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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Why is Kris Russell so dividing?

Everyone quiet down — it’s time to learn something! It’s draft week and that means that we’re getting set to throw another draft party and killing timing until Friday takes a team effort. As always, I’ve taken five of your questions and sent them off to our panel of Nation writers to give their input and worldly wisdom. I need questions for next week so if you have something you’d like to ask you can email me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter. Without further adieu, the Mailbag. Enjoy.

Apr 16, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks right wing Melker Karlsson (68) stumbles trying to get the puck as Edmonton Oilers defenseman Kris Russell (4) watches in the third period of game three in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center at San Jose. The Oilers won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

1) Dale asks – Why do you think there is such a divide when assessing Kris Russell’s value? I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a player with such contrasting views before him.

Lowetide:

I think a lot of the gap is based on how we see the game. If you value analytics and possession stats, then Russell’s season can’t be balanced against the results, suggesting luck. If you value blocked shots, rugged play and defending, then you probably like Russell. If you’re in between, then you’re in between. Analytics folks aren’t saying they don’t like Russell (well, most of them), but are saying this season just posted by Russell is unlikely to be repeated.

Jonathan Willis:

There are a lot of reasons, and I tried to cover as many as I could in my year-end look at Russell’s season. But I don’t think it’s that abnormal – we’ve seen similar divergence on players like Jeff Petry, Sam Gagner and even to some extent Jordan Eberle. What makes Russell special is that in the four years he’s had two seasons where he’s dramatically outperformed his shot metrics, and two seasons where he’s basically been the equal of them. I’d guess that after next season, whichever direction he goes, there will be a lot more agreement on exactly what level of player he is.

Jason Gregor:

I understand the concern in signing him to four-year deal. I wouldn’t sign him for that long unless it was cheap, but saying he has no value is simply untrue in my eyes. The stats show it. In his career, he has a 49% FF and a 52%GF. His stats put him in the top 130-140 D-men on the planet. To be in the top 99.9% of hockey players means you are good at hockey. Everyone has a bias, and sometimes people don’t realize when their bias limits their ability to see the entire picture. He isn’t an elite NHL defender, but he isn’t a plug. Fact is at $3 million last season he was great value for the Oilers. I find some will use specific stats rather than the entire picture. If you try to take out his blocked shots and only use unblocked attempts that is eliminating the thing he is best at. How is that an accurate assessment of a player? I don’t love how many shots are blocked in today’s NHL — heck even Erik Karlsson blocks a lot — but it is a skill and a valued one in today’s game.

Matt Henderson:

I think it stems from a philosophical divide in how you assess defenders. For example, I think it’s incredibly misguided to ignore everything else that happens on the ice and focus solely on the goals. One issue is that it creates a very inaccurate picture painted primarily by the goaltenders on the ice. We are looking for how a skater affects the game and measuring something controlled by non-skaters. If a winger shoots 19% one season we anoint him a sniper. If a defender has a high on-ice save percentage we call him a stalwart. This happens regardless of the process and it’s typically lazy and hollow. It leads to many false assumptions.

In the case of Russell, we have a player who started his career fairly well but over the last three seasons he’s been a massive drag on the kinds of thing that skaters control. For example, has a 46.6% Unblocked Attempt ratio over that time and it’s trending the wrong way. Watching him play identifies the major issues right away: he’s passive on entries and poor at moving the puck up the ice. As an Oiler he and Sekera enjoyed an incredible amount of goaltending success behind them, but Russell in particular had a pronounced and measurable negative effect on the the offensive output of the team from basic attempts all the way through to actual point production.

Any sane person who isn’t too lazy to look at the data has no choice but to admit this player was a drain on the team and holds very little value moving forward.

Robin Brownlee:

Kris Russell has value as a competent NHL defender who does some things very well. If you can’t see that, then you aren’t paying attention and are relying far too heavily on numbers that don’t accurately tell the entire story. If Russell is your 4-5-6 guy then you’ve got a pretty good blueline group. I don’t think signing Russell to any contract beyond three years at an AAV of $3.5-$3.75 million makes sense for the Oilers, but that doesn’t make him the stiff Matt Henderson chooses to portray him as.

Chris the Intern:

It’s literally all the numbers. Kris Russell is a prime example of how numbers don’t tell the whole story about a player. I think it’s important to take bits and pieces from both sides to make a conclusion for yourself.

Cam Lewis: Kris Russell is at the epicentre of a debate between two sides that has completely exploded over the past few years. There’s so much history between the two sides — those who are traditional and value the eye test and the intangibles that smart hockey people just intrinsically notice, and those who value the collection and interpretation of objective data — that a discussion about Kris Russell represents so much more than just him as a player.

