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Mittelstadt, Olofsson and the 3rd and 4th Lines


nfreeman
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I had a bit of conversation about this last night in the GDT for the TB debacle and thought it merited its own thread.

My eye test has been telling me, loudly and clearly, that the Mitts/VO line, regardless of who the 3rd member is, has been consistently getting caved in.  In last night's debacle, that line was on for both of TB's 5-on-5 goals.  In both cases, DG put them out for d-zone faceoffs vs. Stamkos' line (and before both faceoffs, I said to myself "DG -- WTF are you doing here?"), and both times, TB won the puck and scored pretty much effortlessly.

Here's the Athletic on that line's performance last night:  https://theathletic.com/3947612/2022/11/29/sabres-loss-lightning-tage-thompson/

Quote

Just how bad was this line tonight? According to Natural Stat Trick, the Sabres had only 3.66 percent of the expected goals when that line was on the ice at five-on-five. They generated only two shot attempts, allowed five high-danger scoring chances and didn’t generate a single scoring chance themselves. The tricky part about doing something to fix that line is that the other three lines have been performing well. The other three lines combined allowed fewer high-danger scoring chances than the Mittelstadt line and generated 16.

 

Mitts, VO and Aspie got the least ice time on the team last night -- Mitts had just over 9 minutes and the other 2 had less than 9 minutes.  So I think it's pretty clear that DG recognizes that this line is a train wreck. 

Mitts and VO both have offensive skills, but when their line is on, it is ridiculously easy for the opponent to clear the D-zone, and the puck usually stays in the Sabres' D-zone for most of the shift.  IMHO the inescapable conclusion of the eye test plus fancystats results like last night's is that Mitts and VO are both lousy forecheck/possession players. 

I think each of them can play on a line with 2 linemates who are good possession players -- or at least I'd like to see DG try this approach for a few games -- but they cannot play together.  It is clearly not working and it is hurting the team.

Accordingly, I'd like DG to split up Mitts and VO and try the following 3rd/4th lines, with the idea of giving each of Mitts and VO 2 good possession linemates:

Asplund-Jost-VO

Zemgus-Mitts-KO

FWIW, I was discussing this theory with another Sabres fan last night, and he mentioned that Chad D. has also been advocating for Mitts to play with Zemgus and KO.

I'll note that @Brawndo, who knows quite a bit more than I do, mentioned in the GDT, in response to my suggested lines, that Jost is not a play driver.  I may be misinterpreting, but I think the fancy stats indicate that he is leading the Sabres in expected goals %:  https://www.naturalstattrick.com/playerteams.php?fromseason=20222023&thruseason=20222023&stype=2&sit=5v5&score=all&stdoi=oi&rate=n&team=BUF&pos=S&loc=B&toi=0&gpfilt=none&fd=&td=&tgp=410&lines=single&draftteam=ALL

...while Mitts and VO are DFL in that stat.

Discuss.

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I don’t think Mittelstadt is the problem there. It’s VO.  Guy can’t break out.  
 

Remember we only really ever had VO rolling when he played with Eichel. And Eichel wouldn’t pass for a breakout he would do circles until he’d carry it all the way down himself. Other players who look to tick tack toe to get the puck out fail to do so with VO.  Guy isn’t always behind the play in the defensive end.

Trade VO to some other team who thinks they need to improve their PP for a solid third line guy. Cause a solid third line guy is who we need. We have enough snipers on the PP it doesn’t need to be VO. 

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Last year on this site there was a very vigorous defense of VO as a two way player.  Now he’s a reason why we get caved in?  I’m not convinced VO is the correct target.  VO needs a decent center to succeed.  Sure, that makes him somewhat limited in how we can use him, but thats on the roster builder, not VO.

Mitts… there is the correct target.  We’ve been waiting for what, 3 seasons now? for his game to mature?  Its not happening.  Mitts is breaking in his make or break season.

IMO it is time to cut rope with Mitts and go out and get a middle of the road 2C that can make space and set up VO.

 

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VO is, if I may borrow a phrase from soccer parlance, a 'luxury player."  His shot / nose for goal could theoretically be enough to keep him around despite the obvious black hole that is the rest of his game if you carefully manage his ice time and put him in situations where he'll be more likely to produce without destroying you going back.  This might not be the team for that, all things considered.  In theory you could get something of some value from a contender looking for a goal hanging PP threat if you put him on the block.  Wouldn't be a ton, but.... eh.  

Mitts, to be honest, doesn't look like he has it in him at either end, really.  He's been a boy among men since he signed, and does not appear to be improving at all, much less putting it together.  Not sure what you do with that, other than cut bait.  

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Can someone 'splain me why Asplund gets credit for being an actual NHL'er?

