Sports Hockey


Numbers Guy: Analytics boost Daniel Winnik's value

By John Matisz, Postmedia Network

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Daniel Winnik in tight against the glass with Red Wings Gustav Nyquist at the Air Canada Centre on October 17, 2014. (Jack Boland/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency)

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Daniel Winnik in tight against the glass with Red Wings Gustav Nyquist at the Air Canada Centre on October 17, 2014. (Jack Boland/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency)

Sidney Crosby is a generational player worth every cent he is paid, and more.

Scouring an advanced stats database to justify Crosby’s value is an unnecessary task.

However, analytics are rather handy when assessing players further down the depth chart, especially those who have been on the chopping block ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

Not only are these lesser-knowns being scouted by rival GMs and their staff, they’re also being picked apart from a numbers perspective behind closed doors.

With that in mind, here are three trade targets -- two who were swapped Wednesday, another still in play -- with impressive underlying stats:

DANIEL WINNIK, former Maple Leafs forward

[Traded to: Penguins]

An unrestricted free agent this summer anyway, Winnik’s stay in Toronto was supposed to be short. The 29-year-old, whose 2014-15 salary cap hit is basically nothing at $1.3 million, could become a productive third-liner for the Penguins. Winnik has posted 1.2 assists per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time — the same efficiency rating as Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron and Nicklas Backstrom — despite starting just 43.1% of his shifts in the offensive zone. A nod to his versatility: He’s one of two NHLers to record a Gordie Howe hat trick this season (Jamie Benn is the other).

JIRI TLUSTY, former Hurricanes forward

[Traded to: Jets]

Tlusty’s pre-trade situation was similar to Winnik’s in that he is a serviceable, soon-to-be UFA playing on a crappy team who could fit nicely elsewhere in a bottom-six role. The left winger is enjoying a decent year. His 13 goals in 52 games ranked third on the offensively starved ’Canes. Considering Tlusty has skated in nearly 400 regular-season games but not a single playoff match, finding motivation in Winnipeg should not be a problem. What’s more, Tlusty has a healthy even-strength shot-attempts percentage (54.8%). That’s 4.2 higher than the team’s SAT% when he is on the bench. A gap as big as this indicates the 26-year-old may be a hidden gem of sorts.

CAM ATKINSON, Blue Jackets forward

[Team with reported high interest: Bruins]

Plain and simple, the Blue Jackets have out-chanced the opposition during 5-on-5 play when Atkinson has been between the boards. When he’s on the bench, the other team gets more scoring chances. An advanced stat called Scoring Chances For % Relative is an easy concept to understand, and it’s boosting the 5-foot-8, 174-pounder’s stock on the trade market. As well, Atkinson, who is on pace for 18 goals in 78 games, could be a functional piece on a contender’s second power-play unit. His contract expires at season’s end.

*advanced stats courtesy


Last summer, we witnessed NHL teams compete in an arms race completely new to hockey. Analysts from the advanced stats community were gobbled up by GMs eager to gain a competitive edge through fresh insight.

Sixty games per team into the 2014-15 season, if we look solely at an advanced stat called USAT% Close, it appears about half the league’s teams have improved their puck-possession numbers. USAT% Close is a rough measurement of a team’s ability to drive play when the score is close.

Atop the 14-team list of improved clubs are the Lightning, whose USAT Close has scooted up an amazing 6.94%. Jon Cooper’s club owns a league-best 56.53 USAT% Close this season.

The Oilers (5.19% improvement), Islanders (4.58), Canadiens (3.94) and Penguins (3.82) round out the top five.

At the other end of the spectrum are the Devils (-7.9), Blue Jackets (-7.71), Senators (-5.17), Bruins (-3.2) and Coyotes (-2.66). These squads have all experienced setbacks in the puck-possession aspect of the game.

The Leafs, in case you’re wondering, have improved but only slightly. Their 2013-14 USAT% Close was 42.81 while this year they’re at 45.59 now for a marginal 2.78 upgrade.

*advanced stats courtesy


Unlike last season, when Colorado’s Ryan O’Reilly went 72 games without taking a single penalty, there’s no super gentleman to keep tabs on down the stretch. Mark Letestu makes a strong case, with no sin bin time to date, but he’s played in only 31 of Columbus’ 59 games … If you look at the scoring leaderboard through a points-per-game lens, Crosby, who is tied for fifth in total points with 61, leads the way with 1.09. He has suited up for five fewer games than the now-injured points leader Patrick Kane, who has 64 in 61 for Chicago … Somehow, someway, Mark Arcobello has played for four teams this season. Clearly, it’s been an odd 2014-15 campaign for the current Arizona centre. So strange that he has played in 16 day games, which, according to data, is seven more than any other NHLer. It gets weirder — all 12 of the points he has accumulated during day games are goals. How’s he doing in night games? Zero goals in 40 games.


Trending Up – Pavel Datsyuk

The 36-year-old stickhandling wizard has 12 points in nine games this month, including a 10-point stretch from Feb. 14 to the present. According to data, his even-strength shot attempts percentage in February is a cool 56.2%.

Trending Down — Nick Bjugstad

The sophomore has failed to mark up the scoresheet in four straight games. The Panthers have deployed the big-bodied centre differently over the dry spell. He’s started only 43.5% of his even-strength shifts in the offensive zone, according to, which is well below his season average of 52.3%.


450 goalsPatrick Marleau is one goal away (Sharks play Wings on Thursday night)

700 assistsHenrik Sedin is eight assists away (Canucks play four games through next Thursday)

900 pointsBrad Richards is one point away (Blackhawks play Panthers on Thursday night)

400 goalie winsRoberto Luongo is five wins away (Panthers play five games through next Thursday)

700 coaching winsKen Hitchcock is five wins away (Blues play five games through next Saturday)

*all stat totals exclude playoffs​

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