Player types: The no-way forward


Earlier, I introduced on The Nations Network a new way of looking at a player’s plus/minus rating, specifically to do with on-ice shot differential, in an effort to learn more about teams and players.

This month, somewhat regularly, I will break down types of players and teams in an effort to localize player talents and figure out exactly what certain teams need. There’s definitely more to a hockey player than simply being “good” or “bad” and by how much, so today I will profile the defensive forward.

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(Previous: The two-way forward the defensive forward, and the offensive liability)

While players in some of the other player categories may cause one to blink an eye, I think there will be a little more consensus agreement in this section of the series dealing with the “No-Way Forward”.

The “No-Way Forward” is a term I started dealing with last year to counteract most announcers calling your typical plugger a two-way forward in the sense that he brings grit and jam to a line, which has perceived defensive value in some hockey circles. I fluidly disagree with this, and I think that a player’s offensive responsibility is to generate shots, and his defensive responsibility is to prevent shots. None of these forwards are exceptionally talented at doing this, or anything, really.

Players on this list are a bunch of things. They can be veterans who stick around for nostalgic purposes or past successes. They are goons, and fourth line replacement players. There is the occasional offensive player who generates scoring off rushes and not zone time, which harm his possession numbers (I’m using Fenwick, shot and missed shot differential, for this analysis) so it doesn’t factor in the quality of shot taken by an offensive player, but in general we paint a pretty clear picture.

Here are the 15 names furthest from the origin (where the x-value is shots for above average and the y-value is shots against below average) who qualify as “No-Way Forwards”.

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NAME TEAM AdjFen Events F Events A Type Events T
Krys Barch DAL -4.75 -3.35 -1.38 NW -1.96
Cam Janssen STL -4.12 -3.69 -0.88 NW -2.80
Brad Staubitz MIN -4.35 -4.04 -0.51 NW -3.52
Colton Orr TOR -3.91 -3.87 -0.14 NW -3.72
Matt Martin NYI -3.71 -1.94 -1.79 NW -0.14
George Parros ANA -3.32 -2.87 -0.68 NW -2.18
Brandon MacMillan ANA -3.48 -2.42 -0.97 NW -1.44
Joffrey Lupul TOR -3.43 -0.59 -2.73 NW 2.15
Kyle Chipchura ANA -3.14 -1.66 -1.62 NW -0.02
Ryan Jones EDM -2.92 -2.49 -0.45 NW -2.03
Gilbert Brule EDM -2.95 -1.61 -1.24 NW -0.35
Tanner Glass VAN -2.56 -2.00 -0.80 NW -1.19
Erik Christensen NYR -2.47 -1.82 -0.78 NW -1.04
Todd Marchant ANA -2.47 -1.86 -0.65 NW -1.20
Tim Brent TOR -2.45 -1.41 -1.03 NW -0.36

(Raw data downloaded from and adjusted in Excel.)

[ LEGEND: AdjFen Adjusted Fenwick number per 14.65 minutes Events F On-ice goals, shots and misses for above the league average Events A On-ice goals, shots and misses below the league average Type Player type Events T Unadjusted total number of events above or below the league average ]

Honourable mentions go to Jamal Mayers, Chuck Kobasew, Steve Bernier, Tomas Fleischmann, Jason Blake, Zenon Konopka, and a whole host of other players you once thought you liked.

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Again, team effects creep up. The Anaheim Ducks had a pretty bad team depth-wise this season and their first line got a little bit lucky this year, so it’s not surprising to see a few of their players up there. The Islanders were also a very bad team who employed a lot of forwards who have no particular use outside of bashing the occasional skull. Edmonton and their struggles with their depth forwards are also evident.

One thing it’s fun to see is a couple of tarnished prospects who came to the NHL with such hope. Gilbert Brule was probably the best WHLer I’ve ever seen play live and I’m convinced his development was stunted by terrible management in Columbus. Kyle Chipchura, as you’ll remember, captained the 2006 Canadian Junior Team before scoring just four goals over the course of three shortened seasons with the Canadiens before being flipped to Anaheim for a skate sharpener.

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Three Leafs also made the list, albeit each in different roles. Orr, the fighter, Lupul, the scorer and Brent, the kind-of-guy-you-win-with that the Leafs let go much to the dismay of some fans. I’ve discussed before that the Leafs first line was actually not too improved with the addition of Lupul as far as pure shot differential goes. He’s always been a negative Corsi player (through the years we have) and I don’t expect that to change this season.

Last thing, if you’re wondering where Trevor Gillies is on this list, he didn’t play the 40-game minimum to get on this list. Probably because he was suspended for all of them.

Join us for our next “Player-Type Profile” as we look to some of the more exciting players in the game, the high-event Defensive Liability.

  • RexLibris

    When I think No-Way forward, and based on your broad definition, I think Patrick O’Sullivan, or Robert Nilsson. In fact, I tend to reminisce about most of my team’s lineup in that fateful ’09-’10 season. JF Jacques, MA Pouliot.

    I wonder if there is a goaltending equivalent for players like Damian Rhodes or Andre “Red-Light” Racicot, or Roman Cechmanek. Instead of the No-Way-Forward they could be the Don’t-Look-Backstopper.

  • Another waste of bandwidth from cam. Seriously who let you be a part of writing on these websites? Your stupid system here makes no sense and doesnt account for so many important variables. You should ask whoever gave you a degree of anykind for your money back.

  • Hey Cam, really enjoyed the series.

    I think this category is too broad. It’s also true of two-way forwards but since that’s an elite group it’s not as a big of a deal. I think it would be interesting to have a breakdown by quadrants within this quadrant (you guessed it, sexdecants) so you would have guys who totally suck (bottom left), guys who are halfway decent defensively, though still below average, but horrible offensively (top left), guys decent offensively but awful defensively (bottom right) and guys who are essentially mediocre two-way players (top right).

    • Thanks for that Jared.

      Certainly agree. I’m keeping it somewhat broad because there are a lot of variables that keep players from a certain area of the quadrant. I think that Joffrey Lupul is pretty useless for possession, but I think of him as a player with tuned offensive instincts and that would change where he fits within the quad.

      Hopefully we can find a few more things about players this year (such as whether they have an ability to drive shot percentage) so we can more fine tune them next summer.