Three Defencemen and Two Stooges

Jonathan Willis
September 17 2008 09:39AM

Let’s compare three NHL defencemen who play a similar style, all of whom will be playing for new teams this off-season:

Player A (32 years old, 5’11”, 190lbs)

2007–08: 3rd in QualComp, 0.67 PTS/60 EV, 4.48 PTS/60 PP, -2.00 2006–07: 5th in QualComp, 0.92 PTS/60 EV, 4.21 PTS/60 PP, -0.04

Player B (32 years old, 5’10”, 183 lbs)

2007–08: 4th in QualComp, 0.80 PTS/60 EV, 2.77 PTS/60 PP, -0.67 2006–07: 3rd in QualComp, 1.24 PTS/60 EV, 4.82 PTS/60 PP, +.21

Player C (39 years old, 5’11”, 187 lbs)

2007–08: 5th in QualComp, 1.15 PTS/60 EV, 2.44 PTS/60 PP, +1.33 2006–07: 5th in QualComp, 1.07 PTS/60 EV, 5.13 PTS/60 PP, +0.93

QualComp = Quality of Competition as per Behindthenet.ca PTS/60 EV = Points scored per 60 minutes of ice-time at even strength PTS/60 PP = Points scored per 60 minutes of ice-time on the power-play +/- = Goal differential per 60 minutes of ice-time

All three of these players are elite point producers at even strength, and all three of them have been above-average to elite on the power-play as well. None of them play particularly difficult minutes (ie the hard match-ups) 5-on-5, with Player B seeing the most difficult minutes, followed by Player A than Player C.

Player C destroys his soft match-ups in every category, scoring at a phenomenal rate and seeing way more goals for than goals against.

Player B treads water, still scoring at a tremendous pace but hovering around the even mark in goal differential.

Player A, on the other hand, scores at a good rate but was hammered last season in goal differential. In fairness, he played an injury-shortened season (37 games) and was close to the break even mark in 2006–07, playing easier minutes. He does, however, consistently bring an elite presence to the power-play, unlike the other two defenders, who both had off-years last season.

Now, if you were to rank these players in order of value, how would you do it? All have large contracts, albeit Player C has only one year remaining on his while the others are both long-term pacts. Player C is near the end of his career, at least by looking at age, while the other two have had injury difficulties but should at the very least play out their contracts. In any case, I’d probably go B, A, C based on age and performance, but there isn’t much separation between these players.

Player A was acquired by his new team for Matt Carle, Ty Wishart (16th overall in 2006), a 1st round pick and a 4th round pick. He is Dan Boyle, and he’s now a member of the San Jose Sharks.

Player B was picked up for Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene. Lubomir Visnovsky will play for the Edmonton Oilers in 2008–09.

Player C was placed on waivers yesterday by the Anaheim Ducks. It has yet to be decided where Mathieu Schneider will spend 2008–09, although the smart money is probably on Los Angeles.

Where am I going with all of this? A couple of points stand out:

Doug Wilson was taken for a ride by whoever’s making the decisions in Tampa Bay. He paid dearly in surrendering a good young blue-liner coming off a poor season, a blue-chip prospect, and two draft picks. While Tampa Bay’s treatment of Boyle was both callous and dishonest, they certainly maximized the return on the player.

Kevin Lowe did well (as most observers around here thought) in picking up a good defenceman coming off a bad year for a set of spare parts. Jarret Stoll has serious health questions, while Matt Greene has yet to show that he’ll ever be more than a bottom pairing defender.

Brian Burke’s inability to get anything in exchange for a good offensive blue-liner with one year left on his contract raises serious questions (again) about his ability to manage assets. Schneider should have value, perhaps to a team like Ottawa, or to any contender looking for a one- or two-year player to fill a hard-to-fill role.

Dean Lombardi stands to replace the player he lost (Visnovsky) with a similar player-type, for no cost whatsoever. It’s almost like he saw this coming.

—And now for Two Truths and a Lie: Jonathan Willis is the force behind Copper and Blue, the Mayor-elect of Fort St John and a frequent contributor to OilersNation.

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#1 The Towel Boy
September 17 2008, 09:49AM
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...oh man! ...I can't wait to comment on this!

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#2 Wanye Gretz
September 17 2008, 10:07AM
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Two truths and a lie answer:

Lie: His name isn't Jonathan Willis? It's Egon Spentz - the smart ghostbuster.

