Lately many of the media in Edmonton have taken to dumping on #91. The refrain is familiar and is echoing among most of the media.
- Mark Spector Sports @SportsnetSpec @dstaples I fear Paajarvi beaten to Top 6 spots by 14, 4, 64, 93. No way he turns into the type of 3rd liner Oilers require. Not physical.
- Jason Gregor @JasonGregor @jonrmcleod If you think Paajarvi competes as hard as RNH or is half as good defensively you are dreaming. 91 is epitome of soft forward.
Everyone is dumping on MPS, but does he deserve it? He doesn’t and I’ll show you why.
I firmly believe, and there are now reams of very good evidence, that the team that takes the most shots in a hockey game, especially when the score is close, will win more hockey games than they lose. The Oilers do not have the puck enough and rarely out shoot opponents. This is the main reason they lose. There are many reasons for this including: Not breaking the cycle in the dzone and making a good first pass, zone exits, neutral zone play, zone entries, secondary chances in the ozone, retaining possession in the ozone, and puck battles.
Without having access to real time stats like: pass attempts vs. passes made, passes received vs. passed at, puck battles won and a few others, its tough to be able to pinpoint exactly who is doing what. With the excellent work that Bruce McCurdy and Jonathon Willis are doing at CoH, we are starting to get some Oiler zone entry/exit data, but we are still missing data. That is when we need to look at the shot data.
Specifically, who generates more shots on the ice than when they are off the ice, who makes other players generate more shots when they play with them. We don’t have all the passing and battle data, but I think we can safely group most of the stats we don’t have access to under the shot data. If a player is doing something to help the team, it should result in more shots for and/or less shots against when they are on the ice. Puck battles, passing, entries, exits, etc., if they are effective, should result in a better for/against shot ratio. If something a player does has no impact on the shot ratio, I would ask what value it actually has. If a player has “intangibles” that help a team win, then it should be reflected in the shot data. If the team is better when a player is on the ice, then the “intangibles” become tangible and things like puck battles, passing etc show up in the data as an improvement in the shot ratio. If someone argues that a player’s “intangibles” won’t show up in the shot data, then ask them exactly how it helps the team.
Some may argue a HUGE HIT may spur the rest of the team to greater heights. This has been argued about fighting as well. When fighting was looked at in depth on how it changed the outcome of a game, the answer was, it didn’t.
In terms of hitting, it was actually found that the more a team led the game in hits, the more likely that they lost.
Probable cause? If you hit someone that means you do not have possession of the puck. Hitting is an integral and fun part of hockey, but don’t forget the main reason you hit a player. To separate him from the puck. There is also the theory that you hit the opposing Dmen to wear them down over the game to gain an advantage. There is probably some truth to that, but I cannot see how it would be more important than puck possession. It all boils down to possession and possession is where Paajarvi is one of the better Oilers on the roster.
WHO PAJAARVI COMPETES WITH FOR A ROSTER SPOT
Paajarvi is in compeition with 5 other forwards for spots on the team:
I could include Yakupov, but he’ll get ice time regardless of his results. He’s going to be a dynamic player, maybe in Hall’s class, but he’s a raw rookie who will be given ice time in every game he is healthy enough to play. Some say “If he can’t play top 6 in Edmonton, put him back in OKC” Why? I don’t think 91 is going to make the top 6 in Edmonton, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be an important part of the team.
SHOT ATTEMPT DIFFERNTIAL AND QUALITY OF OPPONENTS
So let’s look at how Paajarvi looks in terms of shot attempt differential compared to his competitors. When I say shot attempt differential I’m talking about all shots, missed shots and blocked shots. I’m looking for puck possession numbers so if someone shot the puck, regardless of what happened after it left the stick, it means they had the puck to shoot it.
