Ennis vs. Afinogenov: Dispelling The Myth

There is a perception amongst many Sabres fans that comparisons of Tyler Ennis to Maxim Afinogenov are both appropriate and justifiable. While I haven’t been a fan long enough to speak to Afinogenov’s play on the ice, I can speak as to what the statistics from both of their Sabres’ careers show me. Is my suspicion that those comparisons are statistically invalid itself invalid? This is the question that I intend to answer for you.

First, I’ll discuss the nomenclature you will see in my charts and how I calculated certain statistics. I should note, however, that some of the statistics for Afinogenov have the fortunate, or unfortunate, problem of being slightly off. There were a few years where no statistics for hits, blocked shots, giveaways, and takeaways are available. Some are obviously going to work in his favour, and others will work against him; although the effect would likely not influence the results greatly. Most of my nomenclature should be obvious, but there are a few things that could be confusing. The yellow that you see in the charts indicates that they were the leader in a particular category.

  • GA: Giveaway
  • TA: Takeaway
  • TA/GA: Ratio of Takeaways to giveaways
  • % Diff: Ratio of the difference between takeaways and giveaways multiplied by 100. 100 X ((GA-TA)/TA)
  • GA/G: Giveaways Per Game
  • TA/G: Takeaways Per Game
  • P: Points
  • PPG: Points Per Game
  • G: Goals
  • GPG: Goals Per Game
  • A: Assists
  • APG: Assists Per Game
  • HPG: Hits Per Game
  • BS: Blocked Shots
  • BSPG: Blocked Shots Per Game
  • FO%: Faceoff percentage
  • TOI: Time on Ice
  • TTOI: Total TOI
  • TTPG: Total TOI Per Game
  • SH; Short Handed TOI
  • SHPG: Short Handed TOI Per Game
  • PP: Power Play TOI
  • PPPG: Power Play TOI Per Game

Since their careers are of different lengths most categories are normalised by the number of games played. Also note that Ennis’ statistics are based on a small sample size, so they are in all likelihood less than definitive. All of the statistics that I’ve utilised have been extracted from the NHL website. So without further ado, I present my four “myths” that one would likely draw their statistical comparisons from.

Myth 1: Ennis is a giveaway machine.

We’ve all heard the Ennis is a giveaway machine arguments; frankly I’m tired of hearing them. Is there are basis to these claims? I decided to look into this myth first since it seems to be the most prevalent justification for the comparison that people use.

Well folks, there you have it. It seems that thus far in his career Ennis isn’t the giveaway machine that people seem to see him as. In fact, for the seasons for which data is available, Afinogenov has no season for the Sabres where he did not have at least twice as many giveaways than takeaways. In his first 10 call-ups alone Ennis had more takeaways than giveaways. Myth 1: Busted.

Myth 2: They have similar point production.

While this really isn’t much of a myth, I thought that it would be a good idea to compare their production to see if they were similar in those aspects. After all, if people claim they are essentially one in the same one would expect their production to be about equal.

There might actually be some credibility to this particular myth. As you can see, they do have similar career point production, although Ennis’ is slightly higher. Ennis. I promise that I did not fudge Ennis’ statistics so that he would be at 0.63 PPG; it’s merely a shiny coincidence. Ennis’ point production in his rookie season was also 15 points higher than that of Afinogenov’s. Myth 2: Plausible.

Myth 3: They are both similar defensively.

Again, this one isn’t so much a myth as it is a curiosity of mine. It’s been said by many that one of the major differences between the two is that, unlike Afinogenov, Ennis isn’t afraid to go to the dirty areas. While I cannot speak to the validity of that argument from an intangible aspect, I can compare their defensive numbers. This is one of those areas where Afinogenov’s numbers would likely be higher if the data were available. Again, it’s unlikely that the number would be significantly effected.

It looks like there might be some truth to the claim that Afinogenov didn’t like to get to the dirty areas. His 52 blocked shots in 569 games with the Sabres is fairly indicative of that claim, in addition to a mere 115 hits. In comparison, Ennis’ hits and blocked shots came in just 92 games. Their +/- values aren’t even comparable. Afinogenov had 3 seasons in which he was a positive player. He had a career high of +19 in the ’06-’07 season when he had 61 points. For comparison, despite his career high 71 points in the previous season he finished as a +6. Ouch. Not exactly an exact comparison, but it certainly doesn’t help his case. Myth 3: Busted.

Myth 4: Similar time on ice.

