Advanced Metrics: Zone Shift Masters

Bruce Bennett

A deeper look at zone starts.

We track Zone Starts on behindthenet.ca, and the impact they have on a player's stats seems to have registered with the media and some portion of the general public. But what to make of Zone Finishes? Here is individual season zone finish % plotted against zone start %:

Zs_zf_medium

I've averaged over 25 players for each data point because the individual data just generates a large blob. The relationship doesn't appear to be exactly linear, with zone finish % flattening out at both the low end and the high end. But shouldn't it? If a player is particularly suited to going out in defensive situations and getting the puck out of the zone, then you'd expect him to get the puck out of the zone at a higher rate than those who get fewer defensive opportunities, rather than hemorrhaging chances.

So what's the right way to look at this? Let's look at how often a player taking a defensive zone draw ends up finishing in the defensive zone: a player who takes 100% defensive zone draws should expect to finish in the defensive zone 53.9% of the time. Using that model, let's see who our most-efficient zone shifters are, minimum 2000 zone starts:

Player Ostart% Ofinish% Exp. Shift Act. Shift Delta Delta/FO
MANNY MALHOTRA 32.6 47.7 -544 -148 396 8.7
DAVE BOLLAND 39.9 49.6 -231 -23 208 5.8
SIDNEY CROSBY 54.0 54.9 108 335 227 5.5
RYAN MCDONAGH 44.7 51.1 -78 38 116 5.2
JERRED SMITHSON 35.0 45.7 -498 -262 236 5.1
JOE PAVELSKI 48.7 52.5 -44 193 237 5.1
BLAIR BETTS 40.0 49.1 -140 -29 111 5.0
MARC SAVARD 45.5 51.0 -93 48 141 4.8
MIKE WEAVER 42.2 49.8 -229 -16 213 4.7
MARCEL GOC 42.0 49.5 -171 -28 143 4.4
PAVEL DATSYUK 52.5 53.5 79 282 203 4.2
ANDREW LADD 51.6 53.1 50 249 199 4.1
DAVID BACKES 47.2 51.3 -93 111 204 4.1
KEITH TKACHUK 46.0 51.0 -74 40 114 4.0
HENRIK ZETTERBERG 51.7 52.8 56 263 207 4.0
TYLER MYERS 51.3 52.9 29 161 132 4.0
P.K. SUBBAN 47.6 51.4 -39 60 99 3.9
ALEXANDER OVECHKIN 55.3 53.8 186 394 208 3.9
MAX PACIORETTY 49.6 52.2 -6 91 97 3.9
ANDREW ALBERTS 45.7 50.5 -87 32 119 3.8
PATRICK MARLEAU 52.1 53.0 75 270 195 3.7
PAUL STASTNY 49.7 52.2 -12 176 188 3.7
MATT COOKE 47.0 51.1 -78 73 151 3.7
JOE THORNTON 52.4 53.3 95 304 209 3.6
ZACH PARISE 55.4 54.1 146 298 152 3.6

Not an unexpected top 25, I believe. There are a handful of players who are being dragged around by superior teammates, but for the most part, these are talented defensive players. One weird thing you'll notice is that Crosby, Datsyuk and Zetterberg have very positive zone shift numbers despite only having a small difference in their zone start and zone finish percentages. This is a flaw in our methodology - some players end up with significantly more finishes in the end zones than starts. Clearly we need to include neutral zone starts in some way, though we'd then fail to capture players who go on the ice after their team goes offside as opposed to when the other team goes offside. I'm still making a valid point here about who has put up the best numbers in this respect, but the model needs to be tweaked.

How about the other end of the spectrum?

Player Ostart% Ofinish% Exp. Shift Act. Shift Delta Delta/FO
MARC-ANDRE BERGERON 62.4 48.4 254 -77 -331 -11.6
DERICK BRASSARD 58.9 49.4 155 -33 -188 -7.1
JARED BOLL 51.2 46.6 16 -132 -148 -7.0
KRIS RUSSELL 60.7 50.3 248 19 -229 -6.6
BEN EAGER 57.2 49.1 100 -35 -135 -6.3
MICHAEL RUPP 52.5 47.8 39 -92 -131 -5.5
LUKAS KRAJICEK 49.4 46.8 -8 -115 -107 -5.2
RUSLAN SALEI 51.6 48.2 36 -114 -150 -4.5
ERIC BOULTON 47.2 46.5 -39 -134 -95 -4.5
JACK JOHNSON 49.8 47.3 -9 -247 -238 -4.5
PATRICK EAVES 52.0 48.3 29 -66 -95 -4.4
DANIEL BRIERE 55.5 49.7 152 -21 -173 -4.2
PIERRE PARENTEAU 56.1 50.0 101 1 -100 -4.1
STEVE SULLIVAN 59.4 51.2 186 63 -123 -4.1
ARRON ASHAM 52.7 48.6 45 -60 -105 -4.1
MASON RAYMOND 54.3 49.4 96 -35 -131 -3.9
ED JOVANOVSKI 54.5 49.5 162 -44 -206 -3.9
ANDREAS LILJA 54.6 49.5 89 -26 -115 -3.8
KURTIS FOSTER 55.6 50.1 120 5 -115 -3.7
CODY MCLEOD 47.4 47.3 -41 -134 -93 -3.6
ERIK CHRISTENSEN 50.0 47.8 1 -103 -104 -3.6
SHELDON BROOKBANK 54.0 49.4 73 -29 -102 -3.6
JOHN TAVARES 57.2 50.8 160 45 -115 -3.6
ERIK KARLSSON 57.5 50.9 178 55 -123 -3.5
STEVE EMINGER 50.6 48.3 12 -95 -107 -3.3

Is there anyone here who has a fantastic defensive reputation? I am in no way surprised that MAB finished dead last among regulars in the league. At some point I'll fine tune the methodology here, but at least we can make some use of zone finishes for the time being.

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