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Projecting Henrique: Non-Scoring Discussion Points

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Can Henriques vaunted two-way play bridge the gap from his solid yet slow scoring rates?

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Anaheim Ducks at San Jose Sharks John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Henrique was brought in by the Ducks to bring in some extra scoring and to solidify the center ice position with his overall two-way play behind Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler. In the preceding article, it was determined that Henrique has been a largely consistent, yet inefficient scorer.

Whether you as a fan are interested in a player’s individual scoring, or the team’s overall scoring probably determines where you sit with his production and how you view him as a player. That is to say if you only care about the numbers he puts up, then he probably looks very much like a 2nd goal scorer. If you’re worried that his relatively low scoring rates may negatively affect overall team scoring, then he may look less impressive.

Yet, while goal scoring is what Henrique is best known for, there is a lot said about his two-way game—a likely consequence of playing on the penalty kill while in New Jersey. Anaheim Ducks General Manager Bob Murray appears to place a lot of stock in beige - or rather, unspectacular - players who don't stand out on either side of the puck.

Hockey Duckie made a point in the comments section of the previous article - “Rico is a known quantity. It’s far easier to work with known quantities than unknown quantities. You can work around known quantities, but you don’t know what one can or can’t do with unknown quantities” - and this appears to me at least, to be the basis of many of Murray’s decisions regarding the team.

Boring, yet consistent players are easy to plan around. There is a case to be made that these types of players won’t win you cups, but they are great players to put more enigmatic, yet freakishly talented, players around. A solid base for them to springboard from. That, however, is a slightly different topic. So let’s delve a little into the defensive (and other non-scoring) stats, and see what we may.


DEFENDING THE KING AT EVEN STRENGTH

With Murray implying at the beach summer party event that Patrick Eaves was more likely to play a full season than Ryan Kesler, and with the passing mention of a Jakob Silfverberg - Henrique - Corey Perry line, Henrique’s role is a little uncertain.

On one hand, replacing Kesler would appear to be a big ask, yet with Perry, there it seems they won’t be relied upon to be a defensive stalwart. On the other hand, with inefficient scorers in Silfverberg and Henrique, that line likely won’t be asked to be a heavy scoring line. At least upon first glance.

With the rumour that Ondrej Kase may hold out, that would be taking away one of the few scorers the Ducks have and may almost necessitate that each line is a defensive line, so to attempt to help (the new king) netminder John Gibson.

Over the past 5 seasons, Henrique has seemingly had goals scored on him (or prevented goals scored on him - depending on how you like the wording), at roughly the same rate. Outside of a poor 2016-2017 season, the average rates of goals against while he’s been on the ice have remained relatively stagnant, although with a minor and non-significant trend towards the decrease. Nonetheless a decrease in goals scored against is a win, even if it does remain as a small effect.

Figure 1. A historical representation of goals-against while Henrique is on the ice, presented as a per 60 minutes of play ratio.

It’s also worth noting that during the 2017-2018 season, Henrique’s goals-allowed-per-60-minutes (GA/60) with the Devils was near identical to his 2016-2017 numbers. Conversely the on-ice goals-allowed with the Ducks were the best seen in the sample, and wouldn’t have fit on the chart above (1.79 GA/60). Nearly three quarters of a goal better (0.77/60) per 60 minutes of play than his average over the preceding 4 years in the sample.

However, and alongside GA/60, it may also be worth mentioning that in only 2 of the 5 seasons looked at in this sample, Henrique came out on the positive side of the goals-for-percentage-on-ice metric (Note: Remember how Bobby Ryan scored more goals, and was younger, and cheaper, than Henrique is now, but didn’t defend enough? Pepperidge Farm remembers, and an elephant never forgets). This is inclusive of last season, in which he was well over his 4 year preceding average while in Anaheim (Anaheim: 63.6 GF%, Mean: 48.3GF%).

