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Playing Possessed: Please Free Iginla

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Last time we talked about wanting to #UnburyDuchene. Things have changed a little bit.

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Gabe Landeskog vs. PDO, played in this film by Roman Polak
Gabe Landeskog vs. PDO, played in this film by Roman Polak
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Welcome to the second installment of Playing Possessed, a feature I write whenever I feel like it about player usage compared to their possession (and other) numbers. It's been 19 games now, so it's time to return to last time and see if any changes have been made. As always, the numbers presented here are at 5v5, in all score situations, through game 19 against the New Jersey Devils.

  • Duchene and Iginla are leading the Avalanche in scoring despite being matched up in their own zone against the toughs--usage we're calling the Stastny Zone. But unlike the aforementioned Stastny, they aren't driving possession really, so If you want more offense, they need to start farther from Varly. There's your new campaign, #FreeRedmonders: #UnburyDuchene.

So I took a look at Duchene's rolling offensive zone start percentage throughout the year, and it turns out, right about the time I wrote the first installment, Duchene's usage actually started to tick upward:

Matt Duchene

Matt Duchene rolling OZ Start% through Nov 19

So that's good and encouraging. Let's use an offensive player in the offensive zone. Yay. This should result in him having more chances to score. What about Iginla?

Jarome Iginla

Jarome Ignla Rolling OZ Start% Through Nov 19

Oh. So, not so much.

Last time I checked, we didn't bring in Iginla to be a defensive bastion. He's a scorer. That's what he does. He scored 30+30 last year with Boston and there's no reason he couldn't do it here too, but he needs to be put in the position to get going. Starting him on the wrong end of the ice isn't giving him that opportunity.

Let's get back to the bubble graphs and see what takeaways can be found there.

Bubble Chart 2

Well this is a little broken. Also it's a little different from last time. Instead of coloring by competition quality, I colored by PDO. Let's get to the taeks.

  • Can we please fire Nate Guenin into the sun? He's largely responsible for the brokenness of this chart. Who starts in the offensive zone 58% of the time and can't even pull 38% Corsi-for? And you can't even blame his partner, or forwards he's started with, he's all alone out there on this island of wrong-tilted ice.
  • Briere isn't much better in that regard, but he's been mildly unlucky, unlike Guenin who has one of the highest PDO on the Avs. If that ever starts to come back down... you think people hate Guenin now. Woof.
  • As mentioned above, Duchene's zone usage is much better now, while Iginla sits at the very bottom of this chart, showing him with the toughest zone starts on the team. He's not exactly thriving there. I mean where he's at is ok, it's only a -0.53 dCorsi* and that's better than Duchene's (source), but the guy only has 2 goals for a reason here. Come on.
  • Speaking of dCorsi, Gabriel Landeskog's 3.37 is the best on the team (among players who have played 200 mins) but he is possibly the unluckiest skater in the NHL. That PDO hurts, man. Landeskog has been the best Av in terms of driving play but you can't see it because he's rolling snake eyes like crazy right now.
  • But you'll notice even team-best Landeskog isn't 50%. No skater on the Avalanche is a positive possession driver at this point.

I don't think there are any other surprises here. Tanguay has slowly moved toward the norm since his disastrous line was broken up, Everberg has done the same (unfortunately), Tyson Barrie continues to thrive in his offensive role, Stuart and Holden are getting buried and can't dig their way out, and Erik Johnson and Jan Hejda are performing very well. So are we on board with #UnburyIginla next?

*dCorsi is an attempt by Steve Burtch and others to sort out a player's deviation from what you would expect his possession numbers to be in his situation. Zone usage is only a part of it. You can read the primer here.