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Faceoff opportunities for the Nashville Predators

Marcel Goc's career-best offensive totals could lead to opportunities on the power play next season, but might his faceoff-winning abilities be valuable there as well?
Marcel Goc's career-best offensive totals could lead to opportunities on the power play next season, but might his faceoff-winning abilities be valuable there as well?

In light of the fact that the Nashville Predators had a difficult time winning faceoffs last season, I thought it might help to offer some further detail, along with suggestions as to how things might improve (outside of bringing back Scott Nichol, that is).

Follow after the jump for a detailed analysis of the Nashville Predators' performance at winning faceoffs, in a way I don't think you've seen before...

The table below reflects the faceoff-winning performance of the main Nashville Predators, split by Even Strength, Power Play, and Shorthanded duty. The "Weighted Performance" column reflects the overall results based on the number of faceoffs in each situation (since, on average, you should win 55% of PP draws and 45% of SH, rather than 50%). For example, Jason Arnott took many more faceoffs on the power play than shorthanded, so his overall results should be north of 50%. Instead, he won 4.2% fewer faceoffs than the NHL average for that workload.

EV PP SH Overall Weighted
 Player FO Taken Win % FO Taken Win % FO Taken Win % Win % Performance
 Jason Arnott 853 48.8% 215 48.8% 9 55.6% 48.8% 95.8%
 David Legwand 886 48.5% 99 50.5% 139 41.7% 47.9% 96.1%
 Jerred Smithson 409 54.3% 11 63.6% 128 56.3% 54.9% 112.3% (wow!)
 Marcel Goc 778 52.1% 19 68.4% 115 49.6% 52.1% 105.3%
 Colin Wilson 98 49.0% 26 53.8% 50.0% 97.9%
 Cal O'Reilly 227 47.1% 48 45.8% 6 66.7% 47.3% 93.3%
 Mike Santorelli 93 43.0% 12 66.7% 45.7% 90.4%
 Nick Spaling 88 44.3% 7 0.0% 41.0% 82.7%
 Dustin Boyd
(only NSH games)
100 57.0% 2 100.0% 3 66.7% 58.1% 116.3%
 Team Total 3723 49.5% 519 48.6% 446 47.3% 49.2% 98.2%

First off, two words of caution. The first is that for some of these cells, the sample size is too small to have confidence in them. Secondly, the ability of wingers to battle for pucks drawn to the side has an impact on winning percentages, but this as close as we get to a one-on-one, measurable competitive situation in hockey. Baseball, for example, lends itself much more easily to statistical analysis, because most of the action involves a series of individual activities (fielding a ball hit to a given area of the diamond) and matchups (i.e. pitcher vs. hitter).

That said, let's dig into the details here, zooming in on the top Preds in terms of overall faceoff work (just so the graph doesn't get too cluttered):

Here's a breakdown of each of the main faceoff men based on the height (in inches) of their opponents. The above chart is against left-handed shooting opponents only (we'll hit the righties below). Roughly 75% of all the faceoffs in this sample take place against opponents ranging from 71-74 inches in height (5'11" to 6'2"). To trim the noise, I've also excluded data points driven by fewer than 10 draws. So what does this tell us?

  • Colin Wilson has a lot of work to do on the dot.
  • Jason Arnott had a rough year across the board, consistently below 100%.
  • Marcel Goc dominated guys his height (73 inches) or taller
  • Jerred Smithson rocks the dot, especially against 6' opponents and shorter

And now, how they did against the righties...

Note that this graph is wilder, because the sample size is smaller (about 75% of faceoffs were against lefties, only 25% against righties). I eliminated Colin Wilson from this one as he only had 32 faceoffs against right-handed opponents. Still, a few observations can be made:

  • Jason Arnott does well against taller right-handed opponents. This is useful, because for some reason the sample of right-handed opponents is taller in general than the lefties (61% of them were above 6').
  • Marcel Goc consistently was under 100% here, arguing in favor of trying to match him up against lefties instead.

  • Again, Jerred Smithson rocks the dot.

It would appear that there may be an opportunity here for the Preds to improve their faceoff performance by taking advantage of these tendencies. For example, it's very common to have two of your main faceoff guys on a given line during key situations. Jason Arnott could be paired with Marcel Goc, with Arnott given the job of facing righties, while Goc handles the lefties. Against tall, right-handed centers, the instruction could be given to expect the other team to probably dominate faceoffs, allowing wingers to better anticipate the action.

Just based on offensive contribution, you can make the argument as to whether Goc should get some power play time for Nashville next season, but when you toss in his faceoff performance, that adds fuel to the fire. Recall that the Predators had the worst FO Win% in the league on the power play this season.

Note: I have a to-do to bring prior seasons into this analysis, to see if these relationships hold up over time. In the meantime, it's something to chew on...