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Player Usage Charts offer deeper insight into NHL performance

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This is truly Nashville's Dynamic Duo.
This is truly Nashville's Dynamic Duo.

One of the great fool's errands in the hockey stats movement is the search for a single number which can describe a player's performance.

No, real insight comes when you take multiple factors into account, providing context for basic results, such as those tied to how individual players influence a team's Shots For & Against. Are they playing against tough opponents? Are they starting more of their shifts in the offensive or defensive zone? Those descriptors for how a player is used can help explain a good portion of an individual's results. But unless you're comfortable wading through spreadsheets, it can often prove difficult to effectively communicate that sort of nuance to the general reader, especially when talking about multiple players at once.

Until now.

Thanks to a new collection of graphs put together by Robert Vollman of Hockey Prospectus, you can now get such insight into every team in the NHL. Follow on for a particularly elegant display of hockey analytics...

You can download a copy, which contains the graphs for each team along with an explanation of how they work, and review them yourself here:

Player Usage Charts 2011-2012 (PDF)

Here's what I had to say about the Nashville Predators' chart:

Despite his local reputation for being an inveterate line-juggler, Barry Trotz typically places his greatest trust in a core group of skaters. The trio of Sergei Kostitsyn, Mike Fisher and Martin Erat were the only forward line to stick together through the bulk of the season, and typically drew top opponents. The real difference-makers, however, are Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, who have driven positive results while taking on a difficult workload for a few years now.

Probably the most interesting aspect to watch in the year ahead is how much responsibility Trotz doles out to Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, Gabriel Bourque and Ryan Ellis, young players who fared well offensively in relatively protected situations. On the opposite end of that spectrum, there is an opening for the defensive-zone faceoff expert - Jerred Smithson took a tremendous amount of d-zone draws over the last several seasons, and Paul Gaustad was brought in at the Trade Deadline to provide an upgrade over Smithson in that regard, but as an Unrestricted Free Agent, Gaustad might prove too costly for Nashville to retain in that limited role.

So print this out, and spend some quality time this weekend by taking a deeper view inside how the 30 NHL teams operated last season.