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Mailbag Post: Questions from Devils Twitter

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I asked what people wanted an article on and got more feedback than anticipated. I decided to just do a mailbag instead to answer as many as I can.

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Carolina Hurricanes v New Jersey Devils
Keith Kinkaid: Did you say mailbag??
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

I had about a dozen ideas for articles rattling around my brain like a screw that fell into one of those IKEA contraptions with holes that lead to lost implement abysses. I decided to just crowdsource the process in lieu of original thought and I got more feedback than I originally expected to this tweet:

And so I decided rather than pick my favorite one and ignore everyone else, I’d pick several favorite ones, and leave out slightly less people, because that seems better for some reason. So without further ado, here is my mailbag post!

*Small voice from prescription medication commercials*

Opinions expressed do not represent AAtJ outside the fact that I’m a writer for AAtJ and I am the one choosing/answering the questions.

Question #1: Are Coleman & Co. Better Bottom 6 Guys than Most?

I’m gonna loop Gibbons into this question as well because I think he has a similar impact. I decided to make a quick Tableau to address this one because I think it’s a good question and I’m slightly less bad at scraping together a crude chart than I used to be. In Game Score per 60 (a stat by Dom Luszchitson) vs TOI/GP (right), you’ll see that the three guys bolded are the three players in question (left to right: Gibbons, Coleman, Noesen). Coleman is average in game score for someone getting as much 5v5 ice time as he does and Noesen and Gibbons are above average.

Data from Corsica

However, where they really shine is in on-ice statistics. As shown in the chart (left) all three of them are notably above average in RelTxGF% for players of there usage. RelTxGF% measures how much their teammates expected goal ratio goes up or down with the player — weighted for ice time. EvolvingWild (newly admitted twins) has a great pair of articles on the topic for anyone interested. But what this means is that the Devils do not suffer as much in attempts/chances when their their bottom 6 guys are on the ice. When Noesen in particular is on the ice, despite the Devils getting 11% more defensive zone starts, they are generating 5% more of the shot attempts. He’s one of the better skaters in the league at digging his team out of jams. Worth noting that everything I’m saying about these three applies to Miles Wood who is also one of the better bottom 6 guys in the league.

Answer #1: Yes!

Okay. One down — moving on.

Question #2: Who Does Mojo Bump Out of the Lineup?

I actually don’t think there’s a definite answer to this question. First of all, we still don’t have a timetable on his return, and although he’s skating with the team again, the Devils would be wise to ease him back in very slowly after a bogus and goon-like hit from Brad Marchand dealt him his second concussion of the year.

It could be Wood although I don’t think it will be. He was sat the first game of the season and has earned a regular spot by offering things we can’t get elsewhere on the team. And for that reason, I think one of Gibbons or Coleman is probably the odd man out due to their redundance. They both play 13-14 minutes a game, offer occasional secondary scoring support, but are primarily valuable due to their PK usage (both on the 2nd unit right now) and their aggressive player — the forecheck in particular. Gibbons has a little better in transition— especially coming out of the d-zone, but Coleman is 3rd on the team in high danger chances per 60 behind only Hall and Hischier, who, idk if you’ve heard, are pretty good. So my guess is Gibbons. I could be totally wrong though.

Answer #2: If he comes back, my guess is Gibbons, but it’ll be a mix.

Two gone, three to go. This isn’t that bad.

Question #3: How Does Nico’s Rookie Year Compare to Taylor Hall’s?

This one’s fun! It’s good to know how they compare because we know how good Hall is — being that we watch him all the time — so is Nico on the same trajectory? Let’s do this with a really busy, likely undecipherable, unnecessarily dense chart.

Data via Corsica

Nico has produced more points and produced more points total and at a higher rate. He’s also been better in catch-all stat, game score (both total and rate). He’s been better in possession, though worse in relative possession (Hall’s team was worse than Nico’s). Hall’s usage reflected Edmonton’s reliance on him as he played a higher percent of his teams minutes than Nico, and more often played with top liners against top liners. They were very similar in penalty differential, and Hall scored more, but Nico had a higher expected goal rate.

All in all it’s tough to say who was better. Hall being on a worse team is probably doing a lot of the work here, but they’re certainly comparable regardless. Nico being the only Devil to play every game is also huge — Hall’s only played 82 games once. I don’t have stats on Halls passing that far back, but Nico’s one of the most dangerous passers in the NHL already. One of the many reasons both John and myself have written about him. I’m gonna give the edge to Nico, but it’s close.

Answer #3: They’re very close, Nico’s slightly better, but also on a better team.

Getting a little tired now and the Devils are currently staging a comeback in the 3rd period against the Hurricanes and my attention is waning.

Question #4: Would You Keep John Moore if he gets Demoted to 3rd Pair

I picked this one because I also had a conversation earlier about Mueller and if he should be regularly in the lineup — some suggested he should ultimately get Moore’s spot. First of all, as I said in this week’s Talking Red, I think people view Mueller’s time with the Devils with rose colored glasses. He was on the roster early in the season when we were playing really well and so I think people associate the two for some reason, but he’s a -3.56% RelTCF% despite positive ZSR — he’s lagging in possession despite getting offensive zone usage.

