Dale Weise is doing all the right things; the puck’s just being a jerk

When Dale Weise won the fastest skater competition at the Canucks Superskills on Sunday to the tune of “Highway to the Danger Zone,” the reaction from Canucks fans was one of incredulity. Even Joey Kenward seemed shocked at the arena, saying, “I know a lot of your teammates are going to be surprised that you won the fastest skater competition, but you’re not surprised at all.”

Weise’s deadpan reaction was perfect: “No, not at all.”

The shock was understandable. When you think of speedsters on the Canucks, the names Mason Raymond, Jannik Hansen, and Jordan Schroeder come to mind. Maybe you think of Keith Ballard, who won the fastest skater competition last year and whose mobility is his greatest asset. Weise typically doesn’t even enter into the discussion.

In fact, Canucks fans generally have a low opinion of Weise, mainly because of the role they see him playing. When the Canucks picked him up off waivers from the New York Rangers last season, it was essentially because Steve Pinizzotto got injured during the pre-season and their next best option was Victor Oreskovich. Weise was coming in as a fourth-liner and was expected to do typical fourth-line stuff: bang, crash, fight, sit on the bench.

The problem is that Weise is not a particularly good fighter. While he’s a willing combatant (most of the time), he’s not the kind of guy who strikes the fear of God in the opposition. Since he didn’t fight particularly well and only scored 8 points in  68 games, some Canucks fans decided he wasn’t much use and needed to be replaced.

This opinion, however, ignores how Weise was used. Along with Manny Malhotra and Maxim Lapierre, Weise started the vast majority of his shifts – nearly 80% – in the defensive zone. The fourth line last season had a simple job: win the faceoff, clear the defensive zone, maybe get a shot from the outside to force an offensive zone faceoff, and get off the ice. That entire line acted as an enabler for the Canucks’ offensive-minded forwards.

The only player that started more frequently in the defensive zone than Weise was Malhotra, who would come on for defensive zone faceoffs with other lines as well, leaving the ice as soon as the puck was cleared.

What also gets ignored is that Weise was an NHL rookie last season. For Weise to earn enough of Alain Vigneault’s trust to be used in such a key defensive role speaks volumes. It’s worth noting that Weise finished the season just minus-1 and had the lowest goals against per 60 minutes of ice time of anyone on the Canucks last season, despite being used in primarily defensive zones situations.

Weise is a big body at 6’2″, 210 lbs and has the looks of a typical lumbering, stone-handed, poor-skating goon. But that’s not who he is. As demonstrated on Sunday, Weise has speed to burn, and his point totals in junior and the AHL show that he has some skill to go with it.

Weise’s time in the Netherlands brought that skill to the forefront and he started this season strong, catching people’s attention with his confidence with the puck. Unfortunately, all that confidence didn’t result in much: the Canucks shooting percentage with Weise on the ice is 0%.

Let me repeat that: 0%. That’s right, the Canucks haven’t scored a single goal with him on the ice. The next lowest on-ice shooting percentage on the team belongs to Chris Tanev at 5.08%.

This would be less surprising if it wasn’t for the fact that Weise has actually created scoring chances and been a positive possession player for the Canucks. Weise’s Corsi rating is currently 3.18, indicating that the Canucks are getting more shot attempts for than shot attempts against when he is on the ice.

While Weise was on of the Canucks’ best skaters to start the season, the bounces simply haven’t gone his way, and Weise has fallen down the depth chart and is back on the fourth line. You could also see him struggling to get his timing, often taking a moment too long with the puck, likely because he was used to having more time and space in the Netherlands, but he still had 10 shots in his first 5 games and with 15 shots in 11 games is set to eclipse his total of 48 shots from last year, even in a shortened season.

Last Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Wild is a good example. Though he had just over 8 minutes of ice time, Weise had 3 shots on goal, including a memorable sequence where he took a wrist shot from the wing, then drove the net for his own rebound, nearly chipping it past Niklas Backstrom, and then even managed to set up Aaron Volpatti for a great scoring chance in the slot as he battled for the puck.

