By all accounts, last season was truly remarkable in a lot of ways; particularly the playoffs. This season has, by most accounts, been a bust. So, the question, Wilderness, is whether or not last season was as stellar as we remember, and if this season has been as awful as it seems.
Off the bat, the first issue is that last season is caught up in memories of the playoffs. By most accounts, Haula was stellar there. In order to increase our sample size for last season, I'm going to include the playoffs.
Firstly, let's look at Haula's usage last season, last playoffs, and now in the regular season. On all of these, the x-axis is zone starts, the y-axis is the quality of competition (relative to the rest of the Wild). The color of the bubble indicates their Corsi %Rel, and the size of the bubble is how extreme their CF%Rel is (blue is good, red is bad).
As we can see, last season (in the regular season) Haula played relatively moderate zone-starts, but against some of the easiest competition of any Wild player. That said, he also had a slightly positive CF%Rel. So, he had a good impact on possession with very middling zone starts, but easy competition.
In the playoffs, he continued to drive possession, despite having more defensive zone starts and against some of the most difficult competition of all the Wild. As our memories tell us, Haula played quite well, and not against easy opponents (relative to his teammates).
Secondly, the Minnesota Wild are a better possession team this year than they were last year. Even if Haula remained the same in terms of controlling play, the bar has moved up, and what once was better than average is now worse than average.
The combination of worse shooting luck and worse goaltending led to a collapse of Haula's PDO- the metric gained by adding shooting and save percentages. Essentially, PDO measures luck; below 100, you're unlucky; above 100, you're lucky. Paula was very lucky last season, and not lucky at all this season.
Interestingly, Haula's CF% was only slightly worse this year than last. The increase in the Wild's ability to possess the puck likely did the rest to get Haula's CF%Rel down to -2.3. It's worth noting that a -2.3 CF%Rel is far from terrible; it's not good, but nor is it bad.
Ultimately, Haula appears to be basically the same player he was last season. The differences lie in two major places: his luck and the goalies. Haula had some poor luck in his shooting, and his goalies didn't... well... play goalie.
There is, of course, the unanswered question regarding Haula's early-season fitness. If that was an issue, it didn't last long, as he played pretty much identically to last year, but with worse zone starts and against harder competition.
Perhaps next year will be the year Haula breaks out. Till then, we merely have to wait and see.
As always, a big thanks goes out to Some Kind of Ninja and War on Ice for the stats in this article.
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