There’s a pretty massive personal difference that goes on here. Old school hockey types who have been around the game for their entire lives are disturbed at the idea of being uprooted by people who offer something that they don’t necessarily perceive as valuable. And, of course, those people have pored hours upon hours into rigorous testing to determine what actually results in future success, and they believe in what they’re offering. Add it all up, the personalties, the ideologies, and you have a beef that goes back forth between “you don’t get it” “no YOU don’t get it” with no end.

In regards to Russell specifically, he isn’t as bad as the stats community suggests and he isn’t as good as the old schoolers will have you believe. The fact is, he plugged a hole for a team last season and did so admirably. He’s an endearing player who works hard and can make life difficult on the other team in the D-zone, but as the numbers suggest, he doesn’t break the puck out well and he gets guttered because of it. For a year or two on the cheap? Sure, why not. For $4 by four? Hell no.

Baggedmilk:

It all comes down to rumours and pay. If the rumour out there was that Kris Russell wanted a four year deal at $2 million then this conversation wouldn’t be happening right now, but the idea of paying him 4×4 is enough to get the Nation fired up.

Oct 12, 2016; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi (98) celebrates his third period goal against the Calgary Flames at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

2) Jayson asks – In your opinions, what is still the biggest area of weakness for the Oilers? What is the greatest strength?

Lowetide:

Second pairing is the biggest weakness because they don’t have one. Sekera coming back mid-season will help but the Oilers need to address RHD this summer. Greatest strength? Connor McDavid in the lineup.

Jonathan Willis:

There’s still a lack of a true No. 1 defenceman (though teams can win without one, as Pittsburgh showed this season sans Kris Letang). The greatest strength, without question, is Connor McDavid. The reason so many teams have long rebuilding programs is that it takes elite talent to win, and he’s as elite as they come.

Jason Gregor:

Forward depth. They have very little skilled scoring depth in the organization.

Matt Henderson:

The second pairing and the second line are huge question marks for me. The team needs a tandem who can handle 20 minutes a night and actually push the play forward. With Sekera hurt, it’s an issue. The second line concerns me. In the regular season their struggles were apparent but McDavid was so amazing it didn’t matter. In the playoffs, the lack of offense from Nuge, Eberle, and to a lesser extent Lucic was a problem. With Draisaitl almost ready to take over 2C that might mean defense is the bigger issue.

Robin Brownlee:

The Oilers need more skilled forwards in the system. There’s not much in the pipeline right now. If I’m Chiarelli I’m adding skill because he’s added plenty of size already to address what used to be a deficiency.

Chris the Intern:

I’d say the whole right side of the lineup. I would like some re-enforcement with some right handed defencemen as well as some more depth on the right wing.

Cam Lewis: Centre depth is a major strength for the Oilers, as not many teams can match Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins down the middle. It gives them some major versatility up front and it makes them difficult to line-match. The biggest weakness is offence from the blue line. Oscar Klefbom seems to be emerging into a No. 1 defenceman who can move the puck, but the Oilers don’t have anybody who can really quarterback a power play, launch a bomb from the point, or really drive offence back there.

Baggedmilk:

Right now, the biggest weakness is the second pairing because they don’t have one. Sekera is hurt and they don’t have the other player signed yet. Whether that player is Russell or otherwise, the Oilers need to figure that out because it’s a big hole right now. Check back with me next week just in case they trade Eberle for a bag of pucks.

3) Taylor asks – Have you ever been approached/confronted by a player or coach after you had written or said something about them? Do you think players read OilersNation?

Lowetide:

No, not at all.  I have been contacted by a media member over something I’ve written about a player, and in that case the media member was correct.

Jonathan Willis:

Nope.

Jason Gregor:

I know they read it. I’ve had many players bring up articles, but I’ve never had a player or coach come at me in a confrontational matter. We have discussions, but as long as you don’t take personal pot shots at a player I find you can have mature disagreements.

Matt Henderson:

I’ve been approached by people close to players. I know lots of family and friends of players read sites like ON and will often point them to the material. No players themselves have reached out to me. I know things I’ve written have ended up in a pile of related reading dropped on people’s desks but that’s as far as I’ve been told.

Robin Brownlee:

Been approached many times but not confronted more than a few times — in both cases when I worked the beat and was with the team all the time. That’s not the case now. Had a pretty good tilt with Kevin Lowe years ago after I reported he was willing to trade Jason Smith. He was mad as hell, but the information was good even though no deal came off at the time. Kevin was pretty edgy when he read something he didn’t like. Players read Oilersnation, but I’m not sure it has the same clout as what appears in the dailies just because much of it gets dismissed as stuff produced by people not really in the know.

Chris the Intern:

They’ve GOT TO read Oilersnation, or go on Twitter. I can only imagine all the down time those guys have on travel days and such so I can’t see how they’re not online. I don’t often say a lot of bad things about the players so I’m never too worried about being approached.

Cam Lewis: I got called out in my Twitter DMs by a player in the Blue Jays organization.

