It's pretty firmly established at this point that young Mr. Wiercioch is a darling to those Senators fans who embrace the analytics movement. Even to many who don't, he is recognized for a number of tools that the team seems to lack rather desperately- great passing and zone exits.
So, what I wanted to try to do today is look at whether this level of Wiercioch love is justified, and if there are any glaring holes in his game that are being glossed over by those of us (myself included) who laud his play incessantly.
This season Wiercioch has been scratched a fair bit, suiting up for 15 of the team's 27 games thus far. Many have complained about 46 being scratched over the likes of Boro, Cowen or Phillips, but at first glance, it's not making a massive difference on our bottom line. Ottawa is 6-9 with Wiercioch in the lineup and 5-7 with him out.
Wiercioch does stand out for us in a number of categories. In a recent fan post of mine which looked at Ottawa fancy stats leaders this year and years prior, Wiercioch was a staple. He was in the top five for every category that looked at Shots for%, Goals for%, Corsi and Fenwick both this year, and for the last three seasons prior. All of these stats looked at his performance 5v5 relative to his team mates. Basically, Wiercioch has been paramount in taking us a step closer to being the kind of team that can outshoot, out-possess and outscore opponents 5v5- This is why I love him.
Wiercioch also showed up on that list among the lowest scorers in terms of primary points(goals and first assists). In retrospect, that list should have been split into forwards and defensemen. Wiercioch has the 2nd highest percentage of primary points amongst our D-corps, individual points/60, primary points/60 and the list goes on. He is undisputedly the second best offensive defenseman on the team, and the person ahead of him (by a mile) is a generational talent in that regard.
Wiercioch, like Karlsson also takes a lot of flack for the defensive side of his game, however he has the lowest GA/60 of any Senator to play more than 60 games for us from 2011-2014, and the lowest GA/60 of any Senator to play any games for us this season. He's benefitting from an inhuman 97+ save percentage when he's on the ice, but he's also the best defenseman in terms of shots against per 60 minutes.
Of course, all of this comes with a huge caveat, the zone starts and his quality of competition. Looking at the other defensemen on this team, only Ceci faces easier competition based on OPP corsi-rel, and no one is getting cushier zone starts. He's also faced the easiest competition this season in terms of Opp gf/60, meaning, he's lining up against the least potent offence of his peers. The other side of that coin though, is that he's facing the second toughest competition among D if you look at gf%, behind only Jared Cowen, and he's kind of slaughtering them in that regard, whereas Cowen is..not? Ottawa gets 1/3 of the goals with Cowen on the ice, and 2/3 of the goals with Wiercioch on the ice.
When you change the filters so that they adjust for Zone starts, Wiercioch's numbers drop a bit, but remain among the best on the team this season. I'm not sure exactly how those adjustments work or how effective they are at skewing the advantage, but I think it's worth including regardless.
Teammate stats can be looked at as well, as I just mentioned, Wiercioch is facing the 2nd toughest competition in terms of opponent gf% amongst D. He's also getting the 2nd least amount of help with only Cody Ceci generally playing with teammates who have a lower GF% than Wiercioch's. Wiercioch really seems to be hurting his opponents and helping his teammates in this regard.
Wiercioch has the 2nd worst TM SF% and 2nd highest OPP SF% among D but leads the team in that statistic.
Wiercioch has the highest Fenwick% among our defensemen, the 2nd worst teammate fenwick and the 3rd toughest competition.
He has the highest Corsi%, the 2nd worst TM Corsi and the toughest Opponent Corsi % among Senators Defensemen.
Wiercioch may be getting cushy zone starts, but he's doing wonders for his teammates and is a huge drag for his opponents.
To break that down a little bit more, we can look at some of his most common teammate's GF% and CF% with and without Wiercioch. The following numbers are roughly how much the player's cf% has increased when playing with Wiercioch and has been adjusted for zone starts.
Karlsson + 11.3
Turris + 15.4
Smith + 1.4
Legwand - 6
Michalek + 6
Ryan - 5
MacArthur + 20.5
Outside of Ryan and Legwand, those numbers are really positive, and in a few instances border on outrageous.
Here are some of the same players and their GF% difference with Wiercioch, adjusted for zone starts, I had to cut the list off earlier as the smaller amount of goals compared to shot attempts calls for a bigger sample size.
Ceci + 25.5
Karlsson + 14.1
Gryba + 28.2
However, if you look at the last 2 seasons prior for gf% difference:
Gonchar + 17.5
Smith + 16.5
Neil + 15.5
Zibanejad + 8.6
Condra + 18.4
Again, essentially just wackily good numbers in terms of his impact on the players around him.
One place I've recently heard a great deal of criticism for Karlsson and Wiercioch, if not all of our D, is our turnovers. Sportingcharts.com has a handy tool that looks at turnover +/- and turnover ratio, this measures takeaways vs. giveaways.
In terms of turnover +/- per 60 minutes of hockey played Patrick Wiercioch is the second worst offender in the entire league. The only player behind him is David Rundblad of all people (bullet dodged?). Last season Wiercioch was 774th out of 813 players, so this isn't a new development. Of players who have played more than 10 games this season, Wiercioch has the 3rd highest giveaway rate in the league behind only Rundblad and Spezza. Funny how we could have had the 3 worst giveaway men in the league on our team had things worked out differently. And we thought things were frustrating now?
So, there is indeed valid criticism of Wiercioch in terms of his giveaway rates. However, when you look at his impact on the players around him, it's fairly outstanding. He may be getting lucky at this point and benefitting tremendously from our goaltending. At the end of the day, turnovers or not, many of Wiercioch's team mates are playing far better hockey with him than without him. Ottawa is outshooting, out-attempting, and outscoring the opponent with Wiercioch on the ice. He makes us better in essentially every category I can fathom and then measure. I'd say that's worth keeping him around.