Drance Numbers: How much do the Sedins miss Christian Ehrhoff?

With Daniel Sedin on pace for 81 points this season and Henrik Sedin on pace for 83, it looks like the twins will be returning to the point-per game level of production they put up in the four years prior to their consecutive Art Ross championships. And, at 13 and 15 points behind Evgeni Malkin in the points race, it seems likely that they won’t be able to keep the Art Ross in the family this June.

With Buffalo in town for a much anticipated tilt this Saturday night, I figured we’d look into the impact old friend Christian Ehrhoff had in fueling the Sedins’ Art Ross Trophy wins during his two seasons with the Canucks.  When Henrik declared in the preseason that the Canucks didn’t lose anything when the speedy German defenseman signed for an absurd 40 million in Buffalo this offseason, was he wrong? Is is possible, in fact, that Christian Ehrhoff’s absence this season is a major reason for the Twins’ regression from 100-point producers back to point-per-game players?

The first thing to look at here, is even-strength performance. I went back and broke down Henrik Sedin’s last four seasons in a particular way to investigate whether there’s reason to believe that the addition (and now absence) of Christian Ehrhoff had a significant impact on the Canucks captain’s production rate.

The table below goes back to 2008-09, which, was the season before the Canucks traded a bag of magic beans for Ehrhoff. If Ehrhoff’s presence was “essential” in inflating the Sedins’ production over the past two seasons — as the twins’ boxcar stats suggest — then that should show up in some underlying metrics as well. I’ve gone with on-ice shots and on-ice goal rates per sixty, and I’ve only used Henrik to inflate the sample (more on this in a moment). Can you spot a trend?

Henrik Sedin On-Ice Shots/60 On-Ice Goals/60 ES Points On-ice SH%
2011-12 33.07 3.14 6+37=43 9.5%
2010-11 33.11 3.2 11+48=59 9.7%
2009-10 32.79 4.27 23+60=83 13%
2008-09 31.74 3.07 18+38+56 9.7%

 

You probably can’t, and I’d argue there isn’t really one.

Yes, the rate at which Henrik and his linemates produced shots on goal increased in 2009-10, but the entire team improved that season, so it’s hard to solely credit Christian Ehrhoff’s presence with that bump. More importantly, Henrik Sedin’s on-ice shot and goal rate is functionally identical this season to what it was last season with Christian Ehrhoff, and he’s on pace for 55 even-strength points despite having a slightly lower on-ice shooting percentage.

Really, the above table suggests to me that the impact of Ehrhoff’s absence on Henrik’s even-strength production has been minimal.

But let’s look into it further anyway. I’ve done a quick “with or without you” analysis for Henrik Sedin and Christian Ehrhoff. Again, I’ve used only Henrik (and not Daniel) to inflate the sample size of our data (Daniel, you’ll remember, missed a handful of games in 2009-10).

Luckily for us, Ehrhoff and Henrik were both iron-men, who chewed up a tonne of minutes during their mutual Canucks tenure. As a result: all of the below samples take into account roughly 1000 even-strength minutes (or more), so we can be pretty confident in our results:

Game State 2009-11 Goals For/60 Corsi Events For/60
H. Sedin + Ehrhoff 4.46 66.7
Ehrhoff Alone 2.29 56.79
H. Sedin Alone 3.46 59.4

 

Now these numbers, I’ll admit, I find exceedingly interesting. They suggest that while Ehrhoff was never the guy who “stirred the drink” for the Canucks offensively, he was a particularly good match with the twins at even-strength. That the Sedins with Ehrhoff managed nearly 67 corsi events for per 60 minutes of even-strength ice-time is extremely impressive.

Still, while they were an effective match, it looks like Ehrhoff benefited more from sharing the ice with the twins than the twins benefited from sharing the ice with Ehrhoff. That’s a point emphasized by looking at their goals for and corsi event for rates this season:

Goals For/60 Corsi Events For/60
H. Sedin this season 3.14 62.58
Hoff this season 2.57 51

 

Granted, Ehrhoff has gone from a quality possession team to a middling one, but Henrik Sedin is on the ice for as many (or more) corsi-events per sixty this season than he was the two seasons previous. Ehrhoff, on the other hand, has fallen off significantly.

