[Wild About Numbers]: The Importance Of Kyle Brodziak & His Role In The Playoffs

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Often a target of fan's ire this season, Brodziak's role in this team is vitally important and needs to be appreciated.

It's old news at this point, but Kyle Brodziak has been subject to a lot of criticism this season. His tendency to miss seemingly easy chances to score has become something of a running joke among fans and writers and there is a vocal majority that want him shipped out of town or sent to the press box. I'm going to analyse his performance this season and show why he will be an important factor in the upcoming series against the Colorado Avalanche.


Deployment & Performance Relative To The Wild

-The following Player Usage Chart shows Wild forwards Quality of Competition faced (Y-Axis) and Offensive Zone Start% (X-Axis):

Wild_qoc_medium

  • The colour of each bubble represents whether or not the player had positive Corsi Rel and the size indicates the amount.
  • If you consider that being towards the top left of this chart means you're playing tougher minutes and being towards the bottom right means you're playing sheltered minutes, it's pretty clear that Brodziak gets some damn tough assignments (right click on the image and open in a new tab to see full size).
  • Basically, Brodziak and Matt Cooke are deployed mostly against top line competition and rarely in the offensive zone. Their Corsi relative to their teammates is negative but I wouldn't expect it to be anything else considering their usage. If they were putting up positive numbers with that deployment, then they should just be awarded a joint Selke right now.


-For more context, here is the same type of chart only this time, instead of Quality of Competition, the Y-Axis is Quality of Teammates:
Wild_qot_medium
  • To further hammer home how tough their usage is compared to the rest of the Wild's forwards, check out how low their Quality of Teammates rating ranks.



-Next, let's look at his scoring in all situations and even strength along with where he ranks among Wild players in each stat:

ALL

G

G/60

P

P/60

8

9th-T

0.37

15th-T

24

11th

1.10

12th-T

EV

G

G/60

P

P/60

5

10th

0.28

15th

18

10th

1.01

14th

  • At a glance, Brodziak's scoring is pretty low but fairy understandable given his role. I would expect a bit more though.


-Here's Brodziak's Sh% for each season in his career:
Sh__brodz_medium
  • This is why it annoys me when people say things like "Brodziak can't shoot". The guy has had 4 seasons in his career where he shot over 11%. He can most certainly shoot and has beaten NHL goalies many times before.
  • Last year he experienced a big dip in Sh% and it has dipped even more this year. I'm curious to see, if he returns to the Wild, where it goes next season. I'd be willing to wager that he shoots over 10%.
  • It's worth remembering that Sh% is controlled by a lot of randomness and luck from year to year and is hard to predict. It's not uncommon for guys to follow a big year with a down one and vice versa.


Comparison With Other Tough Minutes Forwards

-Here is a Player Usage Chart showing the forwards who had the toughest deployment in the league this season:

Brodziak_qoc_medium

  • Unlike the last Player Usage Charts I used, this time the depth of the colour of each bubble indicates how positive (blue) or negative (red) each player's Corsi rel is and the bubble size indicates TOI/G.
  • You can see that Brodziak is above the average in terms of the competition he is facing and is about average in terms of his Off Zone Start %. In other words, compared to the forwards who play the toughest minutes in the league, Brodziak is right in the middle.
  • Most of these players have negative Corsi relative to their teammates and the ones that don't play on truly awful possession teams so it isn't hard for them to be so much better.
  • Brodziak's Corsi is pretty rough and is certainly up for criticism. While it's understandable that he is in the red due to his usage, it could be a bit better.


-For more context, here's the same chart with the Y-Axis changed to Quality of Teammates:

Brodz_qot_medium

  • Brodziak is fairly middle of the pack in terms of QoT.


-Next, let's look at the scoring stats for these players:

Player

Pos.

Team(s)

