Paul Byron (Photo by Philippe Bouchard / Icon Sportswire)

by Mathieu Chagnon, Staff Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

This is the third part of the Habs players analysis series for the season 2017-18. Be sure to check out parts 1 and 2 where we discussed Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk and Jonathan Drouin.

This piece covers Paul Byron and Phillip Danault, two players who don’t have the skills to be elite in the NHL, but have success due to their hard work.

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.’

Paul Byron

(Photo : Phillippe Bouchard / Icon Sportswire, Graphics : Mathieu Chagnon)

Who would have bet that Paul Byron could achieve another 20-goal season? It’s also a surprise that Byron had more goals than Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty. The reason behind the success of the speedy forward is because he plays every game fiercely, never giving up.

Byron has specialized at maintaining a very high shooting percentage. This past season he did it again with a 17.4 percent success ratio, the highest among the Canadiens players. Thus, his success is easy to explain. In 2017-18, Byron took 203 shot attempts to the net. Of those shots, 55.2 percent were from the high danger area, making it easier to maintain a higher shooting percentage.

If we compare his eSAT numbers with 2016-17, we should not make hasty conclusions. It would be right to say that his numbers are considerably lower. But why?

The explanation resides in the fact that Byron has been over exposed and plays far too many minutes. While we have often mentioned the Canadiens lack of center depth, the same could be said about right wing. Numerous injuries sustained by other wingers forced Byron to play top minutes.

If we dig deeper, in an analysis of time-on-ice, we see that in 2016-17, Byron completed a total of 58 games playing less than 16 minutes, and 23 games over that amount. However in 2017-18, he completed 39 games under the 16 minutes mark and 43 games over it. To me, that proves the theory of his over-utilization.

We recently learned that Byron underwent surgery to repair his right shoulder, but he still played the whole 82 games last season. It was an accomplishment that only Byron, Brendan Gallagher and Galchenyuk achieved.

But, Byron’s biggest accomplishment was the most used Habs player on the penalty-kill to maintain an eSAT AAR over 48 percent. It’s no wonder why the penalty-kill struggled so much.

In fact, with a little more than 150 minutes, Byron had an impressive eSAT AAR of 57.5 percent, placing him 19th in the NHL among the players that have played more than 125 minutes. Imagine how bad the penalty-kill would have been without him?

As Byron was used much more as a top six forward, it explains why his eSAT FAR and his eSAT AAR are lower than the league average. A lower ice-time next season should bring back his eSAT numbers over the fifty percent bar.

Phillip Danault

(Photo : Ryan Remiorz / Canadian Press, Graphics : Mathieu Chagnon)

It was an important season for Phillip Danault to prove that he could be a center playing big minutes in the top-six. Being one of the few natural centers on the Canadiens, it was the perfect season for him to grasp the chance.

Danault prepared himself well during the off-season to get his opportunity. With the success he had playing with Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov in 2016-’17, it reinforced his confidence.

Without a new natural center added last off-season, one may have thought that Drouin could have replaced Radulov on the right wing and create the same kind of chemistry. However, this combination was never created.

Danault maintained a ratio of .48 points per game in 52 games played, similar to his numbers the previous season. While there is a view that Danault played a diminished role  last season, it could be considered as a progression in his development.

Danault had a very weak start to the 2017-18 collecting only two points. After that rough opening, he raised his production collecting a four point game for the first time of his career. Before receiving a puck to the head from Zdeno Chara resulting in a concussion, Danault was maintaining a decent pace of .57 points per game.

Still it wasn’t enough. Danault’s impact hasn’t been positive, showing an eSAT Diff of minus 23.4. This was mostly influence by Danault poor contribution on the penalty-kill like many of his teammates.

In a little more than 95 minutes, he maintained an eSAT Diff of minus 24.9, showing an eSAT AAR of 43.6 percent, placing him 221st of 257 in the NHL among players that played 90 minutes or more.

Depending on how things go this summer, Danault could still inherit a top center position. But he must find a way to better on the penalty-kill.