Changes Part II: Players

*All metrics below are 5v5 score-adjusted*

Following my last post, I wanted to take a look at how the coaching change in Pittsburgh impacted individual players.

First, let’s look at shot generation: Forwards.corsi.for The first line of Kunitz-Crosby-Hornqvist is the biggest beneficiary of the coaching change. The second line increased slightly, while the rest of the players experienced middling results.

Defense.corsi.for The defense experienced improvement across the board, Letang most significantly.

The forwards experienced similar positive changes in scoring chance generation.

Forwards.chances.for The defense followed the same path.

Defense.chances.for In terms of individual shot generation, Patric Hornqvist experienced the largest increase among forwards.

Forwards.iCF60 The second pairing of Dumoulin-Lovejoy increased their individual shot generation the most.

Defense.iCF60 The changes in individual scoring chances followed the same pattern. Again, Hornqvist improved the most.



Now, let’s review shot and scoring chance suppression.

Most of the forwards had a distinct drop in shots against.


The defense also improved in shot suppression.


In scoring chances against, the same general pattern held for the forwards and defense. Curiously, Kunitz is the only member of the first line to have an increase in scoring chances against.

Forwards.chances.against Defense:


Finally, let’s look at primary point production.

Crosby is the obvious standout here. I wouldn’t read too much into the other results because players go into slumps all the time for reasons we aren’t privy to.

Forwards.PP60 Letang is the other standout in point production. Again, I wouldn’t read into the other players too heavily.


The main takeaway here is that Sullivan’s system is designed to let the top players be top players. Crosby, Malkin, and Letang are driving play at a much improved rate. Crosby’s current point streak indicates that his slump at the beginning of the year is over with. More importantly (for some), Sullivan’s Penguins are a lot more fun to watch.


* All metrics shown below are 5v5 score-adjusted*

Mike Johnston struggled to keep the Penguins above water in 2015-2016. Johnston was handed a deficient defensive corps and radically changed his system to shield the defense that he clearly had no confidence in. It appeared that Johnston would rather keep the game close instead of taking risks and giving the top talent a chance to make a difference. This resulted in a drop in shot generation and suppression.


Note that the team generated approximately the same amount of scoring chances, but began leaking shots and scoring changes against at an untenable rate.

Johnston’s change in strategy is even more pronounced when you review the data historically.

Pittsburgh Penguins Line Chart

Rutherford eventually made some changes to try to steer the ship away from the iceberg. Out goes Johnston. In comes Sullivan. Adam Gretz noted that Rutherford also made significant roster moves:

Replacing Rob Scuderi with Trevor Daley has worked out so far. Pascal Dupuis, whose career ended unfortunately, was under-performing in his role. Carl Hagelin, traded for Perron and Clendening, looks capable of filling in the role of a realistically 3rd line player that is fast enough to keep up with Crosby or Malkin. Rust, Sheary, and Wilson will hopefully solidify the 3rd and 4th lines, while Pouliot could make a push into the top-4.

Head coach Mike Sullivan has unleashed the hounds. Judging by the style of play, he’s more comfortable .



Examining how the change in coaching staff has impacted the Penguins’ metrics:
Between Sullivan and the roster changes, the Penguins have markedly improved all of their shot metrics.  I’m dubious that the dip in shooting % can be strongly explained by any change in strategy or personnel. The most straightforward explanation for the dip in save % is Marc-Andre Fleury’s injury and Jeff Zatkoff’s subsequent rise in playing time.

Mike Sullivan has the team headed in the right direction. Whether they have enough time to make up lost ground is a different question.