Philadelphia Flyers: 2015/16 Season Review – Line 1

Mar 24, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux (28) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal in the third period against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. The Flyers won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 24, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux (28) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal in the third period against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. The Flyers won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia Flyers are coming off a surprising year. It’s time to break down what went down all season with some advanced statistics.

The Philadelphia Flyers were the underdog story of the NHL this season, but it took more than grit and grind to get to the playoffs. After delving into some statistics, here is a brief overview of my findings.

  • Claude Giroux was a very average 1st Liner, probably took too many penalties, but was outstanding on the PP. The entire 1st Line was phenomenal at 5v4.
  • Wayne Simmonds had a fantastic year as the Philadelphia Flyers best forward at Even Strength, but still takes WAY too many penalties for a guy in the top-6.
  • Jakub Voracek actually didn’t do too badly he just couldn’t put the puck in the net. His shooting percentage should rebound so don’t panic.
  • Brayden Schenn‘s breakout year should be taken with a grain of salt. He got a bit lucky, received favorable zone starts, and was a slight negative in possession. But he’s still improving! He may never be an elite forward, but he is an excellent complimentary winger for the Philadelphia Flyers.

To keep things (relatively) simple I’ve taken all of the NHL forwards who dressed for 30+ games during the 2015/16 season. I’ve deemed these 411 forwards NHL regulars. Of those regulars only Jared Boll of the Jackets played less than 200 minutes at Even Strength.

There were a few examples of young players who played less than 30 games, and more than 200 minutes (Nylander of the Leafs, and Drouin of the Bolts come to mind), but I decided against including them. They’re new to the league, and if anything skilled players with less ice time would probably throw the curve.

For the purposes of this analysis I broke the Philadelphia Flyers forwards up into 4 groups of ~100 sorted by Time on Ice per game which roughly corresponds to where those players would have slotted into NHL line-ups. Generally less than 12.5 minutes played per game = 4th Line, 12.5 to 15 minutes = 3rd Line, 15 to 17.5 minutes = 2nd Line, and forwards playing 17.5+ minutes = 1st Line. There’s obviously some drift for forwards who would’ve had more or less time on special teams assignments such as Sean Couturier who played an absolute ton (1st Line minutes) despite being a 2nd Line Center for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Giroux and the Gang

Claude Giroux is obviously the 1st Line Center on this Philadelphia Flyers team. The other 3 here were all equally Claude’s linemates at different times this season with between 517 and 533 minutes played with him at evens. Therefore it seems fair to evaluate all 3 wingers on a 1st line basis.

AVG NHL LINE 155.4816.62.011.5812.151.2100.653.3

First let’s talk points. Giroux, Simmonds, Schenn, and Voracek all scored enough points to be considered NHL 1st line players. Only Voracek was under the 55.48 point average for the top 100 forwards (and just barely). Giroux’s 67 points look pretty great, and he was 17th in scoring for the entire league.

That’s good! Simmonds’ 32 goals was the 14th best total. Also good! Everyone should realize the importance of scoring, but you have to look underneath the basic numbers to get a feel of how players actually fared.

When we delve a bit deeper, we find out that the Philadelphia Flyers were a very special-teams-centric club. Voracek scored at an extremely average 2nd Line clip of 1.75 points per 60 minutes of play at Even Strength (PP60). Giroux was better at 1.92 PP60, but even he didn’t quite crack 1st line calibre. Simmonds and Schenn were more effective with 2.13 and 2.08 PP60 respectively. So when you combine three of them as a line at Even Strength they were more-or-less average 1st liners.

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Where these forwards shine, however, is on the Powerplay. All four were among the top 30 players in 5v4 scoring (Giroux 7th, Voracek 24th, Schenn 26th, Simmonds 30th). They truly are an elite unit with the man advantage, up there with what Chicago, San Jose, Washington and Pittsburgh can put on the ice.

For the most part the Philadelphia Flyers were able to succeed this past year by making sure they got those guys out on the PP (they had the 2nd most opportunities in the league). They were shorthanded a lot too (12th in the NHL – 262 times), but they came out with a positive differential in PPs vs. PKs so that’s just fine. The problem then lies in who was taking those penalties.

Giroux’s PIMs took a jump this year to 53 which is the most minutes he’s ever been penalized in a season. Both he and Voracek took a lot of penalties per 60 minutes of play at evens (PIM60) 1.99 and 1.68. Not a good thing.

Those two should be staying on the ice as much as possible, and having them in the box is counterproductive. Only Schenn was in the ‘good boy’ half of NHL regulars (1.47 PIM60) and Simmonds was buried amongst the more mischievous forwards (6.32 PIM60). In fact the 24th worst offender in the league. I know he plays a rough game, but maybe he could dial back the infractions just a tad to further excel with the Philadelphia Flyers

Voracek’s poor season can almost be summed up in one statistic; he shot at just 5.2%. If he had been near his career average of 9.5% he would’ve had 20 goals instead of 11 and the Philadelphia Flyers might’ve been in a better position come playoff time.. It’s fair to mention that he was playing banged up down the stretch, and was also shifted all over the line-up as Hakstol tried to find the right fit.

Voracek’s poor season can almost be summed up in one statistic; he shot at just 5.2%.

Giroux shot below his career average of 11% as well, scoring on just 9.1% of his shots. The line was saved by additions of Simmonds and Schenn at different times during the year as both shot over 14%. That’s VERY high, and probably unsustainable over long periods, but both are above average career shooters (Simmonds at 13.1% – Schenn at 12%) so hoping for similar production next year isn’t out of the question.

Shots For/Against (SF%) is a good base stat for analyzing possession. If a team takes more shots then it gives up with a particular player on the ice, chances are that player is having a positive effect on pushing the play forward. Simmonds did an excellent job of that this year as he scored the highest on the team in that regard (52.2 SF%). Giroux and Voracek also drove possession over 50% for the Philadelphia Flyers, Jake just couldn’t put those shots in the net it seems. Schenn however, was not a positive possession driver. His 49.3 SF% is just under the 50% threshold, but it’s worrying all the same considering whom he was playing with.

Philadelphia Flyers
Brayden Schenn‘s break out season shouldn’t be overlooked, but it’s clear he isn’t an elite play driver. What he is, is an excellent complimentary winger. Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

PDO (Puck Luck) was also very much in Schenn’s favour. It’s the simple combination of on ice shooting percentage, and save percentage. It can tell us whether or not a player was fortunate or unfortunate based on high or low combined percentages. If the rating is right around 100% things went pretty much as expected. Schenn’s 102.8 rating means that everyone around him was shooting pretty well, and a lot of pucks that might have gotten past Mason/Neuvirth fortunately didn’t go in.

The final damning stat for Schenn is that he was given the benefit of good zone starts. His 52.4 Offensive Zone Start percentage (OZS) shows he was given a lot more time in the offensive zone than others. That’s not outrageous considering the AVG NHL LINE 1 stat is 53.3 OZS%, but it is telling that the coaches may not trust him in the defensive zone. Voracek (49.3), and more so, Simmonds (47.2) were given much tougher defensive assignments for the Philadelphia Flyers starting most of their shifts in the defensive zone. Giroux’s 51.5 OZS% is quite average across the entire league for top-6 players.

Next: Philadelphia Flyers' Golden Anniversary

Next time I’ll be looking at how Couturier and Company did for the Philadelphia Flyers.