Jannik Hansen is riding the percentages

We’ve been extolling the vices of Jannik Hansen a lot over the past few months — his violence and behaviour, his inability to be calmed down, his cross-checking of referees, and his fictional elbows to the unmentionables — but he also has a fair number of virtues. He’s a speedy, defensively sound two-way forward, who’s great on the forecheck and penalty kill.

Also, after his goal against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, Hansen is tied for third in Canucks scoring with 6 points in 10 games. To put it another, more exciting and inflammatory way, Hansen has the same number of points as Henrik Sedin.

While we’ve long said that Hansen is an underrated playmaker, this new scoring pace is still a surprise. He’s on pace for 49 points if this were an 82-game season, a full 10 points more than his career-high last season. Unfortunately, it’s not likely to happen.

Hansen’s production is particularly unusual because of how he’s being used. Along with Chris Higgins and Alex Burrows, Hansen has spent most of the season checking the opponents’ best players. His QoC (Quality of Competition) is second to only Burrows among Canucks forwards and he has started the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone. While his zone starts aren’t at Manny Malhotra levels, it’s clear that Hansen is being used primarily in a defensive role.

Henrik, on the other hand, is starting in the offensive zone his usual near-70% and leads all Canucks forwards in powerplay ice time. He and Hansen should not have the same number of points.

Here’s the odd thing to me. Henrik and Hansen lead the Canucks in one particular statistic: goals scored while they are on the ice. The Canucks have scored 3.88 goals for every 60 even-strength minutes that Hansen has been on the ice and 3.02 goals for every 60 even-strength minutes that Henrik is on the ice. Last season, that number was 3.29 for Henrik, so not too far off considering how few games we are into the season.

So why do Henrik and Hansen have the same number of points? For Hansen, there’s a fairly easy answer: he’s riding the percentages. The Canucks’ shooting percentage when Hansen is on the ice is 14.81%, a pace that is extremely unlikely to continue. The highest on-ice shooting percentage in the entire NHL last season was 12.93% from Steven Stamkos, and even that was considered unsustainably high for him.

For Hansen, the bounces are simply going his way at this point in the season. Consider his first goal of the season, against Edmonton: he worked extremely hard to score it, but he also got a fortunate bounce, banking the puck off Devan Dubnyk and in from a bad angle.

Oddly enough, his current rate of goal-scoring is actually pretty likely to continue: Hansen is taking more shots than he has in previous seasons and his shooting percentage of 8.7% is actually a little lower than his career average. He’s getting fortunate bounces so far this season when he’s on the ice, but he’s also getting the puck to the net enough that he’s likely to score around 10 goals in a 48-game season.

The troubling part for Hansen is that he, along with Higgins, are actually struggling in their role as defensive forwards. The two of them have the worst Corsi on the team and have frequently gotten trapped in the defensive zone and been bailed out by the work of Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. Hansen currently has the highest PDO on the team, a statistic that combines on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage. PDO numbers tend to regress towards 1000: Hansen’s PDO of 1106 is the 20th highest in the NHL right now, which is not a good sign. He’s due for a healthy regression on both sides.

As for Henrik, his lack of points is a little more strange. His on-ice shooting percentage is actually pretty high at 10.29% and, as mentioned above, the Canucks are scoring goals at a fairly high rate when he’s on the ice. The only thing is that he’s not getting assists on those goals. For Henrik, it’s not as simple as looking at his PDO, which at 1064 is likely to go down over the course of the season, and say that Henrik is due for a regression.

The truth is that the Canucks are scoring at even-strength when Henrik’s on the ice, but he’s not getting points. Henrik will start picking up assists at a higher-rate as the season continues and it’s quite bizarre that he hasn’t already. Once the Canucks figure out their powerplay woes (which I think is inevitable), Henrik should be back at the top of the Canucks’ scorers.

If Hansen continues to play a checking role, however, he won’t be there with Henrik. At some point this season, Hansen will stop getting the bounces: a great shot will hit the knob of the goaltender’s stick or a shot that he would have gotten an assist on will hit the post. At that point, let’s remember this adage from Ecclesiastes 9:11:

I have seen something else under the sun:

The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.

Simply put, don’t be too quick to either praise or condemn. Hansen isn’t as good as he might seem right now, but he’s also not as bad as he will likely seem in the future.

