Monday, April 2, 2012

Offensive Zone Faceoffs: What they're worth and who should taken them

Last week, I wrote about the importance of defensive zone faceoffs and which players on the Wings are most valuable in this department. This week, we'll look at what an offensive zone faceoff really means and which players on the Wings are most adept at the o-zone draw.

The impetus for this post comes from an article by Gabriel Desjardins about the dangers of defensive zone faceoffs. I highly recommend reading it. What I culled from the article is summarized here:

If you didn't read the article listed above (and really, you should) you need to know that average opponent shot rate increases to about that of a 5-on-3 powerplay during the first few seconds after a lost defensive zone draw. That means a defensive zone faceoff specialist, or at least someone halfway decent at d-zone draws, plays a critical role in reducing shots faced. 
We can see why offensive zone faceoffs matter too by taking that logic of defensive zone faceoffs and flipping it on its head. If a defensive zone specialist plays a critical role in reducing shots faced, then an offensive zone specialist should play a critical role in increasing shots for. First we'll take a look at offensive zone faceoff totals and the players that have been on the ice for them.

Defensemen are naturally going to show up the most because they typically take longer shifts and play more minutes. The chart above gives an idea of what numbers to put the most stock in on the chart below. While Emmerton is included on the graph, I would caution that the sample size is too low for his numbers to hold true over time.
Two things immediately stick out. The first is Pavel Datsyuk's dominance in the circle, and the second is Valtteri Filppula's low winning percentage.

Datsyuk's success isn't much of a surprise, but it does lend credence to his reputation as one of the best two way players in the world. Filppula's winning percentage is far and away the lowest of the centers or wingers who have been on the ice for over 300 draws. The numbers here only tell us so much, however, as I wasn't able to find actual offensive zone faceoffs won or lost. Instead, the numbers represent every faceoff the player has been on the ice for, whether he was taking the faceoff or just on ice during it. Filppula moving to the wing means that he's taken far less faceoffs than past season, but this doens't explain everything. His winning percentage is 10% higher in the defensive zone, which is surprising for a player whose offensive numbers have exploded this season but whose defense is seldom mentioned.

The same conclusion drawn from the analysis of defensive zone faceoffs can be drawn here. Datsyuk and Zetterberg live up the their reputation as superstars, and there's a dropoff after them. If there's an offensive zone faceoff you want Hank or Pav to take it, as they give you the best chance to create the 5-on-3 like increase in shots.

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