QUIZ OWNED

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#3 DJ Spyn Cycle
September 17 2008, 10:13AM
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The quiz is only owned when you get the name of the smartest ghostbuster -- Egon Spengler -- correct, Wanye.

Back into your box.

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#4 Wanye Gretz
September 17 2008, 10:29AM
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I threw that out to see if anyone would call me on it. I already KNEW you are geek Spyn. Did you really just call me out. I can see your desk from mine!

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#5 DBO
September 17 2008, 10:55AM
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Any chance of us picking him up on re-entry waivers (he cleared apparently), or will a lower team scoop him up. A top 4 dman for $2.8125 million is a solid option. Move grebeshkov or Smid and we fit under the cap.

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#6 Chris.
September 17 2008, 10:56AM
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I heard hope the Kings get further compensation from Burke to pick up Schneider off waivers...

P.S. Didn't Burke already lose Andy McDonald to make room for Schneider's salary?

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#7 MattM
September 17 2008, 11:07AM
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It's probably worth noting the context of those +/- numbers with regards to team quality. Boyle and Visnovsky both played for teams that were significantly in the red last year, and probably had fairly mediocre linemates.

That said, I agree that the difference in value here doesn't seem that drastic, especially given the value of long-term cap flexibility. There should be more teams that could use Schneider for one year than Visnovsky for 5. I have a tough time believing there were no offers for Schneider, Burke just decided that giving him to a non-threatening team for nothing than a team that could be dangerous for a pittance. Or maybe it's not that calculated. He can't get what he wants, so he puts him on waivers just to spite the bidding teams who won't get him. A bit weird, either way.

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#8 Jonathan
September 17 2008, 11:13AM
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It’s probably worth noting the context of those +/- numbers with regards to team quality. Boyle and Visnovsky both played for teams that were significantly in the red last year, and probably had fairly mediocre linemates.

Yeah, this is a key point that I thought about, but didn't mention - Schneider was playing for the Ducks and Wings, so he had plenty of shelter.

That said, I agree that the difference in value here doesn’t seem that drastic, especially given the value of long-term cap flexibility. There should be more teams that could use Schneider for one year than Visnovsky for 5.

That's exactly what I think too. Sure, Visnovsky or Boyle is a nice fit if you're following a long-term building plan, but if you're a contending team looking to add that final piece, Schneider should be at the top of the list.

It wouldn't surprise me at all to see Tampa Bay grab him if he makes re-entry waivers.

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#9 MattM
September 17 2008, 11:27AM
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It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Tampa Bay grab him if he makes re-entry waivers.

True, which would be quite the coup for them, shabby treatment of Boyle aside.

For this reason, I'm surprised LA didn't take him at full price, because I don't think they'll get a shot at him at half, although I haven't checked TB's cap situation.

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#10 David Staples
September 17 2008, 12:27PM
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I know I'm a broken record on this, but how much is any one player responsible for a goal for or a goal against?

Clearly, the answer is, "It depends."

So it's possible Visnovsky was utterly responsible for almost all of the goals against he was on the ice for last season. But it's also possible he was only really responsible for a small percentage of them, that he was team up with some bad partner much of the time, and that caused him so much trouble. Think about Steve Staios last year, who was almost always was teamed up with other guys who struggled far more than he did.

So this makes it somewhat risky to use goals for and goals against as a way to rate a player.

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#11 Jonathan
September 17 2008, 12:31PM
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I know I’m a broken record on this, but how much is any one player responsible for a goal for or a goal against? Clearly, the answer is, “It depends.”

Still, GAON/60 is the best league-wide look we have, and things should generally balance out.

I'm still planning to shadow your error work this season, David, with my primary goal being to see if errors and GAON/60 say the same thing. I respect that you think the error is superior; you've done all the work and seen the results, while I have not.

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#12 David Staples
September 17 2008, 12:33PM
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As for Stoll/Greene for Visnovsky, yes, it was an OK trade.

But just OK. Matt Greene was a solid bottom pair defender, with potential to move up, get better. He also stood up for his teammates in a way that few other Oilers do, at that has real value, too.

That said, if you're looking at Visnovsky and Boyle long-term as compared to one year of Schneider, I agree, I'll take one year of Schneider.

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#13 Fiveandagame
September 17 2008, 12:37PM
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I say we get Staples and Willis in the OCTAGON! GET IT ON!