Without going too far out on a limb, it’s very likely that the improvement shown in Anaheim in both goals-allowed rates, and goals-for-percentage, is due to an incredible bump in save percentage - easily the highest in the sample time frame. Based on the number of shots Henrique had shot against his teams while he was on the ice last season, the difference in the Anaheim percentage versus the 4 year preceding average was the equivalent of 19.2 even strength goals over the season.

Figure 2. the relationship between On-Ice Save Percentage (on-ice SV%) and Goals-For Percentage (GF%) for Henrique over the past 5 seasons. SV% is presented on the left hand axis, and GF% is presented on the right hand axis.

This ought to give both pause for thought, and for optimism. On the former point, can Gibson continue to play at the high level he showed and help the team keep goals out? With Henrique unlikely to start the season with Nick Ritchie and Kase on the third line, he will be asked to carry more responsibility and thus face potentially greater scoring threats.

That's not to say that Gibson, Ritchie and/or Kase were the sole reason for the significant improvement in goal prevention once Henrique moved to the Ducks, but it certainly seems like they may have played a great part. The concern is whether Henrique can continue to have those gaudy numbers in the next season and for those of this contract extension.

The latter hope is that outside of an outlier sample, Henrique’s numbers have gradually trended towards improvement. Even with a regression, it seems plausible that Henrique could prevent goals somewhere in the 2.50 per 60 range. A very similar number to what Ryan Kesler would have been predicted to achieve, given both players presented averages of 2.56 GA/60 between the 2013-2014 season and the 2016-2017 season while at even strength and considering all situations.

There are slight differences in the makeup of both averages, with Kesler having better numbers since Gibson began starting, than he presented with Andersen in net, and while in Vancouver. Henrique, on the flip side, has typically produced more lower numbers year over year with only the one outlier throwing the average. He too presented his best numbers with Gibson as the starter. A situation that is likely to be maintained for at least the next season.

Moving on from goals against however, and given the weight that hockey men give faceoffs, it maybe worth looking into this area of his play. Particularly given the news of Kesler not likely to being able to play a full season.

There is a lot of pretty good data out there on the interweb these days that more or less suggests that faceoff wins are largely irrelevant in the grand scheme and are only truly notable on a small number of plays over a season. Thus, while it probably isn’t an issue in reality, the perception could be very different among some fans, and team management.

It should also be noted that while the Ducks don't currently play a strong puck-possession game, they are able to pretend that they play a “true” puck possession game because they win face-offs and start with the puck more often than not. Looking into next season, and assuming Kesler will not suit up for the majority of games, Chimera, Vermette, Grant and Wagner have all moved on, and only Rowney has been added. That is to say that of all the Ducks players who can play the pivot, only Rowney won 50% or better (52.7%) of his draws at even strength. Henrique will be the second best player, and he sat at 47.2% while with the Ducks (185th ranked face-off percentage of players who played in excess of 300 minutes at even strength). Getzlaf would be next with 47.1%, which seems pretty normal for him.

Figure 3. A historical look at face-off win percentage over the past 5 seasons, and a comparison between Adam Henrique and Ryan Kesler. The left hand axis is presented in % format.

The clear drop off in face-off wins alone will necessitate a change in playing style. It simply won’t do to not start with the puck and then to continually give it away when they do get it.

Given that GM Murray has been talking about playing a different system since the Ducks were swept, this should be interesting to observe in the new season. However, there is some hope in this scenario as well. If you believe that faceoffs matter, that is.

Consider the jump in percentage from Kesler between the 2013-2014 season and the 2014-2015 season. Essentially, this comes about from the move from Vancouver to Anaheim.

An underrated part of winning face-offs is the help the supporting wingers can give. Kesler was lucky enough to be carried by Andrew Cogliano and Silfverberg. Cogliano, while not a particularly good choice for a top 6 wing, is an exceptional defensive player who hounds the puck relentlessly. Silfverberg on the other hand, while having the most overrated shot in the game, has superb positioning and plays a truly remarkable possession game - in this I don't mean shot metrics, I mean his pass completion numbers are unbelievable as both a passer and a receiver.

