Yesterday I took comments from New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz praising Brock Nelson’s two-way play and paired that with statistical evidence to show that Nelson is Trotz’s most trusted center right now. Today, the defense is under the spotlight and the Hickey/Mayfield pairing shines.
Believe it or not, Barry Trotz has complete trust in Brock Nelson, and his ice time overall and in critical moments has proven it. But when you look at the New York Islanders defense it may surprise you to know that it is an unlikely pairing of Thomas Hickey and Scott Mayfield.
Should you be surprised though? Thomas Hickey led the team in +/- last year and was re-signed long-term by this management team. Scott Mayfield played his way from the scratchpad to the second pairing within the first ten games of the season (
Sure, Nick Leddy (21:57) and Ryan Pulock (23:04) lead defensemen in ice time, but if you break down the numbers a bit more you may see more trust than the Hickey (18:31) and Mayfield (18:39) ice time may suggest. Though those are still very solid second pairing ice time stats.
What does Barry Trotz value more than anything? Responsible, accountable defense. And it is no more critical than on the penalty kill. Mayfield (2:42) and Hickey (2:35) lead not only the defense in average penalty kill time on ice per game but the entire team (Hickey is tied with Filppula).
But they aren’t just earning their stripes and ice time on the penalty kill like Filppula or Komarov. Barry Trotz is playing them in all zones and scenarios.
Hickey and Mayfield lead the team in penalty kill ice time, but are playing less than ten percent of their ice time on the penalty kill (8.5% and 9.1%, respectively).
For reference, Filppula (17.5%), Komarov (17.9%), Adam Pelech (12.7%) and even offensively-minded and second power-play unit quarterback Ryan Pulock have a heavier skew of penalty kill minutes vs even strength/power play combined (10.9%).
What does this tell you? That the Hickey/Mayfield pairing leads the team in average penalty kill ice time, but that it isn’t what defines them.
More Numbers to Back It Up
When a coach trusts a pairing, he plays them everywhere. We already know that they have his trust on defense by leading the penalty kill ice time, but Mayfield and Hickey have a surprising split of offensive zone starts vs defensive zone starts.
Hickey’s 43.4 percent offensive zone starts are even higher than Nick Leddy’s, who can simply not be trusted in the defensive zone at all these days.
Mayfield comes in at 42.2 percent, which is 2.6 points higher than Ryan Pulock, meaning that the Mayfield and Hickey line actually get a higher percentage of offensive zone starts (42.8 percent) than the top pair of Leddy and Pulock (41.4 percent).
That’s trust in both the defensive zone on the penalty kill and offensive zone with percentage of zone starts.
The Payoff for Trust
Much like the positive result from trusting Brock Nelson this year, the results have paid off for Barry Trotz with this pairing. Whatever your thoughts are on the +/- statistic, it bears notice when the two leading defensemen on the team are Hickey (team-leading +9) and Mayfield (+6).
Need more? These two also lead the defense in even strength Relative Corsi % (Hickey 6.6, Mayfield 3.7).
While Scott Mayfield likely won’t keep up his 44 point pace (over an 82 game season), the bonus offense has been yet another positive to come out of this pairing.
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This isn’t just trusting the guys who buy into your system. This is trusting the guys who play your style and prove you right with the effectiveness and numbers to back it up. Expect more ice time from these guys, and if the season continues on this path, even better numbers.