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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Barrie Signing, Bear Trade. What does it Mean?

Does re-signing Tyson Barrie and trading Ethan Bear help the Edmonton Oilers? There isn’t an easy answer, but to look at it correctly we need to look at all angles.

Let’s start with the basics. Barrie has been a regular NHLer for the past eight seasons. So let’s look at what has occurred to date.

Barrie is elite offensively. Not just on the powerplay, but overall. Here is where he ranks among NHL defenders in the past eight seasons:

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Total                                   EV                                       PP
Points: 7th                         Points: 7th                          Points: 8th
Assists: 8th                       Assists: 7th                        Assists: 7th
Goals: 12th                        Goals: 9th                          Goals: 19th

Producing actual points is a very good thing in my eyes. Does he give up more than he produces though?

In those eight seasons here is Barrie’s GF-GA at 5×5
44-31 (58.6%)
71-57 (55.4%)
57-57 (50%)
44-72 (37.9%)
54-50 (51.9%)
60-53 (53.1%)
59-61 (49.2%)
54-49 (52.4%)

The 2017 season was a massive outlier. The Avalanche were one of the worst teams in NHL history. How bad was it? The Avs top-six D-men had GF% of 37.9%, 40.7%, 32.5%, 34.3%, 33.3% and 40.9%. Yowza.

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In his other seven seasons Barrie has a 52.7GF% (399-358). He has that because of his offensive skills. No question he has some deficiencies defensively, and the question is: Do those hinder the team more than benefit it? Having a 52.7GF% would suggest it does not hinder.

I’ve read many point out stats suggesting Barrie was a drain on McDavid offensively. I think that is twisting the stat a bit, what I refer to as hyperbole analysis.

Let me present a stat to illustrate my point. Ethan Bear is better defensively than Barrie. I think most would agree with that.

Here are Bear’s stats last season with McDavid and without.

TOI SF% GF% xGF% SCF%
With 97 178 61.86 59.09 71.18 64.91
Without 472 45.64 35.71 46.04 44.87

In the 72.6% of his total ice time Bear’s numbers weren’t very good, mainly his GF%. Does that mean he is a terrible D-man? Not in my eyes, but he wasn’t as effective this past season as he was in 2020. I suspect much of that was due to him not coming to camp in top condition. It is difficult to succeed in the NHL when you aren’t in peak physical condition. It is why when players have a down year I wonder about injuries as well. Bear’s unfortunate concussion, when he was hit by a puck while sitting on the bench, also likely played a factor in his numbers.

It is interesting to me how so many are comparing Barrie and Bear with and without McDavid this past season, when the sample size is much different. We all know that a smaller sample size can often have unsustainable or misleading information.

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Here is Bear’s TOI with McDavid over the past two seasons compared to Barrie’s last year. The TOI is closer.

TOI SF% GF% xGF% SCF%
Barrie 557 51.89 55.07 51.03 52.19
Bear 763 51.24 53.76 54.53 55.04

In those minutes Barrie outscored opposition 38-31 and produced 3-14-17.
Bear outscored the opposition 50-43 and produced 4-14-18.
Barrie got a point on 44.7% of the goals when on the ice with McDavid.
Bear registered a point on 36% of the goals when on ice with McDavid.

And considering GF% has the most direct impact in the outcome of games, Barrie was actually slightly higher.

I believe Barrie and Bear both have many positive attributes in their games, and both have areas of concern. I’d caution those who use hyperbole analysis when discussing a player. I don’t believe it tells the full story.

Since 2018, here is the list of Oilers blueliners (who played 50 games) and finished the season with a GF% above 50%.

2018: Nurse (55.2), Matt Benning (51.5) and Larsson (50%).
2019: Benning (55.8) and Kris Russell (50.5)
2020: None
2021: Nurse (55.9) and Barrie (52.4).

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McDavid played a lot of minutes those seasons. Benning barely played with him, and didn’t face the other teams top lines either.

Now look at point totals at 5×5 for D-men, who were top-five in TOI.
2018: Nurse (24 and 0.93 P/60), Russell (17, 0.80P/60), Benning (16, 0.85P/60), Klefbom (11, 0.59 P/60) and Larsson (11, 0.55 P/60).
2019: Nurse (27, 1.04 P/60), Larsson (17, 0.66 P/60), Russell (14, 0.66 P/60), Benning (13, 0.86 P/60) and Klefbom (12, 0.64 P/60).
2020: Nurse (26, 1.14 P/60), Bear (19, 0.87 P/60), Klefbom (15, 0.81 P/60), Russell (8, 0.62 P/60) and Larsson (6, 0.42 P/60).
2021: Nurse (23, 1.19 P/60), Barrie (22, 1.38 P/60), Larsson (10, 0.64 P/60), Russell (8, 0.86 P/60) and Bear (8, 0.74 P/60).

