Capitals and Oz Coke

One of the more popular new developments this year is the OZQoC Chart (Pronounced "Oz Coke"), which is a handy visual representation of how players are being used. At a glance it's an easy way to understand the roles assigned to each player so we have the context in which to study their statistics. - Robert Vollman, Hockey Prospectus

With ten goals in 25 games (nine at even strength), Jason Chimera is well on his way to having a career-best season. And as impressive as his raw goal total is, what makes it even more so is that he's done it while facing just about the hardest competition of any Caps forward while starting his shifts in the offensive zone less frequently than all but two of his teammates. Context adds a lot to analysis.

And that's where "Oz Coke" comes in. By plotting zone starts and quality of competition on the same chart, we can get a good idea of who's playing the tough minutes and who's being protected, who's got mitigating factors for underperforming... and who doesn't. [One note: this analysis includes post-icing zone starts, so it isn't a perfect reflection of which zone starts the coaches have chosen to use their players in, but it's close enough.]

After the jump are two Oz Coke charts - one for the Caps' forwards, one for the D (through 24 games). We're going to use Corsi Rel QoC as our proxy for quality of competition, as it seems to give a better indication of roles than QualComp, but either would do the trick. And just for fun, before clicking through, try to think of who you believe is playing the hard and easy minutes and see if you're right.

Capitals_oz_coke_forwards_medium
(Click to enlarge; all data via BehindTheNet.ca)

Some notes on the forwards:

  • The "Meat and Potatoes" trio of Brooks Laich, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward are indeed playing the hard minutes - tough competition and unfavorable zone starts. Only Jeff Halpern is facing off in the O-zone less frequently, and he's been pitted against much lesser competition.
  • The skill forwards are largely lumped together, but seeing Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom so close to the "50" in O-zone starting percentage is disappointing - they should be fed offensive-zone starts like there's no tomorrow (in part because there might not be if the team doesn't start scoring more). "But these numbers are mostly Bruce Boudreau's" you say? Well, they didn't get a single O-zone start against the Pens and were basically even against the Sens. That should change.
  • Mathieu Perreault has been one sheltered little dude. You'd like to see more production from him, given that that's the case. [Edit: Upon further review, he's producing... so maybe he just needs more minutes, soft or otherwise.]

Now, on to the blueliners...

Capitals_oz_coke_defensemen_medium

  • Karl Alzner is just such a stud, playing the hardest minutes and posting sparkling numbers.
  • Dmitri Orlov is well under 50% in O-zone starts, which probably surprises you - he's an offensive-minded rookie, why not feed him soft minutes? The answer there is that the team (well, under Boudreau, at least) thought it more important to pair him with Alzner, the team's steadiest rearguard, for his first couple of weeks in the Bigs, and with Alzner comes harder assignments.
  • I like John Erskine as much as the next guy, but realize that he gets sheltered minutes. Big time. He and Jeff Schultz have, to date, each been on the ice for as many goals-for as goals-against, except Schultz has done it playing much harder minutes. When everyone's healthy, Jeff Schultz should be in the lineup and John Erskine in the press box on most nights.
  • Roman Hamrlik has had some bad luck (as well as bad play), but he's played some tough minutes. Perhaps his performance will come around.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the above is that it's (almost) a baseline for the Dale Hunter Era - let's check back in 30 games from now and see who's moved, who's stuck... and who's doing what with the assignments they're given.

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