It took a while for Travis Sanheim to find his way onto the Philadelphia Flyers roster. It took even more time for him to find a stable role. With each passing game this season, however, Sanheim has proven that he is ready for more responsibility on the ice. It has become even more noticeable with the play of Ivan Provorov.
While Provorov is not playing badly, it is clear that something is not right with the young defensemen. Taking away some of his on-ice responsibilities could help Provorov find his consistent play again. There would be no better player to give some of it to than Travis Sanheim.
Travis Sanheim Is Ready For A Bigger Role
While the team itself has not fared well recently, one can look at Travis Sanheim’s recent play as a positive. With four points in his last five games, the defenseman once known for his offence is beginning to turn it on. Sanheim has already reached his career high in points 30 games into the season. His three goals are a career high as well, though he only appeared in 49 games last season.
Set to play a full season in the NHL, now is the perfect time to see how much responsibility Sanheim can handle. With fellow defenseman Ivan Provorov struggling, balancing out their roles on the ice could be beneficial to both of them.
Struggles Aplenty For Provorov
Beginning with ice time, it is clear to see that Provorov is head and shoulders above the rest of the defence. That is no surprise for a number one defenseman, though. But is that role becoming too much for Provorov? No other defenseman comes close to near the 25 minutes of ice time Provorov typically has per game recently.
Earlier this month, Alexander Appleyard of The Athletic pointed about a few stats about Provorov’s usage at that point in the season. He also pointed out a trend over the last few seasons with players who have averaged similar stat lines.
224 @NHL defensemen have played 100+ TOI 5v5 this yr.
0/4 have over 50% Corsi or 49% ExGF
Impossible to “excel” with that usage. #Flyers
— Alexander Appleyard (@avappleyard) December 4, 2018
Furthermore, over last 4 @NHL seasons, only 12 defensemen have played:
29.5 TOI QoC+
50.2 Corsi QoC+
in full yr, average results?
0.7 5v5 P/60
0/12 ever managed over 48.5% Corsi. Good Dmen too.
Expecting Provorov to excel=unrealistic. #Flyers
— Alexander Appleyard (@avappleyard) December 4, 2018
Now simply taking away Provorov’s ice time is not going to be the answer to everything. But taking away some of his responsibilities on the ice can help. And the easiest place to start would be the power play.
Move Sanheim To The Second Unit
The power play has never been a bright spot for Provorov. During his three year career, Provorov has only been on the ice for 17 power play goals while 82 have been scored against the team while he is on the ice. He has only posted 10 total points while on the second unit. With his struggles, this season, continuing to force him into a role he is clearly not good at will only hurt him in the end.
This is where Sanheim comes in. First looking at all situations among defensemen, Sanheim has the second best possession numbers. He sits behind Shayne Gostisbehere in Corsi for with a 55.89 Corsi-For percentage and a +5.91 relative Corsi. Now Provorov is near the bottom with a 46.15 CF% and a -8.5 Rel CF%.
When factoring role and ice time, Provorov is typically on the ice against tougher competition, however. Provorov has about 747.33 total minutes of ice time while Sanheim has 480.42. The disparity in ice time only continues when looking at the power play. Provorov has 54.25 minutes compared to Sanheim’s 24.97 minutes.
Sanheim does have a power play assist, however, while Provorov has no points. The possession numbers also favour Sanheim. Again, the sample size is small. But it is a good place to start. Sanheim’s limited power play numbers show he has been able to handle himself when on the ice.
Giving Sanheim a chance on the team’s second unit can help in multiple ways. It takes the responsibility off of Provorov’s shoulders and allows him to excel where he does best. It also rewards Sanheim for his play on the ice.
Sanheim Shining In All Categories
When comparing Sanheim to other defensemen around the league, he shines in more than one category. Among defensemen who have played at least 400 minutes at 5v5, Sanheim ranks 14th in Corsi-For percentage and eight overall in relative Corsi. His primary points per 60 minutes sees him ranked seventh in the league, while his expected goals against is the best in the league at just 13.83.
The numbers have Sanheim in the conversation with defensemen such as Kris Letang, Victor Hedman, and Erik Karlsson. While he is not on the same level as those three defenders yet, Sanheim is showing that his numbers this season are on par with high-quality defensemen.
It is worth it to reward Sanheim for what he has been able to do on the ice this season. Among the 130 defensemen with at least 400 minutes of 5v5 ice time, Sanheim has the 12th lowest time on ice. That makes his numbers that much more impressive.
The power play sample size is a small one for Sanheim, but that should not stop the Flyers from giving him a chance to excel. Sanheim has shown he is not one to back down from a challenge. The added responsibility shows confidence in a player who is excelling in most other defensive categories. Changing up the power play units may also kick-start a team who has mostly stalled in said situation.
It is time to reward Travis Sanheim for his play. It may also end up helping the Flyers number one defensemen in the process.
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