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Let’s Get (Slightly) Weird: Three Statistical Quirks From Last Season

Wow, the offseason really is terrible, isn’t it? With no regular season Flyers hockey for another two months (though top prospects including Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee, and Jay O’Brien participated in the World Junior Summer Showcase last week, which was probably fun if you had the time for that sort of thing), we’re left to reflect on the season past and dream of the season to come.

Personally, both of those activities involve spending a not-insignificant amount of time on sites like Corsica Hockey. And what do you know, there were some kinda strange statistical things about last season! Yes, even besides the Flyers’ absurd streakiness. Here are three minor oddities related to a few individual Flyers.

Robert Hagg just wants a best friend

Lines and pairings are two of my favorite aspects of hockey. They’re like small families inside the broader apartment building that is the hockey team, each with their own quirks and styles and chemistry (or lack thereof). And they really, really matter. Adding Travis Konecny can transform a good line into a great one, while attaching Andrew MacDonald to literally anyone is a one-way ticket to Rock Bottom for a defenseman’s Corsi. No other major sport has anything quite like it.

Which is why it’s kinda sad and mildly interesting to note that Robert Hagg earned the ignominious title of “Most Shuffled Around Defenseman” of last year. Of the five other defensemen who received the most TOI on the Flyers, Hagg shared the rink at even-strength for at least 50 minutes with all (!) of them. The only defenseman that Hagg never got paired up with who received significant time was Travis Sanheim. The rest? Hakstol gave them a shot at making it work with Hagg.

Now, Hagg’s play-driving numbers with all of them were uniformly mediocre, which could be why Hakstol kept shuttling Hagg from pairing to pairing. But is it possible that finding a match for Hagg and sticking with it for a while could lead to better results? Is it possible that Hagg just needs a best friend to unlock his potential?

Yeah, probably not.

How bad was Valtteri Filppula? Let me count the ways

Now that we know for sure that Valtteri Filppula will, mercifully, not be playing hockey in a Flyers sweater next year, we can safely look back, point, and laugh at how truly terrible he was. You may be aware of how poorly Filppula fared according to advanced stats, but let’s add a little context.

Filppula’s Corsi For % at even-strength was 44.53—not great, Bob. What’s even less great? That that happens to be the lowest by a Flyer skater with over 600 minutes of ice time since 2013-14, when his play-driving ineptitude was outdone by everyone’s favorite player: Andrew MacDonald, in his first partial season with the Flyers.

Expected Goals For % more your speed? You’ll have to go back to R.J. Umberger’s 2014-15 performance to find a number to match Filppula’s 43.32. Needless to say, not the company you’d most want to keep, statistically speaking.

But at least we’ll always have Game 5 against the Penguins. Thanks for that, Val.

The Most Unlucky Man in the World

Ok, Scott Laughton is a probably a pretty lucky guy in many regards. After all, he’s a professional hockey player, which means he came awfully close to winning the genetic scratch-off lottery (in conjunction with the hours upon hours of practice he put in, of course).

But in terms of hockey luck, you can’t get much worse off than the Flyers’ 2012 1st round pick. PDO is a stat that measures luckiness by simply adding a team’s shooting percentage and save percentage while a player is on the ice. Research has shown that neither number is particularly predictive of future performance, so a very high or low number means regression may be looming on the horizon. 100 is the average, and the lower the number, the unluckier the player.

Laughton’s PDO last season came in at 95.51, which may not seem so bad on the surface. But no, it actually means Laughton should really stay away from gambling or sharp objects for a little while. That PDO is the lowest by any Flyers skater playing at least 600 minutes since before 2007-2008, which is as far as the data go back. It could be the lowest by any Flyer ever! It probably isn’t, but we’ll never know.

The upshot: Laughton centering the third line wouldn’t be so bad! In fact, that might be the best course to start the year, pending the results of training camp. Laughton’s Corsi and Expected Goals For numbers were solid—both in the top five among Flyers forwards. With a little extra luck, hopefully buoyed by improved linemates, Laughton could be primed for a true breakout year.

Nick Som

Nick is the Lead Flyers Writer at Flyers Front Office. By day, he writes about historic places for SavingPlaces.org, with bylines at USA Today and CityLab. His favorite hockey player growing up was Robert Esche, before eventually realizing you should never pick a Flyers goalie.

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