I feel like he's a guy who's obviously not good, yet people try to say he is to prove how smart they are. Kinda like the Bob Dylan of hockey. 😉 

At least his slug linemates offer at least one or two redeeming skills.

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2 minutes ago, JoeSchmoe said:

Can someone 'splain me why Asplund gets credit for being an actual NHL'er?

I feel like he's a guy who's obviously not good, yet people try to say he is to prove how smart they are. Kinda like the Bob Dylan of hockey. 😉 

At least his slug linemates offer at least one or two redeeming skills.

With having a bias already,  Will any amount of data really change your mind on him? Something tells me it won’t.

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4 minutes ago, JoeSchmoe said:

Can someone 'splain me why Asplund gets credit for being an actual NHL'er?

I feel like he's a guy who's obviously not good, yet people try to say he is to prove how smart they are. Kinda like the Bob Dylan of hockey. 😉 

At least his slug linemates offer at least one or two redeeming skills.

I thought I was alone in a crowd here.  
 

I wasn't much of a Larsson fan either.  I felt like his “success” was the product of artificially low expectations in the aftermath of the tank.  I think Asplund is similar.  I almost choked on my coffee the first time a poster claimed Asplunds play was Selke worthy.  I don’t see it.  I think at best he’s an intelligent player that knows to play within himself and tends to be well positioned.   But thats about it.

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4 minutes ago, Weave said:

I thought I was alone in a crowd here.  
 

I wasn't much of a Larsson fan either.  I felt like his “success” was the product of artificially low expectations in the aftermath of the tank.  I think Asplund is similar.  I almost choked on my coffee the first time a poster claimed Asplunds play was Selke worthy.  I don’t see it.  I think at best he’s an intelligent player that knows to play within himself and tends to be well positioned.   But thats about it.

It was me who said it and it’s based on actual numbers and aided by the fact he was top 15 in the voting for the award last year. It’s not all about offensive output or grit. Asplund will be a part of this team or some other contender long after Mitts is in the NHL. VO has a skill that will always be useful and tradeable, Casey‘s career is a function of his draft pedigree.

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4 minutes ago, tom webster said:

Casey‘s career is a function of his draft pedigree.

I'd be okay with letting him be another team's Alex Tuch/Curtis Lazar/Tyson Jost.

In fact it may take moving him to another team and seeing a different system to flip his switch.

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1 hour ago, nfreeman said:

FWIW, I was discussing this theory with another Sabres fan last night, and he mentioned that Chad D. has also been advocating for Mitts to play with Zemgus and KO.

It was on the xbuffalo podcast. Solid reasoning. He reckons the one thing Mitts is good at is the forecheck. So play him on the line where he can do that well.

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8 minutes ago, tom webster said:

How does Tuch compare to Lazar/Jost?

Eh, maybe he doesn't.  I was just listing 1st round picks that did better with a new team.  He wasn't doing *poorly* at VGK; it was more he wasn't getting a chance to play regularly.  The other two pretty much failed to live up to expectations.  I guess putting him on that list, in my mind, was being charitable to Mitts, allowing for the possibility that with a change of scenery and the right opportunity he could blossom into a player worthy of the high status pick.

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7 minutes ago, Doohickie said:

Eh, maybe he doesn't.  I was just listing 1st round picks that did better with a new team.  He wasn't doing *poorly* at VGK; it was more he wasn't getting a chance to play regularly.  The other two pretty much failed to live up to expectations.  I guess putting him on that list, in my mind, was being charitable to Mitts, allowing for the possibility that with a change of scenery and the right opportunity he could blossom into a player worthy of the high status pick.

Yeah, I wouldn’t include Tuch but I understand what you are saying. I’m sure someone will point out exceptions but high draft picks rarely fulfill their expectations with a second or third team. What sometimes happens is they reimagine themselves and find useful roles with their new team. I would never say impossible with Casey, but color me skeptical.

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4 minutes ago, steveoath said:

It was on the xbuffalo podcast. Solid reasoning. He reckons the one thing Mitts is good at is the forecheck. So play him on the line where he can do that well.

That's interesting because I would consider him terrible at it. He skates hard, sure. I was going to comment on his turnovers.. so I went looked up stats.. kind of surprised and not.  But here's some food for thought..

  • GvA/60 (Giveaways)
    • Mitts: 2.37 (4th highest)
    • Olofsson: 1.09 (13th)
    • Asplund: 0 (Tied for best)
  • TkA/60 (Takeaways)
    • Mitts: 2.20 (5th)
    • Olofsson: 2.00 (8th)
    • Asplund: .54 (24th)
  • ES Goal Differential
    • Mitts: -8 (2nd worst) (-8 overall +/-)
    • Olofsson: -4 (4th worst) (-5 overall +/-)
    • Asplund: -2 (6th worst) (-1 overall +/-)

Mitts might be a good forechecker but it seems he'll give the puck away too. Asplund seemingly never touches the puck.  Olofsson is somewhere in between.