With both of these players on his flanks - and no doubt some tricks of his own - Kesler’s numbers jumped. If Henrique is to be tasked with taking over from Kesler, it is highly likely that he will be asked to play with at least one of these players. A position that seems more certain given the potential lines highlighted in the summer beach party event and with the news that Kase may hold out.

It is probably too much to ask for Henrique to break even and win half of his draws, but it’s certainly possible that he gets closer to that number as the season goes along. It won’t be the high numbers that the Ducks saw with Vermette, Kesler, Wagner, and Grant, but they should win enough for it not to be a major detriment.

This small improvement could prove valuable, given the increasing number of corsi attempts, and subsequent scoring chances, that Henrique has seen against him over the past 5 seasons.

Figure 4. Corsi attempts directed at his own teams net (CA), and Subsequent Scoring Chances (SCA) and High Danger Chances (HDCA), for Henrique over hte past 5 seasons. SCA and HDCA are presented using the left hand axis, and CA is presented using hte right hand axis.

The data depicted in Figure 4 shows a clear increasing trend of corsi attempts against, scoring chances against, and high danger chances against over the 5 season sample. This trend wasn't noticeably different after changing clubs during the 2017-2018 season, with him giving up the most high danger chances with the Ducks in that 5 season sample. Although this was by a truly insignificant amount. It does suggest that decline was not a symptom of the Devils, but one of the player as a whole.

That decline aside, Henrique has not traditionally been a strong example of preventing corsi attempts or scoring chances. The following show where he ranked each season compared to his peers who played at least 300 minutes at even strength and in all situations:

2017-2018: CA = 330th, SCA = 336th, HDSCA = 281st.

2016-2017: CA = 307th, SCA = 232nd, HDSCA = 136th.

2015-2016: CA = 68th, SCA = 46th, HDSCA = 105th.

2014-2015: CA = 326th, SCA = 325th, HDSCA = 261st.

2013-2014: CA = 19th, SCA = 33rd, HDSCA = 25th.

As the rankings show, outside of one year in his age-related prime, Henrique has largely been a non-factor in this facet of the game when accounting for a per minute of play basis. Given that Randy Carlyle’s Ducks already play a pretty slack game in terms of shot prevention (or rather, they seem pretty confident that Gibson will stop them all), Henrique’s numbers should fit in comfortably with the group as a whole. He certainly won’t help to alter that facet of play by himself, but for a team that doesn't care about getting outshot, he won’t be a noticeable burden either.

What might excite the team is the increasing number of shots Henrique has thrown himself in front of over the past 3 seasons. This, however, is double-edged sword. On one hand, coaches and fans love it when players thrown themselves selflessly in front of shots, risking life and limb to block those big clappers from the big dogs. In many cases there is a lot of positive things to be said about this. It can help the team. However, it can also be symptomatic of other issues - namely, not having the puck.

Figure 5. Hits, Hits Taken, and Shots Blocked, by Henrique over the past 5 seasons. Hits and Hits Taken are presented on the left hand axis, and Blocked Shots are presented on the right hand axis.

As Figure 4 shows, Henrique presents an increasing trend in corsi attempts against. As the opposition has the puck more, they have more opportunities to shoot, and Henrique subsequently has more opportunities to block shots. Why his direct opposition appears to have the puck more is uncertain at this stage. It may be due to an increase in responsibility, although given he was dropped to the 4th line on occasion in New Jersey, and that he played predominantly on the 3rd line when in Anaheim, this seems unlikely.

What is concerning however, is that Henrique’s giveaway numbers have been steadily rising over the past 4 seasons. A high number of giveaways is usually a hallmark of those who have the puck a lot - for instance Ryan Getzlaf typically always has a high number of them, simply due to always being on the ice and always having the puck when he is on the ice. Henrique, sheltered in a 3rd line role, can’t boast that rationale. Here it should be noted that the giveaway numbers he presents while in Anaheim are the highest of the sample size.

Figure 6. Giveaways and Takeaways by Henrique over the past 5 seasons.

