2009-01-27

WorkHorc



Break time is over, for the NHL and for me. Been a little quiet here on Oil Droppings the last couple of weeks, I went out of town for a few days and hit the doldrums on my return. I have been writing some, just not here. In particular, I've been helping out with Dennis's Scoring Chance project, on which I wrote a series of guest pieces over at MC79hockey. Lots of interesting stuff for Oiler fans in there; Dennis, with help from Vic and Scott, has compiled a ton of raw data on Our Heroes. My contribution was to parse by the familiar per-60 metric to provide another shade of context, and draw a few preliminary conclusions.

One of those conclusions was inescapable: Shawn Horcoff is an absolute horse. Horcoff is my favourite Oiler, but I don't write about him often because most (not all) in the part of the Oilogosphere I inhabit, appreciate him for the horse that he is. Still, the "new statistics" allow us to take the measure of a man in a much broader sense than was possible in the past. And the measure of Shawn Horcoff is that he is one hell of a hockey player.


My favourite not-that-new statistic is time on ice, something I clamoured for in vain throughout the 1980s. It was and remains a very good measure of a player's worth to his coach, to his team, and within the NHL, more reliable in its way than any production statistic or salary valuation. As a comparable it needs be applied with only the broadest brush, F v F, D v D, G v G. Accordingly all of the following is a discussion of forwards only.

Let's start with TOI for the top 6 Oiler forwards as at the break, expressed as a gross number and per game:

---------- T.O.I. - ---------- TOI/G

Horcoff ** 995:23 * Horcoff ** 21:38
Cole ***** 773:41 * Hemsky *** 18:43
Penner *** 726:41 * Cole ***** 16:49
Gagner *** 711:34 * Gagner *** 16:32
Moreau *** 708:51 * Penner *** 16:30
Cogliano * 706:53 * Moreau *** 15:45


It is a very high workload indeed: Horc currently ranks 9th among NHL forwards in TOI; 8th in TOI/G. That left-hand column is astonishing: Horc has played over 200 minutes more than any teammate, the largest such margin anywhere in the league. Neither Kovalchuk nor Iginla nor Koivu nor Ovechkin can boast such a spread. (Not that Shawn is one to boast.)

On a per-game basis, Hemsky enters the picture, his 10 lost games ameliorated. Ales plays nearly as much time at evens, almost half a minute more on the PP, but doesn't kill penalties at all. Whereas Horcoff eats up major minutes on all three units:

---------- EV TOI + ---------- PP TOI + ---------- SH TOI

Horcoff ** 656:02 * Horcoff ** 186:40 * Horcoff ** 152:41
Cole ***** 602:19 * Hemsky *** 160:23 * Brodziak * 125:03
Moreau *** 582:44 * Gagner *** 128:16 * Moreau *** 117:52
Gagner *** 566:24 * Penner *** 128:06 * Cole ****** 47:28
Cogliano * 557:50 * Cole ***** 123:54 * Cogliano ** 44:40
Penner *** 556:49 * Cogliano * 104:23 * Penner **** 41:46


Only one other forward in the league, Mikko Koivu, leads his team in ice time in all three manpower situations (although one of tonight's opponents, Buffalo's Derek Roy, comes close).

Questions have been raised as to whether Horcoff should be handling such a load on both special teams as well as the Power-vs-Power role as the first line centre, especially as he struggles with an aching back (from carrying the team?). Make no mistake, that load is exceptional:

Player --- SH/G + PP/G = ST/G
-----------------------------
Horcoff ** 3:19 + 4:03 = 7:22
Ovechkin * 1:23 + 5:39 = 7:02
Malkin *** 1:22 + 5:39 = 7:01
Morrow *** 1:55 + 4:57 = 6:52
M.Koivu*** 2:47 + 3:59 = 6:46
D.Roy **** 2:39 + 4:02 = 6:41
Stastny ** 2:22 + 4:18 = 6:40
Pominville 2:42 + 3:56 = 6:38
M.Richards 3:23 + 3:13 = 6:36
Alfredsson 2:09 + 4:25 = 6:34
J.Staal ** 3:37 + 2:51 = 6:28
Marleau ** 2:23 + 4:00 = 6:23
B.Richards 2:09 + 4:13 = 6:22
Semin **** 1:58 + 4:23 = 6:21
Crosby *** 0:59 + 5:21 = 6:20
St.Louis * 1:44 + 4:33 = 6:17
Drury **** 2:39 + 3:33 = 6:12
Modano *** 1:57 + 4:10 = 6:07
Nash ***** 2:13 + 3:50 = 6:07
Kovalev ** 1:45 + 4:17 = 6:02

I included the entire list of 20 guys in the league (I think I found them all) who log as many as 6 ST minutes a game, because it's quite a group of comparables. Who do their coaches rely on most? Guys one would expect for the most part, with a couple of surprises (to me) like Pominville, Semin, and Staal the Youngest. But there's no bigger surprise than to see Shawn Horcoff leading the pack by a substantial 0:20 per game. Wow.

