Minnesota Wild Sign Zach Parise and Ryan Suter: How Much Better Will The Team Be?

The two biggest names available on the free agent market signed new contracts on Wednesday morning. For the Edmonton Oilers, the news was not good: both players opted to join a divisional rival, the Minnesota Wild.

How much better will these two players make the Wild?

Obviously, the impact will be huge, but it’s always difficult to quantify exactly how much an individual player can have on a team.

One statistic that attempts to is GVT (goals-versus-threshold). The brainchild of Tom Awad, GVT puts a goal value on every player in the league. Awad explains the statistic here, and while it is far from perfect it’s really the only measure of its kind and it’s a good starting point.

According to GVT, the player with the biggest impact on goal differential (Mike Smith) improved his team by 35 goals. The player with the worst GVT (Dwayne Roloson) hurt his team to the tune of 22 goals. For skaters, the top mark went to Evgeni Malkin (+33.5 GVT) and the bottom mark to Nino Niederreiter (-5.8 GVT).

But wait a minute: Malkin scored 50 goals and 109 points. Why is he only worth 34 goals to his team’s goal differential?

The answer to that question lies primarily in understanding that the choice isn’t between a Penguins team with Evgeni Malkin and a Penguins team with nothing. If there were no Malkin, than Jordan Staal would have played more minutes, Sidney Crosby (when healthy) would have played more minutes and so on down the list.

The Penguins as a team finished 61 goals better than break-even. A year earlier, they played half the season without Malkin or Crosby and finished 39 goals above break-even – there’s a solid team behind the stars, and everyone on it contributes to goal differential. Even the best players in the game are limited in terms of how much impact they can have on a team.

What does GVT say about Zach Parise and Ryan Suter? It had Parise as a top-15 forward (worth +18.6 GVT) and Suter as top-15 defenseman (worth +12.0 GVT). That’s a huge haul for the Wild – an improvement of 31 goals in their overall goal differential.

The Wild, however, were a terrible team last season. By goal differential, the Wild were the second-worst team in the Conference last year – they finished the season having allowed 49 more goals than they scored (22 worse than the Oilers, who finished seven points behind them in the standings).

None of these statistics should be considered iron-clad guarantees. The Oilers, after all, improved their goal differential massively in 2011-12 vs. 2010-11, but moved up a total of one place in the NHL standings. Goal differential, despite being the best indicator of team performance out there, does not mesh perfectly with the standings. Further, GVT is a useful but imperfect tool – it gives us a ballpark figure for a player’s impact on a team but by no means is it a complete picture. It’s an approximation only.

Minnesota should be much improved with the addition of these two players. But they’re starting from such a bad place that these moves seem unlikely to turn them into contenders – if I had to guess today, I’d say they’re moving from a date with a lottery pick to the playoff bubble in the West. That’s a big jump, and not good news for the Oilers. But it’s important not to overstate the effect that even two incredibly gifted players can have on the balance of power in the West.

This week by Jonathan Willis

  • vetinari

    I think that there is a huge risk with bringing big ticket players into a new organization as they may or may not thrive under the new playing system. Parise and Suter were successful NHLers with their former teams– but that may not necessarily translate into immediate success on their new team.

    How many players have had problems when they joined a new team? Heatley? Kovalchuk (first year in NJ)? Redden with the NYR? Gomez with the NYR and Montreal? Souray after one year in Edmonton? Peca in Edmonton? Erik Cole in Edmonton? Wait-a-minute, I think that I can list a bunch of Oiler players that had trouble in their first year or two in Edmonton so I better get off that topic.

    Also, it may be putting too many financial eggs in one basket in case there are injuries. If Parise, Suter or Heatley go down for the Wild, that’s about $7 million dollars per player riding pine for you.

    Don’t get me wrong, the Wild are a better team today with the additions of Parise and Suter but there is a lot more risk for the team when going this route.

    I would rather have a roster with about 8-10 decent quality players being paid $4M to $5M each (positional depth) than a roster with 2-4 superstars at $7.5M+ per player on it at a few key spots.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The Wild have made their bed for what appears to be the next decade. Don’t like their chances with what’s already on the roster in Minnesota. Koivu,Heatley,Parise and Suter are the only impact players on the club. Right up against the cap and no room for additional help…..first round road kill for the first couple years i have to think. They’ll need to clear some serious riff raff from the D and bottom 7 forwards to make additional room for a better supporting cast.

    Certainly the money appeared alot more important than winning for both these kids. Minnesota and winning don’t go hand in hand even for euphoric types.

  • Where's Your Towel

    I do not yet understand this stat well enough to offer a take on an argument made using it.

    What I do understand is that Minny had a great start last year, and these guys are going to go a long way toward making it sustainable if they manage it again.

    The northwest just got a lot scarier for the Oilers, but not nearly as scary as it is for the Flames.

    • Wax Man Riley

      I’ll argue that the NW just got a lot scarier for The Canucks. They no longer have the weakest division in the league to pad their presidents trophy count.

  • I'm a Scientist!

    …and we added the Yak and Schultz for 20 million less. Meh. I am not scared. These guys will be anchors on the Wild in 5 years, while our team will just be getting rocking. Right?

    It is important to remember, it is JUST Parise and Suter. There ARE better tandems in the league. Datysuk and Lidstrom (last year), Malkin and Letang, etc. The free agency hype really makes players look much better than they are.

  • Brownlee loves the word meow

    Agreed.. this gives them a shot at the playoffs probably. Two good (not great) players added. Both players compete which is probably the most important. I guess we will see if the chemistry is there.