Silver Nuggets: Who should play with Erik Karlsson?

Erik Karlsson is one of the NHL's premier star players. He has world-class offensive ability, and is the best defenseman in the league at moving the puck out of his zone. As Erik Karlsson goes, so to do the fortune of the Ottawa Senators. Unfortunately, the team does not have a bonafide first-pairing defender to play with him, and lacks established top-four defenders - with Marc Methot the only other candidate that most would agree on. However, that doesn't mean that Methot is the only candidate to play with Our Special Little Guy (thanks, Adnan), as despite their similar ice-time, have found themselves playing with other partners at some point. In this Nuggets post, we're going to examine three of Karlsson's potential partners. I'd love to hear who you think he should play with in the comments!

TOI together

With Karlsson

Karlsson when apart

Teammate when apart



Exp GF%



Exp. GF%



Exp. GF%

Marc Methot











Jared Cowen











Patrick Wiercioch











(statistics from Hockey Analysis, Expected GF% numbers from Progressive Hockey)

This kind of table is commonly called a "With-or-without-you" table - and no, we are not talking about the U2 song. The purpose is to measure a certain player's performance with and without a certain player, specifically in terms of how much ice-time they spend together, as well as their goals and shot attempt ratios when the two players are together, and apart from each other. Due to goal numbers fluctuating constantly and not always under a player's control, the CF% number which looks at shot attempts is often a better indicator of how players performed, mainly because there are way more shot attempts in a game than goals in a game. The last column, Expected GF%, is a new stat that's shown on Matt Pfeffer's new site, Progressive Hockey. Pfeffer, the Director of Analytics for the Ottawa 67s, developed this stat by examining factors that go into the likelihood of each individual shot attempt becoming a goal, and more information on his model can be found here. Now let's get to the fun stuff - analysis!

This data looks at the data from 2012-14 in order to enlarge the sample. The pairing of Methot - Karlsson together has some very good results when we look at shot attempts (CF%) - around 2.3% higher than the pairing of Cowen - Karlsson together. One of the pros of looking at GF% and Expected GF% is it helps lessen the effect of luck that we see with raw GF% numbers. According to actual GF%, the Senators score only 43.2% of the goals when the Methot - Karlsson pairing is on the ice, compared to 48.9% for Cowen - Karlsson. However, taking other factors into account, we would expect Methot - Karlsson to be around the much more respectable 52% number, whereas Cowen and Karlsson suffer a bit - staying under the 50% threshold mark.

Interestingly, when Karlsson is not playing with Methot, his CF% drops, so the Senators are getting less shot attempts with X - Karlsson compared to when Methot - Karlsson are on the ice. We see the reverse pattern with Jared Cowen, as Karlsson is actually doing better in both CF% and Exp. GF% when he's not playing with Cowen - evidence that suggests that the two shouldn't play together.

When looking at Methot and Cowen's numbers away from Karlsson, we see the drastic effect that playing with one of the league's premier offensive defenseman has, as both defenders are under the 50% threshold mark in CF%, meaning that the Senators are being out-attempted when these two defenders are on the ice without Erik Karlsson present. We like using CF% or shot attempts as an indicator of future performance compared to GF% numbers, which is why they're being emphasized despite Methot and Cowen's positive GF% ratio away from Karlsson - I'd expect those positive GF% numbers to drop if Methot and Cowen continue to be on the losing end of the shot attempt battle.

One player who we haven't talked about is Patrick Wiercioch, who is posting tremendous numbers with Karlsson, albeit in only 69 minutes of ice-time together. 69 minutes is a very small sample, so although these results are encouraging and way better than Methot - Karlsson, Cowen - Karlsson, they need to be taken with a large grain of salt. The pairing might be worth trying though, as although the Senators won't be scoring 85.7% of the goals when they're on the ice - more likely to be closer to the 56% Expected GF% number - it's still better than the numbers with Methot and Cowen, especially when you include shot attempts. I suspect that part of the reason for this could be that Wiercioch - Karlsson may be on the ice together solely for offensive zone faceoffs in situations where the Senators are desperate for a goal, which increase the chance of shot attempts turning into goals, but even so, this is evidence that the two should at least be together in those situations.

Now to ask you folks - who do you think Erik Karlsson should primarily play with this season and why?