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19 comments

  1. madwag
    February 8, 2013

    at least “riding the percentages” is more productive than riding opposition goalies. it was there.

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  2. Cam Charron
    February 8, 2013

    I hope you wiped your feet before you tread on my turf.

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  3. Dougster
    February 8, 2013

    Well, I prefer to think Hansen’s production will continue, and damn the statistics :) . Hansen has been known to be an outstanding ” practice” player who has difficulty translating that ability into production during games. Maybe he is figuring that out! There is a lot more to it than luck and regression to the mean although there is no argument both play a role. Experience with opponents, and team mates, leads to better on-ice savvy that can put you into position to be “lucky”. Being a fraction slow because of lack of conditioning (hello 2/3 of the team) can have the same effect in the other direction. It is a thin line…

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  4. Tengeresz
    February 8, 2013

    Advanced Stats be damned!

    Hansen passes the eye test: he’s working hard to make his own luck, and has had lots of great chances that didn’t go in. I don’t go for this “Unsustainable” luck pitch of yours.

    As a player, I like Hansen a lot. I have a feeling (wish?) that this could be his breakout year.

    Since he has been playing during the lockout, he has started strong. His speed and determination look to me to be at mid-season form, and that goal last night was a beauty. He has tools.

    When Kes and Booth return, I’d love to see our third line being Schroeder-Raymond-Hansen. I call this the “Speed (s)Kills” line.

    To my mind, the Canuck weakness the last few years has been secondary scoring. Hansen is one of the answers.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      February 8, 2013

      Hey, don’t get me wrong, I love Hansen. One of my favourite Canucks. He works hard, plays tough minutes, and has an endlessly entertaining voice. I love the way he’s been playing and I sincerely hope that he can continue his point production throughout the season. And I’ve always said that his offensive skills are underrated.

      But the fact is that through the first 10 games of the season, the bounces have been going his way. The only way he keeps his production going is if he gets a lot more offensive opportunities with the Sedins or on the powerplay. If he is instead on a checking line that plays tough minutes in the defensive zone, his negative Corsi and high PDO is going to catch up to him.

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      • Snepsts
        February 9, 2013

        Hansen owns. One of my favorite Canucks. When he scores, I am a special sort of happy. The fact that he has this weird intermittent unpredictable rage just makes him even more awesome, and he’s Danish to boot.

        Schroeder is like a young Hansen, too. So responsible at both ends, but oh so wants to score.

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  5. Amor de Cosmos
    February 8, 2013

    I’ve got lotsa lurve for Hansen too. He’s always seems as though he should have better offensive numbers than he ends up with. He scored a lot as junior I think, but was told that he’d never be able to do it in the NHL, so concentrated on his defence. AV isn’t the type of coach to let his third and fourth liners freelance, and Hansen’s obviously an obedient lad. It’d be nice to see him get an extended stretch on the second line and PP before Kesler and Booth come back, however. He’s earned it.

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  6. jeremy
    February 8, 2013

    “Riding-the-percentages” and other PDO-based analysis doesn’t work for me. Do you know how a team can force high shooting percentages? By working hard deep to make good chances rather than loft floaters in as soon as they enter the zone. PDO works on an assumption that every shot is the same; every chance is the same; that a line with two shooters is going generate statistically identical chances as a ‘don’t shoot until you can reverse park a Porsche Cayenne under the crossbar” line, like one featuring identical twin swedes. A guy like Kassian will generate high shooting percentages because he can *both* shoot, and is patient enough to make great passes. These are scenarios in the extreme; every line will make slightly better or slightly worse chances. Otherwise we wouldn’t have a stat for ‘chances,’ and read into that.

    Just think about a coach. Are they going to say to a line with a high shooting percentage, “You’ll regress, that’s okay.” Hell no. He’ll say,”You’re making excellent chances, and I’m going to look at what this line and figure out *why* the chances are converting so often. Then you’re going to keep doing that.”

    Anyway. I don’t like PDO.

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    • tom selleck's moustache
      February 8, 2013

      I have to agree with Jeremy. It’s sometimes struck me that too much value is placed on PDO as an influencer of results and play with it seems to be more of an outcome of said results and play. So, it’s usefulness, to me, seems pretty limited.

