Last summer, the Flames chose not to qualify Paul Byron initially and we all shook our heads in disbelief. It provided them some leverage, specifically avoiding arbitration for the team since Byron had a career year. With his one year $600K deal in tow, Byron had a decent season.
Injuries derailed portions of the season for Paul and, coupled with some periods of inconsistency, maligned the 26-year-old. That also included ending the season with a hernia, a broken toe, and a wrist injury. Despite all that there is so much more to the pint-sized forward who plays with the ferocity of someone three times his size.
Beyond the easy numbers to look at lies a player who is of the breed of the new bottom-six forward. Unlike a number of his cohorts in Calgary's bottom six, he has been able to create success for the team, and the team has benefited from it greatly.
On the PK - Where Byron calls home
Lil' Pauly managed to finish fourth on the team in SH TOI/GP (Average SH TOI per game) at 1:18 per game. His 74:46 of SH TOI also had him fourth among forwards only behind Lance Bouma, Matt Stajan, and Mikael Backlund. Hartley's trust in using him on the PK was justified completely as he fared quite well while killing penalties, as shown by the data below.
2014-15 scoring chances for/against data while on the penalty kill sorted by SCA60 (scoring chances against per 60):
What does this all mean for the non-stats driven fan?
- Of the most used forwards, Byron was moderately effective in scoring chances against. This means Byron is somewhat preventative in shutting down the opposition. Others were chomping at the bit, especially Josh Jooris, who is worth nothing again.
- Relative to the rest of the team (SCF%Rel), he was more successful at generating chances while shorthanded. His individual scoring chances (iSC) was the best on the team while on the PK: another factor in the case to keep him around.
Thanks to War On Ice adding more data, we can go even further into scoring chance information. High danger scoring chances are in the home plate/high danger area near the net which yields the highest chance of resulting in a goal. Breaking this down adds more context to player impact in different situations.
All data sorted by HSCA60 smallest to largest:
This is the one area where there are some concerns that are noticeable in Byron's game, though it may be systemic to his style of play and usage. Byron is among the bottom performers in regards to HSCA on the PK. Given you see Mikael Backlund down there as well could be evidence that slight adjustments to deployment and systems may be needed.
There are some positive evidence to all of this, though. There is a slight trade off for guys like Backlund and Byron where you can see positive gains (driving play while shorthanded), but run the risk of giving up some more high-danger situations. If the goal of the kill is to hopefully dictate the pace, control play as much as you can outside of your own zone, and find ways to create chances then there is ample discussion to be had about Byron in this regard. He, like a scant few, excel in this area.
Finally, let's examine the world of shot attempts for and against while killing penalties. Spoiler: Paul Byron is great at shot suppression. Data sorted from smallest to largest in FA60 and CA60 columns:
- Byron was among the top three on the penalty kill in shot attempt suppression. More specifically the FA60 (Fenwick Against per 60) is what excites me most. Finding ways to limit and suppress shots and missed shots can help limit second and third chances, which allows more control for Calgary.
- He was among the best at generating shot attempts FOR while killing penalties, too: something that should be considered a valuable asset. For a team that was unable to find consistent and sustainable play at even strength, small gains while on special teams make significant differences.
Even Strength - The Brave Little Toaster of possession
Byron has stood out over the last few seasons in the stats community as being a quiet but capable guy who brings a legitimate, positive impact while on the ice. As we see below, the bang for the buck on Byron's contract really worked out nicely, as bottom six forwards like him are a commodity.
All data filtered and sorted by minimum 200 ES minutes played, CA60/FA60 (smallest to largest):
What does this all mean to the non-stats loving fan?
- Paul Byron is a fantastic shot suppression forward in every regard. Notice a trend with certain names? Jooris, Byron, and Backlund are all guys you want on a team. They're a group of gentlemen who are crucial to keeping teams afloat.
- Byron is a decent shot attempt generator, too, on a team that struggled. You can see in the CF%/FF% and CF%off/FF%off columns Byron's impact on and off the ice (CF Rel%/FF Rel%). Having Byron in the line-up and playing is key to finding success on the ice.
- It's worth noting that he generates more shot attempts (CF60 and FF60) than the likes of Joe Colborne (noticing a pattern with Colborne?).
One final note on Byron's shot suppression abilities, as I think it clearly speaks for itself:
With the league evolving and the usage of skill over size and intangibles being a focal point in your bottom six, why not use more Paul Byrons? Size can be a factor, but if you're not using it correctly to benefit your team (cough Joe Colborne cough), then is it really more valuable overall? The emphasis should be put on designing a roster that can compete night in and night out.
Keep in mind, he can throw hits that can be used effectively:
Asset management and long-term planning
Getting Byron on a cheap deal around $800K to $1.2M for two years would put the Flames in a perfect spot for the contract situation(s) coming up in the next few years. Injuries and spells of inconsistencies have hit him recently, and this gives the team bargaining power when negotiating. The skills that he provides are the perfect things to augment a growing core that needs players who can drive play.
A cheap deal on a relatively manageable term gives the team flexibility if young forwards can step up and potentially make Byron expendable. Continuing with that thought, players like Paul Byron can be moved at the trade deadline to contenders/buyers for a premium. This allows the Flames to hypothetically turn a "profit" in this potential circumstance.
All data used from War on Ice and NHL.com