One particular example would be Penner. Given his generous offensive zone start ratio, I’d be curious to see his differential scoring chance production between offensive and defensive zones.
I don't mean to call Jon out on this, but he's the most recent example of associating Dustin Penner with an inordinate amount of offensive zone starts in the 2009-2010 season. I'm not sure where this idea came from -- that Penner's success this season was somehow due to his soft starting positions, or that Penner got the easy work compared to his comrades, but it's worth digging a bit deeper to understand Zonestart on the Oilers last season.
Those who are unfamiliar with the Zonestart stat should start with Vic Ferrari's seminal work on the topic. Put simply, Zonestart (ZS) is the net difference in on-ice defensive zone faceoffs taken and offensive zone faceoffs taken. Zonefinish (ZF) is the net difference in on-ice offensive zone whistles and defensive zone whistles. Offensive zone percentage (OPCT) is the percentage of offensive zone faceoffs (once offensive and defensive zone faceoffs are added together). Zoneshift (ZSH) is the difference between Zonefinish and Zonestart.
These numbers are important because they allow us to look at the difficulty of starting position by player, and draw out relative values by comparing them to teammates. Zoneshift gives us a look at which players are moving the puck the right way or keeping the puck in the offensive end, depending on Zonestart. Our kind and benevolent statistical overlord, Gabriel Desjardins, makes tracking all of these very easy with a specific Zonestart section on his excellent site, www.behindthenet.ca.
Now that I've cleared up the definitions around Zonestart, here are the Oilers' Zonestarts for the 2009-2010 season, beginning with the forwards:
Dustin Penner took 45.6% of his end-zone faceoffs in the offensive zone, fourth on this list and third overall amongst full-season forwards. Penner was not afforded any special protections by Pat Quinn in 2009-2010, and in fact, he had some of the toughest duties on the team. Penner also drove the play in the right direction on a consistent basis. This is a significant change from his previous role under Craig MacTavish, who put Penner out for more offensive draws. Even then, Penner managed to keep the play in his own end and drive the play in a positive direction. That Penner can play either role is a credit to his all-around game, something MacTavish didn't believe existed, and something that Pat Quinn used accidentally, I think.
Edmonton's Rasputin, Jean-Francois Jacques, had the highest OPCT on the team, yet struggled in every category, both by the traditional stats and the "new math".
Now a look at the defense:
The insanity of Pat Quinn's Rawhide Line Matching is evident here. The Oilers' three worst defensemen end up with the most difficult starting positions, and the rookie, Taylor Chorney, who struggled to keep his head above water had the fifth-worst OPCT in the entire league.