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Why Andreas Nodl Belongs With Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn

In discussing hypothetical lines for next year, Andreas Nodl has the inside track on the ninth forward spot. This would put him with rookie Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. There's no better candidate to fill that spot than Nodl.

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For quite awhile now, I have been one of Andreas Nodl's biggest supporters. From arguing prior to last season that he was better than most people thought he was, to explaining how even his modest production last year was in line with any number nine forward in the league, adding in the fact that he faced some of the toughest situations of any NHL forward, and concluding that he is great value for the Flyers.

So yes, Andreas Nodl is quite good at hockey, something I've repeatedly argued. But it's been awhile since we had this argument, it's August, and there isn't much else going on right now. Also, in his post today, Bill Meltzer wrote about anticipated training camp battles that lie ahead, saying "Andreas Nodl is likely to get the first crack at a third line spot, with Max Talbot and Blair Betts on the fourth line."

This shouldn't come as a surprise to most people who have spent any time thinking about next year's roster, but it might come as a disappointment to those who disagree with the argument that Nodl is a third-line forward in the NHL. The lineup Meltzer seems to be implying - which I happen to imagine as well - is one with Nodl, Brayden Schenn, and Wayne Simmonds on the third line. The only alternative at this point seems to be Max Talbot swapping places with Nodl.

The problem, however, is that Max Talbot has not shown the ability to succeed against top competition. Sure, he holds his own when playing in a top-9 role, but he merely treads water.

All tables are sortable by column.

GP G/60 A1/60 Pts/60 GFON GAON Corsi Rel Sh% Sv% OZ% Fin OZ% BZS

CRel QoC

CRel QoT
2010-11 82 0.37 0.62 1.12 1.61 1.92 -2.9 5.34 933 54.2 49.9 -1.5 0.46 -0.72
2009-10 45 0.27 0.54 0.95 2.45 3.54 -11.5 8.26 874 56.8 50.5 -1.7 -0.17 -0.88
2008-09 75 0.67 0.45 1.35 2.17 3.14 -10.3 9.29 901 41.6 45.4 -2.2 0.26 0.43
2007-08 63 0.72 0.56 1.75 2.07 1.75 0.2 8.44 938 41.1 48.5 1.1 0.69 -1.24

As always, for an explanation of what each column stands for, you can check out the Glossary of Terms over at Broad Street Hokey. Something new here is "BZS". It stands for Balanced Zone Shift, which was put together by Bettman's Nightmare over at Arctic Ice Hockey, designed to show what the average player - based on four years worth of data - does when starting in his own end a specified percent of the time. So for example, a player who has an offensive zone start percentage of 54.25 is expected to have an offensive zone finish (Fin OZ%) of 51.35. Talbot, however, had a finish of 49.9, or one and a half percent below (BZS) expectations.

A hint for reading the numbers above: They are arranged in groups, beginning with results (G/60 through CorsiRel), luck (shooting and save percentages), and finally, situational usage. To help explain what a player accomplished, it's important to see how they were used and how lucky they were.

Talbot, over the last four years, has had some trouble playing a full season. His offensive numbers have come down considerably from four years ago and he has not had a positive Corsi relative to his team in the last three years. This past year, he had some poor luck on offense, but some great luck on defense, the reverse of his previous two years.

If we look at situational usage, Talbot finished seventh on the Penguins in quality of competition last year, with the fourth worst teammates. This is largely due to the injuries to Jordan Staal, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin giving Talbot stronger competition than he would normally have faced, since Talbot ranked eleventh in toughest competition each of the last two years.

But this year, when bumped up to second and third line competition, Talbot finished with a negative Corsi, a negative zone shift, and a negative plus/minus ratio. He was given slightly tougher competition, and got beat. The only redeeming quality is his low goals against per sixty, but that's inflated due to Talbot having the second highest save percentage among Penguins last year.

So Max Talbot is a fine addition, one who can admirably fill in on the third line if need be, but he won't provide offense or outplay the opposition. He's best as a penalty killer and a fourth line forward at even strength.

This is why Andreas Nodl is seen as the favorite to be the third line winger. Similar to what we just looked at with Talbot, let's look at numbers from last year.

GP G/60 A1/60 Pts/60 GFON GAON Corsi Rel Sh% Sv% OZ% Fin OZ% BZS

CRel QoC

CRel QoT
Mike Richards
81 0.78 0.84 2.07 2.79 2.51 1.1 8.74 915 46.8 50.1 1.0 0.75 1.51
Jeff Carter 80 1.40 0.48 2.48 3.61 2.15 7.8 10.6 930 43.8 51.9 3.6 0.90 3.06
Andreas Nodl 67 0.66 0.51 1.46 2.56 1.68 -0.9 8.06 945 43.8 51.9 3.6 0.88 1.71
Kris Versteeg 80 0.76 0.60 1.68 2.28 2.72 1.8 7.92 909 52.8 49.3 -1.7 0.86 -0.46
Max Talbot 82 0.37 0.62 1.12 1.61 1.92 -2.9 5.34 933 54.2 49.9 -1.5 0.46 -0.72
Wayne Simmonds 80 0.79 0.37 1.77 2.01 2.07 -9.6 7.66 932 49.5 49.1 -0.8 0.62 -1.65

Here, we have a wide range of talent. Each player was picked to represent different skill levels, with Carter as a first-line forward, Richards representing a second line foward, Talbot as the fourth line forward, and Versteeg and Simmonds, two players routinely considered third-line players.

Nobody would confuse Nodl's offensive game with Carter's, Richards', or even Versteeg's. He's simply not on that level. And while Nodl received some fantastic, unsustainably high goaltending, he had the worst situational usage of anybody on this list not named Carter. He exceeded his zone shifts more than anyone not named Carter. He lost the Corsi battle, but by a lesser margin than Talbot and Simmonds, two players with much more favorable situations.

Even without the lucky goaltending, Nodl faced the NHL's best in some of the worst situations, but still managed to move the play forward. He took on the tough minutes and not only held his own, but improved his team's chances of winning. All this while giving up less than two tenths of a point per sixty minutes of play to Kris Versteeg.

The other player expected to be on the third line is Wayne Simmonds. He is, by all accounts, a bona-fide third line player in the NHL. He has more offense than Versteeg, faced the toughest opposition of any L.A. forward, and did it with the third toughest zone starts of any King. Yet, when comparing him across teams, the numbers don't look nearly as impressive. Don't let the numbers fool you, though. Simmonds is a great defensive asset.

Next year, Andreas Nodl will be the team's third line winger more often than not. This is not only where he belongs, it's where the team needs him. Last year, the team needed Mike Richards to carry James van Riemsdyk and Andreas Nodl for a few weeks at the beginning of the season. This year, the team will need Wayne Simmonds and Andreas Nodl to carry Brayden Schenn for a few weeks.

There's nothing to suggest that will not happen.