Evaluating the defence pairings

Jonathan Willis
December 24 2008 08:23AM

In the post below I examine the match-ups that each set of forwards and defence met against Phoenix. We’ve seen enough of the defence pairings to have a bit of a track record, so I thought I’d compare the pairings MacTavish/Huddy are rolling out now (37-71, 44-77, 5-24) versus the ones they started the season with (71-44, 37-77, 43-24), and see how each defenceman fared. All numbers are at even strength (GF = goals for, GA = goals against, SF = shots for, SA = shots against). Defencemen are considered in order of average even-strength ice-time.

Lubomir Visnovsky

With Grebeshkov –- 12GF/4GA, 101SF/94SA

With Souray -- 6GF/8GA, 126SF/118SA

With Others –- 4GF/2GA, 57SF/47SA

Totals –- 22GF/14GA, 284SF/259SA

Visnovsky has consistently good totals with every partner. That said, his recent success with Grebeshkov seems a little bit suspect; there’s a decent shot margin in their favour, but not a good enough margin to warrant outscoring the opposition 3:1. The goal-scoring numbers with Souray don’t look great; that said, the shooting margin was still quite good. I think Visnovsky is clearly the Oilers most effective defender at getting the puck moving in the right direction. It isn’t every day that a player of this quality is available for players like Matt Greene and Jarret Stoll.

Sheldon Souray

With Gilbert -– 12GF/9GA, 110SF/121SA

With Visnovsky -– 6GF/8GA, 126SF/118SA

With Others –- 3GF/1GA, 26SF/40SA

Totals –- 21GF/18GA, 252SF/259SA

The shooting numbers are best with Visnovsky, while the goal scoring numbers are best with Gilbert. I’d strongly argue that Souray and Visnovsky is the most dominant pairing possible, but also that being played with Gilbert hasn’t been bad, and may be the best case scenario for distributing the difference makers.

Tom Gilbert

With Souray –- 12GF/9GA, 110SF/121SA

With Grebeshkov –- 6GF/11GA, 100SF/91SA

With Others -– 5GF/3GA, 43SF/56SA

Totals –- 23GF/23GA, 253SF/267SA

Tom Gilbert failed to put up good totals with Denis Grebeshkov, although he likely would have. Still, given that they were being used almost exclusively in offensive situations, the 100/91 outshooting ratio isn’t as impressive as it really should be. Gilbert’s breaking even right now, and given the performance of the team as a whole, that’s probably a respectable outcome.

Denis Grebeshkov

With Visnovsky –- 12GF/4GA, 101SF/94SA

With Gilbert –- 6GF/11GA, 100SF/91SA

With Others –- 2GF/2GA, 12SF/18SA

Totals –- 20GF/17GA, 213SF/203SA

Grebeshkov, despite looking every bit like a chaos defender out there, has had a good season so far. He’s one of those defencemen who looks really bad when he makes a crazy play, but the ratio of crazy plays to good passes is actually very low. If we assume the Oilers can only really afford to pay three defencemen, than one of the current top four is on his way out of town. Depending on their relative trade values, if Grebeshkov would be willing to sign long-term at reasonable money, it might be worth trading Gilbert.

Steve Staios

With Smid -– 2GF/1GA, 70SF/65SA

With Strudwick -– 5GF/9GA, 67SF/127SA

With Others –- 6GF/4GA, 33SF/37SA

Totals –- 13GF/14GA, 173SF/229SA

Steve Staios is incredibly lucky to be anywhere near even in goals for and against. That said, he’s also incredibly unlucky to have been saddled with Jason Strudwick for so long. With Strudwick, Staios gets outshot 2:1. Without Strudwick, Staios is actually on the ice for more shots for than against. It may be premature to say that Staios is done; his results without Strudwick so far this season haven’t been half bad.

Ladislav Smid

With Staios -– 2GF/1GA, 70SF/65SA

With Strudwick -– 0GF/0GA, 15SF/23SA

With Others –- 2GF/1GA, 30SF/22SA

Totals –- 4GF/2GA, 115SF/110SA

Smid’s getting more bounces for than against, but he’s been a low-event guy so far. Of course, most of that is probably connected to his outrageously high on-ice save percentage (.982) and outrageously low on-ice shooting percentage (3.5%), but while he’s on the ice, the puck is moving in the right direction. Outside of some time with Strudwick, with Smid on the ice the Oilers have outshot their opponents 100:87. Those are very good numbers; there’s absolutely no excuse not to dress Smid every game from here on out, and the coaching staff’s decision to scratch him early looks like a mistake in retrospect.

