Look! He went a whole article and didn't call me a bad name!
Detroit is one month and 13 games into their schedule. So far all they've really proven is that they're capable of some very inspired play and of some very infuriating play. While early-season looks may not be able to predict very well how the rest of the season will go, it's nice to step back and take stock of what has gotten Detroit to their 7-5-1 record.
We've been tracking something called the Common Sense Scoring Index all season long in hopes that we could use context to make sense of what's happening on the ice better than the official stats do. I felt this was a successful project last year and has been so far this year as well. Thanks to feedback from the fans who watch the games, we've been able to keep a database of these stats at HockeyCSSI.com. The CSSI stats for the Red Wings obviously won't tell us everything outside of their own context, but they do help us focus on which players are contributing and to better-define those contributions.
After the jump, we'll take a look at the adjusted stats and what they can tell us.
One week and two games ago, Johan Franzen was 2nd on the team with 7 points through 11 games. Since then, he's put up four goals and two assists and now leads the team with 13. Obviously, we all know that Franzen is a streaky player. The hot streak he's been on for the last two games has brought his pace right to the 50-goal mark. While I'd be thrilled if that happened, I don't think it's likely for him. On the adjusted points side, Franzen also leads the team at 18.5 thanks to 2.5 self-assists, a screener's assist, a third assist, and a non-touch assist. Considering Franzen had only one screener's assist all of last season, I'd say he's doing a better job of using the big body to play in front of the net.
Benefiting from a lot of ice time with Franzen (and more likely helping Franzen out) is Valtteri Filppula. Flip is tied with Pavel Datsyuk for third on the team at 10 points, but CSSI adjustments have him in 2nd at 15.5 points, a full four more adjusted points than Datsyuk. The largest part of this difference is the 1.5 bonus assists that Filppula has garnered by doing a good enough job to help a play develop that he warranted getting more than one assist on the same goal. Hopefully, this is a hint that he's going to recover the pace he was at before injuries derailed his 2009-10 season.
Henrik Zetterberg is a quietly interesting case offensively. He has only five points on the season, but when you add in his adjustments, he shoots up to 11. While not getting credit on the official scoresheet, Z has more points adjustments than anybody. Four of these six adjustments come from being the third man to touch the puck on a goal-scoring play (like the PP goal against Colorado which was credited to Franzen on a tip in front that Zetterberg helped set up), and from the non-touch assist variety, where he showcases his excellent on-ice awareness, something about which Chris Hollis had an excellent writeup. Combined with Graham's earlier discussion of shooting percentage, I'm confident Zetterberg won't remain so quiet on the official scoresheet for long.
That said, the Wings' forwards in general need to be doing a better job offensively. The team as a whole sits 17th in the league for G/G thanks to their six game slide, but they're also in a three-way tie for first place in the league for goals scored by defensemen with 10.
While official plus/minus tells us who has been lucky enough to be on the ice for more goals for than against, adjusted plus/minus looks at the plays which lead to the prevention and creation of goals. Valtteri Filppula is the big winner in both official and adjusted categories. Filppula has been on the ice for only 3 goals against all season and got one of his minuses cleared of those three. Aside from that, he's also been awarded two goal-scored pluses for great defensive work to lead to a goal and an additional four overall pluses for good play.
Filppula is not the team-leader among forwards for overall pluses though. That honor belongs to Pavel Datsyuk, whose team-worst official -4 tells us that he's been on the ice for a lot of goals against (13 of Detroit's 31). However, six of those were on plays which were either weak goals or he was in otherwise good position while the opposition scored away from his area of responsibility. That's not to say he's been totally innocent though, as he also has an additional -3.5 worth of turnovers and blown coverages bringing his rating down. It seems the beginning of this season has been a bit feast-or-famine for the team leader in takeaways.
The 2nd place forward for adjusted plus minus should come as no surprise, as it is Darren Helm and his +8.5. Helm's speed consistently causes trouble for opposition players and his +5 in overall bonus adjustments shows that he's always working hard. He may not be producing points, but he's drawn five penalties so far on the season and has done a good job killing them off.