Horcoff is the only veteran centre on a club with four pivots under the age of 25 who have yet to figure out which of them is playing wing, let alone fully step into a tough minutes role. Pouliot, Cogliano and Gagner, first rounders all, are certainly developing, but they are a long ways from catching the 99th-overall selection (in '98!) who at 30 continues to grow and mature his game.


Some have questioned whether Horcoff might be overworked on special teams, and should be saved for even strength situations, where there can be no question about his ability to handle the load. Of the dozen Oiler forwards who have suited up for 20+ GP, Horcoff ranks first in QualComp at +0.07, third (behind Penner and Hemsky) in GF ON/60 at 2.87 and third, barely behind Pouliot and Gagner, in GA/60 at 2.14. The former probably speaks to extra duties such as own-zone faceoffs that he garners while Hemsky and Penner stay on the bench; whereas the latter is a very promising sign that the young guys in the protected minutes are learning their lessons well. Make no mistake, they are learning from a master of the two-way art.

The net result of quality play and quantity ice time is that Horcoff leads the Oil at +8. He also has the highest shot differential on the team at +341/-296 = +45, and the biggest scoring chance differential at +195/-169 = +26. This despite the fact that he started in his own zone a staggering 246 times, fully 45% of the team's defensive zone faceoffs, compared to "just" 184 times in the offensive zone. Enough good things happen during his shifts that by the time Horc leaves the ice the puck is more likely than not to be in the offensive zone (+177/-156 = +21) Using Vic Ferrari's measure he calls ZoneShift -- and I should use Vic's measure since I'm using his stats -- that puts Horcoff at an astonishing +83. I haven't checked but surely that is one of the best such ratings in the loop.

It's not just PvP either, cuz Hemsky has started 14 more faceoffs in the offensive zone than the defensive. To recap, that's Horcoff +62, Hemsky -14.

That Horcoff has been doing double duty in the faceoff circle can be seen in this stat:

Player *Faceoffs FO%

Horcoff * 1008 * 52.2%
M.Richards 999 * 50.0
Pahlsson * 992 * 53.2
Crosby *** 989 * 49.6
BrindAmour 983 * 62.6
Carter *** 965 * 47.0
M.Koivu ** 960 * 54.3
E.Staal ** 901 * 44.8
D.Roy **** 889 * 50.3
Lecavalier 840 * 49.8

So here's another stat specific to his position: in faceoffs taken, Shawn Horcoff is the #1 C (pronounced: "Number One Centre") in the NHfreakingL. Horc's no Brind'Amour on the dot, but his percentage stacks up pretty darn well against the heavy-workload group. More importantly, his GA record suggests that even when he loses the draw he's hardly out of the play, and eventually the puck will start moving to the good end. The man makes a gigantic and still-understated contribution to his team.

26 comments:

HBomb said...

Could this be entered as required reading in math class for all Junior High kids in the metro Edmonton area?

Great work Bruce. Bunch of folks from Oilfans, HF, and like-minded places sure could stand to give this a read, but probably won't (or, they will, and will immediately toss it all aside).

PDO said...

Horcoff is probably the most underrated player in the NHL.

Beauty player.

DeBakey said...

I listened to Tencer's Post-game one night whilst Hemsky was on the shelf.
[Don't ask me why, I guess I just didn't feel like poking myself in the ear with a sharp stick]

He was whining about Horcoff not scoring.

There's Horcoff
with a bad back,
PeeWee & Fatso on his wings,
matched up against the other team's best,
and the Oiler's biggest shill is dissing him?
Jesus H Christ!

No effin wonder that Joe Fan under appreciates #10

Fake Craig McTavish said...

How 'bout them PK stats?

Traktor said...

