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Line Chemistry: Should Vanek Be Reunited With Pominville?

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The former teammates have had success in the past, but do they fit together on the Wild?

Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

The Wild begin training camp today with one major new acquisition: Thomas Vanek.  The free agent signing on July 1st came to no one's surprise, as Vanek's desire to come to Minnesota was one of the worst kept secrets in the NHL last year.  The Vanek rumors officially began on April 3, 2013, the day his good friend and linemate Jason Pominville was traded to the Wild from the Buffalo Sabres.  There were conspiracy theories at the time that thought Chuck Fletcher's main intent in getting Pominville was to lure Vanek in 2014.  While I doubt that was Fletcher's sole reason for giving away two prospects and a 1st and 2nd round pick, it nonetheless worked in convincing the Austrian goal scorer to sign a three year deal.

It's been well noted that Vanek and Pominville are good friends since playing eight seasons together in Buffalo.  There's also been a lot of talk about the great chemistry the two have together.  It may seem obvious to just stick them on a line with either Granlund or Koivu centering and the two wingers will find their magic connection again.

But is their chemistry for real?  And is it really the best thing for the Wild's top-6?  Let's look at some stats:

Former Chemistry

The stats in this post use WOWY (with or without you) to show a players' stats when a teammate is on the ice with him and when he is not.  All stats are 5v5 only.

The first chart here shows Pominville's and Vanek's stats in comparison to each other for the years of 2007 to 2012.  I did not include 2013 because a) it was a shortened season, b) Pominville was traded at the deadline and c) Vanek missed 10 games due to an injury.

With Teammate
Without Teammate
Player Teammate TOI % Together G A Pts GF% CF% GF% CF%
Pominville Vanek 29.8% 29 35 64 52.8% 50.7% 55.4% 50.2%
Vanek Pominville 31.6% 22 33 55 52.8% 50.7% 53.5% 49.3%

One thing you'll notice is that there really isn't much of a change in stats between when the two are together and when they are not.  Their possession numbers drop but only very slightly.  In Pominville's case, his Goals For % actually goes up without Vanek.

You'll also notice that the two were only on the ice together about 30% of the time.  Although they played on the same team for eight years, they really didn't play on the same line until the 2010-2011 season.  Vanek mostly played with Drew Stafford on the opposite wing and Pominville with Clarke Macarthur.  To get a better look, here are the same stats constrained to the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons.

With Teammate Without Teammate
Player Teammate TOI % Together G A Pts GF% CF% GF% CF%
Pominville Vanek 57.5% 23 25 48 55.3% 50.3% 49.3% 50.9%
Vanek Pominville 56.1% 15 28 43 55.3% 50.3% 54.1% 48.2%

Again, the two are better together but it's only marginal.  In terms of Corsi, Pominville was slightly better without Vanek and Vanek was only slightly worse without Pominville.  Yes, they both scored a lot of points, but that is expected.  They are both solid veteran players who can find ways to put up points no matter who their linemates are.

A Better Option?

No matter who Vanek skates with this year, he will score goals.  He proved this last year when he put up 68 points on three different teams.  His chemistry with Pominville really shouldn't matter.  However, Pominville has other chemistry that the Wild need to take advantage of.

Last year, Pominville skated on a number of different lines, but the one that stuck into the playoffs featured Mikael Granlund and Zach Parise.  Like Vanek, Parise plays left wing, but he is a player who is better suited to amplify Pominville's talents.  Lets take a look and Pominville and Parise's stats together:

With Teammate Without Teammate
Player Teammate TOI % Together G A Pts GF% CF% GF% CF%
Pominville Parise 39.7% 7 4 11 65.2% 58.7% 58.3% 48.3%
Parise Pominville 46.2% 6 6 12 65.2% 58.7% 51.2% 51.8%

With Parise, Pominville was a dominant possession player with 58.3% Corsi for percentage.  Without Parise, he dropped to 48.3%.  That's a sizable gap that is way more significant than the gap with Vanek.  Their Goals For % was 65.2, higher than Pominville and Vanek's best year of 59.5 in 2010-2011.

Parise was also significantly better playing with Pominville on his opposite wing.  Parise's second most common right-winger was Charlie Coyle.  Together, the two put up a very average 49.2 Corsi For %.

Mike Yeo recently hinted that he will most likely keep Pominville with Granlund and Parise to start.  This is a smart move.  Thomas Vanek should be able to put up comparable numbers playing alongside any of the Wild's top-6 forwards. Vanek with Koivu and Coyle/Niederreiter is still a stong line.

Pominville with Parise however has the potential to be one of the league's best.  The two not only have chemistry, but they make each other better players.  They play a similar game that can drive possession and score goals.  As long as that connection is still there, Yeo should continue to keep the combination together.

Data collected at HockeyAnalysis.com