Scott Hartnell seems to go through streaks where he’s beloved by the Flyers fan base followed by stretches where he’s an overpaid bum weighing down Claude Giroux whose albatross of a contract will hamper the Flyers for the foreseeable future. We’ve already seen both of those at times this season, as Hartsy had a slow start to the season followed by a hot streak on a line with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. He’s bounced around all 3 lines this season, but figures to be with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek for the foreseeable future. Yet, a closer analysis shows that Scott Hartnell might be the most crucial player on the team at driving play forward.
The Flyers are not a good possession team. They rank 19th in Corsi For % at 49.3%, 21st in Fenwick For % at 48.7%, and 26th in Shots For % at 47.4%. Hartnell is one of only 6 Flyers with a Fenwick and Corsi % over 50%, and ranks 3rd on the team in both categories behind only Jakub Voracek and Kimmo Timonen. “Okay, sure”, you say, “but that’s because he plays with good players. It’s because of Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek.” However, a look at some WOWY (with or without you) stats shows that nearly every single player on the Flyers does better when paired with Scott Hartnell. All stats are from stats.hockeyanalysis.com and are at 5v5. I used 100 minutes spent with Scott Hartnell as the cutoff, as I felt that any less (the next closest was Sean Couturier with only 33 minutes spent together) would be using a sample size too small to draw any significant conclusions.
|Player||TOI w/ Hartnell||CF% w/ Hartnell||GF% w/ Hartnell||TOI w/o Hartnell||CF% w/o Hartnell||GF% w/o Hartnell|
It’s important to note that the goals for numbers are much more subject to random variance due to fluctuating shooting percentages than the Corsi for numbers are. However, it’s still a striking comparison. Out of the 11 players who have spent at least 100 minutes with Hartnell at 5v5, only Luke Schenn has a CF% below 50%. Giroux, Voracek, Coburn, Timonen, and Gustafsson are all above 55% with Hartnell, which is in Chicago and LA territory-elite puck possession. Every player on the list had a positive goal differential with Hartnell on the ice. Every player on the list had a worse CF% without Hartnell, and while Giroux and Voracek have a better GF% without Hartnell that’s likely due to shooting percentages. The difference is most striking with players like Nick Grossmann: with Hartnell, he’s at a 53.3% CF, which would put him just outside the top 40 defensemen in the NHL, ahead of names like Jay Bouwmeester, Keith Yandle, Justin Faulk, Dan Hamhuis, Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan McDonagh, and PK Subban among many others. Without Hartnell, Grossmann’s CF% is a putrid 42.2%, which is just slightly worse than Jay Rosehill’s 42.3% mark for the season. Other interesting cases include those of Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. Both had a fantastic run while Hartnell was on their LW, as Schenn’s 52.1% CF% would rank him around 125th among NHL forwards, even with names like Evgeni Malkin, Eric Staal, and Evander Kane and ahead of luminaries such as David Krejci, Paul Stasny, Alex Ovechkin, Martin St. Louis, and Ryan Getzlaf. Simmonds’s 54% CF% would put him around 65 among NHL forwards, ahead of all the previously mentioned names as well as Jordan Staal, Tyler Seguin, Patrick Marleau, Sidney Crosby, Henrik Zetterberg, Brad Richards, Corey Perry, Milan Lucic, Claude Giroux, and plenty of other very good players.
In addition, I also decided to look at how Hartnell did when he was apart from the same 11 Flyers compared to when he was with them.
|Player||Hartnell TOI w/||Hartnell CF% w/||Hartnell GF% w/||Hartnell TOI w/o||Hartnell CF% w/o||Hartnell GF% w/o|
Hartnell’s CF% is at 51.2% or higher away from every single player on the list. His CF% decreases when he plays apart from Giroux, Voracek, Coburn, Streit, Timonen, and Gustafsson, but only Voracek and Timonen have a better CF% without Hartnell than Hartnell’s CF% without them. He has a better CF% when he plays away from the Schenn brothers, Simmonds, Grossmann, and Meszaros.
What can we take away from this? Simply put, Scott Hartnell drives play forward no matter who he is playing with. In a sample of 4 forwards and 7 defensemen, each of them performed better when paired with Scott Hartnell. Although he doesn’t play an aesthetically pleasing style of hockey by any stretch of the imagination and there are certainly games where it looks like his lack of skating speed is hindering his line’s production, in the long haul Scott Hartnell is absolutely a net positive when he’s on the ice. I realize Corsi and Fenwick aren’t the end-all, be-all, but the evidence is certainly overwhelming.
So what should the Flyers do with this information? (You know, in the hypothetical world where the Flyers have an analytics department that helps them make decisions-or in the hypothetical world where they actually know what Corsi is) Ideally, I think Hartnell slots in on the 2nd line LW with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. Those two players had their best stretch of the season when paired up with Hartnell, and it would allow him to utilize his play-driving skills with linemates who need more help in that department. Claude Giroux and particularly Jakub Voracek are two of the Flyers’ best players by CF% and could be paired up with another player and probably still have a similar level of success. Additionally, with Giroux and Voracek both being primarily playmakers, a true sniper would be nice to have on their wing and Hartnell, for all of his talents, isn’t exactly a sniper. Free agent options include Thomas Vanek (Sam Carchidi’s target of choice, I’m sure), Matt Moulson, Mike Cammalleri, and Dustin Penner. Vanek will likely price himself out of the Flyers’ target range, and Moulson could as well. Both would absolutely elevate the play of Giroux and Voracek as both are quality snipers. Cammalleri and Penner will both likely come cheaper and provide different skillsets: Cammalleri is smaller and quicker but will still shoot the puck and go to the net, while Penner provides a bigger, more physical presence. He’s thriving alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in Anaheim this year (though who wouldn’t?), while a change of scenery could re-invigorate Cammalleri (although he’s not having a bad season). And, of course, Moulson would be the “sniper” that everyone who is clamoring for Vanek is looking for, but at a cheaper price. Bringing in an outside player to fill the top-line LW vacancy would allow Hartnell to comfortably slot in next to Schenn and Simmonds, while pushing promising rookie Michael Raffl down to the third line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read. The odd man out in this scenario is Vinny Lecavalier, but that’s a topic for another day. While I would love to see Moulson in the orange and black on a reasonable deal and I think either Cammalleri or Penner could be a successful buy-low addition, it’s important to note that offense is not where the problems are. The Flyers’ forward corps as it currently exists is certainly satisfactory. The defense is where the troubles lie. They only have 2 defensemen with a CF% over 50%, and Kimmo Timonen’s days in Philadelphia are unfortunately numbered. What the Flyers should do on the blue line, however, is also a debate for another day.