That’s a clear example of Weise doing all the right things – getting the puck on net, driving hard to the goal, winning puck battles, and keeping his head up to create opportunities for his linemates – and not getting rewarded.

This is the other side of PDO regression to what I wrote about Jannik Hansen, whose on-ice shooting percentage is 14.81%. With Hansen, random chance is going to swing in the other direction, the puck will stop going in the net, and people will start to wonder where his game has gone and why he’s not scoring as much as he did earlier in the season.

With Weise, the bounces will eventually go his way and he’ll get rewarded for going hard to the net and creating scoring chances. It would just be a shame if this cold streak to start the season took away his confidence or that his diminished ice time on the fourth line gave him fewer opportunities when the percentages swing back in his favour.

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15 comments

  1. TubaNat
    February 11, 2013

    Always been a big fan of Weise, not sure exactly why, just love the energy he brings to every opportunity he gets. Hopefully he gets some puck luck soon…

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  2. akidd
    February 11, 2013

    weise may be playing on the wrong team. that’s some pretty exclusive ice-time out there. when he was skating with schroeder and raymond that line looked pretty good. but when hansen took his spot that line looked really good. and i have a feeling the present line will be together for quite some time.

    we’ll have to wait and see how the chemistry with a kesler, kassian, higgins line works out to be fair but for those who like to dream that combo certainly provides material.

    so fourth-line it most likely is for poor dale. with AV handing out the occasional treat of course. and donning his juggler’s hat as he likes to do.

    but it’s not the worst thing in the world. this is looking like a strong team. what he’s learning on the canucks he couldn’t possibly learn playing on the 2nd line for the flames for example. one day he will hit the market and earn pretty decent coin for what he soaks up during his ride here.

    also come playoffs, and ya, it’s not too early to talk about playoffs(the nw sucks, cough, cough,) a banging, crashing, skating weise will come in very handy. i expect some big moments from him. there’s lots for the flying dutchman to do while he waits for his ship to come in.

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  3. jeremy
    February 11, 2013

    Ah, my old friend PDO. We meet again.

    I’ve been thinking about it and I still believe it’s a trick. I’ve been running some numbers this morning (a bad idea for an English teacher, to be sure – “running numbers” should be used only as an example of idiom. Or maybe personification.) and still I can’t bring myself to buy into the idea that the vast majority of players ‘always regress’ to an extent that their PDO statistic represents purely luck. I’ll give you a couple of ‘bell curve’ style graphs – based on standard deviations – which are worth thinking about.

    http://i23.photobucket.com/albums/b353/bsjezz/STDV-PDO_zps6f2098b2.png

    This one is the frequency of PDOs across the whole season for 2011 – 2012, including the PDO of every player who played for more than five games – 817 guys. Interestingly, the average PDO was 997, but as you can see, a mass of players sit comfortably beyond 1000. Because everything’s rounded into half a standard devitation the fidelity isn’t great on that graph, but from the hard numbers there are around a hundred skaters with a PDO under 970 across the season and and around a hundred with a PDO over 1030.

    These may well be mostly representative of the two hundred guys who played the fewest games, right? Okay, so scratch them off and you’re left with 600 guys who played 32 or more games. We’re already talking about the inevitability of regression after *11* games, so surely by the logic of PDO if you’re keeping your numbers up after three times that long, you’re starting to approach sustainability? I’d say you are. The argument in favour of PDO would be, the sustained deviations aren’t large enough – they are usually in the scope of ‘regression,’ because they aren’t outrageously high, like we see occasionally with guys like Jannik Hansen, at above 1100. So we end up with 600 guys who can only really effect on-ice shooting percentages – for better or worse – in the range of (1030-970 equals) 6%.

