Johnny Boychuk, Kyle Okposo and John Tavares (Getty Images)
Midseason trades are a bit of a curiosity in the NHL; they’re usually, at least on one side, expressions of immediate purpose – though intuitively both teams are getting someone they want. From a player’s perspective, it’s revolutionary, even if the results don’t show it: a new home, new fan base, new teammates.Midseason trades are a bit of a curiosity in the NHL; they’re usually, at least on one side, expressions of immediate purpose – though intuitively both teams are getting someone they want. From a player’s perspective, it’s revolutionary, even if the results don’t show it: a new home, new fan base, new teammates. Analytically, a trade is an immediate sliding of variables for both teams, as all at once depth and deployment are affected. In the past, a player trade was often discussed as a matter of whether a player “catches on” with their new team, the idea being that when a player catches on, they score more points. Think of how successful the Minnesota Wild’s trade for Guillaume Latendresse looked in 2009-10, when he put up 37 points in 55 games, or Colorado’s 2010-11 acquisition of Tomas Fleischmann that yielded 21 points in 22 games. Compiling all the midseason trades from 1997-98 to the present, and focusing on the 106 players that played 20+ GP for both teams in a single season, I began to notice the impact a coach’s player usage had on whether the player “caught on.” One way to show this is by expressing a player’s ice time as a percentage of a team’s total ice time in the games they participated (TOI%), pre and post-trade. TOI% is a valuable statistic overall because it’s more truly reflective of contribution. An example: last season, Sidney Crosby was on the ice for approximately 36% of his team’s even-strength minutes. Since you cannot hide on a hockey rink, it’s reasonable to say he played an important role in 36% of his team’s even-strength play. In terms of trades, TOI% can tell us whether traded players tend to be given more substantial roles in their new homes:
---TOI charts can also show the impact of a trade on the depth of a team’s forward lines and defense pairings. By comparing the progression of TOI% for all the defensemen on the 2010-11 Toronto Maple Leafs, for instance, we can see who was used to “replace” Tomas Kaberle when he was swapped for Boston’s Joe Colborne and a 1st and 2nd round pick in 2011:
---NHL trades frequently involve a shake-up as teams try to fix or fill issues they see in their roster. While it’s interesting to examine the asset-for-asset element of the midseason swap, using devices like TOI% and TOI charts can give us an interesting, multi-layered picture of how the trade affects the player and both teams, short and long-term.