Gus Katsaros

Hockey Analytics

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Scratching Sergachev & On Luck

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


The surprising Lightning rookie was listed as a healthy scratch on Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators, with coaching staff noticing the stretch of midseason struggles for the press box seat. With 27 points in 47 games, he’s listed 18th overall among defenseman, he’s produced only one assist in last six games (6-0-1-1), pairing primarily with Anton Stralman (52.6 CF% & 63.6 GF%, 9.09 OIsh%).

 

His play has drawn a heavy comparison of value to the price of acquisition (Jonathan Drouin) and how he’s flourished while Drouin has struggled this season to adapt to playing as a pivot in Montreal. It’s an unfair comparison for a defenseman and a center, but the optics have suggested how important the rookie has become to the Bolts blueline.

 

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For background, we can take a focus on the rolling 10-game average to verify the struggle to produce at the same individual efforts as at the beginning of the season - especially at 5v5. In fairness, the start was hot and induced by exceptional overall play by the Bolts, led by Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

 

Peak production was around New Years, and he’s been producing declining individual shot attempts, while receiving a significant bump in ice time, coinciding with the loss of Victor Hedman for a period of time. With the decay in shot attempts, there’s a distinct drop in scoring chances and high danger scoring chances (a metric I wouldn’t expect to be very high due to the nature of his position and responsibility at the top of the zone at even strength). The chart below depicting the rolling 10-game average provides a visual to support.

 

View post on imgur.com

 

The bump in time on ice followed a big dip in on-ice shooting percentage – the level of success the team has scoring goals with the prized rookie on the ice. Clearly unsustainable, the peak shooting percentage with the Lightning firing a season 13.9% with Sergachev on the ice – even if he didn’t directly contribute to the scoring. There’s a dip in the shot attempts (the bar graph below).

 

So, while the Lightning are scoring at season averages with Sergachev on the ice as measured by the on-ice shooting percentage, there is very little here to distinctly point the finger at the former 2016 1st round pick (9th overall) and say, it’s time for him to sit. First year blueliners face an inordinate amount of challenges and positive and negative experiences. This scratch can be a learning moment.

 

Clearly, this is a coaching decision based on some recent performance, including a two penalty effort last game that caught the ire of the bench boss.

 

View post on imgur.com

 

That’s all at even strength. At 5v4, he’s received a slight bump in ice time and has responded positively. He’s doubled his individual shot attempts despite a lack of significant increase in scoring chances. He’s directing more pucks to the net and rewarded only with one assist. The chart below is a measure of rolling raw statistics, and not affected by increases in time on ice that skews per-60 production (scoring at similar rates, but playing more will have an effect of decreased per-60 rates.)

 

View post on imgur.com

 

This is the first scratch of the season for the rookie. For a player that was expected to perhaps make the roster, play out the 10-game grace period before being returned to Junior, despite this learning experience, the season has been wildly successful.

 

On Luck

 

Luck.

 

A subject often cited but rarely accounted for what it statistically represents. I can wax poetic about this subject for a far greater length than this blog post but instead, I’m going to direct you to a wonderful back and forth of idea sharing between two very smart hockey analysts.

 

The Athletic’s Justin Bourne and Kent Wilson discussed luck in a rather interesting piece. They bounced ideas about the effect of circumstance and opportunity in relation to the perception of player performance.

 

A highly recommended read for those interested in some inside knowledge (Bourne was the video coach for the Toronto Marlies for two seasons before joining on with the Athletic this past autumn).

 

 

On a personal note, at its most basic level, I find that the concept of luck is sometimes misconstrued. The vision of rabbit’s foot and four-leaf clover dominates the mindset, less than the weight attributed to randomness. Some of the talking points outlined in the Bourne/Wilson piece address this ideological phenomenon with a bit more nuance and a bunch of practical examples. A player’s natural talent – still a problem to distinctly decipher solely by statistical analysis – makes up a percentage of player performance, while opportunity (increased time on ice, better linemates, etc.) has additional effects.

 

When explaining ‘luck’ I defer to the random non-repeatable events that influence sustainable and continued success. These events impart inflationary (or deflationary) performance and can be measurable via statistics and analyzed progressively. Statistics like PDO, expected goals and Corsi over a larger sample, in conjunction with career shooting percentage for skaters (save percentage) for goaltenders will be influenced by the coaching effect – structure, not systems – and by random and one-off events.

 

Luck is something you’ll often hear about in analysis. Sometimes it’s a crutch catch-all lacking the nuance required for deeper scrutiny. Other times it’s the result of failed analysis and used to prop up an unfulfilled element that isn’t easy decipherable.

 

Regardless, it’s a non-tangible element that can easily be misinterpreted. The Bourne/Wilson article sheds some interesting light on the overall concept.



Gus Katsaros is the Pro Scouting Coordinator with McKeen’s Hockey, publishers of industry leading scouting and fantasy guide, the McKeen’s Annual Hockey Pool Yearbook. He also contributes to popular blog MapleLeafsHotStove.com ... he can be followed on Twitter @KatsHockey
Email :Gus Katsaros



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