Some people may not like this, but a lot of that has to do with his linemates. Nick Ritchie is very much a sub-par player across the board (although he has a great shot so I’d love to see him sit in the circle and tee off on the power play - like Alex Ovechkin - and send Perry to the net front), and Kase, despite the love for him, is a turnover machine. That's not to say Kase doesn't have his good points or that he won’t improve, but at present, he isn't a strong puck carrier and often fumbles passes as both the passer and the receiver. These issues could have potentially impacted Henrique’s turnover numbers (and may be one reason for the rumored differences between Kase and the Ducks in contract talks).

With a potential line of Silfverberg and the stronger Corey Perry, it seems plausible that Henrique could improve the turnover numbers he showed while with the Ducks last season. For the record, his 1.57 turnovers per 60 minutes of play was .52 greater than his average of the past 4 seasons, and would have ranked him right below former Duck Logan Shaw, with the 216th worst turnover rate in the league for forwards who played 300 even strength minutes.

Across the board, Henrique doesn't appear to be a great stalwart of defensive play at even strength, although it seems pretty crazy to expect him to be. He does need to address some of the declines seen across his stat board, and more and more so as he ages into his new contract. However, if they allow him to largely forget the defensive side and be more offensively orientated player value could remain high. With that said, Henrique will also likely play on the penalty kill, and will be a near lock for it assuming Kesler sits out large chunks of the season.

WATCHING GIBBY PLAY HOCKEY ON THE PENALTY KILL

When franchises and hockey men talk about how a guy is good on the penalty kill, what they often mean is that guy played on the penalty kill occasionally. This was certainly the case with Kelser who wasn't particularly good on the PK, or at least not up to the near-best-or-maybe-actually-the-best-in-the-league standard set by the criminally underrated defensive guru, Andrew Cogliano.

Henrique played the 5th most minutes of any Ducks forward from after he arrived in Anaheim. With Getzlaf, Silfverberg, and Cogliano likely to remain staples of the penalty killing team, there remains space for another pivot. New Duck, Carter Rowney, will likely get a long look, and will almost certainly get some minutes over the length of his 3 years deal. Still, with that said, it appears to be Henrique’s spot to lose. That is, assuming Ryan Kesler doesn't play.

From the opening faceoff, however, it appears that Henrique would be better placed on a wing. The presented data shows that, much like at even strength, Henrique is unlikely to break even or better on the dot. More notably, Henrique is significantly worse on the penalty kill than he is at even-strength. This is most likely due to facing a higher caliber of competition while short-handed.

It stands to reason that most teams will employ their best players on the power play unit, thus the penalty killers will likely be forced to combat them. At even-strength, Henrique can be largely sheltered from starting his shifts against these players, and considering his most recent roles in the bottom 6, this seems like the most plausible explanation.

Even more problematic is the gradual decline in faceoff percentages over the past half-decade. Aside from the 2016-2017 season, there has been a clear decline in results in this facet of the game.

Figure 7. Face-Off Percentages on the Penalty Kill (PK Face-Off) and at Even Strength (ES Fac-Off %), for Adam Henrique over the past 5 seasons.

This, however, may present a cause for concern for the Ducks going forward, and not just shorthanded. If Kesler is out, then Henrique will likely move to the second line. This increase in role and responsibility is likely to correlate with an increased strength of competition. It’s likely that Henrique’s deteriorated performance against better competition on the penalty kill could also show itself at even strength if he is faced with similar competition. Given that the other pivots in the Ducks arsenal are Rowney and potentially Sam Steel, it’s a near lock that he will.

On the penalty kill alone, only Getzlaf appears as a suitable center in the group, and his faceoff prowess is also suspect (45.6% in the 2017-2018 season). There is a lot riding on the hope that at 29 years of age, Henrique can supplement his dwindling faceoff performances with other aspects of his play, or that Rowney can become a full-time NHL player and make the position his.