A wise man once said about hockey “Its what you create minus what you give up” That is why shot attempt differential is a useful tool to evaluate players. Here is this year’s shot attempt differential among Paajarvi and his roster competitors and where they rank overall on the team: (leaving out Jones due to miniscule sample size)
- Paajarvi -5.65 (4/14)
- Harski -8.56 (5/14)
- Smyth -18.80 (10/14)
- Petrell -36.46 (13/14)
- Eager -36.55 (14/14)
So Paajarvi leads the parade here. None of them are above water, but 91 is almost treading water, you can see the top of 56′s head, Smyth is sinking and the other two are a mile below the water line where the sun cannot penetrate the murky depths. Now let’s look at how hard their ice time is, or at least how their average opponent is ranked. I am just going to give you their placement on the team (14 forwards who have played at least 5 games) in terms of Corsi Quality of Competition. This is the aggregate BTN (behindthenet.ca) ranking of the players who were on the ice against them during every shot attempt, for and against.
- Paajarvi – 3/14
- Eager – 6/14
- Symth – 7/14
- Petrell – 9/14
- Harski – 14/14
As I stated earlier, small samples can produce strange results, but I think we can be comfortable that Paajarvi isn’t facing bottom feeding competition.
HOW EACH PLAYER AFFECTS TEAM MATE’S SHOT ATTEMPT DIFFERENTIAL
Now lets look at how each player affects the other players on the ice. I got his info from http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/ Its a wonderful site that can give you the wowy (without/with you) break down of every player using a variety of metrics such as goals, corsi, fenwick. This year’s sample is still small and small samples can produce weird results, so I’ve also included last year as a larger sample.
Here is how 91 affected his team mates. The first number is % of shot attempts for playing with 91, 2nd is % of shot attempts for the player when they are not with 91, the last is the net difference. The players are listed from most ice time to least ice time with 91, goalies removed. I’ve only taken the top 15 from each year to keep it from getting unwieldy.
PAAJARVI IN 11/12
- BELANGER, ERIC 51.9 44.9 7
- PETRY, JEFF 54.3 49.1 5.2
- SMID, LADISLAV 53.8 47.6 6.2
- SUTTON, ANDY 50.9 48.3 2.6
- GILBERT, TOM 61.8 46.8 15
- GAGNER, SAM 48.1 49.7 -1.6
- POTTER, COREY 43.7 48.5 -4.8
- HORCOFF, SHAWN 49.7 47.7 2
- LANDER, ANTON 51.9 39.9 12
- PECKHAM, THEO 43.3 46.4 -3.1
- HEMSKY, ALES 53.3 51 2.3
- WHITNEY, RYAN 55.9 43.1 12.8
- JONES, RYAN 54.7 46.2 8.5
- BARKER, CAM 43.1 42.4 0.7
- SMYTH, RYAN 39.5 47.4 -7.9
So 11/15 players got a better percentage of shot attempts when playing with 91 compared to playing without him in 11/12
PAAJARVI IN 12/13
- PETRY, JEFF 38 46.1 -8.1
- HARTIKAINEN, 51.4 45.3 6.1
- SMID, LADISLAV 38.6 47.3 -8.7
- BELANGER, ERIC 42.5 41.5 1
- SCHULTZ, JUSTIN 51.4 45.2 6.2
- SCHULTZ, NICK 57.4 44.9 12.5
- FISTRIC, MARK 46.7 44.2 2.5
- POTTER, COREY 54.5 40.3 14.2
- GAGNER, SAM 42.5 40.5 2
- VANDEVELDE, CHRIS 56.1 27 29.1
- SMYTH, RYAN 45.5 43.5 2
- WHITNEY, RYAN 36.6 43.8 -7.2
- HEMSKY, ALES 43.5 41.1 2.4
- EAGER, BEN 40.7 36.7 4
- PETRELL, LENNART 38.9 35.9 3
This year 12/15 players get a better percentage of shot attempts when playing with 91 compared to playing without him.
Let’s do the same for Harski, Smyth, Eager, Jones and Petrell.