On the flip side, the recently-injured Todd Bertuzzi is having an absolutely brutal beginning to the season. Officially, his -1 isn't good, but the adjusted -8.5 is worst on the team by far. Bert has taken 7 bad penalties in 11 games and been overall detrimental four times. His point production has simply not been good enough to make up for the mistakes he was making before he fell out of the lineup with an illness.
The Wings' forward corps has been pretty good this season as moving the puck in the right direction and preventing goals. The club sits 9th in the league in GA/G and looks to be much better at team defense than last year.
As stated above, only two teams (as of this writing) have as many goals from their defensemen as Detroit does: Vancouver and Washington. Detroit's offense from the blue line has come mostly from team captain Nicklas Lidstrom and his six goals. Combined with the five assists he has, Lidstrom is 2nd on the team in overall scoring. Lidstrom has either scored or assisted on nearly 1/3rd of all of Detroit's goals so far. On the adjusted side, Lidstrom is getting it done with self-assists; this indicates that in general, when he's on the ice the play runs through him.
Lidstrom's defensive partner Ian White is also scoring and assisting at a very good pace this season. He's less involved in offensive plays than Lidstrom so far, but the self-assist he got in Detroit's first game against Minnesota was the result of a fantastic offensive zone play and he looks very comfortable in the offensive zone.
Meanwhile, Nik Kronwall sits one official point behind White, and has been engaging well, but things just haven't been happening right for him as consistently and he finds himself with one measly half-adjustment. This might have something to do with the zero points his defensive partner Brad Stuart has. However, it's important to note that both Lidstrom and White are starting more than 2/3rds of their shifts in the offensive zone while Kronwall and Stuart each sit below 62%.
The Wings' third defensive pairing of Kindl and Ericsson has chipped in as they could. I'd like to see more, but I'm a lot happier with Kindl's three assists than Ericsson's one. I think that Ericsson has played well in the last two games for creating offensive chances and that those are going to lead to points, but consistency has always been a key for him and he's always seemed to lack that. Again though, this pair has consistently been given fewer chances in the offensive zone, and therefore has longer to go to create scoring.
On the defensive side, coach Mike Babcock started the season by intentionally putting the Stuart/Kronwall pairing against the opposition's toughest lines. It worked well for the first five games, but no two d-men have been more badly burned than they have since Detroit's season-opening winning streak ended. Currently, those two sit as the lowest-rated defensemen on the Wings by official metrics. The adjustments haven't done much to help them either. While Brad Stuart has been cleared of fault for 5.5 goals, he has 4 coverage minuses and 1.5 turnover minuses. The bright spot for Stuart to this rough start is the +2.5 for goal-saved pluses to this point.
Kronwall is in a similar predicament, where his adjusted and official plus/minus stats match perfectly. This is due in large part to him earning an extra -5 on goals against the Wings. Kronwall has struggled in his own zone against tough competition.
The one thing that jumps out among Wings' defensemen is that, while Jakub Kindl has the same official rating as Lidstrom, his adjusted rating is 0.5 higher. Obviously, nobody in his right mind thinks Kindl is better defensively than Lidstrom, but what this does tell us is that Kindl is doing a good job in the limited and somewhat sheltered role he has been given. Considering his defensive partner is -1 adjusted compared to official, this goes a long way towards telling us which of the third line guys I'd rather have making more than $3 million this year.
Just like with the forwards, the defensemen for the Wings are doing a decent job overall. Last year showed that they're bound to pull more minuses for goals against than the forwards will and there have been a fair share of mistakes, but I like what the D-Corps has been doing so far.
Overall, the team has not played as well as it should have. While the Wings have done a better job so far defensively, they've been unable to consistently put together enough offense to win games and find themselves still on the outside of the playoff race. We'll continue to look at the team's adjusted stats as the season goes on. For more info and for tons more stuff, head over to HockeyCSSI.com, where all of this great stuff is housed.