All in all, Krebs seems to fit in with that line on stats as well.  I did not go through everything.  But I would say there should be no resistance by the Granato for swapping ANY of those players out.  At best you leave Olofsson in for his shot, if he gets to use it.

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2 hours ago, nfreeman said:

I had a bit of conversation about this last night in the GDT for the TB debacle and thought it merited its own thread.

My eye test has been telling me, loudly and clearly, that the Mitts/VO line, regardless of who the 3rd member is, has been consistently getting caved in.  In last night's debacle, that line was on for both of TB's 5-on-5 goals.  In both cases, DG put them out for d-zone faceoffs vs. Stamkos' line (and before both faceoffs, I said to myself "DG -- WTF are you doing here?"), and both times, TB won the puck and scored pretty much effortlessly.

Here's the Athletic on that line's performance last night:  https://theathletic.com/3947612/2022/11/29/sabres-loss-lightning-tage-thompson/

 

Mitts, VO and Aspie got the least ice time on the team last night -- Mitts had just over 9 minutes and the other 2 had less than 9 minutes.  So I think it's pretty clear that DG recognizes that this line is a train wreck. 

Mitts and VO both have offensive skills, but when their line is on, it is ridiculously easy for the opponent to clear the D-zone, and the puck usually stays in the Sabres' D-zone for most of the shift.  IMHO the inescapable conclusion of the eye test plus fancystats results like last night's is that Mitts and VO are both lousy forecheck/possession players. 

I think each of them can play on a line with 2 linemates who are good possession players -- or at least I'd like to see DG try this approach for a few games -- but they cannot play together.  It is clearly not working and it is hurting the team.

Accordingly, I'd like DG to split up Mitts and VO and try the following 3rd/4th lines, with the idea of giving each of Mitts and VO 2 good possession linemates:

Asplund-Jost-VO

Zemgus-Mitts-KO

FWIW, I was discussing this theory with another Sabres fan last night, and he mentioned that Chad D. has also been advocating for Mitts to play with Zemgus and KO.

I'll note that @Brawndo, who knows quite a bit more than I do, mentioned in the GDT, in response to my suggested lines, that Jost is not a play driver.  I may be misinterpreting, but I think the fancy stats indicate that he is leading the Sabres in expected goals %:  https://www.naturalstattrick.com/playerteams.php?fromseason=20222023&thruseason=20222023&stype=2&sit=5v5&score=all&stdoi=oi&rate=n&team=BUF&pos=S&loc=B&toi=0&gpfilt=none&fd=&td=&tgp=410&lines=single&draftteam=ALL

...while Mitts and VO are DFL in that stat.

Discuss.

Minor point on 'putting them out against Stamkos' on the 1st goal that line was out against.  Tampa only dressed 11 F's.  Stamkos was out with the "4th line" with Perry & Namestikov.  The Mitts line was getting matched up w/ the 4th line.  They got the puck out of the zone but the Tampa D recovered the clear & turned the puck back up ice.  What else, after the 12 F's were chosen, did you want Granato to do on that one?

The 4th goal against was a coaching mistake.  And Granato had a chance to rectify it as he got a TV timeout right off the initial faceoff.  He could easily have flipped to the Thompson or Jost lines.

Also, the FO for that 4th goal was at the Sabres BL, not defensive zone.

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1 hour ago, Brawndo said:

The Mitts-Asplund-VO Line remains intact this AM at practice 

Probably a direct reflection on the other three lines doing well. No need to weaken two lines by breaking up one. I feel sorry for Asplund though. 

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1 hour ago, JoeSchmoe said:

Can someone 'splain me why Asplund gets credit for being an actual NHL'er?

I feel like he's a guy who's obviously not good, yet people try to say he is to prove how smart they are. Kinda like the Bob Dylan of hockey. 😉 

At least his slug linemates offer at least one or two redeeming skills.

 

1 hour ago, Weave said:

I thought I was alone in a crowd here.  
 

I wasn't much of a Larsson fan either.  I felt like his “success” was the product of artificially low expectations in the aftermath of the tank.  I think Asplund is similar.  I almost choked on my coffee the first time a poster claimed Asplunds play was Selke worthy.  I don’t see it.  I think at best he’s an intelligent player that knows to play within himself and tends to be well positioned.   But thats about it.

 

53 minutes ago, tom webster said:

It was me who said it and it’s based on actual numbers and aided by the fact he was top 15 in the voting for the award last year. It’s not all about offensive output or grit. Asplund will be a part of this team or some other contender long after Mitts is in the NHL. VO has a skill that will always be useful and tradeable, Casey‘s career is a function of his draft pedigree.

 

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