Compare and contrast: Penner & Staios

Jonathan Willis
November 13 2008 09:12AM

The Oilers have been a very interesting team to watch this year, without question. The goaltending carousel has taken an interesting twist, with incumbent Mathieu Garon falling behind Dwayne Roloson early, and then Jeff Deslauriers taking his chance and running with it. The defence has been surprisingly good, with the Souray-Visnovsky pairing looking very effective (and even worth their money) and Gilbert-Grebeshkov rounding into form. A slow start for the Kid Line has had different results for each, with Cogliano and Nilsson seeing reductions in role and ice-time, and Sam Gagner playing with Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner. Cole has looked like a quality player, and MacTavish has finally given up on Fernando Pisani as a centre.

Vic Ferrari over at Irreverent Oiler Fans has a brilliant post up about a new modification to his statistical tool, timeonice.com. It allows anybody to look at combinations of players and see how they’ve done while on the ice together. Ferrari focuses in on Horcoff and Visnovsky, who have outplayed the opposition by a wide margin this season, and it got me to looking at other players. The two players I keyed in on were Penner and Staios, who I have been watching closely this season anyway. The reason I keyed in on them is because they have the best on-ice team shooting percentage of Oilers players.

Penner, to my eye, has been a reliable player all over the ice, despite his biggest limitation (foot speed), but hasn’t been terribly effective at scoring. Penner’s official stats line would seem to bear that out (15GP-3G-1A-4PTS, +6), but his scoring decline isn’t really a decline at all. The difference is his distribution of ice-time. Last season, Penner scored at an even-strength rate of 1.34 PTS/60. This year, it’s 1.40 PTS/60. Last year, Penner scored 25 of his 47 points at even-strength, with the rest coming on the power play. This season, Penner has all four of his points at even-strength; he’s on pace for 22 points with reduced ice-time.

Ferrari’s tool tells me much the same; although Penner has been lucky, with a .951 SV % behind him, and a 10.8 team shooting percentage when he’s on the ice, his Corsi number (+24) indicates that the team has been spending a bunch of time in the offensive zone when he’s on the ice. Given the match-ups I’ve been posting so far this season (where Penner has seen some difficult minutes), that’s a really good number.

Ferrari’s other interesting stat (which he’s named ZoneShift) measures where a player starts and ends on the ice; a player who starts in the offensive zone five times more than in the defensive zone, and ends in the defensive zone five times more than in the offensive zone would be -10. It’s a good way of showing whether players are helping the team create scoring chances for themselves or for the opposition. By this Measure, Penner is -8, starting in the offensive zone 25 more times, and ending their 17 more times. Not a dominant performance, but really not bad either.

Steve Staios, on the other hand, has had the wheels fall off. He hasn’t looked bad, and his stats line (13GP-1G-1A-2PTS, +3) looks good too, but if we consider the context, we realize those numbers should be much worse. The shooting percentage with Staios on the ice is the best on the team (11.4 per cent), and unless we want to credit Staios’ incredible play-making ability as the cause of that, we know it’s only going to go downhill. The save percentage behind Staios (.955) is also incredibly good and unsustainable. Staios has been playing against third-pairing opposition with Jason Strudwick, leaving the toughest assignments to the top two pairings. His Corsi number is an ugly -46; the team has been heavily out-shot with Staios on the ice. On top of that, Staios has been starting most of the time in the offensive zone (11 more offensive zone than defensive zone draws) and finishing in his own zone (13 more defensive zone draws). The puck is moving in the wrong direction when Staios is on the ice, and the team has been getting outshot, all while Staios draws lower quality opposition. Given that he’s signed for another three years at a rather hefty price (2.7 million per season), this is a very worrying trend.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Ales in Chains
November 13 2008, 09:58AM
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*&+^#*&%*%(*^*^$&$*&^????????????????? What just happened? I think I blacked-out while trying to understand and analyze what I just read. If trying to comprehend that gives me a stroke I'll be none to pleased at OilersNation, provided I remember what happened. Stick to funny pictures and witty comments. My feeble, little mind cannot handle anything else.

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#2 oilman
November 13 2008, 10:32AM
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Isn't it amazing that Penner has had this save percentage luck follow him around through the first 15 games and three different goalies!

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#3 The Towel Boy
November 13 2008, 10:36AM
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...wait...Penner plays net?

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#4 Clayton
November 13 2008, 10:39AM
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I am very interested in reading a more extensive rant on Jeff Deslauriers, whats your take on him? Any ideas for the near future???

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#5 namflashback
November 13 2008, 11:51AM
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Ales in chains, towel boy,

Follow along now . . .

While save percentage is clearly a goalie stat, can you explain why a goalie's save percentage when certain F and D are on the ice is better than when other F and D are? Can you agree that it might be because of better defensive play of the players around him.

Same is true of shots for and shots against. Better with some players than others.

Mix it all together, and you can see that some players are helping the team win without it showing on the scoresheet.

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#6 namflashback
November 13 2008, 11:52AM
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or players who are killing you, even though they are racking up points.