G/60

Sh%

P/60

1

Tyler Bozak

C

Maple Leafs

0.94

21.10%

2.42

2

Mike Santorelli

C

Canucks

0.66

11.00%

1.85

3

Matt Stajan

C

Flames

0.73

20.00%

1.71

4

Brian Gionta

R

Canadiens

0.75

9.80%

1.66

5

Ben Smith

R

Blackhawks

0.88

15.60%

1.63

6

Tomas Plekanec

C

Canadiens

0.75

10.10%

1.61

7

Chris Higgins

L

Canucks

0.68

7.90%

1.57

8

Marcus Kruger

C

Blackhawks

0.43

8.30%

1.49

9

Matt Cooke

L

Wild

0.47

9.50%

1.33

10

David Jones

R

Flames

0.73

8.70%

1.29

11

Brad Richardson

R

Canucks

0.61

12.90%

1.27

12

Ryan Smyth

L

Oilers

0.55

7.90%

1.26

13

Dominic Moore

C

Rangers

0.42

6.30%

1.26

14

Paul Gaustad

C

Predators

0.58

13.50%

1.22

15

Boyd Gordon

C

Oilers

0.45

10.10%

1.17

16

Kyle Brodziak

C

Wild

0.37

7.00%

1.10

17

Nikolai Kulemin

L

Maple Leafs

0.48

11.10%

1.06

18

Brian Boyle

C

Rangers

0.34

4.40%

1.03

19

Brandon Bollig

L

Blackhawks

0.5

6.40%

1.00

20

Manny Malhotra

C

Hurricanes

0.53

13.20%

0.98

21

Lance Bouma

L

Flames

0.3

6.10%

0.91

22

David Clarkson

R

Maple Leafs

0.33

4.90%

0.73

23

Jay McClement

C

Maple Leafs

0.2

6.00%

0.50

24

Matt Hendricks

C

Oilers, Predators

0.31

5.00%

0.43

  • I've added Sh% to this scoring chart because it's important for context. Guys like Bozak and Stajan are out-producing their offensive ability by a wide margin due to shooting 20%.
  • Brodziak is 16th out of 24 in P/60 and that's while shooting way below his career Sh% on an offensively stagnant team. That's a very acceptable offensive output for a guy playing the minutes he plays.

-For more information about each player's offensive ability, let's look at their shot generation:

Player

Pos.

Team(s)

S/60

FF/60

CF/60

1

Brian Gionta

R

Canadiens

7.6

11

14

2

Tomas Plekanec

C

Canadiens

7.5

10.9

14

3

Chris Higgins

L

Canucks

8.7

11.3

13.9

4

David Jones

R

Flames

8.4

11.2

13.6

5

Brandon Bollig

L

Blackhawks

7.8

10.1

13.4

6

Mike Santorelli

C

Canucks

6

9.3

12.2

7

Brian Boyle

C

Rangers

7.9

10.1

12.1

8

David Clarkson

R

Maple Leafs

6.8

8.9

11.9

9

Ryan Smyth

L

Oilers

7

9.5

10.9

10

Kyle Brodziak

C

Wild

5.3

7.7

10.3

11

Dominic Moore

C

Rangers

6.7

8.6

10.2

12

Ben Smith

R

Blackhawks

5.7

7.8

9.9

13

Matt Hendricks

C

Oilers, Predators

6.3

8.1

9.8

14

Brad Richardson

R

Canucks

4.7

7.1

9.7

15

Lance Bouma

L

Flames

5

7.4

9.2

16

Matt Cooke

L

Wild

5

6.6

8.7

17

Marcus Kruger

C

Blackhawks

5.1

6.6

8.2

18

Tyler Bozak

C

Maple Leafs

4.4

6.1

7.9

19

Nikolai Kulemin

L

Maple Leafs

4.3

6.1

7.9

20

Boyd Gordon

C

Oilers

4.4

6.1

7.8

21

Jay McClement

C

Maple Leafs

3.4

4.6

6.8

22

Matt Stajan

C

Flames

3.6

5.3

6.7

23

Manny Malhotra

C

Hurricanes

4

5.1

6.5

24

Paul Gaustad

C

Predators

4.3

5.2

6.4

  • There's even more evidence here that Brodziak is one of the better defensive forwards around in terms of his offensive ability.
  • He is 10th in terms of generating shot attempts which makes me think that if he wasn't shooting way below his career average, he'd be having an excellent year offensively.


-Finally, let's look at his special teams contributions:

Player

Pos.

Team(s)

