I wanted to quickly address something I heard on one of the Anaheim Ducks broadcasts last week. Brian Hayward declared that Hampus Lindholm was struggling as of late. He then proceeded to not back up this statement with any information guiding his analysis; it was just a standalone statement the like we've become too used to him saying (and not backing up or having any actual basis in reality).
I thought to myself: what in Lindholm's numbers might suggest to Hayward that his game is slipping of late? Visually, the Hammer's game is still pretty consistent. He's breaking up plays, he's turning the puck up ice, and he's staying positionally sound overall. There has to be something somewhere to back this statement up, right?
Because this is more of a quick thought of mine, I'm not getting too in depth in my breakdown here. Instead, I went to war-on-ice and played around with some charts. I think the lines charted here show the trends of his game well enough to give us some impressions. I ran Lindholm alongside Francois Beauchemin for the obvious reason that they are out together all the time. (And if Lindholm's game is slipping, is Beauchemin's game too?)
Let's look at Hammer's CF% (10-game average) first.
There is indeed some reduction in positive play in recent weeks. How does Frankie look in the same chart?
His trend is quite similar if not a little more positive recently. Perhaps that slight rise in plus possession suggests Lindholm is having problems. How is he relative to his team then?
On the whole, Lindholm seems to be pretty positive relative to his team. My initial thought here is that his own possession struggles are therefore a little more tied to the team having some poorer games (possessoin-wise) in recent weeks. What does Beauchemin's chart suggest?
His recent trend is all over the place but is largely negative until very recently. So what's that spike up from? Beauchemin had two massive positive possession games in late February. In the first game (against the Detroit Red Wings), both he and Lindholm were more than +10 relative to the team.
The second game was against the Ottawa Senators. Beauchemin was +13 in that game, while Lindholm was only +6. That might seem like a big difference, but in raw events it wasn't: Frankie was on for 25 for and 18 against, Hammer was on for 22 and 19, respectively. This is an instance when only using percentages can mislead, because in reality it is only a two event swing.
So once more, I'm back to wondering what Hayward is judging Lindholm by. Of the two players, Beauchemin certainly has some more dynamic individual showings, but he also dips more negative than his partner, who has been the more consistent player at the same time. And all told, Frank's best game was in a three-to-zero loss against Ottawa, where the opposing team shelled very hard and very early.
What recent changes could possibly cause both players' trends to so rapidly... oh shit it is time on ice isn't it? Yes, it is.
Both players posted far better numbers when they played fewer minutes per game. By playing more, both are exposed to higher events, and given that the Ducks have played some stinkers of late, it figures to dent their possession metrics quite a bit. That makes Lindholm's relative trend, which is a little more consistent, standout more to me. If I were to dig deeper into this, I would start with this hypothesis: Lindholm has hurt his team less in his rising ice time than Beauchemin has, but both have suffered due to it.
Once more, I think Boudreau needs to manage his roster a bit better. The addition of Simon Despres has increased Cam Fowler's ice time, which you can sort of see taking up ice from Beauchemin's chart above. That's one improvement that will benefit all skaters. But I also just got done with three posts outlining where he's falling short in this respect, so I want to move on.
While I think I've found a likely cause of both players' dipping numbers (too much playing time), I haven't yet really figured out why Hayward thinks Lindholm is struggling. I know I shouldn't read into too much of what he says, because, well, obvious Reasons. But it still bugs me.
Maybe something in each player's luck can explain it? PDO!
He's been lucky. Beauchemin?
Why who could guess that a player benefiting from nearly team-high PDO might come off as better? Surely not you or I, but to the casual observer who is paid to supposedly be a deep thinker on the matter, perhaps so. This leads me to the only natural conclusion for Hayward's statement that I could find.
Beauchemin's PDO trend runs nearly exactly parallel with his on ice goals differential trend! Not only has Boudreau displayed an alarming bias of playing a guy who appears to be better defensively (based on his goalie stopping more pucks with him on the ice and not his prevention of shot attempts), but the Ducks pay a color guy to announce it on broadcasts!
Not coincidentally, Beauchemin has four goals and one assist in the last month (look at that PDO!). Lindholm also has five points, but all are assists. Perhaps his lack of goal scoring (alongside Frank's recent additions) is what Hayward is judging him by though.
In closing: I think Hayward just made a dumb statement. Lindholm doesn't appear to be playing poorly in recent weeks. His higher ice time has dented his possession numbers on account of being on the ice for more events, both for and against. With the team struggling in that area overall, it may appear that Hammer is struggling. But the charts here show he's performing fairly consistently despite his team fluctuation.
I don't think Lindholm has hit a wall. I think his play while seeing increased ice time has been consistent. I don't think the same thing of Beauchemin, as I've written about. At the same time, this pairing isn't the problem. The uneven ice time is more problematic, but that isn't the faults of either Lindholm or Beauchemin.
Wouldn't it be great if the Ducks broadcast team featured better analysis? Yes.