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#7 Fiveandagame
November 13 2008, 12:05PM
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Jonathan -

Didn't you and I argue early in the year that Staios was a good deal fiscally speaking? The guy has heart, but is really under sized to be handling the big power fowards. I thought that getting dropped to the lower pairing would make him more effective but as your numbers point out he's less effective.

Penner has looked great all year. Positionally strong and has been effective (defensively) on every line he's been on.

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#8 Jonathan Willis
November 13 2008, 12:41PM
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Didn’t you and I argue early in the year that Staios was a good deal fiscally speaking? The guy has heart, but is really under sized to be handling the big power fowards. I thought that getting dropped to the lower pairing would make him more effective but as your numbers point out he’s less effective.

Yeah, I was pretty bullish on Staios this summer - the dropoff from last year to this year has bothered me, even though he hasn't really been stung to badly by it yet. I'm hoping he'll come around, but unless he's playing hurt, players his age seem to go in only one direction.

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#9 The Towel Boy
November 13 2008, 01:55PM
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namflashback...are you absolutely sure Penner isn't a goalie? With a SP like that, he should be.

P.S. I'm being TOTALLY ABSOLUTELY SERIOUS.

P.S.S. That was sarcasm.

P.S.S.S. So was that.

P.S.S.S.S. That wasn't.

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#10 Fiveandagame
November 13 2008, 03:05PM
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"but unless he’s playing hurt, players his age seem to go in only one direction"

He could be playing hurt, very possible. I LOVED Steve Staios in '06, last year he had a tough run like 80% of the team did.

What worries me is that he is less involved with the play and team. It Seems Souray has really taken over that leadership role on the back end and deservedly so based on his play. Staios not having the biggest skill set on the team, I worry that unless he is counted on (for mins and leadership) his heart might not be in it. When he is fired up and passionate he could be as Jason Smith was for us, but without the heart and fire, he's just an expense and a liability waiting to happen.

Lets both hope he turns it around.

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#11 Death Metal Burn Out
November 13 2008, 04:54PM
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These stats are ridiculous. You're talking about a 4.25-million dollar player with reduced minutes (due to him not being able to secure a top 6 spot consistently) putting up a projected 22 points while being a pussy cat in hits and causing a lack of chaos on the boards and in front of the net. its totally Oilers-mentality to lionize players who skate around and happen to get some obscure defensive stalemate numbers out of line association. how many dollars of that 4.25 million do these stats equate to? 193k per point?

you can throw out all the stats you want to make him look adequate but the overall economic "optics" and expectations is a bust.

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#12 Jonathan Willis
November 13 2008, 04:58PM
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Death Metal Burnout:

Oh, believe me, I'm not arguing that Penner was worth the money spent on him - I'm arguing that he's improved from last season. Basically, I figure that if MacTavish would bite the bullet and put him on the powerplay (where he's vastly superior to Cole), he might even approach a reasonable cost.

His defensive numbers are worse than those of Horcoff, Hemsky, Cole, etc., but better than those of Dustin Penner crica 2007-08.

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#13 Jonathan Willis
November 13 2008, 05:12PM
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Incidentally, the link to IOF is http://vhockey.blogspot.com/. I'm not sure if I formatted it correctly in the article.

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#14 Mark
November 13 2008, 06:13PM
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Jonathon,

I'm not sure what game you watch, but by being reliable do you mean Penner has done nothing. His first two goals came in game one, and both were lucky. Since then he has one goal, and never makes a play that excites me, or even makes me mad...HE does nothing on the ice. Get involved now and then.

As for Staios, I'm curious does your stat take into account he plays lots of minutes on the PK where of course the other team would have more shots. And as far as the play coming back into his zone, what the hell does that have to do with him. He doesn't play in the offensive zone and rarely handles the puck. I'm sorry but that stat is a useless one in my opinion. Each his own.

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#15 jdrevenge
November 13 2008, 09:36PM
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I'd guess he's referencing his PK time and solid d play. Pens started pretty slow last year too. He'll come around. He IS looking a lot better this year.

5-2 to the leafs? JDDs wheels fell off... this team is confusing to follow.

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#16 Jonathan Willis
November 13 2008, 10:33PM
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Mark:

Penner's really not an even-strength scorer; never has been (career high = 29 points at even strength). His stats line looks really bad right now because he isn't getting used on the powerplay, which is his offensive bread and butter.

That said, he's done a decent job of outchancing tough opposition, and I think he deserves credit for it. He may not deserve 4.25M per season, though.

As for Staios, I should have made it clear that those statistics are for even-strength only, not PK and PP. Basically, ZoneShift says that when Staios is on the ice, the puck leaves the opposition zone and ends up in his own zone more often than not - in other words, the Oilers don't have possession, they aren't keeping the puck in at the offensive blue line, and the Corsi number shows that they aren't doing a good job preventing shots.

When a defenseman starts in the opposition zone against third-pairing quality opponenets, his number should show more shots for than against. That it doesn't, and by a wide margin, is very bad news.

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#17 GSC
November 14 2008, 04:42PM
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Conclusion:

Penner and Staios account for roughly $7 MIL on the payroll.

Recommended Course of Action:

Panic.

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#18 edmundbarculo9838
January 03 2009, 05:58PM
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This blog is awesome!

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