- GAGNER, SAM 44.1 50.2 -6.1
- HEMSKY, ALES 44.2 52 -7.8
- PETRY, JEFF 45.9 50 -4.1
- WHITNEY, RYAN 42.7 44.5 -1.8
- SMID, LADISLAV 43.3 48.4 -5.1
- POTTER, COREY 45.2 48.2 -3
- EBERLE, JORDAN 43.9 48.7 -4.8
- SCHULTZ, NICK 44.8 42.7 2.1
- SUTTON, ANDY 47.6 48.7 -1.1
- NUGENT-HOPKINS 49.4 48.8 0.6
- PECKHAM, THEO 38.3 46.4 -8.1
- HORCOFF, SHAWN 46.7 47.9 -1.2
- TEUBERT, COLTEN 41.2 48.3 -7.1
- BELANGER, ERIC 32.4 47 -14.6
- GREEN, JOSH 48.1 53.3 -5.2
2/15 were better with the rookie Harski in 11/12
- PAAJARVI, MAGNUS 51.4 42.9 8.5
- SCHULTZ, JUSTIN 41 47 -6
- PETRY, JEFF 56.9 42.8 14.1
- SMID, LADISLAV 50 45.7 4.3
- SCHULTZ, NICK 49.3 46.2 3.1
- WHITNEY, RYAN 41 43.2 -2.2
- BELANGER, ERIC 50 39.4 10.6
- GAGNER, SAM 38.9 41 -2.1
- POTTER, COREY 48.5 41.4 7.1
- FISTRIC, MARK 50 43.8 6.2
- HEMSKY, ALES 44.7 40.7 4
- SMYTH, RYAN 47.7 43 4.7
- LANDER, ANTON 50 50 0
- NUGENT-HOPKINS 53.8 51.7 2.1
- HORCOFF, SHAWN 53.8 42.9 10.9
Harski is really picking it up this year with 12/15 doing better.
(including Jones’ 11/12 only due to miniscule sample from this year)
- HORCOFF, SHAWN 47.6 48 -0.4
- SMID, LADISLAV 44 49.7 -5.7
- BELANGER, ERIC 48.2 45.4 2.8
- PETRY, JEFF 46.9 50.8 -3.9
- SMYTH, RYAN 49.4 46.1 3.3
- WHITNEY, RYAN 42.6 45 -2.4
- POTTER, COREY 49.6 47.6 2
- GILBERT, TOM 46.1 48.6 -2.5
- GAGNER, SAM 47.1 50 -2.9
- PECKHAM, THEO 51.1 44.4 6.7
- SUTTON, ANDY 51 48.1 2.9
- NUGENT-HOPKINS 45.2 49.5 -4.3
- EAGER, BEN 43.9 42.8 1.1
- EBERLE, JORDAN 48.3 48.5 -0.2
- LANDER, ANTON 43.6 41.7 1.9
7/15 were better with Jones last year
- LANDER, ANTON 40.5 43.2 -2.7
- PETRELL, LENNART 38.4 38.9 -0.5
- SMID, LADISLAV 48 48.2 -0.2
- PETRY, JEFF 48 49.9 -1.9
- BELANGER, ERIC 45.6 46.9 -1.3
- POTTER, COREY 44.4 48.6 -4.2
- SUTTON, ANDY 42.7 49.7 -7
- WHITNEY, RYAN 37.4 45.4 -8
- PECKHAM, THEO 43.5 46.5 -3
- JONES, RYAN 43.9 47.2 -3.3
- GILBERT, TOM 40.4 49 -8.6
- HORCOFF, SHAWN 40.5 48.5 -8
- HORDICHUK, DARCY 44.9 39.5 5.4
- TEUBERT, COLTEN 43.2 48.8 -5.6
- PAAJARVI, MAGNUS 47.1 51.6 -4.5
1/15. Only Mr. Hordichuck is better with Eager
- BELANGER, ERIC 39.8 42.8 -3
- PETRY, JEFF 27.4 47.7 -20.3
- SMID, LADISLAV 36.5 47.8 -11.3
- SMYTH, RYAN 44.2 43.6 0.6
- PETRELL, LENNART 27.8 39.2 -11.4
- SCHULTZ, NICK 45.3 46.8 -1.5
- SCHULTZ, JUSTIN 57.8 45 12.8
- FISTRIC, MARK 27.9 47.6 -19.7
- VANDEVELDE, CHRIS 35.9 48.7 -12.8
- POTTER, COREY 32.1 44 -11.9
- JONES, RYAN 44.8 29.6 15.2
- PAAJARVI, MAGNUS 40.7 46.8 -6.1
- WHITNEY, RYAN 37.5 43.2 -5.7
- GAGNER, SAM 28.6 41.1 -12.5
- YAKUPOV, NAIL 30 43.7 -13.7
3/15 this year. Everyone is saying he looks better this year. This is evidence of it.
