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Comparing the Wild's Forwards to the Entire League

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We analyze the Wild by use of Own The Puck's very cool HERO Charts.

Jason Zucker's goal-scoring has made him a HERO on the ice.
Jason Zucker's goal-scoring has made him a HERO on the ice.
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Despite there being 3 wins for your Minnesota Wild in the last week, I'd still have to say the neatest thing I've seen in the last 7 days are the HERO Charts developed by Domenic Galamini. These charts take 390 forwards who've played more than 615 minutes over the last three seasons, and shows where they rank in 7 different statistics over that time. Particularly interesting is the bars that show a cut-off for ranking as a first, second, third, or fourth-liner in a given category, as well as a (small) hellish space at the bottom for those who don't rank as even a fourth-liner.

It's really awesome to get a visual representation of where the players stack up in these last three seasons. Let's start by checking out the HERO chart of a really good player. (NOTE: Usage-Adjusted Corsi is weighted to account for a player's usage- factors like zone-starts and quality of teammate/opponent. You can read more about it HERE.)

As we can see, Corey Perry is shown to be a very great player- one of the best and most complete in the NHL, as he rates as a "First-Liner" in all 7 statistical categories displayed. A truly elite NHLer, and that's before we mention that he also is rated as a "First-Liner" in the lesser-known statistics "Douchery/60" and "Mumps/60."

Now let's look at a garbage player in comparison.

As we can see Dany Heatley, despite getting first-line minutes for large stretches of last season, can not play hockey at greater than a fourth-line level at this stage of his career. The only category he rates as above fourth-line level is Goals/60, and even that is only a third-line level. You couldn't depend on him for Top-6 offense, and as a defensive player, he wasn't even NHL-Caliber. Gross.

I won't be able to show every chart on here, you can do that HERE, and I highly recommend that you not only look at Wild players, but potential trade targets, free agent signings, and your favorite / most despised players from around the league.

What I did do was take the rankings for each Minnesota Wild player, and compile them in a spreadsheet for your perusal. The number in each category is 391 minus each player's individual rank, meaning the best score a player can get is 390, and the worst is 1. I decided to use only 6 of the categories listed, omitting Points/60 as I felt Goals/60 and Assists/60 made it redundant.

Here are the cut-offs in the rankings:

300+: First-Liner
210-299: Second-Liner
120-209: Third-Liner
30-119: Fourth-Liner
1-29: Atrocious

Here are the Wild forwards, ranking from the highest average to the lowest:

Player

UA Corsi For

UA Corsi Against

UA Corsi%

Goals/60

Assists/60

Shots/60

Avg

Parise

365

265

350

265

247

373

310.83

Pominville

308

277

322

335

305

273

303.33

Koivu

315

386

383

108

277

185

275.67

Niederreiter

218

326

296

250

159

239

248.00

Fontaine

89

375

262

290

135

116

211.17

Haula

140

301

209

166

158

245

203.17

Coyle

176

280

231

154

204

166

201.83

Vanek

155

8

48

289

382

280

193.67

Zucker

123

141

113

385

14

363

189.83

Carter

64

376

230

141

127

136

179.00

Cooke

60

173

171

204

233

80

153.50

Brodziak

75

234

112

87

70

93

111.83

Granlund

110

50

60

48

312

66

107.67

Now, as this is for the last three seasons, there are some things it doesn't account for. Matt Cooke is 36, and looks to be in decline this season, but this isn't adequately represented here. Conversely, Jason Zucker's breakout this season is tampered by the two seasons before it, where he wasn't nearly as competent defensively as he's been this season. Regardless of some flaws with judging them solely by the average rank among the league in these categories, there are some interesting things we can take from looking at the HERO Charts:

  • Just going off the average results of the charts, here are your lines:
    Parise-Koivu-Pominville
    Niederreiter-Haula-Fontaine
    Zucker-Coyle-Vanek
    Cooke-Brodziak/Granlund-Carter

    It's hard to see them using those lines, ever, as Mikael Granlund is (and probably should be) always utilized as a scoring Top-9 option, but there's intrigue here- particularly Yeo's Doghouse being assembled on Line 2, and a fun-looking third line.

  • Not surprisingly, the Wild's strongest trait has been Usage-Adjusted Corsi Against. Mikko Koivu, Ryan Cater, and Justin Fontaine all rank in the Top-15 in the category, Nino Niederreiter and Erik Haula also rate as first-liners, and Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, and Charlie Coyle all rank as high-end second-liners. It lends credence to the idea Yeo's systems stifle the opponent's offense.

  • Unfortunately, if you're going to give Yeo's systems credit for suppressing the opponent's offense, you have to strongly consider that the system limits the Wild's own offense, too. Only Parise, Pominville, Koivu, and Niederreiter rate as even second-liners in the Usage-Adjusted Corsi For.

  • So... Zach Parise and Jason Pominville are good at everything. Neither of them rate as anything less than a second-liner in any category, and their composite ranking suggests they're bona-fide first-liners.

  • Looking at this list, Mikko Koivu's value should be fairly obvious. He's not the best forward on the team (Parise and Pominville both rank ahead of him), but his defensive value and ability to drive play are evident- he ranks in the Top-10 in Corsi Against and Corsi %. Throw in a second-line caliber assist rate, and this is a player that has stacked up as being at least a high-end second-liner- on any team.

  • By the way, you read that right earlier- Niederreiter is ranked 65th in UA Corsi Against. That's a pretty good defensive ranking for a player that's been demolished by the coaching and the press for lack of defense.

  • Coyle's 111th ranking in Corsi Against also undermines the logic that he needs to play fourth-line minutes to learn the right way to play, or whatever. If anything, to become a complete player, he needs to raise his offensive game from it's solidly third-line level.

  • Pretty significant drop-off from the Top-3 to Niederreiter, and another big one from him to the next tier.

  • I really am starting to wonder what Fontaine's offensive numbers would be if the Wild would stopped hand-cuffing him to offensively challenged players. That nice feed to Niederreiter in Edmonton gives a tantalizing hint.

  • Last note on Fontaine- it's hilarious to see Fontaine and Carter rate so much higher defensively than Kyle Brodziak (and especially) Matt Cooke, yet the latter two get about a combined 3 minutes more per game than the former.

  • Sitting in the stands shouting "DE-FENSE!" has a more positive impact on a team's defense than Thomas Vanek. He has the 7th-worst Corsi Against, being out-classed by the aforementioned Heatley, as well as noted Selke winners Phil Kessel and Alexander Ovechkin. Yuck.

  • Good thing Vanek's so good at scoring, then. He's Top-10 in Assists, borderline first-line in Goals, Shots.

  • I'd love to see where Zucker would rank in this, had these rankings been just for this season, as him breaking even when it comes to offense/defense would probably have moved him close to 5th on the list. As it is, Zucker is 6th in Goals/60, and 28th in Shots/60. Both elite rates. Now if only he could get luckier/better at dishing the puck (13th worst in the NHL)...

  • Saving the worst for last: Mikael Granlund shows incredibly poorly here, finishing dead-last among Wild forwards. It was well-earned too, as he ranked as a fourth-liner in every category, save assists (where, in fairness to him, he does rate as a first-liner). Part of this is skewed by a dreadful performance in the lockout-shortened season, but despite riding Parise/Pominville's possession coattails this season, he's done poorly this season, too. If Granlund is ever going to cash in on the kind of extension he wants, the HERO charts suggest he'll have to provide at least another strong element to his game, whether that includes driving play better, or adding more of a scoring threat to his game.