Nov 29, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers left wing Scott Hartnell (19) celebrates his first period goal during the game against the Winnipeg Jets at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Using advanced stats to examine Scott Hartnell's play

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After Scott Hartnell’s 2011-2012 campaign, where he put up 67 points (37G, 30A), he signed a contract worth $28.5M and a cap hit of $4.75M for 6 years starting this season. A lot of people became very skeptical of his performance during the lockout shorted season where he came into the season no where near ready and missed many games due to injury. Although the injuries may have impacted his level of play to some degree, it was an underwhelming season for Hartnell to say the least. This brought up questions about whether or not his cap hit and contract length was worth it and that maybe the success he experienced in the 2011-2012 was to small of a sample size to warrant such a contract. So is Hartnell worth the contract he is receiving from the Flyers?

This brings us to the advanced stats. When I attempt to analyze a player’s performance and worth on the ice there are two ways I go about this. First is what I see during the live broadcast of the game. Sometimes it’s hard to catch every little play or action that a player takes on the ice and it becomes extremely easy to harp on the bad compared to the good. That is not to say that it is impossible to recognize good play from poor play strictly based on watching the game. This is where the second part, stats analysis, comes into play. These stats help me to recognize things that I may have missed during the game and aids in my ability to dig deeper into my perception of a player’s performance.

Having said that, lets get down to the numbers on Hartnell. I am going to start with his 2011-2012 season numbers. His Corsi Rel was 9.6 while facing a little bit above average competition (Corsi Rel QoC of 0.502). In this time he was shooting at about 9.76% which was above the league average at that time (8.94%) and ended the season with 67 points.

To this point in the 2013-14 season, Hartnell has a Corsi Rel of 22.6. This number is very high and is around on of the best in the league, this is while facing tougher competition compared to the 2011-2012 season (Corsi Rel QoC of 0.632 this season). So why do we think we are seeing such poor play from Hartnell this year? Well there is  a stark contrast between the shooting % of this year and 2011-12. Thus far, Hartnell has an on ice shooting % of 3.94 compared to the league average of 8.84%.

So all though he has insanely good possession numbers, his Corsi Rel, they have not been reflected in his game. The first line and Hartnell can send a ton of pucks at and around the net, but if none of them go in they will continue have strong possession play, but nothing to really show for it.

I think that says a lot about the issues this team has been facing this year. It’s not just Hartnell that has struggled, it is the whole first line. Voracek has a shooting % of 5.07 and G is sitting at 5.98%. These numbers are not good enough and have to get better. One would imagine that with such good possession numbers these percentages will have to trend towards the mean.

As for Hartnell’s contract, two players that come to mind with similar contracts are Jason Pominville and Bryan Little. Both Little and Pominville play on the 1st line for their respective team. This season Little has 28 points (13G & 15A) and Pominville has 22 points (15G & 7A) while Hartnell has 12 points (6G & 6A). It is hard to be too critical of Hartnell considering the struggles of the team overall, but considering his position in the lineup and players with comparable contracts we would expect more in the way of point production. I think it will require a little more time before we can say with confidence that his contract length and price may have been a mistake.

I think it is worth noting that at this time Hartnell is not playing like a top line winger. He has been losing his composure far too often on the ice and taking dumb penalties as a result. He wears an “A” on his sweater and I would hope that this encourages him to play with a more level head and stop with the unwarranted penalties. He is definitely a fan favorite and a stand up guy off the ice, but I hope that he starts making better decisions when it comes to penalties and maintaining his composure. While stats can be a good indicator of a player’s worth and value, they do not tell the whole story. It is important to remember this and like with all sports the game is not played on a piece of paper. A player’s value comes from many different areas and it is important that a player is evaluated both statistically and in terms of their on ice composure and hockey IQ. This allows to develop the most accurate picture of a player as possible.

 

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