Unfortunately, Ducks fans didn't get to see a great deal of quality from Henrique on the penalty kill last season. He was a turnover machine, leading the team in giveaways in his time with the Ducks. It seems unlikely that this would continue in future years given the significantly greater increase in this facet of play (1.64 per 60 greater than the average of the preceding 4 seasons: 2.06 per 60 vs 0.41 per 60). I would imagine that this abnormality was a result of learning a new system of play, rather than any real issue with the player.

However, the player did see a small spike in goals allowed during the 2017-2018 season. Ducks fans should treat this with caution, as they may have watched him and imagined that rarely any goals were scored while he was on the penalty kill. Those fans would be correct. The 57 game sample with the Ducks was an exercise in regression.

At the start of the season, Henrique saw a save percentage, and subsequent goals-allowed-per-60, of near equal to that he presented in the 2014-2015 season. A horrendous start. Henrique on the Ducks, however, was a different story.

His on-ice SV% was a sky high 95.5% (all praise Lord Gibson), and his goals allowed was a paltry 2.06. To put that in perspective, that is a 7.3% difference between the mean SV% and what he presented in Anaheim, as well as 4.05 goals less per 60 minutes of play. The difference between his average and his Anaheim numbers equates to ~16 goals over a full season. That's a crazy correction, and shows just how good Gibson was last season.

However, the correction did put Henrique back on track to be in line for his usual averages. As I said, regression at its finest.

Figure 8. On-Ice Save Percentage (SV%) and Goals Allowed per 60 minutes (GA/60) while Henrique is on the penalty kill, over the past 5 seasons. GA/60 is presented on the left hand axis, and SV% is presented using hte right hand axis

Despite an abnormal result in the 2014-2105 season, and contrary to what we see at even strength, Henrique has seen a systematic increase in scoring against him each year on the penalty kill. This despite a relatively even, although deteriorating, on-ice save percentage. It shouldn’t be a massive concern just yet, as he had the 55th best GA/60 amongst forwards who played at least 50 minutes on the penalty kill this season. It is something to consider moving forward though. Should he continue to slide, the Ducks will need to look at finding some new players to perform shorthanded.

As expected, and as with even strength, Henrique presents a increasing trend of Corsi attempts against, as well as scoring chances. It should be noted here, that despite the incredible On-Ice SV% seen in Henrique’s Ducks stint thus far, he also gave up the highest number of high danger chances in the 5 season sample. An increase of 7.7 per 60 minutes over the mean (Ducks: 26.75, vs Mean: 19.03) of the 4 years previous. The mean would have had him ranked as the 55th best forward (min 50 minutes played on the PK) at preventing scoring chances, whereas his Ducks numbers would have him ranked ~169th. On the Ducks, only Wagner, Kase, and Perry had lesser results. At a guess, I would imagine that the high number of giveaways by Henrique in a Ducks uniform contributed to the high HDCA — if you consider a turnover on the PK will likely end up as a breakaway and/or a quality scoring chance. Quite frankly, it shows just how incredible Gibson was, and how much good goaltending can cover up mediocre play.

Figure 9. A 5 year history of Corsi Attempts Against (CA), Scoring Chances Against (SCA) and High Danger Chances Against (HDCA), for Henrique over the past 5 seasons. SCA and HDCA are presetned on the left hand axis, and CA is presented using the right hand axis

WRAPPING IT UP

At face value, Henrique doesn't appear to be a particularly good defensive player, and he does seem to be slipping somewhat as the years go by as he moves on from his mid-20s into his 30’s. That's somewhat unusual given that typically scoring goes down, but veterans find ways to contribute by moving into defensive roles. It does make me wonder what Henrique could become down the track. Goal scoring will deteriorate - we know this - but his defensive play already seems to be slipping. Is it a case of him cheating more to get access to more scoring opportunities? With all of that said, Henrique isn’t a bad defensive player; he’s just not a good one, and he shouldn't necessarily be counted upon to be on the positive side of the on-ice-goals-for ledger all that often, given he’s been below the 50% mark over most of the sample looked at. Given that information, it isn’t overly surprising that the best part of his defensive showing in Anaheim, appeared to be “watch Gibson play hockey” - although he certainly wasn't the only Ducks to be doing that last season (and the season prior).