Baggedmilk:

I know they read it. We’ve had events where players have talked to us about the website. Am I worried? No. At worst, I say I guy sucks and make a bad joke to go along with it. If they can’t handle that then they’ve got a whole other set of issues.

4) Lisa asks – The Expansion Draft is coming up this week and I would like to ask the writers which player they think the Oilers will lose and why?

Lowetide:

Griffin Reinhart as it currently stands, but things may change. He is young and is under control for years. Las Vegas won’t have many of those players after the expansion draft.

Jonathan Willis:

Right now (Thursday) I’d say Jujhar Khaira or Griffin Reinhart, with Khaira being the guy I’d pick. Because of the way expansion is structured, there are more defencemen available than centres, and Khaira/Reinhart are at similar stages in their career and project as playing at about the same level in the NHL.

Jason Gregor:

Griffin Reinhart. He is a young D-man who still has some upside.

Matt Henderson:

I’m going to guess Reinhart because he still might become an NHL D eventually. Next guess is Khaira. I don’t know if signing him to a two-year minimum deal is enticing for Vegas or a sign that the Oilers know he won’t be the one taken.

Robin Brownlee:

Has to be Griffin Reinhart. I still think there’s a player there and I bet George McPhee does, too.

Chris the Intern:

I think this all depends on IF there is a trade beforehand. If we trade Eberle (or a forward) and land a defenceman then we have to leave Kassian & Letestu exposed. Initially, I would have assumed Jujhar Khaira would get picked up but if Letestu or Kass is exposed I think they’re gone.

Cam Lewis: I would be shocked it it wasn’t Reinhart. It would be hilarious if Vegas iced him and Yakupov next season. The 2012 draft is funny.

Baggedmilk:

Since pretty much everyone else is saying Reinhart I’m going to take a hard left on this one. I’m going to say that Chiarelli pulls a horseshoe out his ass and convinces George McPhee to take Pouliot. How does he do that? He buys him chocolate, throws him some draft picks, writes McPhee-related poetry, and offers to get George’s face tattooed on his chest. It could work.

5) Dennis asks – What do you think about the trade between Montreal and Tampa Bay that sent Drouin to the Habs for Sergachev?

Lowetide:

I think there are reasons for both teams to have done it, but really like the deal for Tampa Bay. They were about to lose a really good forward, so cash Drouin for a blue chip defender and a second-round pick. Spectacular return. For Montreal, they excite the fanbase and get a fantastic talent. Fun trade!

Jonathan Willis:

I think that Steve Yzerman is one of the best GMs in hockey. In one trade he solved a significant salary problem, a significant expansion draft problem, while shoring up a position of team weakness from a position of team strength. Mikhail Sergachev is obviously still something of an unknown quantity, and if Drouin develops into a matchup centre (right now he’s a softer minutes winger) Montreal will have done very well indeed, but that level of risk is entirely appropriate given the other problems that Tampa Bay solved in this trade.

Jason Gregor:

Good deal for both. Tampa needs some good young D-men and Tampa has many skilled forwards. Montreal needs to win now and their biggest weakness is a lack of high-end skill.

Matt Henderson:

I’m surprised that I find the deal so even. I like Sergachev as a prospect a lot, but he’s still just a prospect. Drouin is a pretty good young player, but I don’t think his ceiling is as high as Montreal is hoping for. If Sergachev becomes a stud and Drouin never becomes a 60-70 point player I’ll give the nod to Tampa. If Sergachev never turns into anything special then win for the Habs. I like the trade all around so far.

Robin Brownlee:

I’m in wait and see mode because new teammates and systems need a break-in period, but on the surface it looks like both teams are getting what they need. Drouin has skill and the Habs need more of that up front.

Chris the Intern:

I think it’s ballsy and awesome! It benefits Montreal immediately but will benefit Tampa in the long run. Overall I think Tampa may have won the trade with Sergachev, but only time will tell what kind of player he turns out to be.

Cam Lewis: It was damn good work by Yzerman, as the Lightning opened up another protection slot by moving Drouin for an expansion eligible forward. It’s funny, Marc Bergevin has spoken about how important it is to acquire a good puck moving defenceman and an elite centre, but he’s used his two best chips, P.K. Subban and Sergachev, and hasn’t acquired either.

Baggedmilk:

It was weird just in the sense that Montreal doesn’t have much defensive depth right now. I don’t know why Marc Bergevin hates defencemen under 30 but that appears to be the case as he moved two of his younger D out in the past week.

  • Hemmertime83

    Off topic. Is anyone afraid Vegas signs Leon? If I’m mcphee I am calling the Oilers up and asking for the first round pick to not offer him 9 million for 5 to 7 years. Right now they can sign Leon and not give us any compensation. I think this is a massive fk up by Chia to leave this possibility alive. I get He wants to sign him sane time as Connor but be would count as their expansion pick.

