The New York Islanders were a negative possession team in 2015-16. But how exactly does this occur?
We previously made a foray into the world of analytics as we looked at the New York Islanders possession stats for the 2015-16 season. What the numbers showed is that the Islanders were more often without the puck than in control of it.
When a team controls the puck it obviously has a better chance at creating a scoring opportunity than when it’s chasing a little black puck around the ice. What we can learn from these numbers gives us a great understanding of what’s going on on the ice.
Analytics are a great tool to use. But a single stat on its own doesn’t provide proper insight. It merely provides a snapshot of what has transpired on the ice. More than one stat is required to see the whole picture.
We already know that the Islanders were a negative possession team last season. But what lead to this poor possession? What did the New York Islanders do in order to lose this possession?
It All Starts With the Drop of a Puck
If you didn’t guess from the oh so clever title, faceoffs are the subject. Losing the faceoff will never play into your favor in terms of possession. Going on the defensive as soon as the puck hits the ice works against your efforts to score.
Puckbase.com has some great statistics when it comes to faceoffs. In 2015-16 there were ten different Islanders to take more than ten faceoffs during the year. What you’ll notice in the following table is a significant number of negative numbers. And no a negative in this case is not a good thing.
The number to focus on is the NSPF or Net Shots Post-Faceoff. Puckbase defines this number as: “how many more shots-for a player’s team had, plus shots-against prevented, following face-offs he took compared with what a league-average face-off taker”.
Compared to the league average the Islanders are a resounding negative outside of the first and fourth line. John Tavares and Casey Cizikas carry the bulk of the faceoff workload on the team. They generate or prevent shots against post faceoff above the league average.
Second line center Frans Nielsen and linemate Nikolai Kulemin are a combined -14.11. A net negative in terms of shot generation or shot suppression in terms of the league average post faceoff.
Looking at the numbers reveals that Nielsen, unlike Tavares, takes most of his faceoffs in the neutral and defensive zone. Generating shots within ten seconds is a tough task so far from the oppositions goal. But it doesn’t explain his shot-suppression numbers.
Nielsen win’s just over 50% of his draws. Winning 50% of his draws and a negative NSPF score with the bulk of his draws in his or the neutral zone means he must give up and awful lot of shots against versus the league average.
It looks like Nielsen may be sticking around for the next few years as reports have emerged that Snow has made at least initial contact with Nielsen’s representatives. Should he stay, Capuano’s first course of action should be to dictate some form of faceoff training and defensive zone coverage.