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Scott Cullen Analytics


Earlier in the season, I wrote about changes in team possession results compared to last season. Naturally, there was massive improvement in Buffalo, but also Montreal and Toronto, while Pittsburgh, Ottawa and the Islanders were watching their possession stats drop.

The next step of this exercise is to take a look at which individual players have experienced the biggest gains and losses. 

I'll look at both raw and relative percentage of shot attempts and compare the 2014-2015 numbers to the current season to see which players are trending up and which ones are trending down.

First off, the 2014-2015 Buffalo Sabres with their historially poor possession results, mess up everything when it comes to looking at changes from one year to the next, so any players that skated for the Sabres in 2014-2015 -- whether still there or not -- are included in their own separate chart: 



PLAYER TEAM POS 2014-15 SAT% 2015-16 SAT% DIFF
Cody Hodgson Nashville RW 38.65 57.30 18.65
Mike Weber Buffalo D 38.47 52.98 14.51
Zemgus Girgensons Buffalo RW 35.59 49.52 13.93
Tyler Myers Winnipeg D 39.01 51.04 12.03
Josh Gorges Buffalo D 34.09 45.71 11.62
Chris Stewart Anaheim RW 39.29 50.76 11.47
Brian Flynn Montreal RW 37.88 48.96 11.08
Torrey Mitchell Montreal C 39.42 50.26 10.84
Drew Stafford Winnipeg RW 41.37 51.11 9.74
Matt Moulson Buffalo LW 40.18 49.69 9.51
Marcus Foligno Buffalo LW 37.86 47.05 9.19
Rasmus Ristolainen Buffalo D 36.89 45.61 8.72
Tyler Ennis Buffalo RW 37.29 45.80 8.51
Nicolas Deslauriers Buffalo RW 34.10 42.17 8.07
Brian Gionta Buffalo RW 40.49 46.93 6.44

Turns out the massive possession change didn't help Cody Hodgson much (he's since been waived by Nashville), but it's a little easier to have a fair perception of players once they are on a team that isn't specifically aiming for a top draft pick. The Sabres may not be far from the bottom in the standings this year, but they are miles more competitive.

Anyway, for the rest of the league, here are the players that have seen the greatest increase in raw shot attempt percentage from last year to this (minimum 20 games played for both seasons):



PLAYER TEAM POS 2014-15 SAT% 2015-16 SAT% DIFF
James van Riemsdyk Toronto LW 44.74 54.55 9.81
Brad Malone Carolina C 45.09 54.17 9.08
Alexei Emelin Montreal D 45.72 54.13 8.41
Nick Shore Los Angeles C 52.71 61.01 8.30
Trevor Daley Pittsburgh D 45.94 53.66 7.72
Jeff Petry Montreal D 47.36 54.93 7.57
Milan Lucic Los Angeles LW 51.12 58.43 7.31
Lars Eller Montreal C 47.47 54.67 7.20
Vladislav Namestnikov Tampa Bay C 49.19 56.22 7.03
Peter Holland Toronto C 43.73 50.62 6.89
Matt Read Philadelphia RW 47.07 53.88 6.81
Paul Byron Montreal RW 46.39 53.11 6.72
Cedric Paquette Tampa Bay C 50.76 57.29 6.53
Phil Kessel Pittsburgh Rw 45.93 52.37 6.44
Tomas Plekanec Montreal C 49.18 55.60 6.42
Hampus Lindholm Anaheim D 51.58 57.97 6.39
Sean Couturier Philadelphia C 48.40 54.71 6.31
Dale Weise Montreal RW 45.79 51.98 6.19
Dion Phaneuf Toronto D 45.23 51.31 6.08
Cody McLeod Colorado LW 38.79 44.67 5.88

A new coach sure works wonders in Toronto. James van Riemsdyk has the biggest (non-Sabres) increase, but Peter Holland and Dion Phaneuf have also fared much better under the direction of Mike Babcock. Lest you think that JvR's possession increase should be attributed to losing Phil Kessel from his line, note that Kessel has seen a sizeable jump in his numbers since going to Pittsburgh.

The Montreal defence tandem of Jeff Petry and Alexei Emelin has been dramatically better, which is at least a little surprising considering that Petry's possession numbers actually got worse when he arrived from Edmonton last season.

Miscast as a top-pair defenceman in Dallas last season, Trevor Daley has played fewer minutes (a lot fewer in Chicago) this year, but is getting much better results. As in the case of Phaneuf, sometimes role can make a difference.

Those are the players with the biggest raw percentage increases. Here are those with the biggest drop:



PLAYER TEAM POS 2014-15 SAT% 2015-16 SAT% DIFF
Matt Hunwick Toronto D 52.92 45.42 -7.50
Justin Abdelkader Detroit RW 56.17 48.64 -7.53
Andrej Sekera Edmonton D 54.22 46.55 -7.67
Danny DeKeyser Detroit D 53.78 46.11 -7.67
Adam Lowry Winnipeg C 54.45 46.77 -7.68
Matt Carle Tampa Bay D 53.40 45.72 -7.68
Blake Comeau Colorado RW 52.91 45.13 -7.78
Willie Mitchell Florida D 50.37 42.52 -7.85
Alex Chiasson Ottawa RW 50.86 42.73 -8.13
Viktor Stalberg N.Y. Rangers LW 51.99 43.83 -8.16
Marc Methot Ottawa D 54.28 46.08 -8.20
Curtis Lazar Ottawa RW 50.93 42.63 -8.30
Erik Haula Minnesota C 48.51 40.07 -8.44
Mikhail Grabovski N.Y. Islanders C 56.01 47.53 -8.48
Jean-Gabriel Pageau Ottawa C 51.79 43.15 -8.64
Emerson Etem Vancouver RW 53.58 44.56 -9.02
Nick Spaling Toronto C 51.62 42.32 -9.30
Chris Porter Minnesota LW 52.51 42.04 -10.47
Carlo Colaiacovo Buffalo D 55.12 44.51 -10.61
Jarret Stoll Minnesota C 51.05 37.65 -13.40