    • Rock11

      Would they not owe the Oilers their next 4 first round picks just like any other franchise? That would make for an interesting decision for the Oil if that is the case. Even with Leon it’s hard to see a contender in Vegas in the short term. Would you consider letting Leon go, protecting your cap space, and getting 3 or 4 lottery picks from LVK. That would be why the pay Chiarelli the big bucks to make decisions like that.

      • Hemmertime83

        No compensation for RFA signing.the compensation is it counts as their expansion pick so you keep your other players. I know most GM believe that RFA signings to be dirty pool but as an expansion team I wouldn’t care who I ticked off and would do my job the best I could to field a competitive team, no matter the feelings I hurt or the long term ramifications (By the time their draft picks are RFA odds are either Mcphee is no longer their GM or Chia is no longer ours

        • vern

          They can sign any RFA or UFA that is not on the protected list. Leon is ineligible for the expansion draft, therefore vegas can’t offer sheet him until July first.

        • Rock11

          That doesnt sound even remotely right. If that was the case then Vegas would go out and sign every RFA in the league and build a cup contender in 2 months while just picking every minimum wage scrub in the expansion draft to save cap space meanwhile every existing NHL team gets screwed. I think you need to go back and re-read the expansion rules on this one.

    • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

      When they will have trouble coming up to the floor it would be an interesting move to make. The only issue is it would have massive fall out as I believe most GMs stick together on this and tend to look at offer sheets as hurting everyone. I could see this hurting the LV future as much as it helped it. As I see Vegas trying to be a team player I do not expect it.

    • jonnyquixote

      “Right now they can sign Leon and not give us any compensation.”

      This is 100% untrue. Leon Draisaitl is a protected Oilers player. Vegas can’t even sniff at him right now. If Draisaitl makes it to July 1st without signing a new deal, he becomes a restricted free agent. While Vegas would be free to try to sign him to an offer-sheet at that time, they would be bound by the same compensation rules that restrict the 29 other NHL teams.

      • Hemmertime83

        By that logic Vegas can sign no UFA either. Which they can. They can sign any player going to be UFA or RFA on July 1. That signing would count as their expansion pick from that team. Which means he is available without compensation

        • jonnyquixote

          No. Vegas can sign unprotected UFAs during their exclusive window; this is a special bonus advantage they have for unprotected UFAs. They have exclusive negotiating rights to any unprotected UFA for the next 3 days. I’m not sure if they can speak to an unprotected RFA (or any other unprotected player) prior to selecting them in this draft.

          Either way, they can’t speak to any player on a team’s protected list – UFA, RFA or signed.

          If they sign an unprotected UFA during this period, it counts as an expansion selection from that team. After the expansion period expires, the UFA rights revert back to the original team and they have exclusive negotiation rights with them until June 30, same as every other year.

          But Vegas cannot speak to any protected player (UFA, RFA or signed). Draisaitl is on the Oilers protected list. Vegas can’t talk to him right now. The fact that Draisaitl’s entry level contract expires on July 1st has zero bearing on the expansion draft – it certainly doesn’t put Draisaitl in some sort of weird poachable limbo where Vegas can grab him without compensation. What would be the point of the Oilers even putting him on their protected list then?

          And can you imagine the murderer’s row Vegas would be able to pick if they had open season on RFAs? There’s a dozen amazing RFA players yet to be signed – Horvat, Pastrnak, Johansen, Kuznetsov, Parayko, Gosisbehere…

          On July 1st, all other teams (including Vegas) can speak to Draisaitl (or any other RFA) and try to sign him to an offer sheet, but they’re all bound by the usual RFA compensation rules.

    • Bmutha

      Vegas can only sign unprotected UFA’s and RFA’s during their exclusive window.

      This from cbc sports:

      “Also at 10 a.m Sunday, the Golden Knights will have a 72-hour window to sign unprotected pending unrestricted and restricted free agents, ahead of the July 1 deadline all other teams adhere to. The protection lists of the other teams will also be made public that day”

    • NoBuBlackOPS

      LV won’t sign Drai simply because LV would have to give the oilers there next 4 first round draft picks. I’m not a GM but that would be horrible asset management for a first year team. Especially when LV is going to need high end draft picks to make a competitive that can compete for years to come.

    • Spydyr

      WTF did he ever do to you? If you don’t agree with him big deal bring up some points that counter his. Discussion is what this is all about. If you don’t like his articles skip them over. Complaining about free content makes you look like an a$$hat.

      • Mark97

        I’ll leave that to the professionals like Jason Gregor and Bob Stauffer. If you want to hear valid opinions, that’s where you go. I’m not Going to argue with him or you. I’m entitled to my opinion and I think he absolutely makes a credible site such as Oil Nation look like a bush leauge

          • Derian Hatcher

            Bob usually has some good intel, but I feel he is forever pumping his own tires and he is a terrible interviewer, always cutting off his guests to give his own opinion.