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#14 David Staples
September 17 2008, 12:37PM
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Jonathan, you may well be right that things "balance out" with regular/plus minus. I've often heard that argued before.

But isn't it just as likely that things don't balance out?

Anyway, I look forward to you shadowing this work, as it will advance the discussion.

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#15 Sean
September 17 2008, 12:56PM
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Wow his returns for MacDonald, Bryzgalov, Bertuzzi and Schneider is pathetic. Burke is running his team into the sewer ;)

To his defense 1) Neidermayer and Selanne screwed Anaheim 2) He didnt waste assets acquiring those players

Ok I'm not defending that schmuck. Burkes a loser.

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#16 Jonathan
September 17 2008, 01:00PM
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But just OK. Matt Greene was a solid bottom pair defender, with potential to move up, get better. He also stood up for his teammates in a way that few other Oilers do, at that has real value, too.

I know we have differing opinions on Greene, but outside of his size and toughness, he doesn't add anything that you don't get from, say, Mike Weaver or Scott Ferguson. He's a journeyman-replacement level 6th defenseman, and that's after 178 professional games and three years in the NCAA, Maybe he's just a late bloomer, but if he's ever more than a below-average second-pairing guy, I'd be surprised.

That said, if you’re looking at Visnovsky and Boyle long-term as compared to one year of Schneider, I agree, I’ll take one year of Schneider.

Well, it depends on team situation. For the Oilers, Visnovsky's an important piece moving forward, but for a contending team, or a team with a young guy not quite ready for that role, I think the choice is obvious.

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#17 The Towel Boy
September 17 2008, 01:13PM
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"Wow his returns for MacDonald, Bryzgalov, Bertuzzi and Schneider is pathetic. Burke is running his team into the sewer "

Yah, but you see this is all Lowe's fault...for driving up salaries on 2nd contracts, leaving little wiggle room under the cap.

{rolls eyes}

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#18 therealdeal
September 17 2008, 01:21PM
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Jonathan. Nice comp per usual. Sometimes it's important to see things in context.

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#19 David Staples
September 17 2008, 01:31PM
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I know, I know, it's just me and "Mean" Matt way out on a limb, saying "Yes, Matt Greene can play in this league and do a fine job."

It's lonely out here, but Greene does have a great sense of humour.

P.S. I must say, I liked Visnovsky's attitude today in the paper. Of course, it's 20 degrees in September, not 20 below in November, so we'll hear what he says then.

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#20 Jonathan
September 17 2008, 02:06PM
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I know, I know, it’s just me and “Mean” Matt way out on a limb, saying “Yes, Matt Greene can play in this league and do a fine job.” It’s lonely out here, but Greene does have a great sense of humour.

I always got a kick out of Greene's interviews. It's been sad from that perspective alone, watching him and Marty Reasoner get moved out in the same summer.

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#21 Cam
September 17 2008, 04:19PM
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Jonathan, I am with you about the interviews with Greene. I still remember his comments after the skills competition when he was talking about Marty Reasoner having his first hattrick since he was eleven. That cracked me up.

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#22 Jonathan
September 17 2008, 04:49PM
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I still remember his comments after the skills competition when he was talking about Marty Reasoner having his first hattrick since he was eleven.

Was that when he was saying 'when you're dealing with an offensive powerhouse like Marty Reasoner, you don't try and stop him you just try to contain him'?

He's a funny guy, that Matt Greene.

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#23 alphah.
September 18 2008, 03:24AM
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Greene and Stoll could turn out to be phenomenal for L.A. in the long run, but its fairly unlikely. Stoll COULD snap back into form as early as next season... And, Greene showed flashes of brilliance absolutely manhandling people in the defensive zone.. Very rare, but I can recall a few games. It takes that type of D-man longer to develop, with his footspeed I imagine his positioning is incredibly important to his game, its something he could work on and perfect. Perhaps he does come around? I could see him being a top shut-down guy. Either way, these are both somewhat unlikely to occur, but I wouldn't rule it out. Perhaps when Vish is a massive drain on our cap and completely crippled in his old age we will look back and think "wow, we got fleeced." *shrug*

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#24 Scott
September 18 2008, 10:50AM
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"I'm just glad I could be a part of it, it's Marty Reasoner day"

I'll miss his interviews much more than his play. Too bad we couldn't have kept those two in the press box just for the jokes.

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