Nonetheless, he appears, at least on the defensive side of the ledger, to be a player who is in a slight downward trajectory. There is certainly some hope in certain aspects, but it largely appears that his best days are behind him. At least so far as being a two-way forward goes. Given he isn't particularly adept on faceoffs, one wonders if he would be best moved to a wing - a position he finished up in near the end of his time in New Jersey - and given a playmaker to attempt to utilise his shot more often and more effectively.

That isn't to say that Henrique is a bad offensive player either. His 24 goals ranked him 77th in the league, and his 50 points on the season ranked him 98th overall amongst forwards for scoring (115th overall). That's more than decent production for a guy who typically played on the 3rd line last season.

There should be some concerns about the rate in which he scores those points, and as the previous article suggests, he is hugely inefficient as a scorer. Yet the Ducks are a team that has systematically traded away scoring to become more defensively orientated over the past half decade. Given that, I don't think they’ll (as a franchise) mind the low scoring rates. Goals are goals in the end, and if they win 1-0 that will be good enough to make the playoffs. There is an organizational belief that defense wins championships, and there has been significant fan buy-in to the same idea. As long as Henrique as Henrique hits his 50 points per season it shouldn't matter how quickly they come in many eyes. Although it maybe be interesting to see how the Ducks score by committee without Kesler’s and potentially Kase’s points.

The Ducks however are a defensively-orientated team, and Henrique isn't a particularly good defensive player. It actually pains me to say this, as I’m not a huge fan of Kesler’s defensive play, but Henrique isn’t as good as the man he may be replacing on the 2nd line and penalty kill. He certainly plays shorthanded, but he’s not overly good at doing so. Might that impact how the Ducks play going forward? Does this necessitate a change in style, one away from defensive grind it out hockey to one that is more free flowing and offensively orientated? Do the Ducks have the cattle to transition into that kind of style this season?

It’s a moot point now, given the contract has been signed, but where does that contract rank compared to his peers and does it give the Ducks the best opportunity going forward? The average age and AAV of contract for the 5 players on either side of Henrique’s ranking this season in goals scored, was 25.6 and ~4.15 million. Similarly, the average for age and AAV for his total points scored was 27 and ~4.74 million. Both groups has a mix of older veterans (including Henrik Sedin and Corey Perry) and young stars. Only Jeff Skinner and Matthew Tkachuk are on both lists. However, the crux of the issue is that the mean presented shows that these players are younger and cheaper than Henrique is currently, and certainly what he will be when his extension kicks in - a time when the expected age related decline will begin to kick in, in earnest. There is a case to be made that Henrique’s new contract could work against the Ducks despite his solid counting stats. If nothing else, it’s something to be aware of.

As a personal conclusion and as an overarching statement (that is more opinion than fact), I think Henrique is a fine choice for a 3rd line role for one (maybe two) more seasons. The Ducks could certainly do better in that position, but they could do a whole lot worse as well. He appears to be a player that prevents your team from being awful, but also prevents them from being overly good. It seems likely that his contract will assist in that prevention when it kicks in after next season. However, for the Ducks, who seem to be a team just happy to make the playoffs, Henrique appears to be a fine choice going forward. I suspect that many fans will be very excited today that he’s on board for the next half decade. Whether they stay excited seems doubtful given the treatment Corey Perry has gotten the past couple seasons, and even Kesler to an extent this season. That however is the nature of fandom. On the other side of the coin however, for a team with ambition to win a cup - either this season or to chance a rebuild with the promise and hope of winning one in the future - I’m not so sure Henrique is someone I would hold onto. He’ll be slightly over-priced for his production, and at an age in which decline is a near certainty - particularly given their are signs of it already. At just under 6 million dollars for 5 more years, starting at the end of next season, I would personally start looking for trade partners today. The Devils got the best years out of him and moved on. I believe the Ducks should do the same.