"My favourite not-that-new statistic is time on ice"

TOI tells us who the coach trusts, and nothing more.

It certainly is not a metric that should be used as the be all end all for a players value.

MacT absolutely has trust in Horcoff. But MacTavish also trusts Moreau so much that he's played him the 3rd most EV minutes on the team.

As your post over on mudcrunch pointed out, Moreau is last in the team in SCF/SCA differential. Any correlation between TOI and effectiveness is clearly flawed.

Cogliano was better than Gagner last year and he's better than Gagner this year - yet it's Gagner that gets all the minutes, not Cogliano.

TOI doesn't really tell us anything besides who the coach likes and as we all know, who MacT likes and dislikes doesn't always start and end with ability or effectiveness.

Sure Horcoff ranks 40th in the league in PP time per game but he ranks 113th in PP points/60 and ranks 146th in PP GFON/60. (Must play 2 min or more to qualify)

It's not like his 40th TOI ranking is deserving.

Horcoff has the 10th worst GFON/60 on the PK in entire league.

Sure he's playing big minutes.. but he's bleeding profusely.

Horcoff is a valuable player no doubt, but I don't think TOI is really the best gauge to measure actual ability/effectiveness.

Coach pb9617 said...

Fantastic work Bruce. His defensive zone faceoff percentage has been really sturdy as well, considering the number of draws he's taken.

It's a resume that screams top shelf, yet his own 'fans' aren't smart enough to see it.

Sean said...

Fantastic piece Bruce. Whats most impressive about the ST/G stat is that PK minutes are far more draining than ES or PP.

Kris said...

Traktor:

I feel some deja vu, but...

TOI is only one piece of what Bruce mentions. How do you rebut the rest?

That is, we know Horc. plays the toughest minutes and huge PK minutes against the toughest opposition, more often than not starting in his own zone. That's undeniable. You say it only means the coach favors him.

Nonetheless, Horc has the third highest GFON/60 and third lowest GAON/60 despite playing ridiculously hard minutes. That's undeniable too.

So, how to interpret these numbers fairly?

1. Even if you say Horc.'s GF/60 is all Hemsky's doing, you have to admit he's the best defensive forward on the team and a stellar face off guy. Moreover, you can't just throw any defensive, 3rd line guy on with Hemsky and expect the same GFON/60. I seem to remember Reasoner, a good defensive player, not doing to well offensively there when Horc was hurt.

2. Suppose Horc wouldn't score as well without Hemsky and Hemsky would score more with a "true number one center." Even so, Horc does well playing with Hemsky, and there are few guys in the league who could do better GFON/60 playing with Hemsky who wouldn't do worse GAON/60.

3. Any of the guys who could improve on Horc's GFON/60 without giving up said gains by posting a worse GAON/60 would cost a lot more than 5.5. million, or would be unmoveable, e.g. Datsyuk, no?



He is, therefore, the

Traktor said...

"It's a resume that screams top shelf"

Just because you work 365 12 hour days at a car dealership doesn't make you a top shelf car salesman. Eventually you have to sell a car.

Horcoff's PK numbers are beyond putrid.

His 146st ranked PPGFON/60 is 2nd unit numbers (at best).

And his 113th ranked PPP/60 is pedestrian.

Horcoff's EVP/60 of 1.36 is what you would expect from a 4th line plumber.

Horcoff is closer to Macintyre (1.16) than it is to Moreau (1.74) and that my friend is truly pathetic.

Horcoff also ranks 17th on the Oilers in hits with 16.

Even Robert Nilsson has 21.

Pouliot has 32.

Horcoff's 17 hits make Dustin Penner look like Dustin Brown.

What a player that Shawn Horcoff is - legit #1!!!!

quain said...

You can't defend Horcoff's atrocious GAON/60 on the PK, but given the huge jump for the entire team I find it hard to blame it entirely on Horcoff suddenly sucking. Seems like a systemic dysfunction to me.

And, on the topic of blocked shots: is it just me or when a block happens, doesn't a clear seem pretty close at hand? The puck stops dead in a bit of a no man's land that usually gives the blocking forward a chance to chip it out. A non-blocked shot usually ends up in a mass of bodies and the team with more bodies has a higher chance to get it.

Less blocking seems like it would correlate with more shots, but that's just my own logical belief.

Traktor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
quain said...

Maybe you can explain why?