If Ehrhoff was largely responsible for inflating the production rate of the twins, one would think that he’d be able to drive play at least somewhat on his new team. Also you’d think that the twins would be struggling (relative to the past two seasons) to drive play – but as we can observe, neither of those things have happened.

Breaking down Christian Ehrhoff’s impact on the Canucks’ power-play is somewhat more difficult, but it’s worth pointing out that, until this season, his production rates with the man-advantage were sky-high for a defenseman. In his last season in San Jose, for example, his points/60 rate was the highest among all Sharks skaters who regularly got power-play ice-time.

In his first season with the Canucks, Ehrhoff wasn’t relied upon with the man-advantage like he was in his second season. He ate up 45% of the Canucks power-play minutes in 09-10, but last season he was on the ice for over 60% of the time the Canucks enjoyed a man-advantage.

I can’t really do a man-advantage WOWY analysis, but let’s look at the Henrik Sedin’s shots/60 rates with the man-advantage over the past four seasons and see if we can glean anything from them:

Season Shots for/60
2008-09 53.75
2009-10 48.73
2010-11 63.21
2011-12 58.73

 

This matches the eye-test, doesn’t it? The Canucks power-play (especially the 1st unit) has taken a step back this season – but it’s still better than it was in 2009-10 and 2008-09. The Sedins have produced 22 and 24 points with the man-advantage respectively, which puts them on pace for 30 and 28 power-play points respectively this season. That’s better than their career averages with the man-advantage, but it’s a far cry from the 42 and 35 points they produced 5-on-4 last season…

Which brings us to the rub in all of this. While it’s tempting to look at Henrik Sedin’s and Daniel Sedin’s Art Ross Trophy winning seasons and group them together, that’s a fundamental mistake. Henrik Sedin’s Art Ross Trophy win was largely the result of a massive spike in his even-strength production, which itself was driven by an astronomical on-ice shooting percentage well above 13%. Daniel’s Art Ross Trophy win, on the other hand, was largely the result of a spike in power-play production.

This season, the first unit power-play has taken a small step back and the twins’ on-ice shooting % has “regressed” to a more sustainable but still elite level of 9.5%. That’s the main reason why neither will win the Art Ross this season.

It’s nigh impossible to isolate what impact the absence of Christian Ehrhoff has had on the first unit power-play, but I’d hypothesize that he has been missed in that area. I’d observe that Ehrhoff’s off-side wrist-shot and marauding, fourth-forward style added an element of unpredictability that the first unit power-play has lacked this season.

Ultimately, though, there is enough data here to cast doubt on the idea that Ehrhoff’s presence is what made the Sedins “100 point players.” We can say with confidence that Ehrhoff’s absence has had little to no impact on the twin’s even-strength production. While he’s probably missed somewhat more on the man-advantage, there’s no reason to think that his presence on the first unit is worth 15 (or more) points to both twins.

In compiling the data in the above post, I leaned heavily on the resources provided by: Dobber Hockey’s Frozen Pool tools, Behindthenet.ca, Timeonice.com and stats.hockeyanalysis.com.

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15 comments

  1. Dazza23
    March 2, 2012

    Ok I sort of get but what about the fact that powerplays are widely down this season across the league? This would have three impacts not only for the players on the power play but also how they are into the game when they are not and the space they are afforded because of the penalties. I do not have a feel for how many pps per game this is but that would seem to me (novice that i am) to be more important on the Sedins than Erhoff.

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    • ArtemChubarov
      March 2, 2012

      Well, I looked at shot rates per/60 to try and correct for “lack of penalties” league wide – and the fact is, that the 1st PP unit has taken a small step back in its effectiveness this season even if they are getting fewer opportunities.