Jason Strudwick

With Staios –- 5GF/9GA, 67SF/127SA

With Smid –- 0GF/0GA, 15SF/23SA

With Others –- 2GF/1GA, 12SF/24SA

Totals –- 7GF/10GA, 94SF/174SA

Jason Strudwick is not an NHL defenceman. The bounces have been good to him –- high on-ice save percentage and shooting percentage are the only thing that has kept him from being lit-up in GF/GA numbers. He may not even belong on the fourth line as a forward, except in a fighting capacity –- although the fourth line has outscored its opponents 2:1 with Strudwick on it, they’ve been outshot 11:5. At some point, it’s obvious where the problem is: in virtually every situation (the sole exception being while paired with Smid), Strudwick and his linemates have been outshot 2:1. I’m sure he’s a great guy off the ice (the fact that teams keep picking him up is a strong argument in favour of his character), and his road through professional hockey hasn’t been easy (over 1,000 PIM in 668 professional games), but he simply isn’t helping this team on the ice at this point.

On a Slightly Different Note

Last year, Matt Greene wasn’t doing much for the Oilers. He was drawing third pairing minutes and, while not getting killed, really wasn’t adding much value. As a result, I suggested that the 25-year-old was not likely to turn into Jason Smith or a similar shut-down defender any time soon.

Greene’s results this year have been incredible. He’s drawn top assignments for a lousy Los Angeles Kings team (for example, in the Kings last game, Greene drew the assignment of checking Henrik Zetterberg, Marian Hossa, and Dan Cleary) and not only is he holding his own, but he’s excelling. The Kings have outscored the opposition 24:20 with Greene on the ice, and outshot them 259:240.

Player development isn’t linear, and at this point it appears that Matt Greene has taken an exponential leap.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Milli
December 24 2008, 08:55AM
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I miss Greene's mean streak. Bet he's loving LA LA LAND!!!!

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#2 Jonathan Willis
December 24 2008, 09:03AM
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Well, you can only run so many young defensemen. I still prefer Smid to Greene.

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#3 Ssseth
December 24 2008, 09:25AM
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I'm glad to see MacT (hopefully) has realized that Smid is a much better option that Struds.

About Greene, all I can say is wow... amazing his development this year. I'm happy for him.

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#4 Fiveandagame
December 24 2008, 09:40AM
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Those numbers on Smid are very encouraging. I really like this player. When we got him for CFP he was a lanky 190lbs and has put on 35lbs of muscle since then. He can skate, move the puck and has a mean streak.

With both Grebs and Smid in Contract years it looks as though we're going to have to choose one. Although if we lose Staios and bring up Pekham it does give us the possibllity of signing both.

Strudwicks numbers were also alarming. Given the way he plays the game I would have never thought his numbers would be that bad. I think he is a great guy in the dressing room and loves playing here. Having him as the 7th d in the press box for the remainder of the year wouldn't be a bad thing.

Great article Jonathan. Lets hope that the OIler brass are looking at the same numbers.

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#5 Cam
December 24 2008, 10:17AM
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Great Article Jonathan.

I was sad to see the numbers for Strudwick, since he is a pretty good guy, and he also beat the snot out of Carcillo which is always a good thing.

I think Smid is a good hard nosed defensemen, though he doesn't seem to get much credit for that from most people I talk to. I think it's cause he has a baby face. He needs a few more scars or something. Maybe he should look at growing a mullet and some five oclock shadow (though I fear it would take him a month to grow it).

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#6 Jonathan Willis
December 24 2008, 10:22AM
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Cam wrote:

I was sad to see the numbers for Strudwick, since he is a pretty good guy, and he also beat the snot out of Carcillo which is always a good thing.

That was a heck of a fight, and good to see. I've got to give Carcillo credit, though- there aren't a lot of those ditry-ish players that are willing to back up their actions.

Cam wrote:

I think Smid is a good hard nosed defensemen, though he doesn’t seem to get much credit for that from most people I talk to.

