This is the sixth part of the Habs players analysis series for the season 2017-18. Be sure to check out parts one through five below.
Part 1: Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty
Part 2: Alex Galchenyuk and Jonathan Drouin
Part 3: Paul Byron and Phillip Danault
Part 4: Andrew Shaw and Nicholas Deslauriers
Part 5: Charles Hudon and Artturi Lekhonen
The role of depth forwards isn’t the most rewarding position to play in an organization. However, it is very important to ready to play anywhere in the lineup. In my opinion, this role has been filled at times last season by Jacob de la Rose and Byron Froese.
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.’
Jacob de la Rose
The young Swedish player is already in his fourth season in North America, however, Jacob de la Rose is still early in his career with the Montreal Canadiens. De la Rose is one of the many players in the Habs organization who has developed on the farm team. After spending most of the 2016-17 season with the St. John’s IceCaps, De la Rose played 55 games with the Canadiens this past season.
There have been a number of questions asked about De la Rose. Is he a depth forward? Is he offensively challenged? Is confidence an issue?
None of those narratives applied when he was put in a more offensive role. With increased icetime and compatible linemates, De la Rose was much more effective. Unfortunately, it was a role we would see him in just twice during the season.
One of these sequences was when De la Rose centred Alex Galchenyuk and Paul Byron as he replaced an injured Jonathan Drouin. In the four games, De la Rose played between Galchenyuk and Byron, the trio had a shooting percentage of 21.05, five-on-five.
It was unrealistic to expect the line to maintain the ratio, however when Drouin returned from injury, it may not have been the best decision for Claude Julien to send De la Rose to the press box. After about a month, De la Rose came back into the lineup but was treated to a constant rotation of wingers.
In the last 13 games of the season, De la Rose found himself between Galchenyuk and Artturi Lehkonen. Together, the trio was the Canadiens best line, obtaining seven goals and seven assists at five-on-five.
De la Rose won 45.4 percent of his faceoffs at even strength. Part of the issue can be chalked up to a lack of use by Julien. At 467 faceoffs, De la Rose took less than half of the draws of Drouin and Tomas Plekanec. With a permanent spot in the lineup, a regular shift and a little confidence, we would look to see that winning percentage creep up next season.
While considered a solid defensive forward, De la Rose had only an eSAT AAR of 38.2 on the penalty-kill. That said, the Canadiens penalty-kill, under the guidance of J.J. Daigneault, was the second worst in the league. With Daigneault gone, it is incumbent on De la Rose to show that he can be a shutdown option for the Habs next season.
Despite the fact that he collected his highest points total, this wasn’t enough to bring a positive impact on his team, with an eSAT Diff of -22.51. Only Byron Froese, Phillip Danault and Tomas Plekanec were worse than him as forwards in that department, which is mainly due to a low offense contribution maintaining an eSAT FAR at 36.6 percent. This could be acceptable in a fourth line role, and should have been compensated with a strong eSAT AAR, but 48.4 percent is not enough.
In brief, in 17 games where he was playing an offensive role, de la Rose scored three goals and three assists, while in the other 38 games he had two goals and two assists.
Next season he must find a way to establish himself in a role to better help his team. He has the potential to do it.
Byron Froese was signed in the summer of 2017 to play in Laval, and in the fall was selected as the new captain of the Rocket. In his previous three season, Froese proved himself as an important asset at the AHL level collecting 91 points in 107 games played. With the Rocket, he had three goals and eight assists in 13 games as the team recorded a record of 7-4-2.
Froese was called up to join the Canadiens on November 9th, but his stay in the NHL lasted too long, and it negatively affected the impact he had on the Canadiens. Between his call-up and December 30th, he played 20 games out of 23, and had a positive impact on the team with an eSAT Diff of 7.54.
In the first ten games, his offensive contribution was completely absent, but it wasn’t really a problem with a high reliability on defence. Then something unexpected happened: Daniel Carr was called-up and was matched with Froese and Nicolas Deslauriers. The three together brought a surprising level of offense maintaining an eSAT FAR of 65 percent and a perfect eSAT AAR of 100 percent.
With the many roster changes due to players coming back from injuries or going on the injury list, this trio played only a handful of games together. Unfortunately, they couldn’t re-establish their chemistry.
For Froese, this second phase was atrocious. The reason why his eSAT Diff went down to a minus 22.53 was due to his inability to capitalize on offense, reflected by an eSAT FAR of 30 percent and the inefficiency of his contribution on the defensive coverage shown by an eSAT AAR of 39.9 percent.
Byron Froese must be categorized as an AHL player, and he will provide a lot of help to an organisation at that level. Still, he could play a few stints at the NHL level on a fourth-line for a brief period and he should not be a burden.
Edited by Cate Racher, All Habs Hockey Magazine