        • NoBuBlackOPS

          Lmao you are entitled to your opinion and so is Henderson. To crap on someone like your doing just cause you don’t agree with his opinion is laughable. It also shows your total lack of respect for this site and everything this site does for oiler fans.

      • Mark97

        Exactly, it’s a respectable site and this is why he should not be on here. He has no respect for the game, the way he trashes players is just absurd. I’d like to see him on the ice

        • Samesame

          Huh? So he shouldn’t trash players? Just say nice things ? Writers give their opinions. And often their opinion is that a player isn’t any good. Which is fair if they back it up. And in this instance he totally has.
          You don’t have to put merit in advanced stats if you don’t want. But you’re leaving yourself less informed In that case to those who use Allah. Ailabke means to ide if u strengths and weaknesses. Your post sucked

          • Samesame

            Stupid auto correct.

            Advanced stats *

            If with the autocorrect t my post is still far superior to marks blather

            – ON- make a feature to edit posts for god sakes

      • Tombstone

        If people can’t handle Mark97 opinion maybe they should crawl back under their covers. It’s ok to say those things about Eberle but not someone else. What a joke

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    I personally do not understand all the negativity towards Henderson on the Blog. I read him and yes he comes from a more stat point of view and he has opinions that go against others. Is that not what you need to have a good discussion? I for one welcome the different points of view. It creates discussion and that is what we want as the whole fun of the blog is that not everyone agrees with what is being stated.

      • UserName:

        Ummm, too be fair Henderson did start it by saying that anyone who disagrees with his player interpretation is A. Insane B. Lazy C. Wrong. Henderson’s blogging style is adversarial and confrontational at times so it is not unusual to see the level of vitriol in the comments.

        • Derian Hatcher

          First of all, I really like this site. It is entertaining and thought provoking. Further, there are some commenters that I make sure I read as their comments are usually well-thought out. At the same time, there are writers I never miss (Brownlee) and a few I usually pass on, as I don’t enjoy their writing or they come across as know-it-alls (like Dallas Eakins – sorry, couldn’t resist).

          That being said…if everyone (writers and commenters) agreed on everything Oil, it would be a pretty boring site to visit.

          I work of an organization where the executive continually tell each other what terrific work they are doing. No improvements needed; no suggestions welcomed. Different viewpoints bring interest and thought. This should lead to improvement. Keep the great comments coming.

    • Rob...

      Few people are capable of good discussion, and get ‘uncomfortable’ with any opinion contrary to their own. It’s much easier for them to downvote or disparage, and move on, than to dispute a point of view with a counter argument. It’s one of the greatest values that bloggers provide. They actually put down in writing why they think what they think, knowing that they’ll be criticized for it; inviting it even.

      • Mark97

        There is a difference between good discussion and complete disregard when it comes to others opinions. I respect anyone who can produce insight from both ends of the spectrum but when you have a complete Hate on for a human you’ve never met it dosent seem fair to judge them the way Henderson dose. He even said in this article most of his work ends up in a pile of similar readings on someone else’s desk which to me makes him a non credible source. I really wish Oil Nation would take pride in their product and remove him from this website. It’s a shot in the face to credible sources like Gregor, Brownlee and reporters such as Rishaug and Dreger who work so hard and are around nhl teams on a daily basis to provide real insight. Sure they aren’t always right but they have credibility. Henderson is embarrassing and Oil Nation is no better for having him contribute to their product. We are coming off a two round playoff run and by far the best year the city has seen regarding hockey since 2006. The more you talk about the negative the more you disassociate yourself with the positive. There’s nothing but good times ahead in Edmonton, one less Henderson is better for everyone

        • Rock11

          So having a “complete Hate on” for someone you have never even met is not allowed for Henderson when he discusses Russell but is completely OK for you when discussing Henderson. Seems about right for the tenor of this conversation.

        • Big Nuggets

          but if signing Russel is a mistake and Henderson helps convince everyone that it’s a mistake then his negativity ends up being a positive. I dont know if it is a mistake to sign Russel but if he cant get the puck of the zone that seems to be a major issue.

    • Redbird62

      Well based on this excerpt from Matt, at least for today it is Matt who started the name calling:
      “Any sane person who isn’t too lazy to look at the data has no choice but to admit this player was a drain on the team and holds very little value moving forward.” So apparently anyone who disagrees with his viewpoint on Russell is either insane or lazy. I guess Matt Henderson is also including Todd McClellan and Peter Chiarelli and some of his fellow bloggers either insane or lazy too.

    • Bp123

      Creating discussion implies that you are willing to consider viewpoints other than your own. Henderson is outright hostile to anyone that disagrees with him and refuses to acknowledge any opinion other than his own.

      • Rob...

