Back when all the craziness started, Sens forward Mike Hoffman seemed to foresee that Andrew “Hamburglar” Hammond was in the midst of kicking off an amazing tear. A month later, the Senators’ surge is in full force. Ottawa now rests just behind Boston (one point out on March 22nd) for the final playoff spot in the East.
Along the way, Hammond has been heaped with praise for his play. And it’s been stellar.
But what about the Sens who have been part of keeping the team afloat all season long?
Though Mike Hoffman was quick to give Hammond a shout out at the beginning of their playoff push, Mike Hoffman has enjoyed a breakout season of his own. With 25 goals and 43 points, along with an All-Star nod for the rookies event, Hoffman’s development as a scoring winger has been very rapid, a little surprising, and utterly crucial.
How has Hoffman put together this sparkling season? Are his stats the results of hard work and skills development or luck and unsustainable rates?
Let’s take a closer look at Mike Hoffman and examine the bio of a breakout.
Hoffman is a 25-year-old rookie earning $750,000 on a one-year deal. This is his second one-year deal with the club. The Senators must have been unsure if the young winger would develop into the type of NHL forward they wished to lock-up long-term.
The Sens are probably feeling pretty sure now.
Now on pace to pot near 30 goals, no analytic will take away from the stellar season that Hoffman has crafted. But, how has Hoffman done it?
Possession and Shots
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) March 21, 2015
A great place to start an analytics check up is a player’s possession and shot attempts. If a player drives possession and directs lots of pucks towards the net, the player can control their output, to an extent.
In terms of shot attempts percentage (or, Corsi For percentage for those resisting the NHL’s new “enhanced stats” terms), Hoffman has been solid – a SAT percentage of 55.2, good for seventh-best on the team. His mark is 3.6 percent higher than the team average.
In terms of shots, Hoffman’s work also seems sustainable. Hoffman has scored 16 goals on 97 shots when playing in 5-on-5 situations. With an average shot distance of 29.8 feet, (NHL average shot distance at 5v5 is 35.5 feet) Hoffman has done a good job of generating shots in medium-to-high quality shooting areas.
So far, so good for Hoffman.
— All About the Habs (@AATHabs) February 3, 2015
Rob Vollman’s Player Usage Charts are very useful for examining how a coach deploys his players. Players might be relied upon heavily as defensive stoppers (Manny Malhotra has started 82 percent of his shifts in the neutral or defensive zone) or insulated and saved for offensive starts (Brad Richards has started 70.6 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone).
Where does Hoffman sit? For Senators with more than 20 games played, Mike Hoffman has the team’s highest offensive zone start rate at 57.5 percent.
And, as a result of some line-matching and some luck, Hoffman has faced a relatively low quality of competition. As per Vollman’s chart below, Hoffman’s QoC ranks ahead of only Curtis Lazar, Erik Condra, and Alex Chiasson.
There’s no law against this. In fact, deploying a budding sniper in the offensive zone and against weak competition is just smart coaching. But, in terms of repeatability, Hoffman’s production may start to attract more attention from the better checking lines of opposing clubs. Time will tell.
Sometimes, a quality linemate brings out the best in a player. Think Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Sometimes, a quality linemate helps a teammate produce at an unrepeatable level. Just ask Jonathan Cheechoo about his time with Joe Thornton. Or Jonas Hoglund about his time with Mats Sundin.
Mike Hoffman has spent the majority of his ice time skating with Bobby Ryan and Mika Zibanejad. Has Hoffman been the beneficiary of riding shotgun with one of these talented offensive players?
Using David Johnson’s WOWY (with or without you) data, it’s possible to check.
Captain Erik Karlsson, Marc Methot, Patrick Wiercioch, and Mark Stone have higher possession rates (slightly) when playing “without” Hoffman instead of “with.” But everyone else, including linemates Ryan and Zibanejad, have better SAT percentages when skating with Hoffman.
Hoffman’s goals-for percentage and goals-for-per-60 tell a similar story. Every Senators player has a better mark in GF% and GF60 when playing with Hoffman rather than without him.
All told, Hoffman has impacted positively in possession and goal rates across the roster. He’s more Voracek than Hoglund.
— NHL (@NHL) March 9, 2015
While Hammond has been the story of late for the Ottawa Senators, Hoffman deserves his due for an outstanding rookie season. His possession rates and shot quality are sound and he has improved the play of those around him.
Sure, Hoffman’s benefitted from playing against weaker competition and from quality offensive zone starts. But that’s probably careful coaching taking advantage of a sniper’s abilities. The league may adjust to cover Hoffman more carefully but that adjustment won’t tarnish Hoffman’s excellent rookie season.
What do you think, Sens fans? Does Mike Hoffman’s play seem sustainable? Does he pass the eye test on the ice? Or is Hoffman just another flash-in-the-pan with little chance to repeat his success next season?