Rob Vollman, author of Hockey Abstract, originally created player usage charts as a way to visually demonstrate how a coach is deploying his players on the ice throughout the season. The concept is simple. The x axis is the percentage of times a player starts in the offensive zone. In other words, is the coach deploying the player in defensive situations or offensive situations. The y axis is the relative corsi of the competition the players face when on the ice. In other words, is the coach deploying the player against the opponent's stronger or weaker players. Others contributions to the player usage chart include sizing the bubbles by the player's time on ice and including a player's corsi as a color. The full explanation, including the history of the development of the chart, can be found in Vollman's Hockey Abstract. If you have any interest in hockey stats (fancy or otherwise) you should go buy it and read it. Now!
I re-created a very basic version of the interactive player usage chart for this article. For the full version, you should go to Vollman's Hockey Abstract site. The full version let's you chose individual players, multiple teams, positions, and chose different stats for the y axis and bubble color. You can also view a player's usage over the course of their NHL career.
In the version below I have highlighted three players of interest so far this season: Steen, Backes, and Ott. Steen has remained on the first line while Backes transitioned to the second line and Ott remains a fourth line player. Of course, this was all pre-injuries. Also, whether you love it or hate it, Hitchcock never sticks with his original lines. Last season's player usage chart had Backes and Steen squarely in the "shut-down" quadrant of the chart (defensive zone deployments against tougher competition) and they both had positive corsi. Ott was in the "less-sheltered" quadrant seeing defensive zone starts against weaker competition.
This season's usage for these three players is significantly different. Backes, so far this season, is on the border between shut-down and less-sheltered and his possession is in the dark orange (negative). Ott finds himself in the shut-down zone. He isn't seeing as much ice time as some of the others in that quadrant, and his possession is in the negative. However, I think even if you dislike Ott, you cannot disagree that he is a somewhat different player this season.
You can click on a player's name in the dataviz below to highlight them in the chart. Hold down the control key to select multiple players at a time. What are some of your thoughts about how Hitchcock has deployed the Blues during the first part of the season?