        Ages ago there used to be a morning show called the Bill & Bill show, with Bill Matheson and Bill Jackson. They had a winning formula because more often than not they took polar opposite views on any topic. Because of it, people were glued to their radio, and many ‘HAD TO’ call in because of something said that they vehemently disagreed with. Why would you think the game is played any differently in the blogosphere?

        • Bp123

          This isn’t about any “game”, it’s explaining why people don’t like Henderson. A radio show where both sides of an argument are presented and debated at the same time, and one-sided articles that attack anyone that disagrees with them are not even close to being comparable.

          • Rob...

            You’re acting like the hockey statisticians aren’t constantly ridiculed and belittled as well. I think both the eye and the calculator work well together, but this isn’t as simple as baseball. It’s going to take a long time before we have some great & stable statistics that are reliable predictors of talent and hockey sense. For that reason I think the criticism of the stats based decisions is good. It continues to force its users to refine their calculations and what data they rely upon.

    • freelancer

      I quite like having different opinions in regards to players and enjoy arguments and conversation.

      My personal complaints with Matt are how he sometimes comes off too arrogant and goes so far as to accuse anyone who doesn’t agree with his like of thinking is “wrong or lazy”.

  • Rob...

    Russell blocks shots. Shot blockers get injured and need recovery time. I’d rather my d-men excel at angling out the high risk shots, or stripping the opposition of the puck and then doing the right thing with it. This is where Russell shows he’s not the veteran we need IF the price is too high. Too often I’ve seen him pass the puck straight to the opposition and then having to block a shot that never should have been taken to begin with.

  • Hockey123

    Kent Wilson‏Verified account @Kent_Wilson

    Blocking shots is like killing rats. Doing it is preferable to not, but if you’re doing it all the time it suggests you have bigger problems

  • Dobbler

    Once upon a time, someone was trying to look at hockey players without any of the bias that can give us a wrong impressions. That guy came up with some fancy stats. He showed some other hockey guy, and the other hockey guy said “that’s wrong, you’re a nerd”, and the pro/anti stats debate began. Now, anyone who thinks the idea behind using fancy stats is not helpful just doesn’t understand the situation. People aren’t objective, and even the best experts get things wrong if left to their own devices (Alexandre Daigle anyone?), so by using fancy stats (in theory), we take the natural human biases out of the picture and look at only the relevant facts about a player. Problem is, the game is complicated, and assigning value to a player is multifaceted. That makes it really hard to come up with fancy stats that accurately reflect everything that is important, and it takes good judgement to interpret their results. Fast forward to Kris Russell. Most people believe that he falls somewhere in the range between solid but underappreciated NHL defender to over-appreciated borderline NHL quality dman. At the extremes, people whose names rhyme with Schmatt Schmenderson think he’s bad at hockey. My take is that the debate about stats has become so heated, and Russell has come to stand for all that the debate is supposed to be representing, that people at both extremes aren’t really thinking about the player anymore, they’re thinking about what he represents to the debate. That makes them say stupid things. Saying that Russell is bad at hockey is a stupid thing to say. Frankly, it’s worse than that. To people who take a glance at the subject, it makes the “pro fancy stats” community look stupid by association.

    • Big Nuggets

      did Daigle have bad fancy stats before he was drafted? I would guess his stats coming out of junior were just fine. There are limitations on the insight fancy stats can currently give us.

    • btrain

      Well put. There is value from both sides but those who are too pationate one way or another fall victim to confirmation bias. Henderson wants his numbers to back up his opinion so his eye test narrows to only that which supports his already well established point of view. Stats in hockey no matter how FANCY they are will always be extremely limited because this is truly a team sport and a complex one at that. The role of each player on the ice is dynamic and dependent on the decisions of themselves, their teammates, and the opposition at all times. Baseball which largely gave rise to the Fancy stats world can do an infinitely better job evaluating individuals because baseball players have primarily independent tasks to perform. Even when it’s a collective task, in baseball it’s easy to isolate the player who made the error and not attribute it to the entire team. Error in hockey is much more subjective. So I see the value of these stats as trends based on large sample sizes can be telling but you have to know the game very well to analyze these stats appropriately. Let’s just say I don’t think Henderson will be getting any calls from NHL teams for his ability to read numbers because he lacks the hockey knowledge to go with it.

  • camdog

    Russell is not a good NHL d-man, but he is an NHL d-man. Mark Fayne the player he replaced at the same salary
    is an AHL d-man. When put on waivers 29 other teams had a chance to claim him and nobody did. Over the last 10 years I’ve seen too often the Oilers dress AHL d-man and wondering why they couldn’t win. And then last year for the first time in over 6 years they put together an actual NHL capable defense, and the GM gets repeatedly called out by the same guys for signing Russell, trading for Larsson and not playing Mark Fayne.

