[Wild About Numbers]: The Great Nino Niederreiter vs Charlie Coyle Debate

Who's needs ice time when you have friendship? - Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

There has been much discussion around here as of late regarding the issue of Charlie Coyle seeming to be rewarded with more ice-time, more opportunities on the powerplay and better linemates than Nino Niederreiter despite Niederreiter, in the eyes of some, outplaying Coyle in all aspects of the game this season. I'm going to analyse both players and break down the situation in detail.

Just to recap quickly, this argument stems from the fact that Charlie Coyle has had a lot more ice time than Nino Niederreiter all season and, in the latest lines put together by Mike Yeo (these ones in the wake of the Matt Moulson trade) Coyle has been put on a line with Moulson and Mikko Koivu (arguably the team's best two forwards) while Nino has been stuck on the 3rd line with Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cooke, the traditional tough minutes/shutdown line.

I figured that the best way to approach this would be to examine the numbers for each player this season in terms of usage, TOI, competition, teammates, scoring, possession etc. to see how they are being deployed and who is producing better results.

Before I begin, it's worth noting that Coyle missed 12 games this season through injury has spent most of his time playing RW but did spend some time as a C earlier in the year. Niederreiter has been used at LW and RW and has played every game this season.


-Here's a quick glossary of some of the abbreviations I have used in the tables below:


  • ES (even-strength)
  • SH (Shorthanded)
  • OZSt% (Offensive Zone Start %)
  • Rel QoC/QoT (Quality Of Competition/Teammates played with/against relative to rest of team)SF (Shots For)
  • CF (Corsi [Shot Attempts] For)
  • A1/A2 (1st assist/2nd assist)
  • FF% (On Ice Fenwick For%)
  • GF% (On Ice Goals For%)
  • CF/60 (Corsi For Per 60 Minutes
  • TotTm% (Total % of team's TOI that said player is on the ice for)
  • Variations on all of the above


Time On Ice

ES TOI/G

PP TOI/G

SH TOI/G

EVTm%

PPTm%

SHTm%

TotTm%

Niederreiter

13:00

01:34

0:000

26.00%

29.60%

0.30%

23.80%

Coyle

14:45

02:22

00:09

28.80%

45.80%

3.50%

28.20%

  • The red font indicates who the leader is in each stat.
  • Coyle is getting 2.75 more minutes of ES ice time per game and around a minute more PP time.
  • Neither player is a regular contributor in shorthanded situations.
  • When all's said and done, Coyle gets more ice time in every situation and is on the ice for 4.40% more of the team's total TOI than Nino
  • So we have established that Coyle dominates the usage...


Zone-Starts

OZSt%

NZSt%

DZSt%

Niederreiter

36.00%

37.70%

27.90%

Coyle

37.30%

35.30%

27.50%

  • Their zone starts are pretty even, but Coyle gets a higher percentage of starts in the offensive zone and Nino sees more shifts start in the neutral and defensive zones, meaning he is playing tougher situations than Coyle.
  • Let's see if this trend continues when we factor the quality of competition and teammates into the equation....


Quality Of Competition/Teammates

5v5

Rel QoC

Rel QoT

Niederreiter

0.479

0.396

Coyle

0.456

2.403

  • They have faced almost identical competition this season relative to the rest of the Wild players.
  • The kicker here is that Coyle has had much stronger quality of teammates.
  • So Nino has had tougher zone starts and has played with lesser teammates but in fewer minutes.


Goal-Scoring

G

SF

Sh%

ES G/60

ES SF/60

ES CF/60

PP G/60

PP SF/60

PP CF/60

Niederreiter

11

128

8.6%

0.66

8.4

13.3

1.20

7.8

12.6

Coyle

7

100

7.0%

0.40

7.4

11.3

0.98

3.5

6.4

  • Nino's higher totals are due to him playing more games, but the rate stats show that he has been more productive in his minutes in terms of goal scoring, not just at ES, but also on the PP.
  • He's generating shots and shot attempts at a faster rate in both situations too.
  • Neither player has a particularly note-worthy shooting percentage that could be skewing the results.


Assists

A

A1

A2

ES A/60

ES A1/60

PP A/60

PP A1/60

ES On Ice Sh%

Niederreiter

4

2

2

1.02

0.73

2.39

1.20

8.1%

Coyle

2

2

0

0.88

0.40

0.98

0.98

7.3%

  • Both players have the same number of 1st assists but, once again, Nino has been more productive in all situations.
  • Neither has a paritcuarly noteworthy on-ice Sh% that would skew results.


Puck Possession

5v5 (On-Ice)

CF%

CF% Rel

FF%

GF%

SF%

Niederreiter

51.4%

+3.6%

52.7%

57.9%

53.3%

Coyle

48.4%

+0.9%

48.3%

45.3%

48.6%

  • The Wild are getting over 50% of shot attempts, unblocked shot attempts and goals when Nino is on the ice at 5v5.
  • The exact opposite is true for Coyle.
  • Nino is a +3.6% in Corsi Relative, making him one of the best possession driving players on the Wild. Coyle is just on the right side of "0" in terms of Corsi Relative.


Powerplay

5v4 (On-Ice)

GF/60

SF/60

FF/60

CF/60

Niederreiter

2.215

13.289

18.725

25.168

Coyle

1.849

16.975

21.345

28.908

  • On-ice stats for 5v4 minutes should be taken with a pinch of salt. The sample size is fairly small and special teams are very vulnerable to noise created by the influence of systems and goaltending on shot quality.
  • That being said, Coyle comes out on top in the 3 shot-based metrics while the Wild are scoring at a faster rate with Nino on the ice. It seems that Coyle is having more of an overall positive effect but Nino is getting the results. Is that because of shooting luck, or is Nino just influencing powerplay shot quality? It's hard to say.