- LANDER, ANTON 36.3 46.5 -10.2
- EAGER, BEN 38.4 45.1 -6.7
- SMID, LADISLAV 44 48.6 -4.6
- PETRY, JEFF 49 49.8 -0.8
- WHITNEY, RYAN 31.7 46.5 -14.8
- POTTER, COREY 40.7 49 -8.3
- BELANGER, ERIC 44.4 47 -2.6
- SUTTON, ANDY 42.1 49.7 -7.6
- GILBERT, TOM 31.9 49.6 -17.7
- HORCOFF, SHAWN 38.1 48.8 -10.7
- SMYTH, RYAN 39.6 47.6 -8
- PECKHAM, THEO 37.4 47 -9.6
- BARKER, CAM 36.8 43.9 -7.1
- HORDICHUK, DARCY 40.5 41.7 -1.2
- SCHULTZ, NICK 27.1 43.4 -16.3
No one is better with Petrell in his rookie year. Many fall off a cliff. A couple fall off the end of the earth.
- SMYTH, RYAN 44.7 43.2 1.5
- SMID, LADISLAV 33.8 48.5 -14.7
- BELANGER, ERIC 34.9 44.6 -9.7
- PETRY, JEFF 33.3 46.3 -13
- SCHULTZ, JUSTIN 34.2 48 -13.8
- SCHULTZ, NICK 33.3 48.8 -15.5
- POTTER, COREY 41.2 42.9 -1.7
- EAGER, BEN 27.8 42 -14.2
- WHITNEY, RYAN 43.5 42.5 1
- HORCOFF, SHAWN 42.9 47.5 -4.6
- FISTRIC, MARK 36.4 45.7 -9.3
- VANDEVELDE, CHRIS 24.1 53.1 -29
- PAAJARVI, MAGNUS 38.9 46.7 -7.8
- HARTIKAINEN, 41.2 47.9 -6.7
- YAKUPOV, NAIL 13.6 45.5 -31.9
2/15. Not much else to say.
PAAJARVI ON THE PK
If you are going to be a key cog on the 3rd line, you must be a good Pker. Here is every Oiler Forward this year who has played at least 5 games and more than 1min/60 on the PK. The number next to their name represents the shots against per 60 on the PK.
- VANDEVELDE 11.4
- GAGNER 34.7
- PAAJARVI 35
- HORCOFF 36.5
- SMYTH 47.4
- PETRELL 53
- BELANGER 57.2
I think we can all agree that limiting the number of shots against is the primary duty of the PK forward. I use shots against and not goals against because goals against rely heavily on the on-ice save percentage of a player, and that can vary wildly for a player from year to year and is not a repeatable skill, its luck. However, in my opinion, shots can be influenced significantly by a player. 91 is better at this than all of him competitors for the roster spot other than Jones (microscopic sample, thought I’d leave it in though). Eager doesn’t PK.
PAAJARVI AT EVEN STRENGTH
We looked at 4v5 shots against per 60 minutes of ice time above, we should look at the same for even strength play to gauge Paajarvi’s results there. Here are all the Oilers who have played at least 5 games and their shots against per 60 minutes of ice time.
