Rabid Habs

Brian Gionta: by the Numbers (2013-14)

Still an above-average third-line defensive-winger

Brian Gionta will become an unrestricted free-agent if left unsigned on July 1st, 2014. At 35 years-old, the Habs captain can no longer be considered a top-4 winger; his success-rate when attempting to move the puck around in the offensive-zone no longer allows him to produce the scoring-chances needed to survive in this role. That said, the Habs captain faced the toughest quality of competition among Canadiens wingers last season, while still contributing defensive-zone numbers consistent with a shut-down defensive winger on a good team’s third-line.

Combining both playoff and regular season numbers, Gionta was directly involved in the production of the sixth-most even-strength scoring-chances for per-60 among the 12 Habs wingers with adequate sample-sizes. Gionta was also directly-responsible for the fifth-fewest even-strength scoring-chances against per-60.

In terms of points, Gionta contributed the fifth-most even-strength points per-60 among Habs wingers. He also produced the sixth-most scoring-chances per-possession play, while his even-strength possession rating was fifth among wingers.

Gionta produced the eighth-most (out of 12) even-strength scoring-plays per-60 among Habs wingers. He also contributed the ninth-lowest percentage of overall events with possession of the puck in the offensive-zone. Expressed simply, this shows that among Habs wingers, eight players spent more “time” with possession of the puck in the offensive-zone than Gionta. In contrast, number 21 spent the fourth-lowest percentage of his overall events defending in the defensive-zone. Once again, expressed more simply, this tells us that only 3 wingers spent less “time” stuck without possession in the defensive-zone.

Gionta produced the fifth-best even-strength ratio (number of successful plays for every 1 failed play) among Canadiens wingers. He also had the sixth-best rating (how many more successful plays than failed plays produced per-minute of ice-time). When ratings were adjusted for quality of competition, Gionta’s qualcom-adjusted rating of 1.56 moved up to third among wingers.

At even-strength, Gionta was successful with 60% of his attempts to remove puck-possession from the opposition, and 59% of his attempted plays with possession. His defensive success-rate was good enough for only eighth among Habs wingers, while his possession success-rate was good enough for sixth.

In the offensive-zone, Gionta’s o-zone ratio of 1.60 successful plays for every 1 failed play ranked seventh among Habs wingers, while his offensive-zone rating of 0.41 was eighth. He had only the tenth-best offensive-zone puck-possession success-rate, as number 21 was successful with only 52% of his attempted offensive-zone puck-possession plays. His success-rate of 63% when attempting to remove puck-possession from the opposition in the offensive-zone was sixth-best.

Gionta’s even-strength play in the defensive-zone is what makes his return worth discussing. He produced a defensive-zone ratio of 2.57, to go along with a d-zone rating of 0.54. His ratio was second-best among Habs wingers, while his rating was third-best. Gionta produced a defensive-zone puck-possession success-rate of 68% this season, while his defensive success-rate was 60%. Both numbers were good enough for third-best among Habs wingers.

Gionta was successful with 80.6% of his attempted defensive-zone passes after the Olympics; tops among Habs wingers. That said, over the course of the season he was successful with only 53% of his attempts to dump the puck out of the defensive-zone (without causing an icing).

Gionta’s neutral-zone numbers are surprisingly disappointing. He produced only the eighth-best neutral-zone ratio among Habs wingers at 2.05, and the sixth-best rating (0.32). His neutral-zone puck-possession success-rate of 65% was also eighth-best, while his neutral-zone defensive success-rate of 64% was an impressive fourth-best. It’s his defensive-play in the neutral-zone that hurt his overall neutral-zone numbers, as Gionta was only successful with 54% of his attempts to remove puck-possession from the opposition in the neutral-zone. To put that number into perspective, 10 other Habs wingers posted better neutral-zone defensive success-rates.

Only Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty attempted more neutral-zone puck possession plays per-60 than Gionta. Gionta also attempted the third-most neutral-zone defensive plays per-60; putting an even bigger exclamation-point on his low defensive success-rate in the neutral-zone.

As with Gionta’s even-strength play in the defensive-zone, his short-handed performance is what makes him an intriguing option for next season. Among Habs forwards (not just wingers), Gionta produced the team’s third-best defensive-zone ratio and rating while short-handed. This tells us that while killing penalties, only two forwards (Pacioretty and Moen) contributed more more successful defensive-zone plays short-handed for every failed play than number 21. It also tells us that Gionta contributed more successful plays than failed plays per-minute played (reflecting his involvement in the play short-handed). Gionta had a the fourth-best short-handed success-rate among forwards when attempting to remove puck-possession from the opposition in the defensive-zone, and had the fourth-highest success-rate when attempting to clear the puck out of the d-zone while short-handed.

Gionta’s powerplay numbers are consistent with his offensive-output. He ranked eighth among Canadiens forwards in powerplay rating, ratio, and puck-possession success-rate in the offensive-zone.

Gionta still has the required skills to help a team win. Those skills just don’t translate to big offensive-minutes anymore. The Habs captain will return if Montreal management recognizes his defensive-skill set as a perfect fit in a third-line shutdown role. The only thing left to work out after that is financial.

(Source: Boucher Scouting)