    • Rock11

      That is mainly true except that KR was UFA for all of last year and could have theoretically been had by any team in the league and they all said no thanks which left him as a training camp signee by a relatively desperate team. This was the equivalent of clearing waivers. I’m not a Fayne supporter either but don’t think there is much to choose between the two players. They are both solid bottom pairing NHL D-men. There is value there just not $4m worth.

      • camdog

        The Oilers were desperate to sign Russell last season, because they were terrified of the reality of going into the season with Mark Fayne in their starting line up. Not only did the Oilers pay Russell 3.1 they also payed Fayne 3.6 not to play. That’s a 6.7 million dollars tied up in one position.

      • camdog

        If somebody really wanted him, the Oilers would be able to split his cap hit, that hasn’t happened. Essentially no team in the league will take him at 1.5 or 1.8 or whatever the number would be. At league minimum a team would take a chance on him, but no guarantee that he’d spend 82 games with the big club.

  • Finnish Oiler fan in Edmonton89

    Surely this was written before the writers saw the staggering amount of quality dmen left available yesterday. Vegas would be fools to take Reinhardt at this point with atleast 15-20 d available that are far better choices.

    50% chance they take pitlick
    30% chance they take khaira
    20% chance they take LB

    Taking pitlick would hurt the most
    Khaira the least
    And indifferent towards LB

  • RyanCoke

    I don’t understand how a good save percentage behind him is a bad thing. Every time I see this argument made that the goaltender bailed him out sounds retarded. A good defenceman takes away the good shots and forces a lower percentage shot. If the goalie is playing behind him better than other defenceman then that means the defenceman did his job. I think he does this very well and I will take it as a positive.

    • btrain

      RyanCoke, you have offered an example of someone who understands the intricacies of the game of hockey and is able to use that knowledge to accurately analyze a stat. It is logical, watching Russell play, that he blocks many of what would be high danger shots. Leaving Talbot with less grade A chances to have to stop himself. Sure one can argue that Russell has to make those blocks because of his own deficiencies but the argument that Talbot has raised his level when Sekera and Russell are on the ice is poor logic. Its not like Talbot notices 4 come over the boards and decides he better focus extra hard for the next 30-45 sec. So I can buy that Russell likely gives up more perimeter shots and has to block shots partly because of his own issues, but I don’t buy that Talbot is the reason he doesn’t look as bad as he actually is. Russell shines in areas that are less appreciated and not easily measured by the stats community. Perhaps Russell’s deficiencies (easily measured) allow him to be a position to be superior as a shot blocker and therefore suppress grade A opportunities. Where Russell’s mistake (lets say poor gap) puts him in a position where he recovers to block a grade A chance, a similar caliber player making same mistake is getting scored on.

      None of us would give Russell a 4×4 deal, I think that is a pretty safe assumption. However, to try an use stat like this to illustrate how poor Russell is when it actually shows how good he is at preventing high quality scoring chances, reflects a lack of insight into the game itself.

  • camdog

    The same guys that don’t like Russell, didn’t think Justin Schultz was an NHL defense man and think Mark Fayne is a top 4 d-man. Nothing more than bloggers trying to write click bait stories to up their numbers rather than looking objectively at the player.

    • Samesame

      Absolutely not. Where do you concoct this bs? Those who don’t like Russel use more information than you. Those underlying numbers didn’t paint a pretty picture of mark fayne either.

      Your post literally didn’t have an ounce of truth to it

      • camdog

        That’s what Matt’s been preaching and writing about on this site for the last 3 years on here…. If you don’t like Matt’s usage of the underlining numbers he chooses to use bring that up with him…

    • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

      We so had no clue prior to Chia. So many players taken top of the draft were rushed in to the NHL or just messed up. Does any team have as many train wrecks in the last ten years. The first hints were Sheldon Souray, Schultz, Dubnyk, Cogs, the list is long and I wonder what the present coach and GM would do different over the last Ten? As far as Russell It will be interesting to see what Chia does because there are now 50+ more professional roster spots in the NHL. Great for the old guys who want to milk another year or two of the big bucks before retirement. Struds you left a little too soon!

  • Hemmercules

    Russel is just here at a weird time. The Oil need NHL dmen but they aren’t in abundance free agent wise and they are costly to trade for. Russel does some things well but obviously they would want someone better if they can find a guy. If he returns at decent term and dollars I don’t know how anyone can complain. Its the 4×4 rumour that has a lot of people worried right now because its way too much for a small defensive defender that lacks passing ability and scoring touch.

    I’m actually hoping they bring in someone else first, then if Russel is still around and willing to accept something more reasonable than 4×4 then maybe it gets done.