- PAAJARVI 24.8
- VANDEVELDE 25.9
- HORCOFF 26
- EBERLE 26.7
- HARTIKAINEN 27.5
- HALL 28.2
- RNH 29.2
- YAKUPOV 29.9
- SMYTH 30.7
- HEMSKY 31
- GAGNER 31.4
- PETRELL 32.4
- BELANGER 35
- EAGER 35.4
Not only does Paajarvi put his roster competitors in the shade, but he leads the whole team. Impressive.
(NOTE: On many teams the 4th liners look good on SAON/60 and GAON/60 because they usually play only other 4th liners and the puck is often an after thought or hacked square. Paajarvi has certainly played some 4th line minutes, but the other players he is competing for a roster spot against have as well)
- “HE’S SOFT”: The biggest complaint about Paajarvi from the media is he’s “soft”. He gets pushed off the puck and doesn’t win puck battles. While he is not a guy who will knock your block off, he is learning to use his size to his advantage. Let’s remember that he’s only 21 years old (turns 22 in April) this guy has a long road ahead of him and some old man strength coming. At 6’3” 210lbs he has the physical tools to be more assertive physically, and I see him starting to do that. Let’s also remember that the main reason you hit someone is to remove them from the puck. Its to gain puck possession, and Paajarvi has shown he’s a good puck possession player.
- HE ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH: I like Jason Gregor as a sports reporter, I think he’s the best in town now that Barnes is off the sports beat, and he seems to be a pretty good person too. His commitments to amateur sports and charities is very commendable. I think he is open minded to many things including fancy stats in hockey and always willing to listen. I don’t want to pound on him here as I’ve used two of his tweets as evidence of what the local media thinks about Paajarvi, but they are very indicative of the thoughts out there. Jason Gregor @JasonGregor @Woodguy55 Shots for not a major issue. They are 15th in league. Shots against killing them. He doesn’t play enough to impact that. As I’ve shown above, he is very good at limiting shots against, best on the team 5v5. With more ice time, he can make a bigger difference. He is currently 11th on the Oilers in 5v5 TOI/gm, that needs to increase.
- HE DOESN’T SCORE: I agree with this criticism, he’s been rotten offensively. His SH% last year was a ridiculous 2.5%. He fell into the Belanger Triangle that existed last year and didn’t come out. His most common forward linemate last year was Belanger at 202minutes, next was Gagner with 99:19min.This year its hovering around 8.7%. He shot 8.3% in his rookie year when he went 80gp 15g 19a 34pts. The tools are there, he’s only 135 games into his NHL career, too early to tell how much offence he’ll really bring.
Magnus Paajarvi is competing with Smyth, Jones, Eager, Petrell, and Hartikainen for a roster spot. Compared to his roster competitors Paajarvi:
- Is superior at shot attempt differential (4th on the team)
- Plays superior opponents
- Has the most positive influence on the shot attempt differential of his line mates (one of the best on the Oilers actually)
- Allows less shots on the PK per minute played (2nd best on the team)
- Allows the least amount of shots against on the whole team, let alone his roster competitors
With all that evidence of his effectiveness, there is no question he belongs on the Oilers and deserves ice time ahead of most, if not all of the roster competitors I identified here. He may not be a top 6 player, but he is showing he has the makings of a very good 3rd liner. Many high quality 3rd line players in the NHL are former first round draft picks who scored in the lower levels of hockey, but didn’t have the elite offensive talent to be a scorer in the NHL. Notable former Oilers who fall into this category include Moreau, Reasoner. Mike Peca and Jarrett Stoll were high 2nd round picks. We may feel like Paajarvi is a failed top 10 draft pick if he doesn’t become a top 6 forward, but that isn’t true. He can be a key part of this team as it grows. We need to appreciate players for what they are, not what they aren’t, and Paajarvi’s skill set is suited to playing against good players and keeping them off the score sheet.
Magnus Paajarvi needs to get out of the press box and I have ideas on why the coach is scratching him, but that’s for another post, this one is long enough.