Shawn Horcoff's GFON/60 is the third highest among regular forwards. What third forward (and fourth, if we're pulling our goalie with one minute left) are you putting out there? You can say he's buoyed by Hemsky, which is damn right, but Hemsky isn't as good when Horcoff isn't out there.

He's not getting the points this season, that much is obvious, but the Oilers are winning games and playing better with him on the ice than off the ice.

Let's compare him to other noted first line center, Vincent Lecavalier:

Horcoff:
GF-GAON/60 - 0.77
CORSI - 5.0
QualComp - 0.07
ESP/60 - 1.36
PPP/60 - 3.89
PPGF/60 - 5.65

Lecavalier:
GF-GAON/60 - 0.19
CORSI - 0.9
QualComp - 0.05
ESP/60 - 2.50
PPP/60 - 3.45
PPGF/60 - 5.18

Now, I'm just a simple country farmer, but the only statistic there that makes Lecavalier look better than Horcoff is ESP/60. Horcoff's line does a better job outscoring the opposition at ES and on the PP, but he doesn't get points, so clearly he's useless. Somehow though, Penner and Hemsky are so good they overcome playing 4 on 5 the entire game.

And sure, maybe Lecavalier has slightly inferior linemates, but Prospal and St. Louis are certainly not terribly far below Hemsky and Penner, if at all. The defense? Yeah, maybe, I don't know who is back there, so we win.

Interestingly enough, Lecavalier was outscored, pointswise, at ES last season by Horcoff. But, I guess that just means he was lucky, and this is his clear median level of production.

Kris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
quain said...

And, given that Horcoff is being used as a father figure for every other line taking a dangerous draw, a lot of his minutes are not Hemsky-line, in the offensive zone minutes, they're fourth line, backing up Brodziak for an own zone draw minutes. Now, I don't think that's a substantial hit to his ESP/60, but it's a hit.

Traktor said...

Comparing Lecavalier and Horcoff's micro stats to establish that Horcoff is the superior player hurts micro stats credibility more than anything.

"Interestingly enough, Lecavalier was outscored, pointswise, at ES last season by Horcoff. But, I guess that just means he was lucky, and this is his clear median level of production."

Yeah and Horcoff was outscored at ES by Vermette.

Vermette also outscored Hossa at ES.

Who cares.

kris said...

Traktor:

Re Horc and scoring.

Since the lockout Horc has scored at a 22goal/year pace. Hemsky is only at 21 goals/year over the same time frame.

I think saying Horc isn't a good first liner because of his failing to score more, i.e. 30-50, is just as incorrect as saying Hemsky isn't a good first line player because he doesn't score. 30-50 (Never scored more than 21, BTW)

Horc brings strong PVP play, some scoring, and faceoffs. (The PK stuff is an added bonus.) Hemsky brings puck movement and assists.

What's needed is a left wing who can score 35-45. (Stupid Hossa.) I mean if you traded Horc for a guy who could score 35 wouldn't you need to bring in a strong all around player -like Horcoff- to round out the top 3?

On a different topic, I really think this teams' problems since the lockout are simple; Hossa and Pronger chose not to play here. If either had chosen differently, we'd all be singing a different tune.

quain said...

Apparently nothing matters, except for the fact that Vinny Lecavalier is a first line center and Shawn Horcoff isn't. You can't really explain how you make the distinction, but it involves fairy dust and 'just trust me.'

You got it, champ.

goldenchild said...

Bruce this is some terrific work, really good stuff. Horcoff will never get the credit he deserves for his impact on this team by a lot of the saw him good crowd because his work isn't pretty and because they guy to his rights work might be among the prettiest in the league, but he drives positive results night in night out.

Ribs said...

It's just amazing how far this guy has come. To think, I used to throw him in with the Rem Murray-Dan Cleary ilk. Amazing.

Black Dog said...

Good stuff Bruce.

As always, I should add.

Bruce said...

Thanks, all, for the comments, compliments and even complaints. For now, let's address the latter.

//"My favourite not-that-new statistic is time on ice"//
TOI tells us who the coach trusts, and nothing more.


Traktor, I addressed that in the very next sentence after the one you cited, when I wrote:
"It was and remains a very good measure of a player's worth to his coach, to his team, and within the NHL"

... in pretty much that order, I was going to add, and will now. If the guy being relied on is a bad player or is the best of a bad team, that will show up in his statistics (see: B.Richards, TAM). But if the guy is handling the responsibility with positive results on a competitive team, well, i don't know what more you could want, other than even more positive results I guess.

