Belleville Player Usage

However you assess the talent in Belleville the one thing that’s within the control of the organisation is how to use that talent. I’ve complained about some of the decisions before, but it’s worth going through the numbers so that you can get a sense of who is or isn’t performing given that usage. We don’t have things like TOI recorded in the AHL, but we do have lineups and while adjustments happen in game at the least they tell us a coach’s intentions and how he adapts the lineup from game-to-game in hopes of better results. I have excluded players who have played less than 10 games–anyone eager for Chris DiDomenico’s information etc let me know in the comments. I’m also addressing defensemen differently since the order in which Kleinendorst’s combos are listed rarely means anything other than the third pairing. Below I’ve listed players in order of who has played most on the top lines (21 total games; 1st/2nd/3rd/4th):

Games Played by Line
McCormick/O’Brien 13/5/1/0
Gagne 8/4/8/1
Paul 6/7/0/0
Werek 5/9/4/0
Rodewald 4/7/0/0
White 3/8/1/0
Chlapik 2/5/10/3
Perron 0/4/13/2
Reinhart 0/4/7/9
Ciampini 0/0/7/10
Randell 0/0/6/13
Dunn 0/0/0/11

So what does this mean? It illustrates who Kleinendorst trusts–not to score, as we’ll get into, but to play responsibly–to play safe. For over two-thirds of this season the tandem of Max McCormick and Jim O’Brien have been on the top line–both players best known for their defensive play, which isn’t conducive to consistent or regular production (they are, in fact, producing at the same rate they have previously as second or third-line players). On the flip side of this are two offensively gifted prospects, Filip Chlapik and Francis Perron. Each has spent more than half the season playing third-line minutes despite their offensive gifts. I’ve picked these four for a very deliberate reason, as given the rather large difference in ice time between them here’s their production thus far this season:

Chlapik 20-3-8-11 4 PPP
O’Brien 19-6-4-10 1 PPP
McCormick 19-3-7-10 2 PPP 1 SHP 2 empty-net points
Perron 19-2-8-10 2 PPP 1 empty-net point

Virtually identical production, which shouldn’t be the case given the ice time disparity. The coaching staff aren’t idiots and recognise they are surrendering offense in doing this, but why then put the vets on the top powerplay unit as well (which continues to struggle)? It’s puzzling to say the least.

What about even-strength scoring–who is doing it–both collecting the points and on-ice for the production? The raw numbers first (again, excluding those who’ve played less than 10 games; games with points noted first; I’ve excluded empty-net production; in brackets are the on-ice per game averages):

Rodewald 11-8 10 OI (0.91)*
Paul 13-4 10 OI (0.77)
Werek 18-10 12 OI (0.66)
O’Brien 19-9 12 OI (0.63)
Gagne 21-8 12 OI (0.57)
Perron 19-7 11 OI (0.57)
McCormick 19-5 11 OI (0.57)
Chlapik 20-7 11 OI (0.55)
Reinhart 20-7 10 OI (0.50)
White 12-5 6 OI (0.50)
Ciampini 17-6 7 OI (0.41)
Dunn 11-3 4 OI (0.36)
Randell 19-0 3 OI (0.16)

*amusingly Rodewald was given an additional three assists in Belleville’s 5-2 win over Charlotte after the game was completed, something I didn’t realise until I was putting this together

A few things stand out–on a per-game basis both Nick Paul and Jack Rodewald are way ahead of the curve, albeit Paul’s actual point totals are poor and both are on the low end of games played. Beyond that it’s fairly even across the board, which does not correspond to how ice time is being handed out. White’s tallies are below expectations and Randell’s indicate he shouldn’t be dressing.

These are all in isolation however–it’s a team game, there are linemates, so what about lines? Which lines are producing? This was fascinating to dive into. I’ve thrown out DiDomenico’s data (for obvious reasons), as well as the empty-net goals (the BSens have three), but what’s interesting is that of the 33 5-on-5 goals scored, 9 (or 27%) are by lines that have never been formerly been put together and virtually none of the scoring lines have been kept together for more than two or three games. Roster movement plays a part in this, but only a part. I’ve organised this list by how often the line has been in the lineup card:

