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Angry At Numbers: Saad Appreciation Society

We’re into our silly bits of trivia around here. One of McClure’s favorites is that David Krejci is the only player to lead the league in playoff scoring twice and not win a Conn Smythe (went to Thomas in ’11, and hilariously and wrongly to Kane in ’13). Brandon Saad might get his own one day, though this one is more subjective. It’s quite possible that Saad will be on the losing end of two trades involving the same team! If Anton Forsberg had worked out, maybe the first Saad trade would have been considered a wash. Artem Anisimov is never going to win my heart over, though. And at the time we thought Panarin was just a Kane-byproduct.

Clearly, Saad is not going to live up to that half of that trade. And perhaps it was just another example of Stan Bowman trying to stick it to Joel Quenneville. We won’t know until the tell-all comes out right about the time we find out who killed Kennedy.

Saad’s season was infuriating in some ways, not least of which was a 7.4 SH% that kind of nullified the excellent work he and Toews were doing. Both have seen a market correction in that department this year, with Saad already past last season’s 18 goals.

But I want to point out the near-dominant work that Saad has put up since the new year, where he’s found a home with David Kampf on the third line, and now Marcus Kruger.

54.9, 52.6, 51.0

+11.8, +11.9, +15.7

The first set of numbers is Saad’s Corsi, scoring chance percentage, and high-danger scoring chance percentage. On their own, you’d say they were ok to good, maybe a touch better. The next three numbers are what they are relative to the team-rate, which is some of the best numbers around. Saad’s relative-Corsi since the new year is fifth in the entire league (Panarin is first, dishearteningly), the scoring chance number relative is 11th, and the high-danger one 23rd. That’s forwards and d-men.

Saad is just not going to be a top-line, Hossa-Jr., atomic-leg-dropping-the-world winger that we all thought he could, and perhaps should be. However, just because he’s on the third-line now doesn’t mean he’s a third-liner either, though bum-slaying seems to have connected with him nicely. If he had demonstrated in the past he would take to the right side, and I think it’s still worth another try, you could swap him and Kahun and I’m fairly sure he, Top Cat, and Strome would do some things that would make you chuckle. But for now, we’ll take this.

50.9, 44.9

And again, we’re studying a trade from the summer of 2017. The first number is Niklas Hjalmarsson’s Corsi, and the second is Connor Murphy’s. You can hear Joel Quenneville cackling with delight, if he read us and cared about metrics. The image of that though makes me smile.

As we’ve stated in the past, Murphy and Hammer are getting some of the most dungeon shifts in the league. They rank fourth and fifth from the bottom in terms of offensive-zone starts. Basically, they never start anywhere but their own end. And when looking at relative numbers, Murphy’s -1.12 Corsi-relative and -0.54 xGF% are actually some of the best among d-men who are also chained to the radiator. It’s just that Hjalmarsson is having a unicorn season, where his relatives are +2.52 and +6.7. So fuck him.

This is where you’d point out that partnering with Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a different animal than partnering with Carl Dahlstrom or Slater Koekkoek. And you’d be right. Hjalmarsson’s numbers do drop a bit without OEL, though not off a cliff.

It’s going to be a debate next year when, at the very least hopefully, Jokiharju and Boqvist are here. You won’t really realize all Murphy can be, or at least see what that is, until you give him a partner that can get the play up the ice that he can play free safety for. Those two are supposed to be that. But neither of those two kids should be given such horrific zone starts. Guess we’ll worry about it next year.

-4.59, -4.24, -7.58

That’s the difference in Jonathan Toews’s relative marks in Corsi, scoring chances, and high danger chances from last year to this. While Toews is having an offensive renaissance, and yes he plays on a woeful defensive team, it does seem to have come at a cost to his defensive game. Which, hey, when he’s shooting 17% you can live with it. He’s no longer the possession-dominant player he once was, even last year.

But the process…it just isn’t as good. Last year, Toews was getting more attempts, shots, and chances than he is this year. He’s just burying them far more often this season, as his SH% at evens is almost double what it was last year (8.7 to 16.1 this year). And of course he’s getting far more power play points, as he racked up just two power play goals and 12 power play points last term and already has five and 16 this year.

It would behoove the Hawks to start viewing Toews as a really good #2 center, and to try and figure out how to get a #1 ahead of him. Or hey, maybe you get a third #2 and just roll with the three along with Strome. It also appears that Toews has to decide which half of the game he’s going to pay attention to, because he probably can’t do it all anymore.

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