Sens Links

  • Rookie camp began yesterday! Here's a SensTV link of a recap video, as well as Assistant GM Randy Lee's thoughts on Day 1 (fun game - count the number of times Lee says compete) [SensTV, Randy Lee]
  • Nick Paul was a focus at rookie camp. He offered his thoughts on his play at Canada's WJC camp, as well as answered media questions. [Ottawa Senators, Media]
  • Wayne Scanlan has a piece on Guptill and Paul trying to impress at rookie camp. Excited to get my first look at these two prospects. [Ottawa Citizen]
  • Ken Warren has the key storylines heading into rookie camp. [Ottawa Citizen]
  • Jeff from SenShot has a good piece on the battle between ex-OHLers Shane Prince and Matt Puempel for a chance to make the Senators this season. [SenShot]
  • TSN 1200 interviewed David Legwand and Matt Puempel. [Legwand, Puempel]
  • The Senators announced Tuesday that they've extended their affiliation with the Binghamton Senators through the 2018-19 season, and have added the Evansville IceMen as their ECHL affiliate. Here's the official press release, Chris Lund's quick hit with Bryan Murray and Randy Lee, our discussion thread, and SenShot's coverage. [Ottawa Senators, Inside the Senate, Silver Seven, SenShot]
  • The Senators have added two ex-Senators to major roles. Jason Smith was named an assistant coach who's in charge of managing the defense. Smith has been part of the hockey operations team since 2012 in a development role. Mark Reeds, who had some health issues earlier, will be situated with management to get a birds eye view on the game. Hope Reeds is feeling okay and best wishes to him and his family. The Senators also announced that former player Shean Donovan has been named as a player development consultant; Donovan recently worked with the Ottawa 67s. [Ottawa Senators, Silver Seven]
  • You know it's hockey season when Nichols has three transcriptions up in three days! First, one on Randy Lee with respect to the AHL/ECHL affiliations and contract negotiations, and then with AGM Pierre Dorion on negotiations, prospect talk, and captaincy. Bryan Murray was also on CTV Ottawa yesterday and talked about a number of pertinent topics [Lee, Dorion, Murray]
  • In Methot news, Murray released his asking price: $5.5M for 6 years. Good on Methot for requesting that, because some team will surely give it to him. Don't know if Ottawa will concede on both term AND price though. [6th Sens,
  • SensChirp asks 10 quick questions to the fans. Go cast your vote! [SensChirp]
  • Travis at SenShot looks at the young players who are competing for a lineup spot [SenShot]
  • The funniest piece of the week goes to Luke Peristy on his "Ottawa Senators Dictionary". Go give it a read! [Bonk's Mullet]
  • Also, if you ever wanted to join the folks over at Bonk's Mullet - now's your chance! [Bonk's Mullet]
  • One of my favourite people, James from WTYKY, has a nice piece looking at the expectations we're setting on Mika Zibanejad this year. [WTYKY]
  • We've had our say in ranking our Top 25 Under 25, now have yours! [T25U25]
  • The CHL season has already started! Here's Sareon on the two local teams: Ottawa and Gatineau. [Silver Seven]
  • Lastly, Sheer_Craziness asks - what kind of Sens fan are you? [Silver Seven]

NHL Links

  • Megan published a great piece on her blog, Shinny Stats, on the effect that height has on draft position. [Shinny Stats]
  • An article that new Penguins coach Mike Johnston is supposedly giving to all Penguins players on building brave leaders. [Forbes]
  • Jen has a nice piece on score effects, and which teams are the best at protecting a lead. [The Committed Indian]
  • Sarah Connors is building a database of women in the NHL workplace, which is an interesting insight into gender equality in the NHL today. [Link]
  • A "fan scouting report" tool developed for baseball where fans give their scouting reports on players that they've watched consistently. Wonder if this could be applied to hockey? [Tangotiger]
  • Sean McIndoe looks at the Pros and Cons of NHL expansion [Grantland]
  • The NHL announced rule changes for the 2014-15 season! Here's a link of all of them. [NHL]

Thanks for reading!

Who should be Erik Karlsson's primary defensive partner this year?

Marc Methot53
Jared Cowen29
Patrick Wiercioch116

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