Rolling Usage

Coyle:

Coyle-toi_medium

Coyle-es_toi_medium

  • So Coyle's overall ice time and ES ice time have both remained pretty consistent since the start of the year, with a slight downward trend. The difference, particularly at ES, is fairly negligible.


Niederreiter:
Nino-toi_medium

Nino-es_toi_medium
  • Nino's ice time has actually been trending upwards since the start of the season, though a lot of that is likely because he saw very limited minutes early in the year due to it being unknown as to whether or not he'd be able to contribute in a top-6 role.
  • His even-strength ice time has increased by an average of nearly two minutes over the course of 63 games.
  • The issue now is that, with Moulson in the fold, Nino is going to see his minutes drop again (as they have in the last two games).


Rolling Production

Coyle:

Coyle-points_medium

  • Coyle's points production per game has been trending down from just over 0.4 to about just over 0.3; a fairly negligible difference.


Nino:
Nino-points_medium
  • Niederreiter's points per game has been fairly steady all season long, hovering at an average of 0.5.


Rolling Puck Possession

Coyle:

Coyle-cf_medium

  • Coyle's CF% rel is trending downwards pretty hard. He put up some fairly colossal numbers early in the season, but has struggled to stay above "0" as of late until the last two games in which he was put on a line with Koivu and Moulson.


Nino:

Nino-cf_medium

  • Nino's possession numbers have been extremely consistent, with the last two games, in which he was put on the 3rd line being a rare example of him consistently being below "0".
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So, what we've established from the data above is that:
  • Coyle is receiving more ice time in all situations.
  • They both play similar levels of competition.
  • Coyle plays with better teammates.
  • They have similar zone-starts, but Coyle definitely gets the softer deployments.
  • Nino is out-scoring him in all situations despite the aforementioned easier usage for Coyle.
  • Nino has been a much better puck possession driver too.
  • Coyle may be having more of a positive effect than Nino on the powerplay.

So, all this points towards Nino being the best candidate for a spot in the top-6. Coyle had a great rookie season in 2012/13 but he was playing in a fairly cushy situation on a line with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu. This year he has been pushed into a more senior role to make his own way and has been less impressive.

One of his assets that makes coaches drool over him (and maybe the reason for his disproportionate ice time) is his size, or his "NHL body" as a scout might call it. This makes some sense, particularly on the powerplay where he can use his size to disrupt things in front of the net.

But Nino is a big player too, coming in at the same height as Coyle but 1 kg heavier and something that Nino has done this year that Coyle has failed to do is to make his presence felt game after game by punishing defencemen and by causing havoc in the crease. It's become a common sight in Wild games to see 2 or 3 opposition players trying to tear Nino to shreds while he pokes at the puck under their goalie. They're both big bodied young wingers (Coyle is 22, Nino is 21) and, in my opinion, the prime opportunities should be given to the one who earns it, which has been Nino up to this point.

Another argument as to why Coyle is now being put on a line where he won't have to carry the play as much could be that Mike Yeo has recognised that Niederreiter doesn't need mentoring and can give some spark to that 3rd line while Coyle has struggled somewhat. If this is true, I'm not sure I agree with it. For a team that is fairly mediocre at generating offence, a player like Nino should be given the chance to play with a playmaker of Koivu's stature to see if they can cash in and generate some goalscoring.

Nino is scoring ES points at a faster rate than any Wild player except for Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville and yet is getting less TOI per game than Dany Heatley.

Nino is scoring ES points at a faster rate than any Wild player except for Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville and yet is getting less TOI per game than Dany Heatley. There is something very very wrong there. Not only is he a more efficient scorer than Heatley, he can actually drive play and isn't a puck possession black hole or a defensive liability.

I don't think players should be mollycoddled, but it's worth remembering that Niederreiter has had a rocky development in the Islanders organisation since being drafted so this turnaround in fortunes he has experienced since being traded for Cal Clutterbuck is remarkable. Further to that, rewarding him for such a dramatic turnaround, repaying the faith Chuck Fletcher showed in him, might pay dividends further down the line by bolstering his confidence and self belief. Give him a chance to play with the team's best players and he might find another level to his game still. Who knows what his ceiling is at this point?

During some of the discussions on this topic that we've had in several recent threads it has been implied once or twice that the people pushing for Nino to get more minutes over Coyle have some kind of personal grudge against Coyle or think he's a bad player. This is a ridiculous point of view. It's about what makes the team better, nothing personal at all. These are the kind of issues that become part and parcel of discussions when your team is actually good. These are the kind of issues we should welcome.

I know people are very attached to Coyle and like him a lot because he's a Wild prospect who we've watched come up through the ranks and into the NHL, but right now he is behind the younger Niederreiter in terms of overall skill. As a fan, you should want what's best for the team, not what's best for the players you like the most. What's best for the team right now, in my opinion, is for Niederreiter to be getting prime minutes in situations where he can use his considerable skillset to maximise the Wild's advantage.


I think the best lines going forward are:

Moulson-Koivu-Niederreiter
Parise-Granlund-Pominville
Cooke-Brodziak-Coyle
Heatley-Haula-Fontaine


Nino gets rewarded for his great play all season with prime minutes, while a message is sent to Coyle that he is behind in the pecking order and he needs to step it up. Creating little battles like that for minutes can't be a bad thing. On a playoff team, there should be constant competition for who gets the top minutes. This isn't the 2011/12 Wild where it was basically a handful of NHL calibre players with the holes plugged by AHLers.


What are your thoughts on this, Wilderness? Do you agree or disagree? Have it out in the comments section.



Follow me on Twitter for more Wild talk and analysis.


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