Red Wings CSSI Wrap-Up: The Centers

Ezra Shaw

Previous looks

The Defense

The Wingers

Finishing up the postseason CSSI look by position, today we'll go over how the centers did for the Wings this season. The center is generally the most-important forward on the ice and is potentially the most-important non-goalie out there. Oversimplifying, the center's job is to make sure his team has numbers in the right spots of the ice, covering deeper in his own zone and watching more lanes near his opponent's net.

This was something of a weird year for the Wings' centermen, as they bucked a number of trends on comparative results when stacked up against Wingers. Traditionally, Centers earn a higher number of overall adjustments thanks to higher individual adjustment rates in categories like G+, OV+, and PLT+. They also traditionally grab more coverage and turnover minuses on average than wingers, but were much closer in the rankings this season. Part of this is caused by the Zetterberg/Legwand issue where each player had a lot of time on the wing, helping skew the numbers. However, I think the larger answer at play is that the Red Wings simply weren't as good at the center position as they have been in past seasons. We've shied away from the injury excuse elsewhere, but here is where it really hit home.

Player
Position
GP
Official Plus/Minus
Adjusted P/M
G+
Cov-
Turn-
OV+
OV-
Plty-
Plty+
Chg+
Chg-
PP+Lost
PK-Clear
GA-Clear
GSaved+
Adjustment Differential
Pavel Datsyuk C 45 1 37 24.5 -11.5 -6.5 13 -7 -2 10.5 4 -2 -1 0 13.5 0.5 36
Henrik Zetterberg C 45 19 50 22.5 -13 -3 17.5 -4 -5.5 11 0 -1 -1 0 7.5 0 31
Stephen Weiss C 26 -4 -5 1.5 -2.5 -2 6.5 -4 -5.5 2 0 -1 0 1 1 2 -1
Joakim Andersson C 65 -11 0 12.5 -13 -5.5 16 -8.5 -4 9.5 1 0 0 1 2 0 11
Cory Emmerton C 18 -2 -5 -2.5 -3 1 -1 -2 2.5 0 0 0 1 1 0 -3
Luke Glendening C 56 -9 15.5 10 -7 -4.5 16 0 -6 8 1 -2 0 0 9 0 24.5
Darren Helm C 43 2 35 16 -5 -8.5 8 0 -8.5 17.5 1 -1 0 0 13.5 0 33
Riley Sheahan C 42 7 24 11.5 -5 -5.5 8.5 -1.5 -2 7 1 -1 -1 0 5 0 17
David Legwand C 21 -9 -14.5 5 -6 -3.5 1.5 -3.5 -7.5 1.5 0 -1 0 0 8 0 -5.5

Overall Season Performance

This season, the Wings used nine different centers who played in at least 15 games. The next-highest figure since CSSI started was six. Obviously, you'd like to be able to have that number at four because it means you have your shit handled at the pivot. Injuries created a lot of problems where people had to step into roles ill-suited for them. Joakim Andersson led the team in games played at the center position and he ended the season playing only three total games after the beginning of April due to being a healthy scratch.

The holes left in the top of the lineup by injuries to guys like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg forced non-ideal matchups, which led to worse ratings.

Here's the weighted average performance of your standard Red Wings' center:

Official +/- Adjusted +/- G+ Cov- Trn- Ov+ Ov- Plt- Plt+ PP+ Lost PK Clear GA Clear G Saved Adj Diff
-0.38 9.18 6.52 -4.08 -2.46 5.75 -1.78 -2.34 4.36 -0.18 0.15 3.50 0.10 9.55

The Center of the Action

With the injury problems at center, you can see how, compared to previous seasons, the Wings' faceoff-takers fared worse in pretty much every category.

Season
Official Plus/Minus
Adjusted P/M
G+
Cov-
Turn-
OV+
OV-
Plty-
Plty+
GA-Clear
GSaved+
Adjustment Differential
2013-14 -0.38 9.18 6.52 -4.08 -2.46 5.75 -1.78 -2.34 4.36 3.50 0.10 9.55
2012-13 3.97 18.76 8.67 -7.00 -1.89 9.04 -1.90 -3.28 4.65 6.54 0.19 14.79
2011-12 10.94 70.61 22.87 -6.54 -6.62 28.62 -5.14 -6.33 12.35 21.48 0.45 59.67
2010-11 2.22 25.94 7.96 -5.50 -4.28 15.01 -1.61 -4.15 7.44 9.29 0.44 23.72

man, how crazy was 2011-12, huh? Ah, that's not important right now. What's important is that the forwards with the most two-way responsibility this season affected goals less often, were much less likely to earn overall kudos for their effort, drew fewer penalties than ever before, and were much less likely to keep a goal out of their own net on a scramble. The good news is that they earned fewer minuses for mistakes than usual, but that's not so wonderful in context when you look at how the wingers essentially picked up that slack.

