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Paul Byron's hidden value: With or without you

WOWY stats help analyze how well certain players perform together. The NHL doesn't track them yet, which is a shame for Paul Byron: because he's really, really good at making his teammates better.

Derek Leung/Getty Images

Paul Byron is the last remnant from the Robyn Regehr trade, and he may very well have been the most important part. While Chris Butler had a less than stellar time as a replacement on defence - and, in fact, has experienced struggles even staying in the NHL since leaving the Flames - Byron has established himself as a major leaguer.

At first glance, a few things are readily apparent about him: he's small, he's fast, he's fluid. Byron has missed a number of games due to injury, which has played a part in him being unable to find a steady place in the lineup, or have consistent linemates.

Here's the thing, though: not having consistent linemates hasn't hurt him. In fact, it's benefited a number of other Flames, as there's one thing Byron tends to do that isn't immediately obvious: he makes his teammates better.

2014-15 season WOWYs

byron 2014-15 wowy cf

Of the 11 Flames to play at least 100 even strength minutes with Byron this past season - from Dennis Wideman's 258:06 to Joe Colborne's 104:41 - all but one of them had greater possession stats with than without him. Raphael Diaz is the only outlier.

The Flames, a notoriously poor possession team at just 44.5% CF, saw two players actually drive the play forward when partnered with Byron for a substantial period of time: former Flame Curtis Glencross, and current hope for the future Sean Monahan.

Even if other players didn't break the 50% CF mark with Byron, they still saw a notable improvement. And that's not all: they did it despite playing in more difficult circumstances.

byron 2014-15 wowy ozone

Ten of the 11 Flames Byron spent the most time with on the ice in the 2014-15 season not only posted better possession stats with him, but did it in worse zone start circumstances. They aren't the same player - Diaz was the only player to perform worse with Byron, and Deryk Engelland is the only player to have started more frequently in the offensive zone with Byron than without him - but it still tells a pretty clear tale.

Even though, when away from Byron, players tended to start in the offensive zone more frequently - a position that should see them post better corsi stats, as they're already closer to the opponent's net than their own - they still performed better when sharing the ice with Byron. That includes their increase in defensive zone starts, a far more difficult place to play from that should, in theory, negatively impact a player's corsi.

With Byron, that wasn't an issue. This past season, players who played with him saw greater performance in more difficult circumstances.

And it doesn't just go for the 2014-15 season: this is something that has happened throughout Byron's (albeit, short to date) career.

Byron's career WOWYs

byron career wowy cf

When we increase the amount of time spent with Byron, spread out over all 130 NHL games he's played for the Flames, things become less uniform. Of the 13 players who played more than 150 combined even strength minutes with Byron over this time, seven of them saw improved performance with him, while five posted better numbers away (six if you count Mark Giordano, but the difference is only two-tenths of a percent).

It's not as impressive as his numbers over just this past season, but still, it's impressive: Byron has helped the majority of teammates he's played with. He helped two - TJ Brodie and Mike Cammalleri - become positive possession players, without inhibiting Giordano and Mikael Backlund's already-there status without him. Only Matt Stajan needed Byron away from him to be a positive possessin player.

This, however, still doesn't take their circumstances of play into note.

byron career wowy ozone

The five players who had noticeably better possession numbers away from Byron - Kris Russell, Wideman, Ladislav Smid, Stajan, and Engelland - all had easier zone starts when away from him as well; Russell, in particular. Even Giordano, who was marginally better separated from Byron, faced far easier zone starts when not playing with him.

In short: Giordano is the Flames' best player, and he was almost as good in more difficult circumstances with Byron as he was in easier situations without him.

This isn't even taking into account that Backlund, Monahan, Colborne, and Markus Granlund all performed better with Byron over the course of his career than without him, all the while taking heavier zone starts.

The stats aren't uniform across the board, nor should they be expected to be. But over 130 games as a Flame, an increasingly clear picture of Byron is being painted: he makes his teammates better.

And he is likely still getting better himself.

When Byron is on the ice, he and his teammates are more likely to be driving the play. That's all you can really ask of a depth player, and a major factor in what makes him particularly valuable. His presence benefits everybody.