As for the "and nothing more" part, sorry, but there are universal reasons why coaches trust certain types of player, starting with conditioning and ending with versatility. Results have to be weighed against expectations of results from the alternatives.

MacT absolutely has trust in Horcoff. But MacTavish also trusts Moreau so much that he's played him the 3rd most EV minutes on the team.

A fair comment. MacT counts on his veterans, especially the ones who have a third wind for the third period. This is where the extraordinary conditioning level of both Horcoff and Moreau have their effect. Whatever else -- and Moreau in particular does lots of things out there that drive me bonkers -- one thing I won't criticize players for is an exemplary work ethic.

Horcoff's PK numbers are beyond putrid.
His 146st ranked PPGFON/60 is 2nd unit numbers (at best).


This too I addressed in passing when I wrote:
"Some have questioned whether Horcoff might be overworked on special teams, and should be saved for even strength situations"

I never went into his special teams results (ran out of time when writing the post), so I left that up to the Horcoff bashers. I knew I could count on you!

I did however go in depth on the Oilers' performance at evens with Horcoff on the ice. While his points rate continues to crawl back towards normal after a very slow start in that respect, Horc's team-based stats are mighty compelling:

First in TOI
First in QualComp
First in def. zone faceoffs
First in faceoff percentage
First in ZoneShift
First in shot differential
First in scoring chance differential
First in GF/GA differential (+/-)

And you want to complain about hits? Come on, man.

Bruce said...

Whats most impressive about the ST/G stat is that PK minutes are far more draining than ES or PP.

Sean: That's for sure. There's only one NHL forward (Samuel Pahlsson) with 4:00+ on the PK, compared to 48 on the PP. Horcoff ranks 12th in the former, 40th in the latter, but it is the combination of the two that is out of the ordinary.

And, given that Horcoff is being used as a father figure for every other line taking a dangerous draw, a lot of his minutes are not Hemsky-line, in the offensive zone minutes, they're fourth line, backing up Brodziak for an own zone draw minutes. Now, I don't think that's a substantial hit to his ESP/60, but it's a hit.

Quain: Definitely, I alluded to that when postulating why Horc's GF ON/60 is "only" third on the club, a little below his most frequent linemates. If you think he's spending all his time playing cherry minutes with the high-priced snipers, bear in mind Hemsky has played just 142 minutes without Horcoff; Horcoff 287 without Hemsky. A significant number of those are defensive minutes, where keeping a low GA rate is laudable and any GF are a bonus.

Consider this data listing, first, zone differential in on-ice faceoffs and then, zone differential for end of shift, and the net zone shift that results. (Note: the first ("what you make") is calculated Def. minus Off., the second ("what you leave") as Off. minus Def., so that a + result always means positive things about the player):

Player ** start + end = ZoneShift
---------------------------------------
Horcoff ** +62 + +21 = +83
Hemsky ** -14 + +26 = +12
Penner *** -33 + +40 = +7

Doesn't seem to me that Horcoff is exactly riding Hemsky's coat-tails.

Jaime said...

Just because he's got more time on ice than any other Oiler doesn't mean he deserves it. As far as his worth to the coach goes, our coach is Craig f'ing MacTavish. The guy is a moron so it's no wonder that a 3rd line centre (at best) like Horcoff gets minutes like that.

I guess the minutes Liam Reddox is getting means he should be a first liner, too?

quain said...

Given that Liam Reddox, out of all players on the Oilers who have played 20+ games, ranks ahead of just Zack Stortini in TOI/60 at ES I think your point is just absolutely stellar, way to go, gold star.

The other thing about Horcoff is also top notch, you're a credit to the force, generic cop compliment.

HBomb said...

....it's no wonder that a 3rd line centre (at best) like Horcoff gets minutes like that.

Ok, plain and simple (because that's what you appear to be), "Horcoff is a 3rd line center at best" statement is among the dumbest things that a hockey fan can say, end of story.

I'd suggest you try Oilfans or HFBoards - you'll find similar narrow-minded, un-informed viewpoints there.

Bruce said...

Just because he's got more time on ice than any other Oiler doesn't mean he deserves it.

Jaime: No, but that list of disparate, team-oriented stats in which Horcoff ranks First on the club kind of makes the case for him, wouldn't you say. Or did you and your stubborn opinion miss that part?