  • 99 to 97

    The reason Russel is so divisive is because everyone else thinks he’s a competent NHL defenseman but Matt H. doesn’t like him for some reason. Like the way I think Taylor Hall is a terrible hockey player because he wouldn’t sign my basketball when I saw him in a Sobeys parking lot. Terrible player…

        • Derian Hatcher

          This is always a controversial discussion and athletes deserve private time as well. But the the bottom line is this; if it were not for fans – those who go to games, watch sports on TV, buy merhandise, Taylor Hall and others would not be millionaires. Now I can’t comment on your experience with Taylor Hall, cause maybe he was in a rush or having an off day. I believe it comes with the territory. Some atheletes understand that, some don’t. And in both instances, it’s a reflection of their character IMO

  • fasteddy

    One more thing….I wouldn’t mind seeing Nuge take a spin on Mcd’s wing. Kid had offensive creativity coming out his ears in first year or two, somewhere along the line that seems to have gone away. Maybe in more of a support role he’d find it again. And Drai looks more than capable of pushing the river on his own line.

    • The Whispererer

      I’d be interested in your explanation of why they would use their expansion pick on Pitlick when they could select 1 of Reinhart, Khaira or Pakarinen in the draft and be free to sign Pitlick as a UFA on July 1st.

      • madjam

        Does Vegas not have exclusive rights to talk to their agents to make sure they will come and thus avoid the July1 deadline while other clubs cannot till that date . I believe same deal with any unprotected RFA’s they may want to add . Only 20 of 30 or 2/3ds need to be signed by Vegas to contracts beyond this year .

        • The Whispererer

          There is no guarantee that he would sign with them if they select him in expansion. His existing contract expires June 30 and he becomes UFA. Obviously they would talk to his agent prior to the draft and if they determine he would be willing to sign with them they could wait until July 1st to sign a contract, while picking someone else in the draft. Perfectly legal to do so as they are permitted to talk to any pending RFAs/UFAs with no obligation to draft them.

        • The Whispererer

          While VGK does indeed have an exclusive 48 hour window with pending free agents, it’s worth noting that the free agent interview period opens on June 24th at which time all clubs are free to contact pending UFAs although they can’t sign contracts until July 1st.

  • “If you try to take out his blocked shots and only use unblocked attempts that is eliminating the thing he is best at.”

    This is a weird comment because counting unblocked shot attempts very specifically takes into account the “thing he is best at”.

  • Nanook

    I really hope your right Baggedmilk. losing Pouliot for some glitter and glue would be just what the doctor ordered and I sure would not doubt Chiarelli could pull it off

  • fasteddy

    I’m not excited about it enough to do all the math, but I’m curious what the actual “negative” of Russell’s 46% this and 51% that actually translates to in terms of goals for/against vs say Sekera who is supposedly revered…..if it’s a few goals per season for or against depending how things bounce then this is a useless conversation…..and I’d take the guy who is fearless on my team any day.

  • Marshall Law

    Gregor’s defence of Russell here is inherently contradictory.

    He spouts off two specific stats that were given to him by Woodguy on twitter and states that those numbers prove that Russell is “good at hockey.” He then says “I find some will use specific stats rather than the entire picture.” – This is exactly what he’s doing here, showing us two stats in isolation, ignoring all other factors that show Russell in a negative light (and there are a lot of them).

    One of the stats he uses here is FF% (Fenwick). He then says that we shouldn’t remove Russell’s blocked shots from consideration, implying that doing so doesn’t give us an accurate picture of Russell’s game. Well, Fenwick (or FF%), the stat he used in support of Russell, does exactly that. It gauges only unblocked shot attempts. So what the heck are we even talking about here?

    Using Fenwick is actually quite flattering to Russell because, if you factor in blocked shot attempts, it becomes obvious that he’s getting his butt handed to him in terms of puck possession.

    He’s a useful player, but he’s not the kind of player you give any kind of substantial money or term to. KR must be the nicest guy alive because I can’t remember the MSM defending such a mediocre player so vigorously. It’s starting to feel like Henderson isn’t the only one that may have some personal bias at play.

  • Question #2: Oilers biggest strength is Cam Talbot. Last season’s success rests on his shoulders. Yes, McDavid adds plenty, but from what I saw, great goaltending stole the show for Edmonton.

    Weakness is correctly identified by the writers. Second pairing on D, right wing needs help, and I would add a capable backup.

  • madjam

    Oilers biggest assets appear to be Connor, Leon and Talbot . Biggest weakness is depth at forward and defence . Russell’s worth I prefer to let Chia decide that as I am neutral on whether to keep him or not . Whom the Oilers lose in expansion probably boils down to best forward with youth and small contract . Pitlick best , but Khaira is younger and has a formidable 3 year low contract to only one for Tyler . Tyler also has an injury history Vegas might want to avoid . Doubt Vegas wants a defenseman like a Reinhart from us , they have plenty of other defenseman they should covet . To be honest , there is not an awful lot Vegas will get from Oilers unless Oilers make a deal of sorts retaining salary , etc. for them to take Pouliot .

  • russ99a

    Kind of odd that Analytics somehow don’t include defensive metrics, only offense ones. To distill someone’s game into one number that’s just about offense is a very limited view.