Friday, January 14, 2011

The Thomas Vanek Effect

I considered using this "data" in my most recent Vulgar Statistics column, but I thought better of it (and forgot).  The reason for that (to be perfectly honest) is that a lot of what I'm about to post is conjecture and somewhat subjective.

The biggest knock on Vanek is he doesn't produce on par with his pay class, players like Eric Staal, Alexander Ovechkin, and Sidney Crosby.  As I've already proven, this is wrong.  But it's actually wronger than we think.  One of the reasons that Vanek doesn't produce like those players is because the system isn't designed to allow him to play like them.  Vanek's role in the Sabres system is to plant himself in front of the net and knock home rebounds/screen point shots, it isn't to do a whole lot carrying the puck.

Thus there are a lot of goals that the Sabres score where Thomas Vanek might play an integral role, but not get credit on the scoresheet, i.e. setting screens, or being a decoy on two on one rushes (when Nathan Gerbe is not involved).  I went through every Sabres goal this season to see how many goals Vanek had a hand in, and I expected to find quite a few, and other fans should too.  Our defense is scoring at a Houslean pace, much of that can be attributed to players like Vanek.

I found that in addition to the 16 goals that he has actually scored, Vanek had a hand in another 17, most of them screens, in addition to his NHL leading perfect 4/4 shootout percentage.  That's 37 goals, and that's pretty damn good.

I know that the aforementioned stars would see their totals increase as well under a similar analysis, but I think to a far lesser extent.  Sidney Crosby is not standing in front of the net, nor is Alexander Ovechkin.  I wouldn't be surprised to see that those players have screened less than three goals combined between the two of them.

The bottom line here, whether fans want to believe it or not, is that Thomas Vanek does a pretty damn good job of earning his money.

1 comment:

  1. One can argue the fact that while Vanek gets the shit beat out of him every night in front of the net, players like Crosby and Ovechkin have the same thing happen to them when they're trying to break into the zone. I believe that for Vanek it's that much harder to cause screens and try to get a rebound because of him getting pushed around by two or three guys. The distractions that he causes in front of the net can't be overlooked.

    Last night during one of the power plays, I noticed Gaustad's positioning in front of the net. Now he creates a good screen as well but his capabilities of possibly getting the puck to go into the net is very low. He doesn't have the hands like Vanek. Everytime I see him in front of the net, I feel like he blocks more shots than anything. Vanek can properly move himself so that a goal is indeed scored.