When I started looking at Gabriel Landeskog’s numbers, I was looking for the perfect statistic to encapsulate everything he brings to the Colorado Avalanche. Players like Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen get a lot of credit for putting up big numbers, and rightfully so. But it can be easy to overlook Landeskog in this conversation. He ended the season third on the team in points (60) and goals (25), and fourth in both assists and primary assists. The Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen line was the driving force behind the Avalanche pushing the Nashville Predators to six games in the first round.
As I dug more into the data, Landeskog’s advanced analytics numbers are also similar to Rantanen’s and MacKinnon’s, due largely to their amount of shared ice time throughout the course of the regular season. Their possession and productivity statistics are pretty similar across the board, and no real discrepancies jumped out at first glance.
Where we can see Rantanen and MacKinnon start to break away from Landeskog in offensive production is when we look at teammate-adjusted shooting numbers. But before we look at these statistics, let’s start with relative numbers to see the impact of teammate-adjusted numbers.
Relative numbers simply look at the productivity of a team when a given player is on the ice versus the team’s productivity when that player is on the bench. For example, Gabriel Landeskog has a relative Corsi% of 3.21. This means that during even-strength hockey, the Colorado Avalanche attempt 3.21% more shots than opponents when Gabriel Landeskog is on the ice compared to when he is on the bench. Simply put, the Avalanche are a better team when Landeskog is on the ice than when he isn’t.
Compare this number with Blake Comeau’s relative Corsi% of -0.59. The Avalanche give up more shot attempts to opponents when Blake Comeau is on the ice versus when Comeau is on the bench. This is probably not terribly surprising, but it’s also not completely fair to Blake Comeau. If he got to skate with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, his numbers would probably look a lot stronger.
Teammate-adjusted statistics allow us to look at a player’s on-ice production against his team’s production while he is on the bench, while also negating the production from a player’s linemates. The resulting numbers show what an individual player produces without having his numbers skewed by the skills of his on-ice teammates.
Not surprisingly, when looking at teammate-adjusted Corsi% Nathan MacKinnon (4.35) and Mikko Rantanen (3.49) continue to lead the team. Gabriel Landeskog (1.45), however, actually falls behind Blake Comeau (2.58) when adjusting for teammate strength. This highlights just how strong MacKinnon and Rantanen were possessing the puck this season (and how much work Blake Comeau put in on depth lines).
So, what does Gabriel Landeskog bring to that top line?
One Big Number: Individual penalty +/- 11
That’s right. It’s not sexy shooting numbers, weighted averages, zone starts, or opponent strength.
Gabriel Landeskog draws penalties.
Landeskog led the team in drawing penalties with 27 on the season, while only taking 16. His ability to win battles in the dirty areas of the ice frees up Rantanen and MacKinnon to do what they do best: shoot the puck. Couple this with the fact that the Avalanche power play ranked third in the NHL in the regular season, Landeskog’s ability to earn the man advantage was crucial to the team’s success.
It’s also worth noting that Landeskog drew three penalties in six playoffs, tied for the team lead. While six games isn’t much of a sample size, it highlights just how tough he is to knock off the puck. Drawing a penalty every other game in the playoffs, when referees tend to forget that their whistles exist, is pretty impressive.
Gabriel Landeskog is the kind of player that makes his teammates around him better. When those teammates are Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon, that’s a tough line to beat.