With regards to Moore, he’s had an up and down season, and my opinion of him has mirrored that erraticism. On the whole, he sports a -0.06 RelTCF%, and -2.61 RelTxGF% despite positive ZSR. He’s improved since last year in transition, but is still below average at everything other than volume shooting. For all his rep in scoring and driving offense, he’s behind Severson (19), Butcher (19), and Vatanen (16) in primary points. He’s 3rd if you only look at 5v5, but he’s only one ahead of Steve Santini -- who 1) is offensively abysmal, 2) hasn’t played since January 7th. He has been surprisingly competent shorthanded though — leads defenders in RelTxGF% on the PK. I think he is thoroughly replaceable and he’s no better than the 5th best defender on this team — and this team has bad defenders.

I don’t think there’s really anything threatening in the pipeline currently. Reilly Walsh and Jeremy Davies are still both in college an likely a couple years away. The only guys really playing well in the AHL are Jacob MacDonald who leads the team in points but is turning 25 next year, and Santini who we’ve already been unimpressed by once. There’s not a lot out there in the UFA market this offseason either. Moore is actually the 7th highest scoring UFA D available. Carlson is going to be overpriced, and Hickey and Cole are the only other 2 under 30 years old.

Vatanen, Greene, Severson, and Butcher are playing next year. John Moore needs to be beat by two of Mueller, Santini, Lovejoy in all likelihood. But I’ve been wrong about this staff’s appraisal of their defenders before, and I’ll be wrong again. If he’s a 3rd pairing guy he’s certainly more likely to get Lovejoyed next year, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Answer #4: IF demoted, maybe. But unlikely to happen and someone else needs to earn the spot.

The Devils just won and I’m delirious. This last one may make no sense.

Question #5: Has Kinkaid Been the Best Goalie Since 2/15?

This is a special guest question from MSG Hockey Show and Devils All-Access Podcast host and occasional Devils broadcast commentator, Arda Öcal.

First of all, that was the second time in 4 message that Arda used the double biceps — I think he thinks it means thumbs up. But more importantly, great question! Keith Kinkaid has been crazy hot since February 15th so it’s definitely with looking at just how good.

This is a breakdown by game of his performances.

via Hockey-Reference

Arda was correct in saying that Keith Kinkaid had put up a Quality Start in all but 2 of the games leading up to last night -- though last night was also not a quality start. For those unfamiliar, QS is a stat invented by Rob Vollman and it is a game started in which a goalie records a league-average (0.913 this year) Sv% or a replacement-level (0.885) Sv% and allowed 2 or fewer goals. All told, Kinkaid is 11-3 since 2/15 and recorded 11 quality starts in that time for both a win% and a QS% of 78.6. He also had a pretty absurd 93.4 Sv% in that time. For some reference, Carter Hutton leads the NHL in QS% and Sv% this year with 72.0% and 93.4% respectively. So yeah Keith’s been very very good. But has he been the best?

For that I like to look at expected goals saved. Corsica still does not have its Custom Query loaded up for goalies, and Natural Stat Trick does not have an expected goals model, so I went to OffsideReview to find what I wanted — a site run by Harry Shomer, an excellent analyst with his own expected goals model. I made this Tableau to visualize how many goals each goalie has given up in relation to the expectation. The scatterplot on the left shows goals allowed versus expectation — the further above the line they are the better. And the bargraph on the right shows how many goals they’ve saved above average (GSAA) and the color shows their AdjSv% (which is Sv% - xSv%).

Keith’s ranks 2nd in the NHL in GSAA over this span of time with an absurd 14.37 (before last night’s game). I reiterate, Keith has saved over 14 more goals than the average goalie in just over 14 games worth of time. That’s like ... a goal a game. Of the 31 goalies with at least 500 minutes — so, the starters — Kinkaid ranks behind only Niemi and Raanta. If you raised it to 600 minutes, Kinkaid would be #1 out of the 25 most used goalies in that span. Cory, btw, has a -3.98 GSAA in the <4 games he’s player which means he has cost the Devils over a goal a game. His Adj. Sv% is 71st out of the 78 goalies who have played since February 15th.

So Keith Kinkaid has been one of the best goalies, along with Raanta, Niemi, Fleury, and Quick. But he’s likely been most valuable given what his team has experienced without him.

Answer #5: Definitely One of the Best. Probably not #1 though.

Okay, I’m basically asleep now.

Thoughts?

What do you think about the things I’ve said here? Agree or disagree? How good has Keith been? What is Moore’s role moving forward? How good is our bottom 6? Does Arda understand emojis?

What do you think about this format? Would you like to see more articles like this?

Please leave your thoughts, criticisms, and thinly veiled insults in the comments below. Thanks to all those who responded with questions especially Arda Ocal. And MOST importantly, thank you all for reading!