Barrie’s 1.38 P.60 is the highest, followed by Nurse having three seasons above 1.04. I question the suggestion that Barrie was a drain on McDavid offensively. The data can state that, but is is possible the data doesn’t tell the entire story? Are we not allowed to question and discuss data or do we just accept it all at face value?

WHAT NOW FOR OILERS?

At the end of the regular season, most agreed Edmonton needed to re-sign two of their big three UFAs of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie. I felt Larsson was more important due to the style he plays. Barrie, Bear and Evan Bouchard can’t play his role or minutes, but Larsson opted for a new challenge in his career and signed in Seattle.

Ken Holland opted to re-sign Barrie rather than enter free agency with only Bear and Bouchard on the right side. Barrie is a proven NHL player. As outlined before he is elite offensively, and actually has better post-season numbers than in the regular season. I wonder if that played a small role. I recognize it is a small sample size, but Barrie’s playoff numbers with three different teams are actually quite good overall. He has a 57.5GF% and 56xGF%. And for those wondering his GF% and xGF% this past season in the playoffs was higher without McDavid than with. But extremely small sample size.

But if you watched the playoffs, Barrie wasn’t nearly as much of a risk-taker as he is in the regular season. He didn’t have glaring turnovers. He played a safer game in the playoffs. That might have been a factor in them opting to re-sign him. I also understand those who feel Evan Bouchard can replace him. I think in a year or two he could, but asking young D-men to play big minutes early in their careers is often a bad idea. Very few can do it successfully. If Bouchard and Barrie split PP time and Bouchard gets to start in sheltered third pair minutes I think that is better for his development.

BEAR TRADED…

Mar 3, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ethan Bear (74) during the game between the Stars and the Oilers at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Edmonton decided they would rather have Barrie over Bear as they signed Barrie for three years at $4.5m AAV, while Bear was traded to Carolina for left winger Warren Foegele this morning. Foegele will help the Oilers third line. He is a bigger winger with speed and has chipped in nicely at 5×5. He can also kill penalties. On a deep Carolina team he played 14:09/game last season. I’ve long viewed Bear as a third pairing defender on a competitive team, and I suspect he will play in third pair minutes at 5×5 and kill penalties in Carolina. Your team is solid if he is in your third pairing. Carolina will be a great fit for him. Tony DeAngelo will play more of the offensive situations, while Brett Pesce takes the toughest defensive assignments and Bear will slot in below both and help them.

I view Evan Bouchard having the same role in Edmonton. The difference is Bouchard is 6’3″ and size is a big advantage when defending. You cover more space and it is why I think Bouchard has more potential to be a top-four, even top-pair defender in the future. But I wouldn’t rush him. I’d let him gain confidence in third pairing minutes and splitting PP time with Barrie to start.

Foegele will help the Oilers spend less time in their own zone, which will help the blueline. An NHL eastern conference head coach texted me this about him: “Consistent effort. Doesn’t cut corners. Very hard working, protects puck well and goes to the net without hesitation.”

So now the Oilers have Barrie and Bouchard on the right side and will be looking to sign a RD who is more defensive-minded. I outlined some options here. Cody Ceci was one and the Oilers signed him for four years at $3.25m. He can’t fill Larsson’s role entirely, but he and Duncan Keith will likely get more Dzone than Ozone starts, and be the second pair to start the season. There weren’t many valid options to fill Larsson’s role, so I think Edmonton decided they would add Ceci, re-sign Barrie and acquire Foegele to have more balance across the lineup. We’ll see if it works.

Lineup changes so far:

Out: Larsson, Bear, Dmitry Kulikov/Caleb Jones, Dominik Kahun and James Neal.
In: Duncan Keith, Ceci, Bouchard, Zack Hyman and Foegele.

Do you think Edmonton is better or worse with those five changes?

Now the Oilers need to sign a legit third line centre. Ryan Getzlaf opted to stay in Anaheim, and Nick Bonino signed in San Jose.  Here are some other options I outlined a few months ago. Derek Ryan makes sense on a one year deal. The other option Edmonton could consider is signing another LW and play Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at centre with Foegele.

I also expect them to sign a third line left defenceman as well and Holland is still looking at options to swap out Mikko Koskinen for another goalie.

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