Advanced Faceoff Stats Volume 4: Is Jonathan Toews An Elite Faceoff Specialist?

As you can tell, this is the 4th installment of my faceoff series. Make sure to go back and read the previous volumes, that way you can properly learn the stat, the value of the stat, and how to read the charts.

  • Volume 1: Explaining Advanced Faceoff Stats plus who were the best NHL faceoff specialists last year.
  • Volume 2: Further discussion of faceoff stats including who the best offensive and defensive zone faceoff specialists were.
  • Volume 3: How the Chicago Blackhawks players faceoff stats compare and contrast.
  • Volume 4: You are currently reading.

By now you should have a better understanding of advanced faceoff stats. Therefore, let’s jump right into Toews’ charts and then analyze what we see.

Offensive Zone Faceoffs


Neutral Zone Faceoffs


Defensive Zone Faceoffs


All Zones

 

What The Charts Say

Every chart will have four horizontal sections so one can easily tell if Toews was pretty bad, kinda bad, kinda good, or pretty good in the faceoff circle that season.

In the offensive zone, Toews started his career as a pretty bad faceoff specialist. This is to be expected as it usually takes time for young centers to become competent at the faceoff dot. It’s also a skill that normally gets better with age. After a couple seasons, Toews’ offensive zone faceoff ability levels off around (-1.7) and the line never goes over zero. This suggests that for every season of his career, Jonathan Toews was a below league average faceoff specialist in the offensive zone.

In the neutral zone, Toews has a more positive impact. He’s even been above league average for the past four season, which is something he’s never achieved in the offensive zone. Although he isn’t elite, Jonathan Toews has still done well In between the blue lines.

 Woah! What happened to Jonathan Toews in the defensive zone? Five of the last nine seasons, he’s been one of the better D-zone faceoff specialists. In 2012-13, his numbers were near the top of the league. The next season, 2013-14, he dropped to just below league average. Two seasons later, 2015-16, he dropped to being bad at something he was once elite at. Toews may still win a high percentage of his faceoffs, but something has changed. Being elite here means that Chicago isn’t giving up many Shots Against within 10 seconds of a defensive zone faceoff. As he descends to below league average, this indicates opponents are getting off more shots within 10 seconds of a faceoff. This would probably be the most concerning as he has fallen from elite to far below league average last season. However, let’s put an actual number to it so you can realize how minuscule the impact is. 

These charts show Toews’ faceoff stats as a rate (per 60 Faceoffs). If we use his total number of D-zone Faceoffs to calculate the total impact last season, he was 14 shots below league average. This means a league average center, taking the same faceoffs, would have produced only 14 less shot attempts by opponents last season. Toews’ below league average defensive zone faceoff skill last season might have resulted in one more goal against.

In 2011-12 (his best season), Toews’ total season impact was +15 shot attempts better than league average. So maybe one goal better than league average. That means the even though Toews has gone from one of the best to one of the worst in the defensive zone, it’s probably only cost the Blackhawks two measly goals. Two lousy, stinkin’ goals. That’s nothing to get worked up about. It probably won’t have any impact on Chicago’s record. However, we do start to see a value with faceoffs. Here we are looking at a +1 to (-1) goal impact over a season, but that’s only on defensive zone faceoffs at even strength. Add a couple goals from each zone plus a couple goals on special teams, and a centers faceoff skill might produce 1 or 2 wins for their team. Last season, in all zones, 5v5, Sidney Crosby was a league best +76 net Shots Post faceoff last season. That’s a 3-4 goal impact at even strength alone that Crosby added to his team last season. His 5v5 faceoff skill alone probably added one win to the Pittsburgh Penguins record last season. But that’s the best of the best. Most centers faceoff skill will have no impact on a teams record.

I’m starting to ramble, so let’s pull it back in and talk about how Toews did collectively in all zones (the 4th chart of this article). For someone touted as an elite faceoff specialist, Toews doesn’t have much positive impact on Post-Faceoff Possession. He was only above league average for two of the past nine seasons.

So why does everyone think Toews is elite? Well, he wins faceoffs. Take a look at his winning % year-by-year below. He’s won well over 50% of his faceoffs every season.


Normal faceoff stats only looks at one thing, which team touches the puck first. Toews has been good at this. What Post-Faceoff Possession stats look at is the shot attempts for both teams that occurs in the first 10 seconds after puck drop. This shows more details. More context. This stat shows if faceoffs are leading to shots for or against, 

So let’s just say Toews is elite at faceoffs because he wins many of them. With the information provided in this post, I would venture to say he is not using his skill to the best of his abilities. If he is winning this many faceoffs, he should have better post faceoff possession numbers. 

So what’s the deal? This is where a stat can only take one so far and one needs to use video to see why the stats are what they are. This season, watch what happens in the first 10 seconds of every Toews faceoff. What type of faceoff plays are the Blackhawks using? What are their tendencies? Has Head Coach Joel Quenneville’s faceoff strategy changed over the years? Is Toews able to win the puck cleanly? Maybe he wins the puck a lot, but not in a clean & crisp manor. This could hypothetically lead to more faceoff wins, but less of an actual impact as Toews’ teammates have to secure an on edge puck and can’t run the play as planned.

So I will be watching closely to see what happens after the puck drops. Is there something Jonathan Toews can change at the dot that could lead to better possession and use of his skill?