Compare and contrast (because I can’t leave well enough alone)

Let’s consider two players’ even-strength statistics together and separately. The two players are Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis. (GFON/GAON – goals for/against while on the ice, SFON/SAON – shots for/against while on the ice SAFON/SAAON – shots attempted for and against while on the ice, SH% ON – shooting percentage while on the ice, SV% On – save percentage while on the ice)

Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis

  • GFON: 30
  • GAON: 19
  • +/- ON: +11
  • SAFON: 497
  • SAAON: 491
  • SFON: 288
  • SAON: 276
  • SH% ON: 10.4%
  • SV% ON: .931%

Collectively, these guys have been heavily outscoring their opposition. Since both of them are tremendous offensive talents, that’s unsurprising. What is surprising is that they really aren’t out-shooting their opponents by much, especially considering how many goals they’re scoring. The reason for this is that while they’re on the ice at even-strength, their opposition goaltender has a .896 SV%, while their goaltender has a .931 SV%.

Vic Ferrari pretty much conclusively proved awhile back that forwards have a major impact on the opposition goaltender’s SV%, but very nearly no impact on their own goaltender’s SV%. Thus, while Lecavalier and St. Louis are likely responsible for scoring so much, the fact that Mike Smith has been exceptional behind them is Mike Smith’s doing.

Right now, this duo is benefiting from great goal tending; otherwise, the number of goals against would be much greater.

Martin St. Louis without Vincent Lecavalier

  • GFON: 5
  • GAON: 4
  • +/- ON: +1
  • SAFON: 102
  • SAAON: 106
  • SFON: 46
  • SAON: 66
  • SH% ON: 10.8%
  • SV% ON: .939%

Aside from modest changes to shooting and save percentage, the numbers look very similar. The biggest difference is that a much higher percentage of shot attempts are getting through, something unlikely to be replicated in a bigger sample (i.e. shots for and against are generally closely related to shot attempts for and against).

Vincent Lecavalier without Martin St. Louis

  • GFON: 5
  • GAON: 6
  • +/- ON: -1
  • SAFON: 94
  • SAAON: 121
  • SFON: 54
  • SAON: 69
  • SH% ON: 9.3%
  • SV% ON: .913%

Fairly significant changes to save and shooting percentage (which can likely be dismissed due to sample size) are present in this sample. Still, the general trend that the Lightning are hardly the dominant team (from a shots or shots attempted perspective) with Lecavalier on the ice continues.

Conclusion

With or without Martin St. Louis, the Lightning are not dominating the play with Vincent Lecavalier on the ice. I don’t understand people who insist he’s a top-ten NHL player. He may be a top-ten offensive talent, but he doesn’t carry the play against tough opponents. In point of fact he never has; the last time Lecavalier’s line seriously out-shot their opposition, Martin St. Louis won the Hart Trophy and Brad Richards’ line was facing the heavies. That was the year where Lecavalier was fourth on his team in playoff scoring and Brad Richards won the Conn Smythe.

He scores lots, and he plays a physical game. The simple fact of the matter though, is that for as much offense as he generates five-on-five, he surrenders a lot of chances the opposite way.

He’s an exceptional talent, albeit one who’s recorded more than a point per game only twice in ten seasons. He’s vastly overrated as a top-ten NHL player.

  • Hippy

    @ Ender the Dragon:

    Settle "the argument?" Jeezuz H, calling Lecavalier "vastly overrated" as a top-10 player is laughable at best, especially when it's based on simply running a bunch of numbers.

    If Ken Hitchcock or Ken Holland or Mike Babcock tells me Lecavalier isn't top-10, then we've got a debate. Or does Willis and his numbers trump them? Uh, no.

  • Hippy

    What JW actually contended was that Lecavlier wasn't a top-ten NHL player overall, not that he wasn't elite. To settle the argument, simply list 10 players in the game today who are better; that would put Lecavlier in 11th and settle the point. No one ever said he wasn't any good.

  • Hippy

    RobinB wrote:

    dubya wrote:

    Active players who haven’t averaged a point per game in their careers include Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Modano, Sergei Fedorov, Marian Hossa, Keith Tkachuk, Brendan Shanahan, Jarome Iginla and Brad Richards. Any of those guys any good?
    Lecavalier’s .855 PPG is better than Milan Hejduk, Scott Gomez, Saku Koivu and Markus Naslund, to name just four others.

    That's Jonothan's point. Vinnie belongs in the group of guys you mentioned above, not in the Crosby, Ovi, Malkin conversation.