He's definitely picking it up. Huddy's done some interesting things with the defense combinations this year, and of the guys deployed in largely defensive situations, only Souray compares with Smid. I'm very curious to see if Steve Staios has a strong second-half after being paired with a more effective partner.

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#7 oilerdago
December 24 2008, 10:56AM
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Great article Jonathan. I too am very encouraged by the progress of Smid - while it's hard, it just shows again the need to be patient with young defensemen.

Interesting that you throw out the name of Gilbert as possible trade bait. My thinking has been that to get something quality coming back, we'd probably have to give up Grebs because his contract is more attractive. While I like Gilbert a lot, I think trading him could help create more roster flexibility next year (i.e. a scoring forward).

Am just hoping that we've seen the end of the Strudgwick on D experiment. Would seem to make more sense that if there's another injury on the blue line we'd be better off giving the minutes to Peckham and keeping Struds on the 4th line.

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#8 OvenChicken8
December 24 2008, 11:04AM
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I really like the blog JW, and I agree and disagree with you on Strudwick. At the beginning of the year he seemed to be our most consistent defensive minded D-man. Which would be the reason why he has played so many games this year instead of Smid. But your numbers don't lie, so maybe with Smid picking his game up we keep Strudwick on the 4th line. I agree he isn't really NHL quality up front but he is a character player and will deal with punks like Carcillo.

Here's a question, with Smid playing much better on the back end what do you do on forward when you have a 4th line that could have Stortini, Strudwick and/or MacIntyre?

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#9 Adam Dyck
December 24 2008, 11:09AM
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I always liked Greene, and it's good to see he's succesful these days.

Interesting numbers. On paper, Souray/Visnovsky almost seemed like a bit of a disaster, too much offence and not enough defence. It's a good thing we have stats guys to show us how these things actually work.

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#10 Jonathan Willis
December 24 2008, 11:14AM
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OvenChicken8 wrote:

Here’s a question, with Smid playing much better on the back end what do you do on forward when you have a 4th line that could have Stortini, Strudwick and/or MacIntyre?

Honestly, I'm not sure. Right now that 4th line seems to be clicking (except ofr that shooting rate) but they've been together for such a short time that any kind of statistical read is prone to sample-size error.

If I were the coach, I wouldn't keep all three. I like Stortini as the 13th forward (although with how he's been playing it's hard to take him out of the lineup), and I like MacIntyre in the top-12 solely for the purpose of double-shifting Hemsky and half-shifting MacIntyre.

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#11 misfit
December 24 2008, 11:21AM
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Another thing that doesn't get mentioned a whole lot is the effect the forwards have on driving these results.

While Souray/Gilbert may get the Iginla assignment against Calgary (I don't know this to be true, but I suspect it probably is), so do Horcoff and Hemsky. Staios and Smid/Strudwick are facing the lower tier opponents, they're also doing it when the kids are on the ice for the most part. With 4 forward lines and only 3 defence pairings, it's impossible to have 5-man line combos, but coaches do try to do it as much as they can. It also makes it a lot easier to judge forwards based on this metric as they usually have more consistant linemates and matchups over the course of a game.

I think a lot of the discrepancy between Greene's underlying numbers from last year to this one has a lot to do with who else is sharing his assignments on the ice, and not just his own personal growth as a player.

I don't know how much sense this post made. I've been posting it basically one sentence at a time over the last few hours since I got to work, and I haven't bothered to read over it.

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#12 Jonathan Willis
December 24 2008, 11:23AM
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@ Adam Dyck:

I missed the boat on Souray - this season he's having so far is easily the best of his career; the offensive presence he showed in Montreal with a better defensive presence than he's shown anywhere else. Honestly, I think MacTavish, Huddy & Co. have done a terrific job playing him to his strengths (cycle-busting, with a capable passer, etc.) and it's great to see.

Dan Barnes wrote a nice article about Souray that's available online today, and I love the guy's attitude:

"For me, it's about getting better, getting in the top 20 defencemen and being ranked there, not the top four or five," he said, obviously not putting much stock in this season's stats just yet. "Mac always talks about realistic goals. For me, if I can eat minutes up, be dependable, provide offence, then I'm doing my job.

