Oilers Point Projections: Defensemen

Every year we project how many points each of the players will score using a couple of different statistical methods, and why should a potential lockout season be any different?

If you’re just tuning in, we explained our methodology in more detail in our first piece, which covered the top-six forwards.  This time we’ll cover the defensemen and then close up in a third and final piece that features the remaining, secondary forwards.

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Unfortunately the lack of NHL experience means we don’t have any data on Justin Schultz, but he ought to do very well scoring-wise in the absence of any other offensive-minded options on the team.

Ryan Whitney

Edmonton’s only proven scorer on the blue line, power play specialist Ryan Whitney was acquired from Anaheim in the Lubomir Visnovsky deal, but has managed just one full season in the past four years.

Scoring between 20 and 27 points in three of the past four season, perhaps his 30-point projection should be seen as quite favourable.

          GP    G   A   PTS
Last Year 51    3   17   20
VUKOTA    49.3  3.4 15.2 18.5
Best      82   13.7 32.8 46.5
Worst     82    0.9 14.3 15.2
Average   82    7.3 22.5 29.8

Four of Whitney’s ten closest historical matches topped 30 points.  His closest matches include two former Oilers, Janne Niinimaa (who would project to 29 points) and Tom Gilbert.

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Last year was a bit of a bust for Whitney.  Despite generally getting the largest offensive zone boost his team can muster (against 2nd line opponents), the team’s shooting percentage when he was on the ice dropped from 12.5% to 7.2%, and consequently his personal goals-for average dropped to just 1.85 after two years between 3.12 and 3.16.

Though Whitney isn’t necessarily a weak link defensively he was taken off the penalty kill last year, and threw just 1.0 hit per 60 minutes (but also cut his penalty-taking in half).

Jeff Petry

Edmonton’s little secret is Jeff Petry, who few outside the province realize was a legitimate top-line defenseman last year, and who could get a lot of offensive opportunities on a team with so few options.  Petry did well as a secondary power play option, and took 111 shots over-all (though scoring on just 2).

          GP    G   A   PTS
Last Year 73    3   23   26
VUKOTA    68.6  4.9 19.2 24.1
Best      82    6.5 30.1 36.6
Worst     82    0.0  6.2  6.2
Average   82    4.2 18.8 23.0

His 23 points projection is consistent with the AHL translation of his 2010-11 scoring levels in Oklahoma City, and also the high water marks of one of his close historical matches, Dave Burrows.  Randy Hillier, another one of his close matches, topped up at a modern-day equivalent of 17 points.

On the plus side, three of his ten closest matches managed the 30 points mark, which is within reach given enough power play time, and with more offensive-minded opportunities with Edmonton’s big guns up front.

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Defensively is where Petry is much better known, having faced top-line competition alongside Ladislav Smid last season, at both even-strength and killing penalties – and doing quite well in both situations.  His offensive zone start percentage has been 49.1% both seasons.

Corey Potter

Corey Potter finally got his NHL shot, but isn’t likely to retain it.  His scoring was boosted by highly sheltered playing conditions at even strength, playing primarily in the offensive zone against depth competition, and also taking advantage of some prime power play opportunities.

His 139 points in 321 AHL games work out to about 15-16 points over a full NHL season, which is roughly where we project he’ll land this year, and that’s assuming he retains at least some of his advantageous playing conditions.  Tellingly, five of his ten closest historical matches were in a tight band from 11-13 points, with two more not far apart in either direction.

          GP    G   A   PTS
Last Year 62    4   17   21
VUKOTA    55.3  4.3 14.6 18.9
Best      82   13.6 22.7 36.3
Worst     82    1.9  7.4  9.3
Average   82    3.6 14.0 17.5

John Miszuk also got his start at age 27, scoring 22 points in 74 games for Philadelphia after failed starts in Detroit and Chicago.  Miszuk played two more NHL seasons and, years later, three more in the WHA.

Ladislav Smid

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Acquired in the Pronger trade with Lupul, Eberle, Hamonic and a busted first rounder, which would have been quite a deal had they kept all the pieces, Ladislav Smid has gradually evolved into a legitimate top-line defensive-minded defenseman.

Smid has been a top penalty killing option for the past two-three seasons, can be quite physical, and blocked 6.8 shots per 60 minutes last year, way up from his usual 4.5-4.7.

Unfortunately there aren’t many reasons to believe his scoring will increase from last year’s career high 15 points.  He doesn’t work the power play, has never taken more than the 53 shots her fired in his rookie season, and his even-strength scoring rate has been a poor 0.4-0.6 points per 60 minutes over the past three seasons.  More tellingly, his 59 points in 409 NHL games work out to about 12 in a full 82 game season, which is where the statistical models also place him. 

          GP    G   A   PTS
Last Year 78    5   10   15
VUKOTA    66.8  2.3  9.4 11.6
Best      82    3.1 16.7 19.8
Worst     82    1.6  1.6  3.2
Average   82    1.8  9.6 11.4

Seven of his ten closest historical matches scored between 10 and 15 points, including his two closest matches.  While it’s admittedly not very interesting to project the scoring of someone like Smid, here’s how his scoring compares with the era-adjusted totals of mid-80s stay-at-home defensemen Dean Kennedy of the Kings (who finished his career with the Oilers years later) and Tom Laidlaw of the Rangers.

