Full disclosure. When I bought my new St. Louis Blues sweater, it was a third with number 25 on it. I like the way Chris Stewart plays (and I can hear the doubters in my head as I type this saying "when he plays") and I think he can/could/should be an asset for this team as they head into the second half of the season. Stewart scores goals for the Blue. But, there is more to hockey than just scoring goals and the numbers at this point in the season are not looking too good for Stewart.
Chris Stewart the Goal Scorer
Chris Stewart ranks fifth in the total number of goals scored by a Blues player this season. His shooting percentage is around 16%. If you look at his combined number of goals scored in the past three seasons with the Blues, he is actually the 2nd highest goal scorer (after Alexander Steen). His average shooting percentage for the past three seasons is well above the team's average shooting percentage for the same time period. That's good right? Right.
Here is where it gets tricky. Corsi is a measure of puck possession. You count all the Blues shots for (misses, blocks, saves, goals) and subtract all their opponents shots from that number. When the number is positive it means the Blues have been outshooting their opponents and have had possession of the puck more than their opponents. Individual corsi counts the shots for and against while that player is on the ice. Stewart started the season off strong. For the first several games, Stewart was finishing with a corsi on the plus side (give or take a couple of bad games). As a result his cumulative corsi (the total corsi of all games played up to and including that point) was climbing. Then the November 23rd Dallas Stars game happened. Even though the Blues won 6-1 on home ice, Stewart ended the game with his lowest corsi at that point in time this season. After that a downward trend started. I included a rolling 10 game corsi (it is not a rolling average, just a rolling total) because it does a better job at showing streaks or evening out spikes than the game-by-game corsi or the cumulative corsi does. And you can see on the chart below (click on the Possession Problems tab) that his possession numbers just took a nose dive.
Sheltering Chris Stewart
Chris Stewart does have a habit of being streaky. It is almost as if he only plays when he wants to play. However, what bothered me the most when taking a look at his numbers was his player usage chart for this season. This season is the first season since playing with the Blues that he appears in the "sheltered" quadrant of the player usage chart. What does this mean? It means Hitchcock has been starting Stewart in the offensive zone more than thte defensive zone, and that Stewart has been playing against weaker competition. And yet despite all this, Stewart is still running negative possession numbers. That is kind of a problem. You need Chris Stewart to be dominating weaker opponents, especially when he gets the start in his own zone. But that hasn't been the case apparently. Unfortunately, I can't tell you which came first. Did Hitchcock start using Stewart in this capacity because he was confident in Stewart's offensive abilities and wanted to exploit opponents' weak players. Or did Hitchcock start playing him in this capacity because he saw that Stewart was a liability and he felt Stewart couldn't play against tougher competition?
With or Without Chris Stewart
So what kind of impact has Stewart's play had on his teammates this season? David Johnson runs the site Hockey Analysis. As part of that site ,he has put together an interesting analysis showing how teammates perform with or without another teammate on the ice. He calls them WOWY charts (With Or Without You). So using his WOWY data for Chris Stewart I put together an interactive version of this chart to show you two different impacts that Stewart has on his teammates. WOWY charts combine two stats: a player's goals for (or corsi for) percentage when they are on the ice with a specific teammate on the X axis and the player's goals for (or corsi for) percentage when they are on the ice without that same teammate on the Y axis. Since we are working with percentages anything over 50% is good and anything under 50% is bad. If you click on the "With or Without Stewart" in the tab below, you will see I've highlighted Derek Roy's bubble. Roy has the most ice time with Stewart out of any other teammate. And you can see that when Roy is with Stewart the Blues score more goals than their opponents, and when Roy isn't paired up with Stewart, the Blues score less goals than their opponents. However, if you change the stat to Corsi For % (the selection box is in the upper right of the chart) you will see that all of the sudden, Roy has much better possession without being paired up with Stewart than being paired up with him. In fact the only player that is over 50% for with and under 50% without is Roman Polak and the numbers are not that far from 50%.
Stewart can be an asset. He can score goals. He can be intimidating on the ice (I have no fancystat for "intimidation" I am just basing it on watching the games). However, his possession numbers and WOWY chart suggest that whatever goal scoring talent he brings to the team is being overshadowed by his not so great play overall right now. Could he be this season's David Perron? Maybe. But I hope not. I would like to see Stewart stick around in a Blue Note for a few more years.