"People look at the money," said Souray. "The Oilers gave me a chance, they gave me the money and I have a certain responsibility because of it. I'm a veteran getting paid well. More is expected." (bolding mine)

I think most of the stats crew missed the boat on him; and people in general got fixated on his last season in Montreal for good or for bad. I wasn't looking at either of those numbers from his last year in Montreal because a) the offense was off the charts and b) he'd never been so porous defensively before. This summer I figured him as a good bottom-pairing EV defenseman and a very good special teams player. So far, he's been a very good second pairing defenseman (lots of minutes, but he isn't playing the shut-down role consistently; Huddy used him there early on but has since reverted to last year's "shut-down by committee" approach) and a revelation as an offensive player.

If he can keep this play up, he's easily worth his contract.

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#13 Jonathan Willis
December 24 2008, 11:26AM
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@ misfit:

It's true, and that's sometimes difficult to account for with defensemen. On the Oilers it's a little easier, because Huddy seems to like a "by-committee" approach with this set of defensemen, so they all see a fairly evenish smattering of forwards both for and against.

On-ice save percentage, for example, is driven almost entirely by forwards and not by the defenseman, which makes a ton of sense - Ilya Kovalchuk probably doesn't score on a lower percentage of his shots playing Souray or playing Strudwick, but he probably takes way fewer shots against 44 than 43.

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#14 canucklehead
December 24 2008, 11:31AM
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Jonathan:

Any idea who Greene is playing with in LA, and could they be responsible for helping drive those numbers? I seem to recall while here, Greene struggled with anyone not named Marc-Andre Bergeron.

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#15 canucklehead
December 24 2008, 11:34AM
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canucklehead wrote:

Jonathan: Any idea who Greene is playing with in LA, and could they be responsible for helping drive those numbers? I seem to recall while here, Greene struggled with anyone not named Marc-Andre Bergeron.

Never mind, I just checked behind the net. It blows my mind that Greene is doing that with qualteam of -.02

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#16 misfit
December 24 2008, 11:37AM
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Souray sure gets a lot of credit for the great season he's been having (particularly to start), but I think some of that credit deserves to go to Visnovsky.

With the exception of the first part of the season when he was paired with Visnovsky, the team has consistantly been outshot when Souray has been on the ice. In contrast, the team has been outshooting their opponents when Visnovsky is on the ice regardless of who his partner is. Granted, I'm willing to bet that Visnovsky has started a few more shifts in the offensive zone than the defensive one compared to Souray (which would skew things a bit), but everyone seems to look better when their paired with Lubo. That's a good sign no matter how you slice it. Of course, the goal differential is what's ultimately going to decide the games, and Vis is comming up roses there too.

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#17 misfit
December 24 2008, 11:40AM
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canucklehead wrote:

canucklehead wrote: Jonathan: Any idea who Greene is playing with in LA, and could they be responsible for helping drive those numbers? I seem to recall while here, Greene struggled with anyone not named Marc-Andre Bergeron. Never mind, I just checked behind the net. It blows my mind that Greene is doing that with qualteam of -.02

Keep in mind though, that -.02 is 3rd best among LA defencemen. As a point of reference, Tom Priessing's QUALTEAM number is -.35, and there are 2 other full time D at -.26

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#18 OilFan in Calgary
December 24 2008, 11:42AM
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Great article. What do the Oilers do next year when Peckham is ready for the show? Pay Staois to sit or trade Gilbert or Grebs?

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#19 Cam
December 24 2008, 11:44AM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

As frustrating as it has been to watch this team, I have to state that the defense has not been the problem. Staios and Grebs sometimes make me slap my forehead, but on the whole it has been a good year for the D-Core. I do look forward to seeing what Peckham brings in the future, too.

If they make any changes I really hope it doesn't shake up the defense too much. I wouldn't mind losing grebs too much, but I would hate to see any of 5,77,71,44 move.

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#20 Jonathan Willis
December 24 2008, 11:45AM
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@ canucklehead:

He's playing quite a bit with O'Donnell for sure, and I'm not sure who else (haven't been following the Kings that closely). Mostly though, if we're looking for outside help, I'd look at the forwards. Terry Murray (who seems to be a killer coach, btw) has been alternating between Handzus and Kopitar against the toughs; mostly with Handzus but Kopitar's level of competition looks to have picked up.

