Every week during the regular season, I would review the Carolina Hurricanes performance during said week and one of the first things I looked at was how certain players were being used. I did this by utilizing an "OZ QoC Chart" which plotted a player's offensive zone start percentage against his corsi relative to quality of competition number. Players who were used in the toughest situations were found in the upper left part of the graph while players being used in easier situations were in the lower right part of the graph. This was a very helpful tool for my analysis and it was interesting to see how player usage changed throughout the season.
The creator of OZQOC Charts, Rob Vollman, has been working hard all season to improve these charts and make them more friendly to those new to advanced hockey statistics. One way he did that was renaming them as "Player Usage Charts" and adding a couple other tweaks, as well. The biggest addition are the bubbles which represent a player's corsi relative. A blue bubble indicates a positive corsi relative and a white bubble indicates a negative corsi relative rating. The larger the bubble is, the greater their corsi relative numbers were. This helps us show how effective a player was at pushing the puck forward and creating offense.
I have used versions of this chart in the past, but the modifications that Vollman has made to them have made them much easier to read and it's much easier to identify certain holes that a team may have. If you are unsure where to start with advanced statistics and are interested in learning about them, Player Usage Charts are a great first step. They are very compatible and aren't too difficult to figure out. The best part of it is that they are available for no cost, all you have to do is download this pdf and spend a good hour or so looking over them. The pdf linked features analysis from Vollman and dozens of other hockey bloggers, including myself, who interpret the charts for their respective teams and a lot more.
After the jump, we're going to take a look at the Hurricanes' chart, go over what I said in the feature and do some further analysis.
Hurricanes Player Usage Chart
Here's what I said in the feature:
For the Hurricanes, Brandon Sutter, Patrick Dwyer, Tim Gleason, Bryan Allen and Andreas Nodl handle most of the heavy lifting while the easier minutes go to Jussi Jokinen, Tuomo Ruutu & Jeff Skinner. You can see this strategy is working out as those three have been able to drive the play forward and have been one of the Canes best scoring lines for most of the year. This line hasn’t been sheltered nearly as much as the team’s fourth liners, though (most namely Tim Brent & Anthony Stewart) as they get easy minutes whenever they get a chance to play. Both of those two are under water territorially despite being sheltered.
Eric Staal’s line also plays tough minutes but they are secondary compared to what the Sutter line had to deal with. LaRose & Tlusty’s usage are a product of playing with Staal, so it’s not a huge surprise to see that Tlusty wasn’t sheltered despite being more known for his offense.
How Justin Faulk was used was pretty interesting. At only 19 years old, one would think that a young blue liner like him would need protection, but that wasn’t the case. He got slightly easier zone starts but was regularly used against other team’s top-six’s with Jay Harrison. Compare that to Jamie McBain’s usage and you can see that Faulk is way ahead of the game at such a young age.
Those who have followed the team this year shouldn't be surprised by too much of this. How good Alexei Ponikarovsky was at driving the play forward could be news to some people, though. He's been doing that for years but his low scoring numbers have some believing that he is done. You can also see that Chad LaRose was one of the few tough-minute players who was able to get the puck moving in the right direction. That is why he was used on the top line for a part of the season and why he will probably be in a top-nine role to start next year. Tlusty's poor possession numbers also back up some of the concerns I have about him being able to repeat the season he just had.
This graph also shows how difficult it will be to replace Bryan Allen. He had a negative corsi relative rating, but he still played some of the toughest minutes on the team and someone is going to have to step into those shoes. Are the Canes going to fill this void through free agency, within the organization or just re-sign Allen for another couple years. Allen's play got worse as the season, is kind of one-dimensional and probably shouldn't get a long-term deal for Carolina but replacing him next year is going to be tough. Gleason might be able to hold the fort down but he's going to need some help. You have to wonder if we have another defensemen who can play those minutes. We could promote from within but I don't think sending Ryan Murphy or Brian Dumoulin into the wolves in their rookie season is a good idea. I'm interested to see in how this situation plays out. Personally, I think giving Allen a one-two year deal would be the safe bet but who knows if he wants that?
Overall, I think Carolina has the right idea with how they are deploying their forwards, but they need some better guys in their top-six. This dead horse has been beaten countless times, but the chart shows just how much of an advantage Sutter, Dwyer & Nodl give Carolina's top-six players. You have to wonder how much better this team would be if they had another goal-scoring winger who could take advantage of these softer minutes. It's clear that Rutherford knows this and it is why he made acquiring a top-line forward the main priority this off-season. Unfortunately, signing a top-line forward is goign to be a difficult task this off-season.