Using Pluck Charts in Fantasy Hockey
In a broad sense, two of the most important statistical ideas that you can use to analyze a team are possession and luck. Possession stats tell us which teams are consistently outshooting their opponents. Measurements of luck tell us which teams are playing beyond their means. With that in mind, we used this off-season to develop a new chart to analyze hockey teams. With a nod toward both possession and luck, we call this the Pluck Chart.
The Basic Chart
These charts contain a significant amount of data to process. But we are confident that once you practice with them, you'll find them extremely useful.
We'll start with a very broad overview and then work ourselves into the fine details. Essentially, the chart plots possession on the horizontal axis (x-axis) and luck on the vertical axis (y-axis). Specifically, the x-axis is USAT% and the y-axis is SPSV%.
Let's ignore the bubbles and colors for now and imagine each team is just a dot. If your dot lives on the right hand side of the chart, then your team consistently outshoots their opponents during games. If your dot lives on the left hand side of the chart, then your team is consistently being outshot by their opponents during games. If your dot lives in the top half of the graph, then your team's results this season have been boosted by good luck. If your dot lives in the bottom half of the graph, then your team's results this season have been muted by bad luck. Easy enough. Now, let's put it all together.
Teams in the upper-left quadrant of the chart are weak possession teams (they are consistently outshot by their opponents) and their results have been boosted by luck. We can call these teams weak & lucky. Examples from this quadrant include the Colorado Avalanche and the Arizona Coyotes.
Teams in the upper-right quadrant of the chart are strong possession teams (they are consistently out-shooting their opponents) and their results have been boosted by luck. We can call these teams strong & lucky. Examples from this quadrant include the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Teams in the lower-right quadrant of the chart are strong possession teams that had their results muted by luck. We can call these teams strong & unlucky. Examples from this quadrant include the Anaheim Ducks and the Nashville Predators.
Finally, teams in the lower-left quadrant of the chart are weak possession teams that had their results muted by luck. We can call these teams weak & unlucky. Examples from this quadrant include the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Bubbles and Colors
So far, we've used the Pluck Chart to organize NHL teams into four quadrants based on their possession and luck metrics. But these charts contain much more information than that. Each team is labeled as a colored bubble on the chart (not a dot as we noted earlier for simplification). Both the color and size of the bubble tell us details about each team. The color of each bubble, ranging from white to dark orange, tells us the team's even-strength save percentage (EVSV%). A color scale to the right of the chart helps you understand the numbers. The idea here is that if your color is far from average, then you're team has experienced atypical save percentage numbers at even-strength. The league average EVSV% has been around .923 the past few seasons.
The size of each bubble tells you the team's evenstrength shooting percentage (EVSH%). The larger the bubble, the larger the value. League average shooting percentage (for a team and at evenstrength) is 7.7%. It is uncommon for teams to stray very far from this number for long periods of time. Essentially, what is happening here with the bubbles is that we're taking the y-axis value for each team and splitting it into two individual components (EVSV% is bubble color and EVSH% is bubble size). And this simple extension creates a very powerful tool. Let's examine a few case studies so we know how to use a Pluck Chart.
Case Study: The Calgary Flames
A user who has practiced using Pluck Charts can immediately analyze the 2015-2016 Calgary Flames without having watched any of their games. This chart tells us that the Flames were a weak possession team (left hand side of the chart) with skaters that outplayed their talent levels (large bubble size) and goalies that generated the league's worst numbers (white bubble color). Anyone who watched the Flames last season would likely agree with all of these above statements. And we were able to generate these statements by simply looking at one chart. If you were a GM for the Flames looking at this chart, you'd want to focus on two things for the 2016-2017 season: make a big change in net and look to switch out some weaker possession players with strong possession players. Now is a good time to ask yourself what the Flames actually did this off-season?
Case Study: The New York Rangers
Let's try the Rangers! The Rangers were a weak possession team (left side of the chart) that benefitted not only from having the best even-strength goaltending numbers in the league (dark orange bubble), but also the league's highest shooting percentage (large bubble size). What does this tell us going forward? The prognosis is grim. It's likely that the Rangers scored far more goals last season than their player talent levels dictated they should. They also had a team save percentage that was unusually high. When these values come back to Earth next season, the Rangers could be in a world of trouble. They are a bottom-third team in the NHL when it comes to shot differentials and the combination of scoring fewer goals and allowing more goals next season is going to hurt them in the standings.
What should a fantasy manager do with this information? Realize that the Rangers' goal differential from last season (+19) is likely to drop in the coming season. And with that drop will come a drop in the standings, ultimately leading to fewer wins for Henrik Lundqvist. Additionally, one should expect the plus-minus values for this team to head in the wrong direction.
Your Fantasy Hockey Draft
We've added these charts (and the analysis for all 30 NHL teams) as part of our team-by-team study in this year's fantasy hockey draft kit. We are confident that this information will help you in your fantasy draft.
For 10 years, you've trusted Left Wing Lock as a reliable source to bring you accurate starting goalie information, line combinations, and player news alerts. That same passion and dedication fuels us as we create what we believe are the best fantasy hockey draft kits available. We invite you to let us build your customized fantasy hockey draft kit for the 2016-2017 season. Order your kit today!