Always thought Kopitar was overrated (as compared to someone like Stastny) because of who he played against, but it looks like the guys in L.A. are determined to make him into an elite difference maker; he's going to be playing more in a Hemsky role than a Getzlaf one. Good players (Kopitar and Handzus) have been playing in front of Greene and that probably helps the stats a ton. That said, Greene's still doing his job, and he looks much better than he did last season. Good on him; always enjoyed his interviews.

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#21 Jonathan Willis
December 24 2008, 11:47AM
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misfit wrote:

Granted, I’m willing to bet that Visnovsky has started a few more shifts in the offensive zone than the defensive one compared to Souray (which would skew things a bit), but everyone seems to look better when their paired with Lubo.

He has (I can't recall the exact shift, but it's there). The thing with Souray is that there hasn't been a big drop-off when paired with Gilbert (at least, when we consider how the pairings are used), so I'd say that while Visnovsky helped him look good, he's still having a tremendous season.

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#22 Jonathan Willis
December 24 2008, 11:50AM
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OilFan in Calgary wrote:

Great article. What do the Oilers do next year when Peckham is ready for the show? Pay Staois to sit or trade Gilbert or Grebs?

Honestly, I think that Grebeshkov is going to get paid sooner or later, and the Oilers can't afford to have five guys making big dough on the backend. One's got to go for sure, maybe two. The top-four are all good, but I think it comes down to Gilbert and Grebeshkov, and it's a good bet that the Oilers figure Gilbert's the better player.

With one of 77 or 37 gone, and Strudwick's contract ended, there's plenty of room to introduce Peckham to the bottom pairing while Smid moves into the top-four. I don't think Staios enters the equation, unless Lowe & Co. feel like either upgrading him or getting someone cheaper who does the same thing.

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#23 misfit
December 24 2008, 12:13PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

misfit wrote: Granted, I’m willing to bet that Visnovsky has started a few more shifts in the offensive zone than the defensive one compared to Souray (which would skew things a bit), but everyone seems to look better when their paired with Lubo. He has (I can’t recall the exact shift, but it’s there). The thing with Souray is that there hasn’t been a big drop-off when paired with Gilbert (at least, when we consider how the pairings are used), so I’d say that while Visnovsky helped him look good, he’s still having a tremendous season.

Yeah, I definately didn't mean to slight Souray in my post (I also didn't mean to use "their" instead of "they're"), he's having a heck of a year, and has easily exceeded any expectations I've had for him.

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#24 Jason Gregor
December 24 2008, 12:17PM
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How do shots for and against reflect a defensive defenceman? Strudwick has 10 shots, three playing forward, while Smid has ten in total. Souray has over a 100 shots, so isn't it obvious that the offensive guys would have better numbers. Plus when you consider that many of the shifts the 3rd pairing has are with non- offensive players they won't put up big shot or goal totals.

As for Greene it isn't a surprise. Go back two years ago when the Oilers were decimated by injuries down the stretch and were getting killed, Greene was playing over 25 minutes a night and was only minus 2 in those final 20 games when the Oilers were getting killed. Greene is up against top lines, but he also gets to play with first line players much more frequently.

If Souray/Gilbert play mostly with Hemsky's line, you can guarantee that over a 10 game stretch their numbers will look better than Visnovsky/Grebeshkov.

Grebeshkov is nightmare in his own zone regardless of what the numbers say. He creates way too many turnovers, and wouldn't hit his own shadow. If this team makes the playoffs he would be exposed way more. Ideally if Smid continues to progress, then he should play with Visnovsky and give that pairing at least one physical presence.

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#25 Cam
December 24 2008, 12:23PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Grebeshkov is nightmare in his own zone regardless of what the numbers say. He creates way too many turnovers, and wouldn’t hit his own shadow.

"wouldn't hit his own shadow." Quote of the day. I concur.

That's what I like about Souray, is that he is an offensive guy, but he is also a fierce physical presence. Unfortunately that sometimes results in injuries.

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#26 topshelf
December 24 2008, 12:37PM
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Jonathan Willis:

How can you say that Jason Strudwick is not an NHL defenseman? He may not be the best d-man in the league, but this guy has played in the NHL since 1997-98. I don't think that that is a fair statement to make about him. He brings intensity and passion to the game that few others on this team bring on a nightly bassis. I think that your number crunching and statistics are overrated to be honest. Just my opinion.

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#27 Jonathan Willis
December 24 2008, 12:41PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

How do shots for and against reflect a defensive defenceman?

