Keith was on the ice. Not bad for a guy who faced some of the toughest competition with only average Zone Starts – actually it’s relatively awesome.
Unfortunately, last year Keith was the biggest victim of a combined low Sh% For and a high Sh% Against, so his season Plus/Minus looked a lot worse than it probably should have. (Again, we might assume that since Keith faced a higher level of competition than Campbell that the Sv% would naturally be lower, but we don’t know that for sure)
The chart below shows these three player’s actual Plus/Minus rating per 60 and their adjusted Plus/Minus ratings if their on ice Sh% and Sv% were equal. Campbell still did quite well, but the gap has closed significantly.
Okay, okay, I get it John! Their performances weren’t as drastically different as some metrics suggested. But you yourself stated that Corsi was a better measure and you ignored the fact that Campbell’s Corsi rating was much better than Leddy’s. You tried to gray it out in your charts, but I’m not that gullible!
Which is why we’re going to look at how they fared based on Corsi, not Plus/Minus, next. Corsi doesn’t rely on goaltending – it’s a measure of all shots directed at the net whether they went in, were saved, were blocked, or missed the net. What Corsi is, is a great measure of puck possession and whether your team is heading in the right direction when a player is on the ice.
I used data from Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com to look at Corsi ratings per 20 minutes of ice time and to break the data down into situations. Shots directed at the net For minus shots directed at the net Against gives us CorsiForAgainst (CorFA20). When we look at CorFA20 in all 5on5 situations, it is obvious that Campbell outperformed Leddy rather handily against identical competition (.499 Opp CorF%).
But as I mentioned in my last article, Leddy often sat in 3rd periods of close games when the Hawks were losing and received extra minutes when the Hawks were leading. But that throws off your Corsi rating – and for the worse. Teams that are leading will typically get “out-Corsi’d” due to the fact they’re protecting a lead and not generating much offense. The opposite is true when they’re behind.
My suspicion was that if we only looked at 5on5 SCORE TIED situations, the gap might close. What I found was that not only did the gap close, but Leddy actually outperformed Campbell when games were tied.
Campbell’s CorFA20 stayed the same (3.31 to 3.32), but Leddy’s jumped from 0.78 to 5.50. So although Q sat Leddy in certain situations, it probably had more to do with his lack of trust in rookies than the actual need to protect him. Besides, when you’re getting mostly offensive zone starts against average competition, you don’t need much “protection.”
So in conclusion…
MYTH: Leddy needed and will continue to need constant protection
FACT: One year does not a Brian Campbell make, but the gap last season between Leddy and Soupy wasn’t nearly as wide as many believe. How Leddy performs with more TOI and in situations where the game is on the line is yet to be seen, but 2011 was an excellent start for a 19 year old rookie.
In my final piece on Leddy, I’ll take a look at what lineups we might see on defense and tighten up my TOI estimations. I promise there will be no math.
Lead Writer, BlackhawkUp
Follow me on Twitter @ChiNativeSon
Related reading: Nick Leddy: A Perfect Ten, Or Even Higher?