    Jonothan never said Vinnie wasn't "any good", just that he wasn't in the elite category.

  • Hippy

    Lost in the numbers is correct. Shake your head man. Watch some tape and see the old fashioned way. Let the scorers score, let the plugs play D. Offense is the best defense, and so forth.

  • Hippy

    Sorry to say it, but Robin has you here Jonathon.

    Isn't it possible that Lecavalier has been on the ice in a lot of situations where TB is way behind and needs a goal. He gets told to press and this creates an inordinate number of chances the other way. We all know that sometimes pressing for a goal works, but more often than not it creates chances and goals the other way. (This shows in how important the first goal is for wins on most teams.)

    On a team with better lines 2-4, Lecavalier can sit back more, be more defensibly reliable. Maybe he misses a goal or two because of it, because his GA and shots against -if I'm right- would go way, way down.

    Isn't this a plausible interpretation of your numbers given TB's crappy lines 2-4, defense, and goalies? And on my interpretation, there's no reason to deny Lecavalier elite status.

  • Hippy

    dubya wrote:

    Just to play devil’s advocate….if Lecavalier is among the top 10 forwards in the league, and assuming you agree that the SE is a weaker than average division, why aren’t his PPG and +/- better? Certainly his teams haven’t been good, but given that he plays with St. Louis wouldn’t you expect and elite player to put up > 1PPG and be on the ice for significantly more goals for than against?

    Certainly his teams haven't been good? There's an understatement. In Lecavlier's first five years in the NHL, the Lightning didn't win 40 games once. Twice they won less than 20 games. In his previous nine seasons, TB won more than 40 games three times — a whopping 46, 43 and 44. You think playing with Martin St. Louis makes up for that?

    So no, I wouldn't expect an elite player to necessarily put up 1 PPG and have a better plus/minus when he's played an mostly pitifully awful teams.

    And as for this 1 PPG which seems to be the cut-off line for an "elite player" in the minds of some, do you know how many players active in the NHL right now have averaged 1 PPG in their career? Seven. That's seven out of, what, 700?

    Active players who haven't averaged a point per game in their careers include Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Modano, Sergei Fedorov, Marian Hossa, Keith Tkachuk, Brendan Shanahan, Jarome Iginla and Brad Richards. Any of those guys any good?

    Lecavalier's .855 PPG is better than Milan Hejduk, Scott Gomez, Saku Koivu and Markus Naslund, to name just four others. Were any of those guys any good?

    Somewhere, somehow, somebody could come up with a set of numbers showing that Bobby Orr wasn't that great and Rocket Richard was overrated.

  • Hippy

    WJonathan Willis wrote:

    He’s an exceptional talent, albeit one who’s recorded more than a point per game only twice in ten seasons. He’s vastly overrated as a top-ten NHL player.

    Well, it's kinda cherry picking if you don't note that those 2/10 are the last two seasons.

  • Hippy

    RobinB wrote:

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    Forgive me if this falls under the category of what you call “snarky,” but if you’re trying to tell me with a straight face Vincent Lecavalier isn’t an elite player, then you really are lost in the numbers.
    There isn’t a hockey person I can think of who doesn’t consider Lecavalier one of the best 10 forwards in the game today.
    Believe it or not, I see value in expanded stats, but I can’t for the life of me see how somebody can get so caught up in the numbers that they’d take a stand as assinine as to suggest Lecavalier isn’t an elite player.

    Just to play devil's advocate….if Lecavalier is among the top 10 forwards in the league, and assuming you agree that the SE is a weaker than average division, why aren't his PPG and +/- better? Certainly his teams haven't been good, but given that he plays with St. Louis wouldn't you expect and elite player to put up > 1PPG and be on the ice for significantly more goals for than against?

  • Hippy

    Lecavalier is an elite offensive player, but not an elite 2 way player. Zetterberg he is not. But Bure was considered top ten in his prime and he had massive defensive short comings, Jagr too.

    Lots of Elite guys and "top ten" were/ are defensively lacking.

    I would also argue Lecavalier has been on sub par teams for most of his career, that would effect the + -. If you have a sieve in the back end or your defense can't cover your mistakes your offensive risks can be exploited. With great goaltending and solid D His + – would greatly improve.

    I agree with you about his slightly inflated offensive stats based on the division he is playing in, but he is still and elite player. there are no players not named Joe Thornton that can boast his size and offensive ability. And I would Argue that Lecavalier uses his size better by banging bodies as well as positioning.

  • Hippy

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    Forgive me if this falls under the category of what you call "snarky," but if you're trying to tell me with a straight face Vincent Lecavalier isn't an elite player, then you really are lost in the numbers.

