Advanced Faceoff Stats Volume 3: Best & Worst Blackhawks Faceoff Specialists

As you notice, this is the third installment in my advanced faceoff series. This post includes some faceoff stats you most likely never heard of, so make sure to read Volume 1, where I explain the stat and look at the best and worst faceoff specialists in the NHL. Further your knowldege in Volume 2, as I expand the faceoff stat discussion and include who the best & worst offensive and defensive zone faceoff specialist were in the NHL.In the volume you are currently reading, I will compare and contrast Chicago Blackhawks players only. This will include looking at how players performed in the offensive zone, nuetral zone, defensive zone, and finally overall at the faceoff dot.

A quick reminder that Net Shots Post Faceoff analyzes shots for and shots against that occur within 10 seconds of every puck drop. Each players number isn’t the raw shot +/- number. Instead it’s how that player compares to league average with league average being defined as zero, above league average being a positive number, and below league average being a negative number.

As I’ve thoroughly discussed the stat in previous volumes, let’s jump right into our first chart. I attempted to simplify the chart enough so that if someone had no idea what the stat means can come out of this post with the same understanding of a person that fully comprehends the stat. You’ll see what I mean when we see the first set of charts.

Let’s begin with who the best and worst faceoff specialists were last season in the offensive zone.

If you know nothing about this faceoff stat, you can look at the above chart and see what section each player ends up in. I’ve made four sections for easy comprehension.

  • Pretty bad – this player was close to the bottom of the league
  • Kinda bad –  this player was below league average, but still not horrible
  • Kinda good – this player was above league average, but still not one of the best in the league
  • Pretty good – this player was elite and one of the better players in the league at the stat

So even if you know little, you can look at Artem Anisimov and know he was a pretty bad offensive zone faceoff specialist last season. Teuvo Teravainen was kinda bad, but pretty close to being pretty bad. Jonathan Toews was also below league average last season on faceoffs in the offensive zone. The only players above league average (above zero) are Andrew Desjardins and Andrew Shaw. 

Now sample size is going to matter here. When looking at these numbers, Artem Anisimov and Jonathan Toews are the only ones the truly matter or at least have the most validation. The other players have a smaller sample size. When a player has a small sample size, the stats may be extremely skewed by random variance. The lucky bounce has more influence in small sample sizes. Normally a player who attains more a bigger sample size, in this case more faceoffs, will have his numbers slowly move closer to average. Therefore, I feel it’s prudent to post the total faceoffs each player had in the offensive zone (chart above) for reference. This way, you will know how big a sample size each player has, and in turn which players stats are more valid than others.

Let’s take a look at how the players did in the nuetral zone.

On faceoffs in the neutral zone last season, Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger had the most positive impact from the faceoff dot, while Teuvo Teravainen and Dennis Rasmussen were a the biggest negatives.

But again let’s take a look at the sample size.

Andrew Shaw was the best and Teuvo Teravainen was the worst faceoff specialist in the neutral zone, but both took less than 100 neutral zone faceoffs, which is a small sample size. If I only used proper sample sizes, we would most likely be looking at a chart of only Toews and Anisimov. But we want to look at more than two people. So just be aware that with more neutral zone faceoffs, both Teravainen and Shaw’s numbers would move closer to average, which in this case is zero. Shaw is likely good in the neutral zone and Teuvo is likely bad in the neutral zone, but not to the extent that is shown in this neutral zone faceoff specialist chart.

The third group of charts will look at faceoffs in the defensive zone.

And quickly I’ll just add the sample size, so you know that Desjardins high number could be mainly due to sample size.

Phillip Danualt did pretty well considering younger players coming into the league normally struggle with faceoffs. In one of the bigger sample sizes on the team, he posted above average faceoff numbers. We see noted faceoff specialists Jonathan Toews and Marcus Kruger were below league average when taking faceoffs in the defensive zone.

Now if we combine everything, we can see overall who the best and worst Chicago Blackhawks faceoff specialists last season.

And the sample size.

So overall, Desjardins, Shaw, and Danault were the only Blackhawks faceoff specialists that were above league average last season.

Andrew Desjardins put up great faceoff numbers and has played center in the past. Now this doesn’t mean “Desjardins is good at faceoffs, he has to play center”. First of all we have the extremely small sample size. Secondly, other skills have a greater impact on overall quality of a center than simply faceoffs. The faceoff provides value, but has been overrated by the general public and hockey broadcasts for years. That being said, as far as faceoffs only, Andrew Desjardins looks to be able to fill in at center should they want to move Marcus Kruger to the top line Left Wing, or if they want to have Kruger and Desjardins both be bottom-6 centers. Again, no “who should we put at center” debate be heavily based off faceoff stats. I’m simply noting that Desjardins has played center in the past, and that could be an option for him this season.

Teravainen and Anisimov were really bad at faceoffs, but you probably already knew that. Therefore, this information further validates that knowledge.

Toews and Kruger were worse than league average at faceoff possession last season. Yes, the great Jonathan Toews. He used to be elite at post faceoff possession. However, his numbers have slowly slipped season-by-season and he has recently been around or below league average. I’ll examine Toews’ career faceoffs numbers in Volume 4 of this advanced faceoff series.

Even though faceoff skill doesn’t have as huge as impact on the overall game as skills like shooting, passing, puck control, stick checking, and skating ability, I still find the faceoff information interesting. The next Volume looking at Jonathan Toews for instance. He is known as one of the best faceoff specialists in the game. He use to have some of the best faceoff possession stats until the past three seasons. It will be interesting to explore when he dropped off and try to question why.