Regardless of how a defenseman plays (i.e. offensively or defensively) he should be generating shot differential - in other words, an offensive defenseman (Grebeshkov) makes hay by getting the puck up ice and generating shots more so than by limiting shots, while a defensive defenseman (Strudwick) would do it by limiting shots more so than getting the puck out of the zone.

In any case, when just about everybody's at break-even territory, Strudwick's getting murdered. That's non-trivial, as is the difference in Staios' play when he's separated from Strudwick. Smid, Strudwick and Staios should all have similar numbers because they've been played in the same situations, but one is clearly inferior to the other two.

Jason Gregor wrote:

If Souray/Gilbert play mostly with Hemsky’s line, you can guarantee that over a 10 game stretch their numbers will look better than Visnovsky/Grebeshkov.

Completely agree.

Jason Gregor wrote:

Grebeshkov is nightmare in his own zone regardless of what the numbers say. He creates way too many turnovers, and wouldn’t hit his own shadow. If this team makes the playoffs he would be exposed way more. Ideally if Smid continues to progress, then he should play with Visnovsky and give that pairing at least one physical presence.

Gilbert's definitely brighter in his own zone, but Grebeshkov does possess great talent at just getting the puck out. As for hitting, Grebs is a more physical player than either of Visnovsky/Gilbert, and as I recall last year he stepped up his physical game a bunch in the second half. Obviously you wouldn't want to rely on him for physical play or safe effective plays in the defensive zone, but he can do it. I actually think he's a better player than he has been so far this season. I obviously don't know how responsive he is to coaching (in other words, how likely he is to step up the physical game and simplify his own-zone play); if he's malleable that way though I could easily see him fitting into the top four or five of a contending team.

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#28 Jonathan Willis
December 24 2008, 12:42PM
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@ topshelf:

That's fair enough, but there's a good reason he's been a swingman and frequent healthy scratch, and if I had to guess it's because teams like his physical game/character, but know that he's a bit of a liability in terms of actual play. He's useful in that role, but I can't ever see him stepping past it.

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#29 TV
December 24 2008, 01:29PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Player development isn’t linear, and at this point it appears that Matt Greene has taken an exponential leap. @ canucklehead: He’s playing quite a bit with O’Donnell for sure, and I’m not sure who else (haven’t been following the Kings that closely). Mostly though, if we’re looking for outside help, I’d look at the forwards. Terry Murray (who seems to be a killer coach, btw) has been alternating between Handzus and Kopitar against the toughs; mostly with Handzus but Kopitar’s level of competition looks to have picked up. Always thought Kopitar was overrated (as compared to someone like Stastny) because of who he played against, but it looks like the guys in L.A. are determined to make him into an elite difference maker; he’s going to be playing more in a Hemsky role than a Getzlaf one. Good players (Kopitar and Handzus) have been playing in front of Greene and that probably helps the stats a ton. That said, Greene’s still doing his job, and he looks much better than he did last season. Good on him; always enjoyed his interviews.

Not that I have anything against Matt Greene at all, but I honestly think some of those stats you are stating are skuing your analysis on his play so far this season.

To say his game has grown or taken a exponential leap this season is a pretty big reach in my opinion. I watch the Kings play more than any other Club in the league & see Matt's game for what it is upfront & close.

1st off, Matt played with Kyle Quincey (after K.Q. was acquired & the Kings best over-all D'man) & just recently started to play with Sean O'Donnell. O'Donnell & Doughty were the main pairing until the switch was made a few games ago. Matt is behind all 3 of those players in the TOI area & was not getting the plum assignments over the 1st 25 games whatsoever. His biggest drawbacks are still in the speed area, which in turn causes him to take those same kind of PIMs he was taking on the Oil. His puck moving ability has not made a marked improvement to this point either. He is improving, just not at the rate you are stating. His game still has A LOT of holes within it & keeps him in the #4 to #5 range on pretty well any team in the league. Playing behind a 96yr old like O'Donnell in important situations is a much proof as you need right there.

His PK ability is quite good though & when he's paired with Quincey or S.O'D. on the PK, they are a trio that works very well together. The Handzus comment was a good 1, as he is really the driving force behind the PK in LA & makes the D's job much easier from the drop of the puck. Also, I'm not sure of the current stat, but the Kings are also giving up the least amount of shots on goal in the NHL. Their commitment to team defense this year has been excellent to say the least. This has made the D' core a much easier & softer place to play in LA these days. This is unheard of in LA.

