David Booth’s knock-knock joke falls on deaf ears. #NoChemistry
Advanced statistics and quantitative analysis have consistently proven useful in hockey, but any honest hockey math nerd will admit that there are factors the numbers can’t quite measure. Some things operate on the U.S. Supreme Court’s “I know it when I see it” principle. Supposedly, one such unmeasurable factor is chemistry, which has been a major talking point among Canuck nation of late.
During the regular season, David Booth played roughly 35 total even-strength minutes with the Sedin twins. He played more with former Florida Panthers teammate Tomas Kopecky. Yet, with the team facing elimination in Game 4 of the Canucks’ first round series with the Los Angeles Kings, Alain Vigneault modified his lines, bumping Booth up to the top line to skate with the twins. That alteration to the team’s forward lines separated Booth from Ryan Kesler, his linemate all season.
Despite being somewhat bemused by Booth’s move to the Sedins’ right wing, many cheered the split from Kesler, as the two apparently have “no chemistry.” Oh, but they do.
Was Vigneault’s adjustment motivated by “chemistry”? Certainly Burrows (who replaced Booth on the second line) and Kesler are thought to “have it.” They’ve come up through the organization together, they’ve often been used together on the penalty kill, and they memorably teamed up to dominate the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of last year’s Western Conference quarterfinal. But it’s unlike Vigneault to pursue something as fleeting as “chemistry” when he decides how to employ his lines. Think about it — if “chemistry” was a priority for him, he wouldn’t turn so ruthlessly or regularly to his Magic Bullet line blender.
When the playoffs began, Alain Vigneault was criticized by Canucks fans and media for not rolling the team’s best two-way trio, the so-called “Amex line” of Ryan Kesler, David Booth and Chris Higgins. When Vigneault adjusted in Game 2, and matched the “Amex” line against Anze Kopitar’s group (who had plastered the Pahlsson-centered checking line in Game 1), Vancouver’s embattled head coach was criticized for continuing to deploy Booth with Kesler, despite their apparent lack of chemistry. There are two lessons here: first, you can’t win in the Vancouver market no matter what you do if you’re Alain Vigneault, and second, chemistry matters, apparently.
Jeff Paterson pointed out that Ryan Kesler and David Booth didn’t pick up assists on one another’s goals with much regularity this season:
— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) April 17, 2012
Considering the two skaters spent nearly 530 minutes together at even-strength, that’s a surprisingly dismal level of crossover. The usefulness of slicing up the data in this arbitrary way, however, falls apart under further scrutiny.
You can count the number of powerplay shifts that Ryan Kesler and David Booth played together this season on two hands; Kesler spent more time on the power-play with Mikael Samuelsson than he did with David Booth in 2011-12. I think it’s fair, then, to throw all of both players’ powerplay goals out the window (that’s 8 for Kesler, and 3 for Booth).
David Booth doesn’t play on the penalty kill either, so let’s defenestrate Kesler’s 1 shorthanded goal as well.
Furthermore, Booth joined the team in late October, and didn’t play his first game with the Canucks until October 25th. He was injured a few months later and missed six weeks of action. During that period of time, Kesler tallied 3 even-strength goals.
So Kesler scored 10 even-strength goals with Booth in the lineup, and Booth assisted on half of them. Meanwhile, Kesler recorded only 10 even-strength assists with David Booth in the lineup, and 40% of those were on goals scored by Booth.
If we look at it in terms of scoring rates, Kesler and Booth, when playing together, helped the Canucks manufacture 2.15 goals for every 60 minutes of even-strength ice-time they played. When Kesler played without Booth on his wing this season, the Canucks scored 2.25 goals for every 60 minutes of even-strength ice-time. The difference between those two rates is negligible. We can say with a good degree of confidence that Booth’s presence on his wing does nothing to neuter Kesler’s offensive efficiency.
Anyway, as you know, I don’t put much stock into production anyway; I care significantly more about controlling possession and generating shots and chances, and here’s where things get interesting. Let’s take a quick gander at Booth and Kesler’s WOWY (with or without you) numbers, courtesy David Johnston’s hockey analysis site:
|Kesler with Booth||60.4%|
|Kesler without Booth||51.3%|
|Booth Without Kesler||50.6%|
I’d define “chemistry” between two players as, “when they play together, their line becomes more than the sum of their parts.” With Booth and Kesler, that has been the case this season, as they’ve controlled 60.4% of Corsi events. When they’ve skated together they’ve totally dominated play.
Let’s put their “chemistry” into context.
Perhaps no two players in the league have better “chemistry” than Daniel and Henrik Sedin. They’ve shared a womb, they’ve been teammates their entire lives, they were drafted back-to-back, and they’ve spent their entire NHL careers as linemates. They operate like homing beacons, always knowing where the other one is on the ice, always anticipating one another’s next move. It’s uncanny and magical to watch. I think most would agree that the chemistry between the two twins is a big part of what makes them such special players, and one of the most feared offensive duos in hockey.
Yet, when they’ve played together this season, the twins have controlled 59% of Corsi events. That’s a dominant number, but it’s also slightly and notably lower than the percentage of events that Booth and Kesler have managed to control when they’ve skated together this season. How about that?
There’s a reason you wear gloves, goggles and occasionally nose plugs when performing experiments in your high-school chemistry class. Reactions can be unpredictable, and if the experiment goes wrong you may have to deal with an explosion, or your compounds might emit an unpleasant odor. Odd reactions and noxious smells – that sums up the “Booth and Kesler have no chemistry” argument pretty well.Tags: chemistry, david booth, drance numbers, Ryan Kesler, using tables to prove things