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      • Daniel Wagner
        February 8, 2013

        And yet, PDO always, always, always regresses towards 1000. Whatever the cause, whatever the assumptions, whatever it is, it always regresses. Individual PDO isn’t quite as strict — the best players in the league will have a PDO slightly above 1000 and will regress towards that, and the worst players in the league will have a PDO slightly below 1000 and regress towards that — but it will still regress. Team PDO regresses more strictly to 1000.

        Does that mean it’s useful as a coaching tool? In some cases, yes, in other cases, no. When a player has a low PDO, but is doing all the right things, and is getting frustrated that he’s not putting up points, a coach might want to point towards PDO and encourage him to keep doing what he’s doing. Or, a coach might point towards a player’s high PDO as evidence that even though he’s putting up points, there are still things he needs to work on.

        But in other cases, a coach might not want to use PDO. Maybe some players would get lackadaisical knowing that they have a low PDO and just expect things to turn around for him rather than continuing to work hard. Maybe some players would be insulted if someone insinuated that the point streak they were on was partly because of fortunate bounces.

        Jeremy, you may not like PDO, but the problem is that it works. The Canucks will not continue shooting at over 14% when Hansen is on the ice. It’s just plain not going to happen. In order for Hansen to keep scoring at his current rate, he will have to generate even more scoring chances at even-strength than he is currently or get a lot more powerplay ice time.

        Some players do create a higher on-ice shooting percentage than others: the Sedins are two players that have consistently been able to do that. Their PDO has been higher than 1000 because of that.

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  7. jeremy
    February 9, 2013

    I just don’t buy it. The reason it regresses to 1000 globally is because shooting percentage and save percentage nullify each other (you can’t score *too many* more goals than those that aren’t saved… right?) – and when shooters ARE good, when they ARE doing the right thing, PDO misrepresents it as a small anomaly – if your shots are consistently ten percent better than the next guy, your PDO might end up as a whopping 1010. If you’re twice as good – for your whole career – it’ll look like 1100. Across the whole season last year Jannik had a PDO of 1033 – that means for every three shots most guys didn’t pot, Jannik got one. The year before, it was one extra for every four. Is he still waiting for regression? Or is he just good at hockey?

    Goalies stop most shots. They are good at their job. The differences shooters can make are always going to be marginal because of that. It’s a massive fallcy to assume that for that reason, it’s all luck. PDO is a trick. It’s not good analysis, I’m afraid.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      February 9, 2013

      I’m pretty sure you’re completely misunderstanding the concept. I’m not talking about it regressing to 1000 globally – it will always be 1000 globally – but that it regresses to 1000 on a team by team basis. It also regresses to near-1000 on an individual basis, depending on how good that player is at influencing shooting percentage or save percentage when he’s on the ice. That influence, however, is very minute.

      Hansen’s PDO of 1033 last season was a combination of a .934 save percentage when he was on the ice and a 9.87 shooting percentage. The 33 at the end of his PDO represents 3.3%, not 33% as you seem to be saying. If his on-ice shooting percentage was 3.3% better than the average, then he would score three more goals for every 100 shots than the average shooter.

      No one is saying that it’s all luck. Scoring goals in the NHL requires a great deal of hard work and skill. But sometimes that hard work and skill just doesn’t pay off: a puck one centimeter to the left hits the post and stays out instead of hitting the post and going in. A shot deflects off a stick directly into the goaltender’s pad. A goalie blindly swings his stick backwards and knocks the puck away from the net with the knob of his stick. And sometimes that hard work and skill pays off: a bad angle shot goes off a defender’s stick into the net. A shot that’s going wide deflects off the knob of the goalie’s stick and in.

      Those are fortunate bounces. You might call them lucky. That doesn’t necessarily devalue the effort and skill that created the chance that led to the fortunate bounce. It’s just recognizing that sometimes the hard work and skill pay off and sometimes they don’t. Over the course of an 82-game season, the times when they do pay off and the times the don’t pay off tend to balance out.

      Again, no one’s saying Hansen’s bad at hockey. He’s very good at hockey. He’s also riding a percentage-driven hot streak right now. The two are not mutually exclusive.

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      • jeremy
        February 9, 2013

        Yeah, I misinterpretted it direly and now I look like a dum-hed. I was looking at the shooting percentage as a personal stat as well, which it’s not – PDO is actually based on team shooting anyway, right? So wrong. It’s late here OK.