EVTm%

PPTm%

SHTm%

1

Jay McClement

C

Maple Leafs

22.40%

0.70%

63.50%

2

Marcus Kruger

C

Blackhawks

21.90%

2.40%

51.50%

3

Kyle Brodziak

C

Wild

26.40%

2.90%

49.40%

4

Paul Gaustad

C

Predators

21.90%

1.40%

49.10%

5

Nikolai Kulemin

L

Maple Leafs

26.90%

1.50%

49.10%

6

Tomas Plekanec

C

Canadiens

29.90%

34.50%

48.50%

7

Matt Cooke

L

Wild

25.40%

1.40%

47.60%

8

Boyd Gordon

C

Oilers

23.00%

9.40%

47.50%

9

Matt Hendricks

C

Oilers, Predators

20.00%

3.00%

46.40%

10

Brian Boyle

C

Rangers

20.60%

4.20%

43.50%

11

Matt Stajan

C

Flames

30.80%

8.50%

42.30%

12

Lance Bouma

L

Flames

20.40%

4.80%

42.00%

13

Chris Higgins

L

Canucks

30.50%

31.50%

37.20%

14

Brad Richardson

R

Canucks

25.20%

2.80%

37.10%

15

Dominic Moore

C

Rangers

19.70%

1.80%

35.40%

16

Manny Malhotra

C

Hurricanes

19.50%

1.40%

35.00%

17

Mike Santorelli

C

Canucks

30.40%

26.70%

30.60%

18

Ryan Smyth

L

Oilers

22.50%

44.30%

29.50%

19

Brian Gionta

R

Canadiens

29.90%

25.00%

26.70%

20

Ben Smith

R

Blackhawks

21.70%

7.40%

26.00%

21

Tyler Bozak

C

Maple Leafs

33.60%

51.70%

22.20%

22

Brandon Bollig

L

Blackhawks

19.60%

1.00%

4.60%

23

David Jones

R

Flames

26.00%

38.30%

2.50%

24

David Clarkson

R

Maple Leafs

27.50%

21.70%

0.30%

  • You can see that Brodziak is one of the biggest PK contributors in the league.
  • It's worth noting that some players here saw a lot of PP time which may have further increased their offensive numbers from the first table. Brodziak didn't see any significant PP time.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Okay, so we've established the following:

  • Brodziak plays some of the toughest minutes in the league.
  • In context of those minutes, his puck possession numbers could be a little bit better.
  • His offensive play is good but he is having a tough shooting year.
  • It is highly likely that his shooting will rebound eventually (maybe during this series) because of his history of success in that department.
  • He is a huge factor on the PK.
  • Calling for him to be sent to the press box is dumb because, as you can see on the first Player Usage Chart, the only other Wild centre equipped to play those minutes is Koivu and he is required to play in a scoring role. Haula and Granlund are not ready for that level of defensive responsibility.


Deploying Him Against The Avalanche

The big news this week is that the Avs will be missing Matt Duchene for at least Game 1 and John Mitchell indefinitely. This puts a massive hole in their centre depth and gives the Wild a weakness to exploit.


-Here's how they deployed their forwards at 5v5 in the regular season:

Col_qoc_medium

  • Stastny and Landeskog played the toughest minutes with Duchene, O'Reilly and Parenteau also handling tough competition. It's pretty clear that the Avs rely very heavily on their young top-6 to score and take on the other team's best players.
  • The rest of the Avs forwards are pretty awful. Negative Corsi rel while facing below average competition and, for Cliche, Bordeleau and Malone, getting easy zone starts.
  • This is a very top heavy team that just lost one of it's key top-6 players and a centre who handles the toughest zone starts.



-Without Duchene and Mitchell, it's unclear how the Avs will line-up, but my trusted source in the Avs fanbase tells me it could be something like this:

O'Reilly-MacKinnon-Parenteau

Landeskog-Stastny-McGinn

Talbot-Cliche-McCleod

Malone-Carey-Bordeleau


Talbot could move to centre with Cliche centring the 4th or they could even go with 7 D-men and 11 forwards.

If that is the case then we can expect those top two lines to get crazy minutes and very much be a 1A/1B configuration rather than a 1st and 2nd line.

When the Avs come to Minnesota and Mike Yeo has last change, he should look to deploy the Brodziak line against Stastny's line to try to keep it quiet and allow the Koivu line to dominate MacKinnon's. MacKinnon is a great young player, but he might struggle up against a possession-dominating line like Parise-Koivu-Coyle. The key will be for Brodziak and his wingers to be glued to the Stastny line and to limit it's effectiveness as much as possible.

If the Wild can do this successfully, then they will be able to us the Granlund line against the Avs' mediocre bottom-6 and try to exploit that mismatch.

One last note on Brodziak, I think, in the playoffs, teams often need contributions from their non-star players to get them through and Brodziak seems to me like the kind of guy poised for a scoring run. I wouldn't be surprised to see him pot a couple of goals in this series. Even if he doesn't, as long as he keeps Stastny and co. quiet, he's done his job.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Leave a comment with your thoughts and tell all your friends.


Follow me on Twitter for more hockey talk.

Thanks to Extra Skater, Hockey Analysis, Hockey Abstract and SomeKindOfNinja for all the data.


For a quick advanced stats 101, read this. For more in-depth stuff, read this.

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