Matt is a gritty, big, tough guy who plays his heart out every game he plays, but with his stature & conditioning, he should be a MUCH bigger minute muncher than he currently is on this LA team. Until he improves his game with the puck & more importantly, without the disc & PIM wise, he's going to have a hard time keeping a Top 4 spot. Trust me, J.J. will knock him down the ladder once again, the second he hits the sheet after his injury.

Merry Ho-Ho To Everyone Here At Oilersnation.

Great Site...!!!

x6

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#30 Jonathan Willis
December 24 2008, 01:44PM
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@ TV:

Yeah, L.A. as a whole seems to be doing very well in outshooting their opposition; it's a little surprising given the amount of youth on that team. Thanks for the Quincey tip - for those interested, here are Greene's numbers, with and without Quincey-

With: 17GF/11GA, 169SF/143SA Without: 8GF/9GA, 99SF/100SA

That gives us a better idea of how Greene's doing against the opposition, and you're right, he's doing OK but taken in context he isn't a world-beater. Still, it's much better than last year, when he basically broke even playing nobodies. If Greene can hold his own as a complement to a puck-moving blue-liner, he's much more valuable.

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#31 Jonathan Willis
December 24 2008, 02:02PM
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Note: I know I must sound like a know-it-all with these numbers sometimes, but I really am open to being challenged on individual points. I don't by any stretch think that I've got it figured out, and some argument/debate helps to refine things.

Jason Gregor's point above about forwards driving results is absolute gold; he's completely right that these numbers are a much better indicator for the forwards than for the defensive corps. That said, I think the drop-off between Strudwick and everybody else is such a glaring difference, especially taking into account who Strudwick was playing against, that we can draw some conclusions from it.

T.V. also made some nice points about Greene's use in L.A. (you must be a Kings fan, right?) that muddy the picture a bit with regard to him.

Please, if you have a question/criticism of what I'm presenting, let me know. If your criticism is that numbers can't tell us about the real world, that's your call and I'm going to disagree, but if you have an idea why these numbers do/don't add value, hit me with it. I'm much less interested in defending my statements to the death than I am to improving my outlook on the game and making those statements brighter/better/more accurate.

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#32 topshelf
December 24 2008, 02:57PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ topshelf: That’s fair enough, but there’s a good reason he’s been a swingman and frequent healthy scratch, and if I had to guess it’s because teams like his physical game/character, but know that he’s a bit of a liability in terms of actual play. He’s useful in that role, but I can’t ever see him stepping past it.

I'll agree to that I don't think he is trying to step past that role. This is what has kept him around so long. He knows what his role is.

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#33 ramped up
December 24 2008, 04:58PM
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With all being said about the defence being not as good as in recent years, something that has been lacking is the absence of shot blocking?? Every year you see guys like J.Smith and Staios blocking tonnes of shots...where are the block shots and not the ones that accidently hit you but the ones that the defence actually drops down and takes awaya scoring chance. I think that due to the past injury situation they are less likely to want to drop down and that is costing us is some situations.

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#34 David S
December 24 2008, 08:03PM
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The lack of shot blocking has bothered me for a while. Although I have to admit that I don't watch any other games except when the Oilers play. Does anybody know if this is something seen league-wide? I saw in another blog just recently that the rules are going to change regarding shot blocking. Maybe coaches are adopting new tactics now in order to get ready.

As far as Strudwick goes, from what I saw in the last game it seems he has found his niche with Stortini. Post-game interviews showed the obvious enthusiasm both of them had for playing with each other, which obviously showed on the ice. The funny thing of it is that sometimes it just takes the right combination for things to happen. When our 4th line starts to impose itself like last year, then I think one of our problems is solved. If that happens, Strudwick will have found himself a home and his numbers should improve.

After that, getting the second line functional and solving this stupid 3-goalie issue will be next. We'll probably have everybody working like clockwork right around the 50 game mark, just in time for the annual run for 8th. *sigh*

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#35 ramped up
December 24 2008, 09:16PM
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@ David S: "sigh" indeed

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#36 topshelf
December 25 2008, 12:35AM
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That's the problem with this franchise. We settle for 8th place. I say if we can't contend for the division we liquidate assets (older players, heavy contracts) and plan for the future. And by the future I mean setting ourselves up to be competitive each and every year.

