I was asked what I thought about Clayton Stoner's play the other day. In recent weeks, he's posted positive numbers, enough so to suggest a possible trend? Let's find out. A quick note here: I calculated these into common percentages (lower-case corsi for). Anything over 50% shows favorable on ice shots attempted versus shots attempted against. The purpose is to determine if Stoner helped drive those numbers or not.
I took the last 10 games [Ed. Note: written before Wednesday's win against LA. -CK] and manually crunched his numbers relative to who he's on the ice with. I visualized the results and will share each game's chart. The sample of minutes involved is really not very meaningful, even when combined into a full 10-game trend. However, given the broader body of work throughout his career, the information seen here has a little more weight. (As in, it tends to fit into his career numbers.)
I used raw shot attempt differential data at 5v5 to populate these charts. Because the sample is so small already, limiting it or filtering it further pollutes the facts the numbers tell. This is literally what happened in his 5v5 minutes with each of the top six players he took the ice with in each game. The first column, titled "Stoner," is his numbers against the team's total numbers on the night -- a sort of visualized "relative," if you will.
[Author's Note: if you see an error or repeat info/charts, please let me know. It's most likely just oversight on my behalf: I had a lot of spreadsheets open.]
February 25, vs Ottawa Senators:
Stoner posted a 51.7 CF% (in 14:42 TOI) compared to the Ducks' 50.8 CF% on the night. He played with generally positive possession forwards the most. The Senators were also ahead all game, so everyone figured to post higher corsi rates.
February 27, vs Los Angeles Kings:
Stoner posted a 63.8 CF% (in 18:41 TOI) relative to the team's 38.2 CF%. I remember thinking right after that he had actually been pretty good in this one. We know the organization acquired him primarily to play against the Kings in a seven-game series, so this was encouraging. But note: Chris Wagner was playing for Nate Thompson, and he was infinitely better in fourth line minutes. Stoner played with the best two possession centers/lines in the game.
March 1, vs Dallas Stars:
Stoner put up a 33.3 CF% (in 10:58 TOI) relative to Anaheim's 38.2 CF%. It was a very good game. (The Ducks had a lead throughout, so it isn't completely unexpected.) This is the first of three games in which Stoner posted a lower relative number than the team, and not coincidentally he played significant (comparatively) minutes with Thompson. When Thompson played with Josh Manson and Stoner, the trio allowed the Stars shot attempts against 75% of the time. So that's...something.
March 3, vs Arizona Coyotes:
Stoner: 64.5 CF% (in 16:27 TOI); Ducks: 53.8 CF%. Anaheim played with the lead, and once again he took to the ice with generally positive possession forwards. It is difficult to read too much into a game against a team trying to tank as well as the Coyotes.
March 4, vs Montreal Canadiens:
Stoner put up 56 CF% (in 15:08 TOI) relative to the Ducks' 46.8 CF%. That Anaheim posted a sub-50% number against Montreal is surprising, but Stoner was decent. The trio of Manson, Stoner and Thompson was much better, boosted (likely) by more consistent play with Maroon on the line.
March 6, vs Pittsburgh Penguins:
Stoner posted a 45.8 CF% (in 16:30 TOI) relative the team's 56.8 CF%. The Pens led much of the game, which limited how Boudreau used him on the ice. The trio of Manson, Stoner, and Thompson was below NHL-caliber numerically. (Thompson had a 26.3 CF% at 5v5 in the game.)
March 9, vs Vancouver Canucks:
Stoner had a 63.3 CF% (in 16:47 TOI) against the Ducks' 67.3 CF%. Yes, he had no positive events (0 CF%) away from James Wisniewski at 5v5. But that's misleading, because he only had like four total events against in very limited spill-over shift time with other defensemen. This is part of the problem with such small sample sizes, but it certainly does suggest how effective Wisniewski was in his first game with Stoner.
March 11, vs Calgary Flames:
Stoner posted a 73.9 CF% (in 12:45 TOI) relative Anaheim's 66.6 CF%. The Flames are so bad at "possession play" (shot attempts as a proxy for meaningful attacks in the offensive zone) that the scale above went over 100% so my chart didn't look out of place. Stoner away from Wisniewski (again, extremely limited) only had events for, and both Patrick Maroon and Kyle Palmieri were only ever out with him while generating events for. Small but hilarious samples!
March 13, vs Minnesota Wild:
Stoner put up 37.5 CF% (in 12:14 TOI) against the team's 40.3 CF%. Once more, the hilarious small sample of Stoner away from Wisniewski should probably be discounted overall. This is another tough game to judge properly but not because the opponent was awful. It is because the Ducks were hot garbage in this game.
March 15, vs Nashville Predators:
Stoner posted a 48 CF% (in 13:49 TOI) next to the Ducks' 46.4 CF%. Interestingly, Stoner paired with decent players isn't a complete disaster. That's more or less been the trend with him all season. In this respect, he's a lot like Bryan Allen was for the squad in the previous year.
Here's my hot take on Stoner, truly: he's perfectly fine with play right in front of him. He's among the best defensemen (with Francois Beauchemin) in keeping pucks in the offensive zone. His positioning is pretty good, which has shocked me. His deficiencies are pretty clear and they impact his possession metrics: he isn't fast, he isn't terribly physical, he isn't mobile and he isn't efficient with moving the puck. As long as he stays in front of the puck and player, he's strong. The moment he has to turn and chase or win a puck along the wall, he's not as strong. And once he does get the puck, he tends to make more work for himself by not being strong on it.
Honestly, I could coach Stoner into a winning team. While his flaws are indeed pretty glaring (in terms of the type of play that leads to long-term success), the consistency and reliability in his play is something a coach can live with. He's a known quantity, even if what's known isn't "best." Contract aside, as a sixth or seventh defenseman, he's really not this team's problem, which is systemic from the top on down and not the play of its third pairing defender.
The Kings make it work with Robyn Regehr, who really isn't any better or worse than Stoner. This happens throughout the league, but teams playing better possession hockey tend to mitigate it much better, so we notice it more here.
Anyway, here's what his10-game trend with teammates looks like:
Discount the trend with and without Wisniewski due to sampling, and the general trends in his game are still prevalent here: Stoner doesn't drive possession. As a defenseman, his primary role in that is suppressing shots and turning play the other way. As a partner and behind good players, he can hold up his side of the ice. But he's not impacting play beyond that.
Here's his game-by-game CF% next to the team's CF%:
To answer the original question posed to me: Stoner has posted some improved positive numbers in the last 10 games. Despite that, I wouldn't say he's played better of late. None of it is due to his own play but rather the quality of opponent and his teammate's play against them. To better show this, I created a clearer trend line of his game through 10 games:
His numbers are gradually dropping. They were high at the start of this stretch of 10 games because the Ducks were up against the Senators, who were shelling with the lead throughout the game. As the games have gone on and the opponent quality ramped up, Stoner's numbers began falling off overall.
What we should learn here today: keep Stoner and Thompson as far away from each other as possible unless you want your goaltenders to get lots of in-game practice!