Late last year I wrote a an article about Tyler Kennedy and his amazing underlying stats. At the time Penguins were in full turnaround mode and the accolades were going to Sergei Gonchar on his return from injury. But Kennedy was effective even when Gonchar was down. In fact, he was at times the most effective Penguin on the ice. The conclusion was as follows:
Barring injury, given his age and his game, it's not a stretch to see the new Teke as a 20-25 goal man on the right wing for stretch of five to seven seasons. Someone in the Penguins scouting department deserves some serious praise for this find -- Teke looks like a guy that is going to get 750 games in this league. Players like Kennedy - those that get the puck going in the right direction and make their teammates better while staying completely under the radar aren't easy to find...
Kennedy remained strong through the playoffs and Bylsma hard-matched the Cooke - Staal - Kennedy line against the best the opposing team could muster as often as he could. I remain convinced that Dan Bylsma is either tracking his own advanced stats or using Vic Ferarri's site. Though Kennedy has been banged up this year, the trend continues. He's taking the tough assignments, taking the bad starting position and he's outshooting and outscoring once again. Pittsburgh's new "Teke" continues to show his versatility and effectiveness. Below the break is an updated look at Kennedy's underlying stats and his effect on his teammates.
Kennedy is still getting the difficult starting position - out of thirteen qualifying forwards, he ranks ninth in offensive zone starts. His qualcomp is 4/13, behind only Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin and his qualteam is 3/13. Despite the starting position and qualcomp, he continues to outshoot and his Corsi value ranks 3/13 on the Penguins. If someone were tracking scoring chances for the Penguins, I'd expect Kennedy's rate to be among the top four on the team.
The most telling stat about Kennedy? Look at his EV +/- on per 60: 1.19, He's ranked second on the Penguins and has outscored his opponents 21-13 while on the ice at even strength. When healthy, Kennedy has continued his even strength dominance.
Often overlooked is Kennedy's value to Jordan Staal. The young centerman is the apple of many general manager's eyes because of his remarkable potential. However, his current performance is greatly enhanced by the presence of Tyler Kennedy, something that can be seen through Kennedy's injury time this year. Overall, Staal has outscored his opponents 37-25 and outshot at a rate of .521 (310 SF -284 SA) while on at even strength. Together with Kennedy, they've outscored 14-6 and outshot at a .541 (156 SF - 132 SA) rate. Without Kennedy, Staal still outscores, 23-19, and barely outshoots with a .503 (154 SF - 152 SA) rate. The sample size argument is relevant, but in reading the breakdown from last year, these same numbers hold. Tyler Kennedy has been driving results at even strength for the Penguins.
Players like Kennedy are examples of why advanced statistics should be studied closely. Stephen Weiss is another. Talking heads everywhere are calling this Weiss' breakout year because the puck is going into the net. For the last two years, Weiss has been starting in his own end, taking on the toughest matchups and outscoring them. Breakout year? Try 2007-2008. Dustin Penner has amazed pundits with his point totals this year, but the underlying numbers showed a player that has been moving the puck the right way and outshooting his opponents for awhile.
Who would have thought that among all of those stars last year in Pittsburgh, Tyler Kennedy was the only man outshooting his opponents and doing it with the worst teammates? Who would have known that he was a key to the Penguins lineup because he was outscoring whoever was on the ice against him? Not who, but what, in this case. The underlying stats showed Kennedy was having success when the Penguins were struggling mightily. The underlying stats find the gems that can help a general manager save both his team and his cap situation from falling apart.