This is the second part of the Habs players analysis series for the season 2017-18. Be sure to check out part 1 where I reviewed the leaders of the Canadiens, namely, Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty.
Next in line are Alex Galchenyuk and Jonathan Drouin, two of the most talented Canadiens players, who, in my opinion, represent the future of the team.
For these reviews, only players who played at least half of the season will be covered. I’ll use some traditional statistics but mainly the advanced analytics eSAT metric, especially the eSAT Diff, eSAT FAR and eSAT AAR. If you are still unfamiliar with this advanced statistic, I suggest you read the article introducing the eSAT that will give you a better understanding of the metric.
In brief, eSAT Diff (effectiveness-of-the-Shot-Attempts Differential) shows the level of impact the player had on his team, therefore influencing the impact on the team rankings. It can also be use as a measurement to determine an MVP player.
The eSAT FAR (effectiveness-of-the-Shot-ATtempts-For-Above-Replacement) describes the quality of the offensive supply or the capacity to convert it into successful attack. The league average is at fifty percent, so top three forwards should be over 55 percent and top six should be over 50 percent.
Finally, the eSAT AAR (effectiveness-of-the-Shot-ATempts-Against-Above-Replacement) shows the quality of opportunities allowed to the opposition. Therefore, an eSAT AAR over the fifty percent mark would suggest a higher ability to shutdown the opponent’s offense.
But there’s more to the eSAT AAR, it will also tend to increase when players are in possession of the puck. On that account, it connects perfectly with the adage ‘the best defense is a good offense.’
Alex Galchenyuk had a rough start to the season collecting only 11 points his first 20 games, giving him a ratio of 0.4 points per game. This inconsistency in his performance earned him a spot on the fourth line. Playing alongside players with lesser offensive skills surely didn’t help him to rack up many points either.
However, Claude Julien is not in his first rodeo in the NHL. This move may have been the best approach for Galchenyuk’s development. Because, in the next 42 games, he had a steady progression, creating more offense and amassing 26 points, a ratio of 0.62 per game. Finally, in his last 20 games, Galchenyuk totalled 17 points, a ratio of 0.85 per game.
Galchenyuk’s impact was even more promising in this last 20 games with an average ice-time of 17:22 compare to an average of 15:51 in the first three quarter of the season. The progression of his offensive contribution is visible in the graphic above shown by the red line representing the eSAT FAR.
However, this progression of the offensive contribution mostly came from a higher effectiveness on the power-play unit. At five-on-five Galchenyuk only maintained an eSAT FAR of 40.3 percent and this was consistent for most of whole season, except in the first twenty games where it was even lower. He will have to be better at five-on-five to deserve to play in the top-six.
On another note, if the Canadiens still don’t want to use Galchenyuk down the middle, they will have to find a center who will help him to raise his production. Perhaps surprising to some, the center that helped Galchenyuk the most last season was Jacob de la Rose. The chemistry that they developed in the 244 minutes at five-on-five playing together, helped them maintaining an eSAT FAR at 54.1 percent and an eSAT AAR of 53.7 percent, numbers that are worthy of a top-six.
On the other hand, the 498 minutes that Galchenyuk played at five-on-five with Jonathan Drouin was horrible. Together they maintained a disastrous eSAT FAR of 30.9 percent and an eSAT AAR of 43.7 percent.
The other center that played with Galchenyuk was Phillip Danault. With a 152 minutes of ice-time together at five-on-five, they had a worse eSAT FAR than with Drouin at 27.7 percent, but their eSAT AAR was more decent at 64.9 percent. So, they were mostly controlling the play or didn’t allow many good chances, but were not able to complete their offensive plays.
Over the years, Galchenyuk has been roughly getting fifty points per season, but he’s becoming a young veteran, ready to begin his seventh season in the NHL and this should bring him more maturity. If the stars are aligned, we might witness a season over the sixty point mark soon.
To acquire Jonathan Drouin, Marc Bergevin had to trade the NHL’s ninth overall draft-pick from 2016. Mikhail Sergachev had a lot of success in his first season with the Lightning. Because Drouin didn’t obtain the level of performance that was expected from him, it led fans to be angry at the general manager. Still, Drouin obtained 13 goals and 33 assists, putting him third on the Canadiens for points.
In his defense, Drouin had to adapt to the center position, something that he never really played at the NHL level. It resulted in a tough and long season at the faceoff circle for Drouin. His success ratio of 42.5 percent was the lowest among Canadiens centers.
If it wasn’t enough to find his bearings at this position, Drouin saw eleven different pairs of wingers, and very few combined well with him. But in any of the good combinations there was one common denominator, Paul Byron.
The trio, completed by Brendan Gallagher, played a little more than 182 minutes at five-on-five together and showed an eSAT diff of 3.52. This is the only combination centered by Drouin that generated eSAT numbers worthy of a top-six. Drouin, Byron and Gallagher recorded an eSAT FAR of 52.4 percent, and an eSAT AAR of 54.3 percent. Also, they had a Corsi For of 190 and a Corsi Against of 145.
In the comparison game, looking in the eSAT diff department, their 3.52 wasn’t close to an elite trio like Tampa Bay compose of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Vladislav Namesnikov, who had an eSAT diff of 19.7. Still, it was better than Pittsburgh’s trio of Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust that only had an eSAT diff of 2.27.
In the first 17 games of the season, the trio of Drouin, Byron and Artturi Lehkonen looked promising. Their offensive conversion was very impressing with an eSAT FAR of 72.2 percent, however they had a low eSAT AAR of 40.2 percent. In my opinion, this is explained by the transition of Drouin to the center position.
Following the Lehkonen injury, the trio wasn’t reassembled. They only played another eight minutes together and the eSAT numbers were higher. It could have been interesting to see them more often together.
Could Drouin play a consistent role as a center? It is still unclear. He was surely better by season’s end, but is clear that he is a natural winger. It will be up to Marc Bergevin to make sure he finds a top center.