Earlier this season, after just 5 games, I took a look at how Joel Quenneville had been using his roster to start the year. Now, 20 games later, we have a much better sample size in order to draw better conclusions on the direction Coach Q is headed with certain players. We've seen a bit of experimenting here and there, in large part due to injury, but there are plenty of trends to take not of. Let's get right to it:
When I looked at the player usage earlier this season, something that stood out as strange to me was that the Marcus Kruger line didn't seem to be being use as the shutdown, defensive line they have been over the last few years. That has since changed. Kruger and linemate Ben Smith possess the two lowest 5v5 offensive zone start percentage on the team (min 15 games), at 31.72% and 34.15%, respectively. Recent linemate of theirs Joakim Nordstrom has an incredibly low O-zone start percentage at just 11.67%. In spite of this, all of them have CF% north of 50%.
Speaking of O-zone starts, perhaps one of the things lending to the high success of the Brad Richards, Patrick Kane, and Kris Versteeg line (or PB&K, if you're into that) is that all three are among the top 5 forwards in 5v5 O-zone starts (min 15 games). Versteeg ranks second on the team at 69.66%, Richards is 4th at 65.43%, and Kane is 5th at 64.68%. The trio also rank as 3 of the top 4 'Hawks forwards in points at 5v5 play. Versteeg leads the team with 17 (6G, 11A), Richards is tied for second at 14 (5G, 9A), and Kane has 11 (8G, 3A).
Here's a look at the usage chart:
Forward TOI/Game Leaders- Jonathan Toews, 20:02; Patrick Kane, 19:58; Marian Hossa, 18:30
Lowest Forward TOI/Game- Bryan Bickell, 11:27
As you may expect, Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson are the lowest among 'Hawks defensemen in 5v5 O-zone starts. Hjalmarsson has an O-zone start percentage 51.89%, and Oduya sits at 52.56%. Strangely, though, they have extremely different CF-percentages, Hjalmarsson sits at 56.82%, and Oduya is way off that, at just 49.56%. It's interesting to see such a large disparity from two players who seem to have spent most of the season paired together. We will have to see if this starts to level itself out.
Also of note is the O-zone starts of the different defensemen that have been used on the third pair. Michal Roszival, who has played in 16 games this season, is the lowest among the third-pair defensemen with a 58.86 O-zone start percentage at 5v5, but the other three - Adam Clendening, David Rundblad, and the injured Trevor van Riemsdyk - are all at or above 60%. Clending played in only 4 games before being sent back down to Rockford, so it's an extremely small sample size for him. But, even with the recent recalling of Klas Dahlbeck, I don't think that it's very likely that we will see much change in this trend.
Somewhat alarming is the fact that Rundblad is lowest on the team in TOI/game, and yet highest among the defensemen in O-zone starts at 71.43%. You would like to think that maybe Quenneville doesn't have to shelter him quite so much, but Rundblad has also struggled mightily at times. Still, it might be to the 'Hawks benefit to trust him a bit more and get him more ice time, if only to lessen the load carried by guys like Hjalmarsson and Duncan Keith.
Here's the usage chart for defensemen:
Defensemen TOI/Game Leaders - Duncan Keith, 25:31; Brent Seabrook, 21:55; Niklas Hjalmarsson, 21:54
Lowest Defenseman TOI/Game - David Rundblad, 10:36
Changes that can be made
The way that things have been going for the 'Hawks lately, I would be wary to change much if I was Joel Quenneville. Again, maybe a bit more time on ice for Rundblad when he's in the lineup, in order to get him into some situations when he will be challenged and can develop a bit more. But, if Joel doesn't trust him and is happy with how everything else is going defensively, it's probably best to keep things how they are now.
(Statistics via War-on-Ice)