McCormick-O’Brien-Gagne – 8 games, 3 goals (0.37)
Perron-Chlapik-Gagne – 3 games, 3 goals (1.00)
Werek-Reinhart-Rodewald – 3 games, 2 goals (0.66)
Werek-Chlapik-Perron – 3 games, 1 goal (0.33)
Werek-O’Brien-Sexton – 2 games, 2 goals (1.00)
Werek-Paul-Rodewald – 2 games, 1 goal (0.50)
Werek-Paul-O’Brien – 2 games, 1 goal (0.50)
Werek-Chlapik-White – 2 games, 1 goal (0.50)
Perron-Chlapik-White – 2 games, 1 goal (0.50)
Dunn-Reinhart-Randell – 2 games, 1 goal (0.50)

And that’s it. No other scoring line has played together for more than a single game (this despite the fact that Paul-White-Rodewald scored three times or that McCormick-Chlapik-Ciampini scored twice, both in single-game combinations)–that doesn’t mean they haven’t occasionally been formulated again within a game, but it’s awfully strange to stick with something that isn’t producing (the first line listed for example) and move away from ones that are.

What about duos–which pairs are most productive (these are on-ice for goals rather than points, compared to GP together)?

White-Paul 3/2 (1.5)
McCormick-Werek 3/2 (1.5)
Rodewald-Paul 6/5 (1.2)
Chlapik-Gagne 4/4 (1.0)
Werek-Rodewald 4/4 (1.0)
White-Rodewald 3/3 (1.0)
Chlapik-Perron 7/8 (0.87)
Reinhart-Werek 3/4 (0.75)
Perron-Gagne 5/8 (0.62)
O’Brien-Werek 3/6 (0.5)
Reinhart-Ciampini 3/7 (0.42)
O’Brien-Gagne 3/9 (0.33)
McCormick-Gagne 3/10 (0.3)

The nightmarish numbers at the bottom illustrate the problems of putting three shooters together. The headscratcher in all of this is: why isn’t there more follow through on this and other results? It’s not rational for a team that often struggles to score (2 or fewer goals in 11 of 21 games) to avoid combinations that work. Why not play McCormick with either Werek or Chlapik (or both), where most of his production has come from, rather than sticking him with O’Brien? Why not put the Paul-White-Rodewald line back together to see if they can replicate their success? Etc–it’s the kind of thing that can make you crazy.

There are similar signs of conservatism, of playing it safe, on the blueline. With the injuries and call-ups there have been a bevvy of combinations, but we’ll look first at individual numbers and then combinations (I’ve excluded Harpur because he’s only played in 4 games; the on-ice per-game ratio is in brackets):

Chabot 13-7 11 OI (0.8)
Burgdoerfer 21-6 15 OI (0.7)
Murray 14-6 9 OI (0.6)
Sieloff 21-3 13 OI (0.6)
Jaros 14-5 7 OI (0.5)
Lajoie 11-4 6 OI (0.5)
Englund 21-2 11 OI (0.5)
Erkamps 11-1 6 OI (0.5)

In terms of ratios it’s fairly close other than Chabot. What about pairings? Once again we see a lot of the 5-on-5 production comes from little used combinations (8 of 33, or 24%). There’s also a reluctance to pair offensive blueliners together:

Sieloff-Burgdoerfer 12 games, 5 OI goals (0.41)
Englund-Jaros 9 games, 4 OI goals (0.44)
Chabot-Burgdoerfer 6 games, 6 OI goals (1.0)
Murray-Erkamps 5 games, 4 OI goals (0.80)
Lajoie-Jaros 4 games, 1 OI goal (0.25)
Chabot-Englund 4 games, 1 OI goal (0.25)
Sieloff-Englund 4 games, 1 OI goal (0.25)
Lajoie-Murray 2 games, 1 OI goal (0.50)
Chabot-Murray 2 games, 1 OI goal (0.50)

Everything else is in single games; the most productive non-unit is oddly Englund-Burgdoerfer (3 OI), despite neither being particularly gifted offensively. Sieloff-Harpur, incidentally, played 4 games together (4 OI). Offensive combos like Chabot-Jaros and Lajoie-Burgdoerfer, despite success, simply aren’t used except on the powerplay or in desperate circumstances. One particular oddity is that Erkamps has proven a productive partner with virtually everyone except Englund.

What we can hope for through all of this is a change in mindset where Kleinendorst unglues his favourite veterans from the top-line and let’s the lineup breath. I’m not sure that will actually happen, but I can’t see a positive change unless he does.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)



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  4. […] his linemates McCormick: mercifully pulled from the first line after 11 straight games; I’d mentioned not long ago that he and Chlapik had shown chemistry in their one previous game together (back on […]

  5. […] in his last five); I’m not sure how well he fits with Chlapik as his center (going back to my player usage piece he’s functioned best with Nick Paul as his center) Kelly: no points in six […]

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