Friday, July 14, 2006

In Defense of the... Defense

If you're like most Oiler fans these days, you've probably spent a bit of time despairing over Pronger and Spacek's departures. Until Vic made his excellent post outlining MacT's probably strategy, you were probably wondering what the hell Edmonton could do about it's defensive situation next year. With this post, I hope to answer a little bit of the next big question: "how well will it work?"

The numbers you see are pretty straight forward with the caveat that some common sense is needed to interpret them. I chose three of the players I did because of departures/arrival and then Greene as something of a replacement level baseline who is the most likely to improve this season.

A couple notes:

1) Matt Greene spent a miniscule about of time (just 5 minutes) killing penalties during this year's playoffs. Edmonton allowed a goal against during this time and hence his PKGA/hr is an inflated 12. No doubt he's not in Pronger's league when it comes to killing penalties, but he probably gets screwed a bit with the small sample size.

2) Likewise, Shaggy looks like a PK monster by the numbers I've got and in his case the number is so good that you'd have to find at least a few flaws in the way I calculated it before he loses his shine.

Flaws aside, the real question is simply of how much worse we'll be this year than last.

As the most potentially surprising statement I will make about the Oilers' D, Edmonton is a better team if you take last year's defense and make a Spacek for Tjarnqvist trade straight up. Shaggy is much better on the PK, comparable on the powerplay though his career numbers are lower, and more reliable at even strength. It's possible that these numbers are just a projection of the frustration #6 imbued me with last year (with his play in both zones) but I just can't see how Edmonton would lose such a trade. Jaro is obviously the more offensive of the two but not by enough IMO to make up for his defensive shortcomings to Tjarnqvist.

I can only assume that at least one pessimist is raring to have at me for a post that's shaping up to bely a high koolaid intake. Rest assured, my conclusions regarding FCP are less rosy.

Chris Pronger went ES +6 with 9 ES points over 24 playoff games against the toughest possible opposition. He was excellent on the powerplay, made smart decisions all playoff long and was a minute eater in all situations. There is no way to suggest that his contribution will be replaced by the 2006/2007 squad and no one would claim otherwise.

However, with the Oilers benefiting marginally from the Spacek for Shaggy trade, we're not as far away from respectable as many would think. Our penalty kill won't suffer as much as most believe. At even strength, it's more than likely that one of Smith and Staios will be on the ice in all key situations. While this does make for a team that will be be exposed by opposing stars often enough, much of the losses will be made up by having average to above average save percentace hold the fort and some of them will be tempered by more offense from the forwards.

Have a look at these and your own numbers and draw your own conclusions. It's obvious that 2006/07 is going to be a lessen in patience for Oiler fans. Bottles will be drank triumphantly one night and thrown violently the next. Are we screwed? My answer is a resounding hell no.


Blogger Showerhead said...

The image looks small but readable on my screen - how are the rest of you doing?

7/14/2006 2:08 pm  
Blogger Steven said...

Image looks perfectly fine to me.

7/14/2006 2:13 pm  
Blogger Showerhead said...

Thank-you. I had also forgotten that you can click on the image to see the full-sized GIF.

7/14/2006 2:41 pm  
Blogger Dennis said...

It will be hard for Greene to kill a lot of penalties when he's TAKING so many in the first place;)

7/14/2006 3:03 pm  
Anonymous namflashback said...

nicely done shower. You make me feel good about Shaggy for Spacek.

So, to make the picture complete -- we need to see the specs and stats on MAB, and Crossanov in the picture.

My intuitive sense is that MAB, Hejda can't be any worse than Ulanov Cross in the last pair.

7/14/2006 3:04 pm  
Blogger Matt said...

I don't doubt your subjective statement that Tjarnqvist is a better D-man than Spacek, but I do see a problem with your calcs.

Ignoring 5- and 4-on-3s, there are 4 penalty killers on the ice at all times; if DT played 6.6% of the Wild's PK minutes, he was actually on the ice [4x6.6%] 26.4% of the time that the Wild was killing penalties - i.e. you need to quadruple his "monster numbers".

That said, this is a fairly minor issue relative to the bigger problem: if you want to compare DT the player to Spacek, you simply have to use his own actual stats, not ones that are projected backwards from the team stats. Otherwise, you come to the identical conclusion regardless of which Wild D-man the Oil actually added. Your analysis on its face suggests that the Oil would be just as well off if they had added Alex Henry or Scott Ferguson, which may or (more likely) may not be true.

Am I missing something?

7/14/2006 3:16 pm  
Anonymous YKOil said...

Great post showerhead. Reinforces the belief of many that one more solid d-man would solidify this defense into something that might even be well above average.

As it stands it looks like we will be a little worse off than in 2003-04 on defense but far better off than 2003-04 in net as we will have Roli playing the pipes. Since our forward lines will be better than that year as well I think many pundits/naysayers will be surprised this season upcoming.

7/14/2006 3:19 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Hmm... This is a little over the top, but there's really only one part I have a real problem with:

The point is not that Spacek is not a great PP producer and never has been, it's that at least we know what he can do. Tjarnqvist has played a grand total of 360 PP minutes in the NHL. Spacek played more last year alone (365min) and has played nearly 1200 PP minutes in the same time frame. There's no way Tjarnqvist gets the benefit of the doubt on the PP. Spacek might not be great, but at least the guy has a demonstrated level of ability.

The PK extrapolation is also dicey, since I don't feel we have a good way to measure this yet.

Anyway, Tjarnqvist's lack of experience makes it hard to make any hard conclusions about his personal impact but the moral of the story supports a theme here lately: Replacement dmen aren't that hard to find and the gap between a decent dman and his next closest replacement is almost never as wide as it is for a forward.

7/14/2006 4:29 pm  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Something to note on the Greene PK stats - I guarantee that a lot of that was him coming out of the box with the team down 5 on 3 - I can recall two or three instances where that was the case - team down 5 on 3 - he was the first out of the box and immediately on the PK until they iced it/got a stoppage/killed the penalty.

7/15/2006 12:11 pm  
Anonymous Julian said...

oh god, i remember one awful moment in the playoffs where Greene stepped onto the ice after as the 4th player and as a forward. He looked completly lost out there, he probably would have been better off just goign straight to the bench and letting someone else come on.

7/15/2006 6:33 pm  
Blogger Showerhead said...

Thanks for the comments guys and sorry for the delayed (and brief!)response. Your critiques are constructive and accurate but after the weekend I just had, I am probably going to be too hungover for the next week to respond to any of them ;)

7/17/2006 8:17 am  
Blogger Showerhead said...

Matt: the point about needing to quadruple the PK stats is well taken - you're absolutely right and I'm not sure how I missed that. I'd imagine there are enough 5-on-3 and 4-on-3 goals to change the number a little bit but TJ's PK stats look a little more ordinary when quadrupled.

I should point out that Shaggy's PK stats are the only ones I extrapolated - the rest are 100% TJ's. Your assertion that we could substitute him for any Wild defenseman makes its point only in regards to the PK stat. I understand you don't actually believe Ferguson is a better d-man but I'll reiterate that common sense does need to be applied. It is my assertion that Tjarnqvist was at least average as far as Wild pk-ers went last season and that is why I have no qualms with giving him an even percentage of it.

Rivers: indeed my numbers have their flaws and indeed the moral is basically that it shouldn't be too hard to return the ranks to respectability.

BDHS: my memory agrees with yours...

and I officially feel like this horse has been beaten dead. It's unlikely I will comment on the Oilers' D until it changes somehow or the season starts.

7/19/2006 8:14 am  

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