My third myth that isn’t actually a myth. When I looked at their defensive statistics, Afinogenov’s terrible -26 rating had me perplexed. I thought that perhaps his TOI would contribute in some manner to that number; one could reasonably claim that more TOI could be the actual reason. Note: all TOI values are in minutes.

As it turns out, my suspicion regarding Afinogenov’s TOI was incorrect. While both players averaged about 0.04 minutes of short handed time per game, Ennis averaged slightly less than a minute more total TOI than Afinogenov per game. There are obviously many reasons that could account for Afinogenov’s terrible plus-minus rating, but it appears that TOI isn’t likely one of them. Myth 4: Busted (mostly).

My Thoughts:

I think the results of my analysis support my suspicion that the comparison of Ennis to Afinogenov is unjustified. I know that I won’t likely convince the crazy fans out there, but any logical fan can clearly see that the comparison is in no way statistically justified. Ennis is the clear winner in every category above (with the exception of the PPPG and SHPG statistics). Again, there is a much smaller statistical database for Ennis than there is for Afinogenov, so the results are likely skewed. Only time will tell what will happen to Ennis’ performance, but for the time being the argument that he is comparable to Afinogenov is nothing but incorrect. Haters gonna hate.


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8 responses to “Ennis vs. Afinogenov: Dispelling The Myth”

  1. Connor says :

    What about offsides on plays where they are on the ice? It is probably hard to track since they weren’t always the player called for offsides, but one of max’s problems was hesitating to enter the zone and causing his linemates or himself to eventually go offsides, I haven’t watched to see if ennis has this happen, but with the way they both like to skate with the puck it might be a fair comparison.

    • Aaron Orbaker says :

      I’m trying to remember if I’ve seen Ennis have this problem. I’d have to watch all of the games again to be able to quantify that particular aspect. Unfortunately, I don’t have the means to do that. I will, however, make a note to try and look for this next season.

  2. Mark says :

    Why is she holding a Coors Light and not a Labatts blue? I hate her 😉

  3. David says :

    Just FYI: goals allowed while playing short-handed do not count against a player’s +/-. I know that doesn’t change your argument and you did a good job. Max was never a penalty-killer anyway.

    I actually believe Max was a highly skilled player, easily the most skilled on the team, and it showed. When the RAV line was our third line, it was arguably the best line in the league. Max’s production trailed off substantially when the league shifted to a more physical style, and he was easily knocked off the puck (hence the giveaways). In addition, he lost his ability to finish his exciting rushes as he played against better defenders and played through injuries. In his final two years as a Sabre, Ruff had lost all faith in him and placed him with 4th-line linemates. This obviously killed any chances he had left at success – Max is not cut out for the checking or grit lines. He did well in Atlanta but never got another NHL deal. I wish him the best, he was one of my favorite Sabres. I remember watching from the 300 level as he blasted a puck by Lundqvist in OT of Game 5 of the 2007 Conference Semifinals – after being in Lindy’s doghouse for a while. He just dove across the ice in joy. You could tell his heart was with the team, even with all the grudges against him. Hell of a player in his prime days, hate to see his legacy so tarnished here.

    As for Ennis, he is a different type of player altogether. His skating is similar, and his skill-set is arguably similar, but his abilities to finish and to play the physical and defensive aspects of the game are leaps and bounds better. Ennis is a very exciting young player and should earn a spot on the top line within the next two seasons. I agree that the comparisons to Max are unfair and thank you for the statistical analysis to back up that claim.

  4. AhNuts says :

    Stats aren’t going to show why people compare Ennis to Afinogenov.

    They compare the two because Ennis frequently makes flashy, speedy moves, but then nothing comes from it. He makes a move like he is going to break around the defender, but then he just gets pinched against the wall.

    The difference between the two is that Ennis actually manages to hold onto the puck and pass it to someone else after his move failed. Afinogenov would cough the puck up. Basically, a lot of us are happy that Ennis doesn’t cough the puck up, but we just wish he would break around the defender instead of getting pinched and settling for a pass. He would have scored more than 20 last year if he had done so.

    • Aaron Orbaker says :

      I’m not saying that those comparisons aren’t applicable. It’s the “turnover machine” argument that I take issue with, the remainder of the statistics are to show that they aren’t statistically similar.

  5. Alex Kaluzny says :

    Ennis and Myers are the only two on the 2010-11 team that could even carry the puck in the zone without using the dump and chase…

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