When Paul MacLean arrived from the Detroit Red Wings organization, he brought with him a system that is focused on puck-possession. Why is puck possession important? Simply put, when you have the puck, you can score, and your opponents cannot.
One player who really exemplified this was Erik Karlsson, who consistently drove the puck up the ice, despite playing70% of his ice-time with Filip Kuba (who has never been better than an average possession player). But he wasn't the only Erik on the Sens last season that drove possession. I'm talking about Erik Condra.
To many, he may just seem like an undersized 4th liner who fans on empty net opportunities. But after looking at his numbers, you'll realize how big of a role he played on the team.
To start, let's look at the team's forwards Corsi numbers, (for those who don't know, Corsi uses attempted shots on goal to measure puck possession) courtesy of www.stats.hockeyanalysis.com
Looking at thechart on the left, Condra had the 3rd best Corsi rating among forwards while playing against average competition. What's even more impressive is that he had the lowest average line mate Corsi, meaning he played with the worst possession players on the team. It's also worth mentioning that Greening and Michalek were below average possession players despite having very high TMCorF% ratings.
CorF%: Corsi for % (Corsi For/ Corsi For + Corsi Against)
TMCorF%: Average line mate's Corsi F%, weighted by ice-time
OppCorF%: Average opponent's Corsi F%, weighted by ice-time
Numbers are zone-start adjusted and at close situations
-all of his line mates did better with him than without him
-how much Smith and Daug held him back possession-wise
-how strong of a possession line he, Alfie and Turris were
-Daugavins struggled A LOT when he wasn't with Condra
Looking at these numbers, I feel it's reasonable to say that Condra is a good 3rd liner, and can be used as a stop-gap in the top 6 in case of injuries. To be honest, I'd rather him playing RW alongside Spezza than Greening, although with Silf and Zibanejad coming up next year, he may not need to.
Anybody who has watched Condra play can say with a degree of certainty that he has trouble putting the puck in the net. His shooting percentage last season was 5.7%, well below league average of 8.9%. Some of that can be attributed to simply being a bad shooter, but some can be attributed to bad luck. I think we can learn something about him by looking back at his past numbers.(09-10 AHL shot totals are from AHL.com)
During his time in the AHL Condra shot 8.9%, while the league average was around 9.4%. So right away we know he’ll most likely never shoot above average in the NHL (big surprise, huh?). One interesting thing to point out about his AHL stats is that in 09-10 he shot an underwhelming 6.9%, and then the next season he rebounded with an above-average 11.1%. By the looks of it, he carried that high S% into the NHL with him, shooting 12.5%. So let’s look at his S% as a whole in his pro career, shall we? He shot below-average in 09-10, above-average in 10-11, and below-average in 11-12. Ya know what? I think I spot a pattern. Odds are that butt-ugly 5.7% will rebound to a more realistic number in 12-13.
Conclusion: Can Condra hit? No. Can he fight? No. Does he sometimes frustrate with his lack of finishing skills? Yes. But what he does bring to the table is well above-average puck possession skills stemming from good hockey sense and strong 2-way play, which creates scoring chances for his team and prevents those of his opponents. This is exactly the reason I love stats; it separates what we interpret is happening from what is actually happening.