    Here’s the bell graph of goalie save percentages last season, from Vezina trophy winner to “You might get a shot at the Calder, I guess?”

    http://i23.photobucket.com/albums/b353/bsjezz/STDV-Goal_zpscbf5ed3e.png

    It’s a mighty spire, much like the curve for PDO – the vast majority of goaltenders (I included everyone who played more than three games) will allow a slim window of 6 to 12 percent of shots in, at a glance. It’s eerily similar to the PDO graph, and covers an identical range – six percent.

    You can interpret these numbers differently, I suppose. I see it as proving that goalies are *damned* consistent and *damned* good at their jobs, and that the margin for error – the margin in which goals are scored, the margin in which hockey happens – is very slim. I also see it as showing that the 600 NHL skaters who played the most games sustained a high or low enough PDO that it is reflective of this margin. There are a significant number of guys who are playing well enough – shooting well enough, making good enough plays – that they can make a hot goalie look silly.

    Ultimately – for me – this has turned into a bit of a defence of PDO as a viable statistic. But it’s not a defence of using it to forecast ‘regression,’ particularly when the numbers are extreme. Yes, Jannik Hansen has been lucky, getting the right bounces, etc – we’ve seen that. It’s self evident. Of course his numbers – PDO and everything else – are going to look inflated, and will deflate over time. It’s the same problem you always get with small sample sizes.

    It’s a defence of looking at PDOs to locate skilled play. The range in which high or low PDOs are sustainable is actually meaningful, and the abberations don’t just belong to a few elite Stamkoses and Sedins. I’m still not a huge fan of the statistic – I’d probably rather look directly at on-ice shooting percentages (which aren’t diluted by an arbitrary number related to a different player, with the only real function being centering the stat around a wholesome 1000 to make it more believable*) alongside something like plus/minus or Corsi for defensive play. But if the number’s there, I guess it can be used. I just think it’s being used wrong.

    Note also that I’m an unqualified moron for having another kick at this bucket after my last horrific attempt. But you know what they say, “try and try again…” And then that’s it. You only get two goes, gratefully.

    * – That would probably take another diatribe entirely to prove… For now, I’ll call it a hunch.

    ** – This is an unreferenced footnote – wrap your head around that! I started to doubt myself before positing this, thinking maybe the analysts aren’t talking crap and the numbers do regress cleanly to 1000, which would mean the guys at 82 would reliably have numbers bang on 1000 and the guys at 33 would not. So I made another quick graph, and they just don’t. After about 30 games – much like my other graph showed – things settle down. But they settle in a fairly broad range. Check it out. PDO is a number – I can’t really call it a myth. But some of the ideas behind its use are incresingly hard for me to understand.

    http://i23.photobucket.com/albums/b353/bsjezz/GP-PDO_zps2fae4fab.png

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    • tom selleck's moustache
      February 12, 2013

      Good post. That’s one of the problems that I see with the usage of PDO; it’s being used as a predictor of a player’s skill level to too strong of a degree than I think it should and allows for too pessimistic a view point of that players development when it’s really simply an indicator of the player’s play at the moment. I do remember Thomas Drance also mentioning that, by and large, the better teams also tended to have higher PDO’s than the less successful teams, although there were quite a number of exceptions and slim margins of error. Still, it does make intuitive sense: over the long run, luck will work itself out and good teams/players will stop a higher percentage of shots and tend to pot more shots that they make when compared to bad teams/players.

      I fully acknowledge that there are smarter minds than me that see the usefulness of PDO as a metric. But, so far, based on my reading of how it’s calculated, it just seems that there are other stats that I would rather use in place of PDO that could accomplish the same purpose without the accompanying assumptions.

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  4. Kyle
    February 11, 2013

    I should leave a meaningful comment but I won’t. All I can say is wow. I can’t believe your comment box allows for so many characters and I can’t believe some people use them all. Jeremy used them all didn’t he? Plus Jeremy gets a C+ for spelling increasingly wrong. Can’t hold it back…oh no…BOOM!

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    • jeremy
      February 11, 2013

      that typo was in an unreferenced footnote, and as such does not actually exist

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  5. Tengeresz
    February 11, 2013

    I predict less dissent with this article because it gives reason for optimism about Weise. Pessimism about Hansen was not very popular, which I think was based on how well he plays (and distrust of statistics).

