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Faceoffs - The Best and Worst Since the Lockout

A couple of years ago now Derek was so impressed by Andrew Cogliano's faceoff "prowess" that he took it upon himself to look at the worst faceoff seasons since 2000. At the time he said, "it's clear that Cogliano's the worst faceoff man in the NHL overall since 2000." I decided to update the data, using only EV FO%, and it seems to me there's now a real contender to take Cogliano's crown. We'll take a look at the best and worst on draws since the lockout after the jump.

First, let's take a look at the worst players. In order to qualify, a player needs to have taken at least 400 EV faceoffs in a given season. In other words, the coach trusts this guy to be one of his regulars on the draw, and the player is just terrible:


All of the players highlighted in blue earned their poor season in the circle as a rookie (which I defined as having fewer than 10 NHL games before the season started), and there are a lot of rookies. Some of that is because young players seem to improve over time, a question I'll look at in more detail this afternoon. But that's probably not the biggest reason. It seems to me that the biggest reason is probably survivor bias. None of Josh Bailey, Bryan Little, Kyle Turris, or Andrew Cogliano took enough draws to qualify in 2009-10. If you aren't very good, you don't keep getting put out there.

That is, unless your name is Evgeni Malkin or Eric Staal. Staal has a couple of the worst fifteen seasons since the lockout. Remember that old saw about Adam Oates teaching Jarret Stoll and the boys to win draws? Rod Brind'Amour must be a terrible teacher. But Staal's results don't even really compare to Malkin's. Four consecutive seasons in the bottom twenty, including the second worst season on record, is an impressive achievement. When you consider that the Penguins desperately need some quality wingers to play with Jordan Staal and Sidney Crosby, it's almost baffling that Malkin gets trotted out at center again and again. It'll be interesting to see if the Penguins do move him over (there has been some talk of that, I understand). Until then, Malkin gets my vote for the worst faceoff man in the league.

Now what about the other side of the range? Once again, I'll look at just those players with at least 400 EV FO's. The rookies are, once again, highlighted in blue (heh):


There are a few interesting things to note on this list. One guy here who really surprised me was Zenon Konopka. I understand that he's, essentially, a fighter, which makes him just about the most specialized player in the league: a fightin' faceoff specialist. He also draws more penalties than he takes to go along with an obscene ZoneStart (29.0%), and given that context, not-so-bad Corsi results. Earlier this year there were some rumours the Oilers might be interested and my initial reaction was, "No Goons!" Looking at it a bit closer, Konopka may actually be one of the best regular fighters in the league in other areas. At the very least, he would seem to be a net contributor to winning games. So yeah, let's get rid of MacIntyre and get ourselves some Zenon Konopka!

Another player I wanted to talk about is Kris Draper. He's on the list multiple times, but last season he didn't have enough draws to qualify, despite not slowing down (at least in this area). He played in 81 games, so I found it pretty surprising that this strength wasn't used, especially since the Wings had some struggles on the dot. It would be interesting to hear Mike Babcock talk about why he didn't use Draper more frequently.

Another interesting thing about this list is the (multiple-time) presence of Scott Nichol and Manny Malhotra. The Sharks had an embarrassment of riches on the draw last year, and it showed. One of the things this list demonstrates is that faceoff prowess is a skill. Sure, there's variation from season-to-season, but in general, this is a repeatable skill.