The Hockey Club Chemistry ClassPeering into the chemistry found between Marlies linemates.
by Clayton Hansler
May 17, 2012
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Like you, I've spent a good number of hours pouring over statistics.
I'm talking every digit you could imagine.
From rookie season goal totals to penalty minutes in major junior. I've allowed my eyes to peruse plus/minus ratings in the playoffs and average ice time during NHL stints. I've compared face-off stats, penalty kill rates and goals scored while four-on-four.
One digit I cannot find ranked in a column, however, is that of chemistry. It's an unquantifiable bond that propels lines to heights greater than the sum of their parts (how's that for a literary plug).
I'll be honest, it was a subject I dropped out of twice in high school. In place of the science credit I opted for the more recreational phys. ed class or the dramatics of theatre arts. Chemistry was never my strong suit.
Thankfully it didn't take much more than a google search to understand the meaning of a covalent bond between hydrogen and oxygen atoms. You see, what the hydrogen lacked, the oxygen made up for. The trio of atoms form a first-line molecule filling your bench-side bottle or resurfacing the frozen rink top with the most refreshing of liquids; water.
There, now you're three minutes smarter.
In hockey, chemistry is what helped lift a growing Blackhawks team to Stanley Cup glory, it pushed an ill-fated Senators club into the recent NHL post-season and has carried this rendition of the Marlies squad through 44 regular season victories and swiftly moved them past two rounds of playoff action in less time than any other AHL team.
Some of the on-ice spark may be as a result of a mentorship stretching past the bounds of this season.
Dallas Eakins placed Nazem Kadri and Mike Zigomanis on a line together in February of 2011 with hopes that some of the finer details of the game would translate from the championship winning veteran to the then-rookie. In the final three games, lined up all in a row, prior to Kadri's recall to the Leafs and Zigomanis' season-ending injury, the two were on the ice together for seven goals.
Now take it one step further.
Being on the ice together is great, but even I have received an easy plus-one (I forged out a meagre men's league career based on strictly that ability).
Through the 76 games that brought the Marlies to a division title and a second-seeded playoff appearance, the efforts of the vegan and the Leafs' seventh overall selection produced 12 goals where they were both awarded a point. Each one part of the final three touches before the puck found its way across the goal line.
Where the Ralph Macchio / Pat Morita relationship worked for Zigomanis and Kadri, it was more of a Russ Tyler and Jesse Hall chemistry that has sparked Jerry D'Amigo and Greg Scott (five points to anyone who can figure out those references).
I'm hard pressed to find out when exactly they came together, perhaps on the wings of former captain Alex Foster, but when paired on this year's penalty kill the connection could not be ignored; the top unit of the league's leading shorthanded squad. Chemistry leaked into all areas of their play together. Ranking as the team's second most productive pair, Scott and D'Amigo appeared on the scoresheet together 15 times.
They both posted career-best seasons.
Now if it not be by respectful relationship or similar skill set that chemistry sows together two individuals, it can be mind set and determination that breed the perfect pairing.
Long-time leaders, whether on this team or another, Ryan Hamilton and Zigomanis combine to be the team's most productive duo. Dictated by tireless effort and displayed by letters sown onto the front of their jersey, the pairing of captain and alternate lead the team individually in goals and points, and together in evident productivity.
Ranking just outside the top-ten, the Marlies finished the season with 217 goals. One in every ten of those was as a result of the chemistry between Hamilton and Zigomanis. Twenty-four times they combined for two of the possible three points in a goal. Of their combined 112 points, 48 of them were as a result of their efforts together.
Now tell me that this innate ability to sense the other's actions doesn't factor into line combinations.
The perfection of this method of determining the strength of team members is flawed by the present inability to include defenseman. The team's bench boss won't blink twice before outlining the importance of the unspoken understanding Korbinian Holzer and Mark Fraser have on the ice; the two responsible for shutting down the Abbotsford's offence like nobody's business. But the ability to ascertain the connection players have can be used to determine projected scoring, plot potential trades, or when to rise from your seat when attending game three of the Western Conference Finals.
I may not have been very good at it in school, but I know it when I see it.
Other Combinations of Note:
Deschamps and Dupuis who appeared side-by-side on ten goals although playing approximately a half season together.
Pivotal centremen Joe Colborne and Zigomanis were written down together on ten goals, making Zigomanis a key component in three of the team's top five scoring combos.
Marcel Mueller and Kadri have come together for ten goals.
Of the 18 skaters used to compile these stats, Simon Gysbers was the only one to have appeared on the scoresheet with all of them.