For those who don't know, I tracked passing stats during the 2014-2015 season as a part of the Passing Stats Project. The Project was spearheaded by Ryan Stimson, who writes for In Lou We Trust, another SBN website.
I've broken down Florida's offense using these passing stats before, but at the end of the season, we were able to sync the data we have with data from War On Ice.com, and thus get a complete look at how team's generated their offense during the season.
Let's get to it, then. How did your 2014-2015 Florida Panthers' defensemen do in terms of producing offense for their team?
(Before we go on, be sure to check out this passing stat primer; there's a glossary in it in case anyone needs to look up what any of the acronyms mean. Also check out our LBC Advanced Stats Glossary for any stats you may need explained.)
Secondary passing attempts show how efficient defensemen are at moving the puck around, as a high number of defensive zone shot attempts generated means that the blue liner can break the puck up to his forwards quickly, while a high number of offensive zone A2 SAGs indicates a propensity for jumping into offensive zone plays, such as the cycle.
The Good - Aaron Ekblad, Brian Campbell, and Steven Kampfer all did well at breaking the puck out of the zone last season. In the offensive zone, Dmitry Kulikov and Alex Petrovic found ways to get involved, and overall, Campbell, Ekblad, Kulikov, and Kampfer were the leaders in A2 SAGs.
The Bad - Petrovic didn't look out of place in his first long-term NHL stint, but he definitely didn't look impressive. Based on his DZ/NZ A2 SAG numbers, some offseason work on breaking the puck out of the zone could be beneficial for him (and for Gudbranson, too. Although Kulikov looks like he needs help as well, his primary passing stats tell us a different story; more on that later).
In the offensive zone, Erik Gudbranson is an absolute tire fire. I don't know what he should be working on this offseason, but the 23-year-old needs to get a bit more involved offensively.
The Extra - Willie Mitchell and Kampfer aren't bad puck movers. Though Mitchell doesn't have high totals, he doesn't lag extremely behind either, and Kampfer manages to generate a favorable amount of shot attempts through secondary passes.
Here we see direct passes leading to shot attempts. Transition SAGs (DZ/NZ) result in chances on the rush (which have a slightly higher shooting percentage), while OZ SAGs frequently are the results of D to D passes. Defensemen don't pass the puck into the slot too often, so most SC SAGs are slap passes with the purpose of getting a deflection.
The Good - Brian Campbell is a one man passing machine. He leads the Cats in all three areas, and is also 16th among defensemen who played 200 minutes in SAGs per 60 minutes of ice time.
Dmitry Kulikov and Aaron Ekblad also show a propensity for breaking the puck out the zone fast, while Alex Petrovic and Kulikov also distribute the puck well in the offensive zone. When it comes to scoring chance numbers, Erik Gudbranson and Willie Mitchell are surprise leaders behind Campbell, though I wouldn't put too much stock into this fact, as defensemen don't create many scoring chances by passing the puck into the slot.
The Bad - Though Kampfer had impressive A2 SAG totals, he basically disappears when it comes to primary passing numbers. Mitchell, Petrovic, and Gudbranson also lag behind the others in transition, while Ekblad, Guddy, and the team captain don't create with their passes while in the offensive zone.
Of all of the bad, I would be concerned about Gudbranson the most. Though he is a shutdown defenseman, it would be nice to see him incorporate some more offense into his game. The big man has shown flashes of it before, and it would be great to get consistent production out of him in 2015-2016.
The Extra - I wouldn't be too concerned with low totals from Mitchell and Ekblad. One thing that we can see from both sets of stats is that the 38-year-old stay-at-home defenseman generates lots of A2 DZ/NZ SAGs, while his partner, Kulikov, generates a good number of DZ/NZ SAGs. It's likely that Mitchell utilizes the D to D pass frequently, and frees up space for his younger partner to break the puck out.
As for the 19-year-old Rookie of the Year, his low offensive zone totals stem from his shooting abilities. His defensive partner, Campbell, very rarely shot the puck, and instead would simply dish the biscuit to Ekblad. Constantly being the trigger-man reduces one's opportunities to be the distributor.
Here, we get a composite SAG total, and factor the amount of shot attempts each defenseman had in order to get a full picture of how they contributed to the team's offense.
The Good - The defense is nice and balanced; there are three players who have a pass-first mentality (Campbell, Kulikov, and Petrovic), and there are four players with a shoot-first mentality (Ekblad, Gudbranson, Mitchell, and Kampfer). When it comes to overall output, and percentage of shot attempts, the results are also incredibly balanced. It's safe to say that each player fulfills their role, and contributes what's expected; all seven defenders are within a 3.2% range in terms of CC%.
The Bad - I can't really think of anything.
The Extra - Ekblad is 19. Let that sink in for a moment...
He's going to be very good, for a very long time. Another year of playing with Brian Campbell certainly won't hurt his development, and I would be surprised if he doesn't start to establish himself as an elite defenseman soon. I'm so happy Tallon didn't trade that first overall pick.