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      • Dazza23
        March 2, 2012

        Ok and i am not trying to rain on this. Ignore my second point about how much ‘into’ the games the pp guys are even though they aren’t getting as many pps. (i would assume the only way to measure that is ice time and i bet that hasn’t dropped) My third thought about space. Assuming that last year the Detroit and San Jose model was more prominent than the St Louis, Phoenix, Nashivlle model and that teams were more ‘open’ and furthermore that the refs were calling plays that slowed people down (clutching, grabbing, hooking etc) and furthermore assuming that this was the type of environment that the Sedins thrived in because in the games that weren’t ‘open’ there were pps. How would you account for the space they have grown accustomed to post lock out and seems to be lost this season?

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        • Dazza23
          March 2, 2012

          Oh and my thought on why there is less penalties (for what it’s worth) . The NHL does not know how to deal with concussions but they figure if people are going slower they will get less hurt when they stop. Therefore allow the clutching and grabbing, slow down the product and we will stop losing so many talented people. Just a thought.

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        • ArtemChubarov
          March 2, 2012

          I wouldn’t account for era on this type of analysis I’d just look at the similarity of their EV production last season + this season + say that I doubt that “clutch + grab” has much impact on their ability to generate offense 5-on-5.

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  2. Fan#789
    March 2, 2012

    reminder for salo-is-your-pal-o

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  3. Rituro
    March 2, 2012

    You know your team is spoiled with riches when *regressing* to a point-per-game player is considered cause for concern.

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  4. Ricardo
    March 2, 2012

    Are we assuming that enough of Ehrhoff shifts coincided with the Sedins shifts to not require only comparing when they’re on the ice together? If it’s a smaller effect but they only spend like 30-40% of their shifts together then this kind of analysis might be obfuscating the effect. For instance, if the Sedins uptake was in part because a better breakout system was implemented, then any defenseman in that system would continue to support that increase in production but a player that was better in that system could have a small but significant effect.

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  5. J21
    March 2, 2012

    I’d observe that Ehrhoff’s off-side wrist-shot and marauding, fourth-forward style added an element of unpredictability that the first unit power-play has lacked this season.

    If only the Canucks had another defenseman who can do stuff like this… a Minnesotan defenseman who has never been given a shot on the power play. (Hint: not Andrew Alberts).

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  6. akidd
    March 2, 2012

    excellent article, thomas. thank you for ‘regressing’;) to your usual clear, concise writing style.

    and to add a dull layman’s comment to your high-precision analysis(said in my best barney rubble accent)”…uh, that erhoff sure hit the net a lot, right fred?” which isn’t a bad thing seeings how often the sedins play it back to the point(which from observation seems to happen more frequently on the pp for obvious reasons) after exhausting all other options.

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  7. akidd
    March 2, 2012

    and a question/request:

    a lot has been made of the canuck scouting of kassian. what advanced stats(if any) do you think that they possibly keyed on which might have contributed to their being so keen on him? and which stats may they have keyed on which may have deemed coho expendable?

    thanks, as always.

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    • ArtemChubarov
      March 3, 2012

      Based on several of the Canucks acquisitions this season (in particular claiming Weise off of waivers) I think they place A LOT of stock in AHL production (Gillis even mentioned that in particular when talking about Kassian on the team 1040).

      I’d also point out that Kassian’s possession numbers with Buffalo were pretty strong, (Hodgson’s in VAN were not). I suspect that Hodgson’s struggles with possession were a reason the Nucks decided to move him mid-season, as opposed to waiting until the draft/offseason.

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  8. R
    March 2, 2012

    I think Erhoff misses the Canucks period.

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  9. Shade of Blue
    March 3, 2012

    Great article. One follow up: have the rest of the defense made up for Erhoff’s absence? Are we still getting as many goals and assists from the point at even strength and on the power play? My impression is that we are, but I’d rather go with numbers than my gut…

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    • ArtemChubarov
      March 3, 2012

      From a possession standpoint, Edler with the twins has been more effective this season than Ehrhoff was with the twins last season.

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