    Weise is clearly contributing in ways that don’t show up on the score sheet; but, until this article I did not know that there were no goals while he was on the ice — that’s a shocking and clearly unsustainable statistic based on the way he’s playing.

    I think that these days, being on the 4th line does not really limit his chances as much as it appears. I actually shouted “Hey, what’s Manny doing in the O=zone” last game. With our fantastic depth, AV is able to roll 4 lines now — just imagine what will happen when Kes and Booth return. Once we get over the dreaded Two Goal Lead it makes sense to rest our top guns for later while giving the bottom six a chance to shine.

    The only flaw I can see in our joint theory that we’ll see more from Weise, is that aforementioned depth. Who gets the press box popcorn when Kes and Booth return? I’m going to guess Weise, Volpatti, and Alberts — with Cam Barker being sent to the Farm.

    Still, when there are games where size and grit and a bit more experience are needed, I can see AV scratching Schroeder in favour of Weise.

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  6. jeremy
    February 11, 2013

    ‘abberation’, on the other hand, is a flagrant mistake and i probably deserve to have my teaching certification revoked

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    • madwag
      February 12, 2013

      well, if we’re into spelling, then grammar should be looked at too. “it’s being used wrong” is simply wrong. while i don’t like “wrongly” it is the adverb and therefore correct. personally i’d use “incorrectly”. cheers.

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      • madwag
        February 12, 2013

        and i should have put a comma after the introductory adverb clause, “while i …’wrongly’”.

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  7. Mallick
    February 12, 2013

    People have had a low opinion of Dale Weise? I’m kind of surprised.

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  8. TeeJay
    February 12, 2013

    Dale Weise was born in the Year of the Dragon,He may not look like one to scare someone but his Heart shows it with his abilities to play that sometimes he even suprises himself and other people.

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  9. John Andress
    February 12, 2013

    You raised an interesting point at the end of your piece on Weises’s PDO when you remarked

    “With Weise, the bounces will eventually go his way and he’ll get rewarded for going hard to the net and creating scoring chances. It would just be a shame if this cold streak to start the season took away his confidence or that his diminished ice time on the fourth line gave him fewer opportunities when the percentages swing back in his favour.”

    I wonder how many players are aware of the concepts of advanced statistics espoused by pundits such as yourself and Messrs Charron and Drance et al and how many coaches, influenced bu what they are seeing on the ice, will think past the visuals to the underlying numbers and stick with the player until the system works it’s way through the cycle? Do they understand what is theoretically happening or is it merely an intuitive feeling that “things will even out over the season”? Whatever, it has been visibly clear that Weise is not getting the bounces and I, too, hope that he gets rewarded before negativity sets in. Good piece..

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    • J21 (@Jyrki21)
      February 12, 2013

      Considering that players love to spout the cliché that “everything evens out through the course of a 7-game series” — which is patently false with such a tiny sample size — I’m guessing they don’t have a very strong grasp of this stuff.

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  10. Bolderevolution
    February 12, 2013

    I don’t know how Weise feels about his season so far, but he must be pleased by how this post on him has brought out the pedants.

    Up until today we had everything a good blog needs except the pedants – we have the poets, the graphic artists, the optimists and pessimists, the trolls* and, of course, the pot-heads (you know who you are!). But jeremy has unleased his inner-pedant and brought out the pedants in us all!

    Let me join the pedantic fun! In jeremy’s first paragraph “purely” is used as an adjective to qualify “luck” – “pure” would have been correct. Or maybe jeremy meant to qualify “represents” with “purely”, in which case the word order is wrong.

    Regardless, it’s a great post and a great response from jeremy. Such erudition on the subject of our beloved fourth line speedster/banger illustrates why I read this blog every day. Now I just need to get over that silly boarding penalty he took in the playoffs and all will be rosy with Weise.

    * we have to admit that even though Kesler’s Nose is a milt, he’s chosen a great handle as a troll

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