A Closer Look at Derek Stepan and His Impact on the Power Play

Derek Stepan
People have been calling to trade Derek Stepan lately, assuming Kevin Hayes can adequately replace him. Here we dive into both players numbers on the power play to test that theory.

Ever since the New York Rangers have been knocked out of the playoffs, it seems like the anti-Stepan movement has only grown larger amongst fans. I especially noticed it recently on Twitter, where angry fans continue to call for Stepan’s head and demand that he be traded. Deemed too soft and not scoring enough to justify his cap hit, most have cited the need for a defenseman as reason to trade Stepan in hopes of acquiring a defender that can bolster the Rangers weak blueline.

While I don’t want to get too into why trading Derek Stepan would be a terrible idea (it’s been outlined in a lot of other good articles that you should check out if interested), a main argument is that Stepan is expendable.

“If we trade him, Mika Zibanejad can become the go-to number one center, Kevin Hayes can fill in as the second line center while Oscar Lindberg moves up to the third line.”

There are some serious flaws with that line of thinking as it both undervalues Stepan’s impact and overstates Hayes and Lindberg’s abilities. The two forwards are far from bad players but are not the type of top-six caliber center that Stepan has proven to be over the years.

But anyway, what I was really interested in (other than going over a lot of reasons as to why Stepan needs to be kept) was seeing how well Stepan performed this postseason in my Playoff Data Project. Receiving the fourth most amount of power play time out of all Rangers forwards in the playoffs, I was curious to see just how much of an impact Stepan had on the Rangers power play. If the Rangers were to trade Stepan and hypothetically let Hayes assume all of Stepan’s responsibilities, could Hayes replace Stepan’s impact on the power play? Did Stepan even have a positive impact on the Rangers power play?

My past few articles with the data I’ve collected over the postseason have been more of a team-wide analysis, but now I wanted to see if the data could show the impact and performance individual players had while on the ice. Part of the data I track includes which players were on the ice for specific zone entries and the ensuing events in the offensive zone. So to start, I separated the data for the New York Rangers power plays into two groups, one with a certain player on the ice and one without that player on the ice. To look at Stepan’s impact, I calculated the averages of when Stepan was on the ice and when Stepan was off the ice to try to see if there was a significant difference in the Rangers performance on the power play. I also did this for Kevin Hayes to have a comparison and to see if Hayes performed as well as Stepan did on the power play.

Key

Success% is the percentage of zone entries that were successful.

Controlled% is the percentage of zone entries that were controlled entries.

InForm% is the percentage of the team successfully getting into formation when attempting to in the offensive zone.

Avg. Time To Form is the average time it took to get into formation.

Avg. Zone Time is the average time spent in the offensive zone after entering the zone.

Avg. Shot Att. Is the average shot attempts generated after entering the zone.

Avg. Scoring Chance is the average scoring chances generated after entering the zone.

Avg. Goals is the average amount of goals scored off each entry (Only two goals were scored with Stepan off the ice and only two were scored with Hayes off the ice).

New York Rangers Individual Power Play Stats

Success % Controlled % InForm % Avg. Time To Form Avg. Zone Time Avg. Shot Att. Avg. Scoring Chance Avg. Goals
With Stepan 84.4% 68.8% 77.8% 4.7 s 12.1 s .830 .277 0
Without Stepan 88.2% 67.6% 69.6% 4.6 s 12.1 s .605 .209 .047

 

Success % Controlled % InForm % Avg. Time To Form Avg. Zone Time Avg. Shot Att. Avg. Scoring Chance Avg. Goals
With Hayes 85.2% 70.3% 75% 5.2 s 10.8 s .548 .226 .0
Without Hayes 92.2% 79.7% 73.5% 4.4 s 12.7 s .814 .254 .034

When Stepan was on the ice during a Rangers power play, on average New York did slightly better than when he was not on the ice. The Success% and Controlled% were about equal but with Stepan on the ice the Rangers seemed to be more successful at getting into formation in the offensive zone. And while the average time it took to get into formation and the average zone time were about the same, the Rangers generated more shot attempts and scoring chances with Stepan on the ice than without. Overall, it seems like Stepan has a slightly positive effect on the Rangers power play.

However, compare that to Kevin Hayes’ stats on the power play, who seems to have a negative effect on the power play. Without Hayes, the Rangers successfully entered the zone 92.2% of the time and entered the zone with control about 80% of the time. But with Hayes on the ice, those numbers drop to 85% and 70% respectively. And while the InForm% numbers are about equal, the average times and shot rates are worse with Hayes on the ice than with Hayes off the ice. With Hayes on the ice, it took the Rangers an average of 5.2 seconds to set up in formation and they were able to stay in the zone for about 11 seconds each entry. But when Hayes was off the ice, the Rangers only took 4.4 seconds to get into formation and averaged about 13 seconds of zone time.

The same holds true with the shot rates too. With Hayes on the ice, the Rangers generated about .548 shot attempts and .226 scoring chances per entry while with him off the ice, those numbers jumped up to .814 and .254 respectively.

These stats are far from perfect and can’t tell the whole story of what goes on during the power play but it’s still interesting to see the differences in the performance with certain players on or off the ice. There are plenty of reasons to keep Stepan but we may have to add his presence on the power play to the list, as Kevin Hayes might not be a suitable replacement for him on the man advantage. From the data, it looks like having Stepan on the power play is an advantage for the Rangers.

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