Thanks to player usage charts there's finally a way to quickly see how coaches are using their players and how effective that deployment has been. These charts are one of the most popular analytic innovations, and they are in widespread use by the mainstream media and NHL front offices. What do they reveal about each of the NHL's 30 teams?
Player usage charts are explained in rich detail in a number of places, but here's a quick cheat sheet of the most important points to remember.
- Blue is good; white is bad. Blue means the team is doing better than usual possession-wise with that player on the ice; white means they're doing worse.
- The size of the circle indicates the size of that advantage or disadvantage.
- Shutdown players are at the top, leaning to the left, whereas sheltered players are on the right, leaning down.
- Players at the top of the chart are facing tough, top-line opponents, whereas those at the bottom are facing mostly depth lines.
- Players on the left are tasked with starting most of their shifts in the defensive zone, whereas those on the right have the advantage of a lot of offensive zone starts.
- Asterisks denote players who either began (prefix) or ended (postfix) the season elsewhere.
- Remember: context is everything. Those playing tough minutes will probably have white circles, while those enjoying favorable minutes ought to have nice blue ones.
As we go through each team we'll provide some quick interpretation of which players were used most effectively and which ones should probably be deployed differently in the future. Do remember that this is just one perspective!
We also have the advantage of being able to compare the end results to our midseason charts (from Bleacher Report) to see how players were used differently as the season progressed.
Let's begin our exploration of how players were used for each of the 30 NHL teams, starting in alphabetical order.