Digging in the Corners

Here's the weighted numbers chart for the 9 centers the Wings employed at least semi-regularly.

Player Official Plus/Minus Adjusted P/M G+ Cov- Turn- OV+ OV- Plty- Plty+ Chg+ Chg- PP+Lost PK-Clear GA-Clear GSaved+ Adjustment Differential
Henrik Zetterberg 10.43 27.44 12.35 -7.13 -1.65 9.60 -2.20 -3.02 6.04 0.00 -0.55 -0.55 0.00 4.12 0.00 17.01
Pavel Datsyuk 0.55 20.30 13.45 -6.31 -3.57 7.13 -3.84 -1.10 5.76 2.20 -1.10 -0.55 0.00 7.41 0.27 19.76
Darren Helm 1.05 18.35 8.39 -2.62 -4.46 4.20 0.00 -4.46 9.18 0.52 -0.52 0.00 0.00 7.08 0.00 17.30
Riley Sheahan 3.59 12.29 5.89 -2.56 -2.82 4.35 -0.77 -1.02 3.59 0.51 -0.51 -0.51 0.00 2.56 0.00 8.71
Luke Glendening -6.15 10.59 6.83 -4.78 -3.07 10.93 0.00 -4.10 5.46 0.68 -1.37 0.00 0.00 6.15 0.00 16.73
AVERAGE -0.38 9.18 6.52 -4.08 -2.46 5.75 -1.78 -2.34 4.36 0.52 -0.51 -0.18 0.15 3.50 0.10 9.55
Joakim Andersson -8.85 0.00 10.06 -10.46 -4.43 12.88 -6.84 -3.22 7.65 0.80 0.00 0.00 0.80 1.61 0.00 8.85
Cory Emmerton -0.44 -1.10 0.00 -0.55 -0.66 0.22 -0.22 -0.44 0.55 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.22 0.22 0.00 -0.66
Stephen Weiss -1.27 -1.59 0.48 -0.79 -0.63 2.06 -1.27 -1.74 0.63 0.00 -0.32 0.00 0.32 0.32 0.63 -0.32
David Legwand -2.30 -3.71 1.28 -1.54 -0.90 0.38 -0.90 -1.92 0.38 0.00 -0.26 0.00 0.00 2.05 0.00 -1.41

It's interesting to note that the wings had five above-average centers for adjusted plus/minus, considering that's the total number of centers used in two out of the last three seasons. If you cut the four players below the green bar completely out of the picture, the adjusted plus/minus rating for the season nearly doubles (to 17.8).

Most-interesting is that the two biggest drags on the entire position comes from the two players that the Red Wings counted on most to fill a need at the top of the lineup. Stephen Weiss showed up hurt and never got better, dragging the club down through 26 games before being shut down to get healthy. Legwand joined late and never really claimed a solid spot in the lineup through the last 21 games of the season.

Looking at these figures, it's easy to see why Joakim Andersson is considered expendable by most fans. He did manage to do better offensively than ever before, but he wasn't exactly a dynamo back there and consistently struggled with his defensive assignments.

Above the green line, you essentially have a list that starts at the top of centers who are really good and drops down to centers who outplayed expectations. I think Sheahan makes a pretty good mixture of those two. Glendening does everything asked of him and tries his ass off, finding ways to positively impact a game. I just wish he could find ways to positively impact the scoreboard more often.

The Chart

You expect consistent positive growth for centers along this chart. This is what we got.

  • The top of that chart looks like Superman giving up on life.
  • Believe it or not, Weiss is actually on there; you just can't see him not standing out. what you can see stand out is the drop of Legwand. He had quite an adjustment period, but that's a pink nightmare (which, coincidentally, was your mom's nickname in high school).
  • I really hope Sheahan's late-season meteoric rise can carry over into next season.
  • Here's to hoping Helm can stay healthy while we're at it.

Conclusion

In the final autopsy of the Wings' seasons, the injuries and inconsistencies bit them hardest. Among the blueliners, it was more inconsistency at play. Here, the injuries made a much bigger difference.  If Detroit can get a healthy season out of their proven performers, I think they got a good indication that they have youngsters who can handle a bit more responsibility.

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