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#37 Sing A Song For SingSing
December 25 2008, 03:25AM
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Good write-up J Will.

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#38 Jonathan Willis
December 25 2008, 09:34AM
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For everybody "planning for the future" - what do you think Katz & Co. are doing? Hemsky, Penner, Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson, Brodziak, Pouliot, Gilbert, Grebeshkov, Smid - the list of guys on the upswing of their career is tremendous. I thought that there were enough talented veterans (and decent youth) on this team to make the playoffs, and I still think so, but this really wasn't the contending year that everyone was pretending it was. Too many key players still aren't ready.

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#39 Jonathan Willis
December 25 2008, 09:45AM
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And for everybody curious, here are Strudwick's numbers with Ales Hemsky, easily the best Oilers forward at driving shots/goals for:

0GF/3GA, 16SF/34SA

with Horcoff:

0GF/4GA, 20SF/38SA

and with Penner:

0GF/2GA, 16SF/34SA

Team-wide, the wrost Corsi number is Strudwick's -103. The next closest players are Staios (-68 w/ Strudwick, -9 w/o Strudwick) and Moreau (-47 w/ Strudwick, -30 w/o Strudwick).

Is there any chance at all that Strudwick isn't driving this? I don't think so - it all looks very damning, and that's why I'm confident saying that Jason Strudwick doesn't belong in the lineup.

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#40 Cam
December 25 2008, 03:12PM
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topshelf wrote:

That’s the problem with this franchise. We settle for 8th place. I say if we can’t contend for the division we liquidate assets (older players, heavy contracts) and plan for the future. And by the future I mean setting ourselves up to be competitive each and every year.

I would settle for eight place each and every year since that would ensure a playoff run every year. The thing I cannot abide is not getting into the dance at all, like the last two seasons. It would be nice to challenge for the division title again sometime, but I am much more interested in that big silver cup.

Merry Christmas, folks.

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#41 jo
December 25 2008, 05:01PM
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wheres the white hair and long facial hair JONO

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#42 topshelf
December 25 2008, 10:38PM
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Jonathan I know we have alot of young players but it is deceiving. We will prolly lose two of those players by the end of this year and to me, Brodziak and Pouliot play too similar a role on this team.

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#43 topshelf
December 25 2008, 10:40PM
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Oh and Cam, playing for the division title was the story we, the fans, were fed by the organization in the summer and at the start of the year.

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#44 Cam
December 25 2008, 11:19PM
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topshelf wrote:

Oh and Cam, playing for the division title was the story we, the fans, were fed by the organization in the summer and at the start of the year.

I know that, and I am sure they meant it. who knows... they may still get there. I just know that eighth is my MINIMUM expectation, so as long as they get there I won't be too disappointed.

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#45 Jonathan Willis
December 26 2008, 10:03AM
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topshelf wrote:

Jonathan I know we have alot of young players but it is deceiving. We will prolly lose two of those players by the end of this year and to me, Brodziak and Pouliot play too similar a role on this team.

Not only will the team lose some of those players, but at the same time some of them won't turn into the players that they could.

The point is that the core of this team with few exceptions is getting better; they aren't there yet.

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#46 David Staples
December 26 2008, 10:23AM
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Matt Greene made hardly any goal-causing errors last season. If you watched him closely, it was clear he was rock solid last season. Not much at scoring, of course. Terrible at scoring. But great at keeping the puck out of his own net. And that's all I'm saying.

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#47 TV
December 26 2008, 10:57AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

T.V. also made some nice points about Greene’s use in L.A. (you must be a Kings fan, right?) that muddy the picture a bit with regard to him. ate.

FYI J.W. - I'm NO Kings fan..! I've been an OIler Fan since the Alberta Oiler days of the WHA. I just live in LA, so in turn, I watch them play live & on the telly a lot more than most other Clubs.

Happy Holidays.!

x6

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#48 topshelf
December 26 2008, 11:48AM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

I started off disagreeing with you but with that last comment I agree 100%.

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#49 topshelf
December 26 2008, 11:50AM
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Big game tonite...

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#50 David S
December 26 2008, 12:14PM
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HUGE game. Some would even say Monster.

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