Smid    GP G A PTS
2008-09 60 0 11 11
2009-10 51 1  8  9
2010-11 78 0 10 10
2011-12 78 5 10 15

Kennedy GP G  A PTS
1983-84 37 1  3  4
1984-85 DNP
1985-86 78 1  7  8
1986-87 66 4 11 15
Next    58 1  8  9
Laidlaw GP G A PTS
1982-83 80 0  7  7
1983-84 79 2 11 13
1984-85 61 1  7  8
1985-86 68 4  8 12
Next    74 1 10 11

It’s hard to believe we’re at someone as low scoring as Smid and still have four more defensemen to go.

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Andy Sutton

Playing on his fourth team in the past three season, 37-year-old Andy Sutton is clearly at the end of the line.  At this stage he serves mostly as a veteran third pairing presence who can help kill penalties, and use his sizable frame to throw hits and block shots – last year’s 6.6 per 60 minutes was actually his lowest in a long time.

Unfortunately he takes way, way, way too many penalties – 2.0 per 60 minutes in three of the past four seasons. He has also scored just 10-13 points in three of the past four seasons, where he’ll doubtlessly remain should he manage one more full campaign.

          GP    G   A   PTS
Last Year 52    3    7   10
VUKOTA    46.1  1.7  6.1  7.8
Best      82    2.0 16.0 18.0
Worst     82    0.0  2.8  2.8
Average   82    2.4  8.4 10.9

Bobby Dollas was a similar though less physical third line veteran who played for seven different teams in his final four seasons (including the Oilers), but unfortunately retired  at age 36.  Huge Jassen Cullimore played with Chicago as recently as 2010-11, scoring 8 points in 36 games, before heading off to the German league last year.  The even huger Kjell Samuelsson managed to compete right up until age 40, averaging 5 points in 43 games over his final three seasons.  Should Andy Sutton’s career continue, those are probably the types of numbers to expect.

Theo Peckham

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Theo Peckham’s 38 points (and 387 penalty minutes) in 143 AHL games work out to 10 points over a full NHL season, and his 60 points (and 618 penalty minutes) in 181 OHL games work out to about 7.  It therefore shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to see our modest projection for “Teddy Peckman” this coming season.

          GP    G   A   PTS
Last Year 54    1    2    3
VUKOTA    56.4  1.1  4.9  6.1
Best      82    4.7 15.5 20.2
Worst     82    0.0  4.4  4.4
Average   82    2.4  7.1  9.6

Peckham blocks a lot of shots, and throws a lot of hits, but takes too many penalties.  Though a usable penalty killer these past two seasons, he doesn’t score at even-strength (where he has terrible possession numbers, especially in 2010-11 when they didn’t shelter him), and doesn’t work the power play.  All but one of his ten closest historical matches scored fewer than 13 points.

Remember Sean Brown?  He was another rugged young Oilers defenseman back in the late 90s.  He scored 35 points in the 269 games he wore the copper and blue, racking up 664 penalty minutes despite average about 12 minutes per game.  That’s pretty much what they have today with Peckham.

Colten Teubert

Acquired in Dustin Penner deal, along with Oscar Klefborn and Daniil Zharkov, Colten Teubert’s 27 points in 105 AHL games work out to about 9-10 points in a full NHL season, which is roughly the same pace projected by the VUKOTA system.  The Snepsts67 system, unfortunately, requires more than a single 24-game season on which to base its calculations.

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          GP    G   A   PTS
Last Year 24    0    1    1
VUKOTA    36.0  1.3  4.1  5.4

Like several of the defensemen we’ve mentioned so far Teubert plays only against the depth lines, throws a lot of hits, but his 1.8 penalties per 60 minutes is just too much.  He didn’t see any action on the special teams last year.

Nick Schultz

Acquired in Tom Gilbert deal with Minnesota, Nick Schultz brings some rock solid consistency to the Oilers blue line.  His defensive-minded presence might open things up offensively for Jeff Petry, and relieve the Oilers of the necessity of using players like Peckham and Sutton on the penalty kill (or, indeed, at all).

Consistency is definitely the name of the game with Schultz.  Consistently in the top four among his team’s defensemen in Quality of Competition, and bottom-four in offensive zone starts, including a ridiculous 26.5% in 2008-09.  Last year’s 43.8% was actually his highest!  He consistently blocks 5.3-6.1 shots per 60 minutes, throw 2.9-3.1 hits per 60 minutes, and is a top penalty killer.

          GP    G   A   PTS
Last Year 82    1    6    7
VUKOTA    61.4  1.1  6.5  7.6
Best      82    1.7 10.1 11.8
Worst     82    0.0  3.7  3.7
Average   82    1.3  7.9  9.2

Unfortunately there isn’t much to say about his scoring, which is likely to remain in the single digits.  All but one of his ten closest matches were between 8-12 points, including one of his more intriguing matches, the more physical but quite famous stay-at-home defensemen Ken Daneyko.

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Schultz  GP G   A  PTS
Career  763 26 106 132
2009-10  80  1  19  20
2010-11  74  3  14  17
2011-12  82  1   6   7

Daneyko  GP G  A PTS
Career  529 17 57 74
1989-90  74  4 11 15
1990-91  80  3 13 16
1991-92  80  1  5  6
Next     84  1  8  9

Next Time

That’s it for Edmonton’s defensemen.  In our final piece next time we’ll look at the remaining, secondary forwards.  Thanks for reading and I hope you found it interesting.