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The Noon Number: 26.0


This is the offensive zone start rate of one Manny Malhotra thus far into the NHL season. For those new to advanced statistics, offensive start rate shows where the faceoff was when a player started his shifts on the ice. It is calculated by dividing the total offensive zone starts by all offensive and defensive zone starts. The neutral zone is omitted from this calculation.

Now, Manny Malhotra had the lowest offensive start rate in the entire NHL last season, as Alain Vigneault quickly caught on to sending players out in different situations. He used the Sedin line primarily in the offensive zone (they benefit from leading the league in O-zone start rate) and the third line, centred by Malhotra, sheltered them by playing effective hockey in the defensive zone. He was at 25% last season.

However now, for whatever reason, Manny Malhotra's 26% is not the lowest in the league among regular players. It is not even the lowest on the Vancouver Canucks. The addition of Maxim Lapierre has allowed Vigneault to not use Malhotra in the bulk of starts, as Lapierre and the rest of the fourth line are actually starting more often in the defensive zone than Malhotra. In fact, of all the 5-on-5 faceoffs in the Canucks defensive zone, Malhotra is on the ice for 45.7% of them.

I submit to you this chart, because I love charts:

Player D-Starts O-Starts Ozone rate %Team Draws
Lapierre 24 8 25.0% 29.6%
Malhotra 37 13 26.0% 45.7%

As you can see, while Lapierre is theoretically getting more defensive starts according to start rate alone, I submit to you that, in what I will call defensive usage percentage, that Malhotra is more important to the Canucks defensively than the fourth line. This is not something that start rate alone can quantify, but I think it's probably more important.

Teams are not often gauged enough on whether they create offensive zone faceoffs or not. A team playing well on any given night will finish more shifts in the offensive than defensive ends, hence leading to that faceoff. Last season the Canucks only really used Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Malhotra on draws, so the fourth line usually snuck shifts in via changes on the fly, something that isn't calculated via zone start rate.

It works similarly for offensive zone rates, as well. Henrik Sedin last season held a 71.4% offensive zone start rate, theoretically the highest in the league, but due to the Canucks ending up with a higher percentage of offensive draws than, say, Chicago, he only had 48.1% of the total team draws according to Meanwhile, Jonathan Toews, with a rate of 62.1%, had a higher offensive usage percentage, being sent out by coach Joel Quenneville for 50.5% of Chicago's total draws in games wherein he played.

The issue with this number is that it's painstaking to go through and calculate the total number of faceoffs, so I don't have a big list of offensive and defensive start leaders, but it's something worth noting if you're crusing through and ask yourself why Maxim Lapierre is getting more defensive zone starts than Malhotra. The answer is that he isn't, and the zone start rate has to be looked at in context, as with any number.