In some cases, players are just moving from a good team to a not-so-good team and the possession decline is pretty easy to anticipate. In others, it can be a case in which players are put in roles that don't present favourable matchups. Matt Hunwick and Nick Spaling are newcomers in Toronto, but neither one has fared well at a time when many Leafs have seen notable improvement. Willie Mitchell has been getting big minutes in Florida, even though he's spending more time in his own end of the rink.

When it comes to raw percentages, though, team effects play such a big part, so let's take a look at the biggest changes, year over year, in percentage of even-strength shot attempts relative to teammates. 



PLAYER TEAM   2014-15 SAT%Rel 2015-16 SAT%Rel DIFF
Nick Shore Los Angeles C -3.69 7.00 10.69
Joakim Andersson Detroit LW -11.17 -0.49 10.68
Trevor Daley Pittsburgh D -9.19 0.87 10.06
Cedric Paquette Tampa Bay C -3.61 5.81 9.42
James van Riemsdyk Toronto LW -2.51 6.90 9.41
Brad Malone Carolina LW -7.72 1.53 9.25
Radko Gudas Philadelphia D -3.23 5.95 9.18
Chris Neil Ottawa RW -3.99 4.75 8.74
Vladislav Namestnikov Tampa Bay C -2.91 5.43 8.34
Matt Read Philadelphia RW -3.04 4.84 7.85
Nino Niederreiter Minnesota RW 2.07 9.75 7.68
Zack Smith Ottawa C -1.53 6.07 7.60
Kevin Klein N.Y. Rangers D -1.64 5.66 7.30
Fedor Tyutin Columbus D -3.54 3.66 7.20
Travis Hamonic N.Y. Islanders D -3.36 3.70 7.06
Sean Couturier Philadelphia C -1.26 5.58 6.84
Victor Hedman Tampa Bay D 0.37 7.17 6.80
Gustav Nyquist Detroit RW -0.53 6.21 6.74
Dustin Brown Los Angeles RW -1.15 5.39 6.54
Eric Gelinas New Jersey D 1.46 7.99 6.53

Naturally,there some names in common with the raw percentage leaders, but some others too. Nick Shore doesn't create much offence for the Kings, but do the Kings ever control play (61.0 SAT%) when he's on the ice. 

A few notable Flyers are on the list, including heavy-hitting defenceman Radko Gudas, winger Matt Read and two-way ace centre Sean Couturier (who is having a standout season, by the way). Also interesting to see Travis Hamonic performing so well for the Islanders as he plays on despite his trade request going public early in the year. Fedor Tyutin has seen his numbers tick up in a lesser role with Columbus, but is still a healthy scratch from time to time.

The players with the biggest relative possession drop, year over year:



PLAYER TEAM   2014-15 SAT%Rel 2015-16 SAT%Rel DIFF
Andrej Sekera Edmonton D 3.15 -3.32 -6.47
Chris Higgins Vancouver LW 1.22 -5.33 -6.55
Mikhail Grabovski N.Y. Islanders C 3.33 -3.33 -6.66
Nikita Nesterov Tampa Bay C 4.20 -2.54 -6.74
Erik Haula Minnesota C -2.78 -9.61 -6.83
Johan Larsson Buffalo C 5.30 -1.54 -6.84
Gabriel Landeskog Colorado LW 6.57 -0.61 -7.18
Ondrej Palat Tampa Bay LW 4.26 -3.27 -7.53
Tom Wilson Washington RW 1.71 -5.90 -7.61
Luke Schenn Philadelphia D 0.95 -6.76 -7.71
Danny DeKeyser Detroit D 0.33 -7.50 -7.83
Adam Lowry Winnipeg C 2.64 -5.35 -7.99
Jordie Benn Dallas D 3.90 -4.34 -8.24
Nick Spaling Toronto C -1.60 -10.25 -8.65
Matt Carle Tampa Bay D 0.25 -9.31 -9.56
Chris Porter Minnesota LW 1.56 -8.14 -9.70
Daniel Winnik Toronto LW 2.56 -7.64 -10.20
Max Talbot Boston C -1.57 -11.80 -10.23
Matt Hunwick Toronto D 5.07 -6.78 -11.85
Carlo Colaiacovo Buffalo D 8.82 -3.84 -12.66

There are a few surprises on that list, including Gabriel Landeskog and Ondrej Palat. Daniel Winnik has typically been a much better possession player relative to this teammates. While Winnik has had the ice tilted towards the defensive zone, with 36.0% offensive zone starts, that alone doesn't explain the decline. It could be linemates, or defence pairings (he's strugged when on the ice with Hunwick or Roman Polak).   

As with any shot-related analysis, the fuller picture can come by digging deeper into the numbers. Corsi doesn't have all the answers. Sometimes, it triggers the right questions and if you want to find out why a player has dramatically different results, a change in coach, team or role is good a place to start.

Data via

Scott Cullen can be reached at