clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Anthony Duclair Butterfly Effect

Some people think fans who want Duclair in the lineup every night expect him to be a sole savior. They would be missing the point.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The butterfly effect is a very cool theory. Essentially, it's the hypothesis that our environment is so sensitive that very small changes today might have massive ripple effects in the future. The term "butterfly effect" derives from Edward Lorenz and is explained further by our friend Wikipedia:

The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a hurricane (exact time of formation, exact path taken) being influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier.

Right now Anthony Duclair is sitting in favor of Tanner Glass. Or, Jesper Fast is sitting in favor of Glass. On the surface the moves have actually ben Duclair for Fast or vice versa, but the point of this story is what happens when you actually, you know, sit Tanner Glass.

The defense -- from those who don't want to see Duclair, or don't think he's very good -- is "Duclair won't be a savior to this team's problems by himself." That is true, but it's also not the point. There is a butterfly effect that comes with inserting Duclair (or Fast) in the lineup in favor of Glass.

Let's take a look at the lines the Rangers used the three games they sat Duclair:

Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Marty St. Louis
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello
Carl Hagelin - Kevin Hayes- Lee Stempniak 
Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Jesper Fast

This group has a really good top six, littered with players who can handle tougher assignments and thrive offensively under a little more sheltering. You can immediately see the impact Stepan makes since he's returned to the lineup. One of those impacts is pushing Haglin down to the third line, which currently is a very good defensive line (Hayes is getting better and Hagelin and Stempniak can carry that load) that can also add offense. The fourth line has two very good defensive forwards but is dragged down by Glass with possession, offense and defense.

Here's my projected lineup if you remove Glass and replace him with Duclair (keeping Fast in the lineup):

Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Marty St. Louis 
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello  
Anthony Duclair - Kevin Hayes- Lee Stempniak (swap Hagelin for Stempniak if you want)
Carl Hagelin - Dominic Moore - Jesper Fast (swap Stempniak for Hagelin if you want)

The top six remains the same so we'll ignore them. The third line loses some of it's defensive prowess (although Duclair is fine in his own zone) but adds an entirely new level of possession and offense. Stempniak will help put out the fires that will inevitably come with with having two rookies on one line, too. The fourth line, however, is where this shines. That trio can absolutely play the same role the fourth line did last year, soaking up massive defensive assignments which allows the top nine (especially the third line) to see more time in the offensive zone. It also takes away defensive assignments for the top six who can focus more on offense.

That's the butterfly effect. Replace Glass with Duclair and you don't just get a competent fourth line, you free up more offense for the top-nine. That's the difference. You make four competent lines instead of three, and the Rangers showed last year how important that is.

Let's take a look at the seven players the Rangers are currently juggling in their bottom six. The Y-axis is the player's raw Corsi% (measures all shots on goal, blocked shots and missed shots for and against while a player is on the ice) while the X-axis is the player's offensive zone start percentage (the percentage a player starts in the offensive zone).

You can clearly see both Moore and Fast are being defensively punished -- to the tune of a 20% offensive zone start each. In Moore's case his corsi% is remarkable considering his usage. In Fast's case it's a little lower than Glass' but he's starting in the offensive zone half as much as Glass is, so his corsi% is actually kind of remarkable in comparison.

Both Hayes and Duclair have been a little more sheltered (as has Stempniak, actually) but they're doing what a player should do when they're sheltered -- they're on the positive side of the corsi reading. Hagelin -- continuing to be under-appreciated -- is also doing very well for himself considering his deployment.

I know there are still people who want nothing to do with fancy stats. There are some beat reporters who will criticize corsi but then note shots on goal. More than a few of them "Want to make decisions with their eyes" which is fine. I, myself, prefer a nice blend of watching and fancystating, but you can't deny the facts. This graph does a really good job visualizing just how poor of a decision it is to be playing Glass over Duclair (or Fast) night after night. It doesn't make sense.

I've said this before, but it's worth repeating: Vigneault is not a bad coach. Far, far from it, in fact. He does, however, have a blind spot that is hurting the Rangers. I think that's pretty clear.

Hopefully he realizes it soon, too.