        I suppose I’ll have to put my hand up as an example of the guy who wants to believe in the ideal of ‘hard work, pull yourself up by the bootstraps, make your own fate…’ The guy that wants to justify that, strains to justify it, but the cruel, random truth of the universe won’t relent.

        And yet… I dunno. Maybe in that little deviation, the marginal outliers, I see… hockey, *wipes a tear*. Maybe in ‘unusual, and unsustainable’ I see ‘unusually good – exemplary! Take note!’ I know that the function of PDO is to devalue skill – or the illusion of skill – which is fine. It proves luck exists and plays a big factor. But that’s common sense. I still don’t find it useful. Maybe I would if it was approached like “Jannik Hansen hasn’t regressed yet, I wonder why?” rather than “Jannik Hansen’s gonna regress pretty soon, here’s why.”

        The Corsi analysis is great though, and a little scary. I hope this goalie one-upmanship doesn’t end soon. I’m not sure we can handle a cold goalie in net without Kesler back there, anyway.

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        • Daniel Wagner
          February 9, 2013

          I understand where you’re coming from, but the purpose of PDO isn’t to devalue skill. On an individual level, skilled players do tend to have slightly higher PDO numbers. Some teams, even, the one’s with excellent goaltending like the Canucks, can sustain PDO numbers higher than 1000. They just don’t tend to be as high as Hansen’s is right now.

          Skill isn’t an illusion, by any means, but “time and chance happen to them all.” None of this was intended to drag Hansen down, but instead to give us a more realistic view of what he will accomplish over the rest of the season. PDO can also help us realize when a player should be producing more given his hard work and skill, but just isn’t getting the bounces. Dale Weise, for instance, has an on-ice shooting percentage of 0%. He’s working hard, creating chances, and going to the net, but that hasn’t resulted in any goals or assists. Should we say that he’s not doing the right things on the ice, or should we notice that he is doing the right things and just isn’t getting rewarded?

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          • Dougster
            February 9, 2013

            Ok so lets take the analysis a step further then: based on a projected regression to the mean what would constitute a real sustained improvement for Hansen? What would his production have to be to provide evidence his results are not just opportunistic? I say lets start a Hansen Watch and track it :) I maintain the guy’s production is not just a statistical illusion!

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  8. Michael
    February 9, 2013

    Boo! Daniel, BOO!
    Let magic happen. If it involves sucking down Koolaid distilled from fermented herring guts, get in there, be a team player. My breath might be abysmal, but I believe that young Mister Hanson will be involved in many important goals this year.
    mmm. rotten fishes… Win!

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  9. TeeJay
    February 9, 2013

    Atleast we can all say Jannik Hansen and Mason Raymond are Canucks in Motion for the goals. I hope the TEAM can find their Hearts for the game so they can make it to the Great Wall of Hockey (SCF).

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  10. Tengeresz
    February 9, 2013

    In my contrary minded opinion, Mr. D-Wag is getting a hard ride here (even if I was one of the ones who started it).

    Part of the strength of my response was because I assumed that all the highly intelligent PITB readers would be all over the advanced stats, consider his recent success JUST lucky, and call for Hansen to be put on a grind line when Kes and Booth return. Instead, there’s a Hansen appreciation society building up here.

    It seems that (like me) when people don’t like what the stats tell them to think, we want to believe there is more to sport than stats. I don’t think that means we have to shoot the messenger.

    So: thanks for the observations in the article, and YaY! for all the Hansen supporters.

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  11. zolltan
    February 9, 2013

    I understand the idea that PDO regresses to 1000 over the long term, but to assume it regresses over the short term is a gambler’s fallacy. After all, it’s not like Hansen’s next shot is any less likely to go in because he’s had a high PDO so far. Implicit in Daniel’s analysis is that 12 games is “short term” and that 82 games is “long term”. So what’s 36 games? I dunno.

    In any case, I don’t think PDO “always always always regresses” over the course of a season, even for a team. If that were the case, the better shot differential = better team would be a foolproof metric. And I mean, it’s a good metric, but it also has things like the Avalanche being better than the Canucks last year, for example. Like anything else, there’s gonna be a normal distribution about 1000, right?

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