    There isn't a hockey person I can think of who doesn't consider Lecavalier one of the best 10 forwards in the game today.
    Believe it or not, I see value in expanded stats, but I can't for the life of me see how somebody can get so caught up in the numbers that they'd take a stand as assinine as to suggest Lecavalier isn't an elite player.

  • Hippy

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    I guess the best way to settle this is to get LeCavlier in Oilers Silks and monitor his statistical performance in the competative northwest division. If LeCavlier looks weak against the Iginla's and Datsyuk's I swear I'll apologise.

  • Hippy

    @ RobinB:

    Fair enough; it would be nice if the NHL recorded time spent in the offensive and defensive zones so that we could compare that to Corsi numbers.

    I just re-ran the numbers a bit, and adjusting them for team strength and time on ice, they look a fair bit better.

    Not elite, but quite a bit better than how they look here.

    Still, even with those adjustments, given that Lecavalier's only topped the point-per-game mark twice while playing in the Southeast Division, I have trouble buying that he's a top-ten NHL talent. The drop-off from Ovechkin to him seems too remarkable.

  • Hippy

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    Chris wrote:
    @ Jonathan Willis:
    A consistantly high shooting percentage by LeCavlier indicates a high skill level.
    And here’s what I wrote in the article:
    He may be a top-ten offensive talent, but he doesn’t carry the play against tough opponents.
    He’s a tremendous offensive talent, but a top-ten NHL player should dominate territorially as well, in my opinion.

    Who says he doesn't carry the play? A player can dominate territorially without shooting everything at the net. No?

  • Hippy

    Chris wrote:

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    A consistantly high shooting percentage by LeCavlier indicates a high skill level.

    And here's what I wrote in the article:

    He may be a top-ten offensive talent, but he doesn’t carry the play against tough opponents.

    He's a tremendous offensive talent, but a top-ten NHL player should dominate territorially as well, in my opinion.

  • Hippy

    Chris wrote:

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    LeCavlier outscores the opposition period. Moreover, Tampa goalies are not famous for bailing anyone out. This save percentage thing is bunk… A consistantly high shooting percentage by LeCavlier indicates a high skill level. I haven’t watched tonnes of tape on Lecavlier recently, but maybe his line keeps the opposition to the outside surrendering lots of shots but not a lot of quality scoring chances… To consistantly deningrate a player like LeCavlier while pumping up players like Horcoff makes you sound like a Homer.

    Lecavalier doesn't "outscore the opposition period". that +11 at 5-on-5 play is the best mark he's ever posted, post-lockout. Generally, he's about even.

    Hell, look at his career +/- if you don't believe me.

    I'm not arguing that he's a bad player; I'm arguing that he doesn't belong in the conversation with guys like Ovechkin, Malkin and Crosby (who all kill at this, btw).

    Horcoff wouldn't belong in such a conversation either.

  • Hippy

    RobinB wrote:

    Who says a top NHL talent has to outshoot the opposition? Does the quality of shot matter, or only the quantity? I’ll take quality — like the Russians refusal to shoot unless it was a Grade A chance in the 1970s — over quantity anytime.

    I'm not saying that quality doesn't matter, but it would seem to make sense that if Lecavalier's really a dominant player territorially, we'd see way more shots for than against.

    Since they're pretty even, I'd suggest that Lecavalier's line breaks even against opposition teams top lines in territorial play.

    The Red Wings top guys always kill at this, because they're a) a little shot happy and b) they play the most dominant territorial game in the league.

    The fact that Lecavalier's at about the even mark playing top opponents suggests a) he's a damn good player and b) he isn't all that special among top line players.

  • Hippy

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    LeCavlier outscores the opposition period. Moreover, Tampa goalies are not famous for bailing anyone out. This save percentage thing is bunk… A consistantly high shooting percentage by LeCavlier indicates a high skill level. I haven't watched tonnes of tape on Lecavlier recently, but maybe his line keeps the opposition to the outside surrendering lots of shots but not a lot of quality scoring chances… To consistantly deningrate a player like LeCavlier while pumping up players like Horcoff makes you sound like a Homer.

  • Hippy

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    @ Chris:
    I’m saying that if he’s a top NHL talent, why doesn’t he outshoot the opposition?

    Who says a top NHL talent has to outshoot the opposition? Does the quality of shot matter, or only the quantity? I'll take quality — like the Russians refusal to shoot unless it was a Grade A chance in the 1970s — over quantity anytime.