Thursday, September 14, 2006

Big Bruising Defensemen

They have taken a hard knock from the media in the "new" NHL. Unfairly I think. I know I had bought into the whole line of thinking.

I was just scrolling through the head-to-head icetimes vs Staal and Brind'Amour, to see if anyone else targeted Rod with their favourite 'hard minutes' D or forwards. And in the vast majority of cases they did not by the way, a couple of squads were 50/50, but the Oilers were alone in the strategy they ran in the Cup Finals. But I digress.

I notice that the guys who logged the tough minutes for most teams seem to be the same cast of characters as in past years. As always some old guys decline and some young guys step up, a bit moreso in 05/06 of course, because we skipped a season. But there doesn't really seem to be much in it.

The most famous guys that get slagged are Hatcher and Rathje. The general concensus of the hockey media is that Clarke made a huge mistake there. Ken Hitchcock, however, strongly disagrees. If we listen to his actions anyways.

You can name any of the obvious top guns on the other teams in the east ... and it's these two guys who carried the mail for the Flyers on the back end. Especially Hatcher, who outdid Forsberg by this metric even when you account for the fact that he played a lot more icetime than Foppa. I know that Peter was held together hockey tape again this season and missed a bunch of games and also gets used to play against the other team's schleps on occasion when Philly could manage it ... but still, that's an impressive feat by Hatcher.

The the rate that goals happened are higher too, a pretty solid indicator that these minutes were earned at tough times. The last ten minutes of the game with DAL behind by a goal, when Modano is playing every second shift, shit often happens then ... and the guys who are being matched up at those times are going to show up in the results. This is just one example of course.

Icetime seems to be the thing that convinces people though, so here goes vs Jagr, head2head at 5on5, and only as accurate as the shiftcharts themselves:

Hatcher - 70 minutes
Desjardins - 51
Gagne - 50
Knuble - 50
Handzus - 44
Rathje - 43
Forsberg - 38

Then you're dropping into the pack at that point. Some other notables:

Pitkanen - 20
Carter - 15
Richards - 19
Umberger - 17

Now of course it matters if a player was injured for 6 of the 8 games against the Rangers, and I haven't bothered to check that and I don't plan to. Feel free to check for yourself though. :-)

Pick yourself 8 or 10 or 12 of the teams in the east with one clear top gun and you end up with more or less the same picture though. Forsberg is up there in most games that he played, and Desjardins falls a bit and Rathje and Pitkanen move up a bit, but the same general idea as the Jagr numbers shown here.

My point, and I do have one: The next time that HHOFer Al Strachan and his cohorts tell us something ... maybe we should check it against the facts before we accept it as gospel.


Anonymous oilerdiehard said...

I can tell you one thing from experience.

The Flyer fans, do not appreciate Derrian, it seems to range from dislike to hate and distain for Hatcher.

I went to the Oiler game last year against Philly and audible low level Comrie touching the puck booing nearly everytime Hatcher touched the puck. The Hatcher insults could be heard from far and wide. "You skating in sand Hatcher?" "Unstrap that fridge from your back you lump of suck". It started in the pre-game skate.


Hatcher did not look great that night (he and the other Flyer D men seemed to have trouble with our speed) but did not seem horrible either. It was much fun though watching Moreau score 2 shorthanded goals and almost a 3rd.

I think you may be right that it is overblown the new NHL's effect on big D men. However, I guess many struggled, I think Blake, at least in the first half was not great and it of course it seemed to expose slow lumps like Cross and etc...

9/14/2006 6:31 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Man, they were harsh on Hatcher, I didn't realize that. Often seems to be the way though, the defensemen who are playing a lot against Jagr or Kovalchuk are the ones that look the worst. By the looks of it, he was having a good numbers year too until the key Philly forwards starting dropping like flies. Playing those sorts of minutes without good forwards on your side ... it ain't easy. Just ask Adam Foote. :-)

Having said that, I don't feel sympathy for Hatcher. Probably not reasonable, but those years of losing to Dallas in the playoffs left me hating the guy.

Blake is a strange one. No matter how you cut it ... it looks like Skrastins played way tougher opposition than him, and starting somewhere around the quarterpole of the season, maybe a bit after. By simple events metric, by the "Big 8" thing ... changed it up with some different players (Tkachuk, Doan, Bell, Sullivan, Horcoff) ... still the same thing, Skrastins with about twice as much ice and about twice as many total goals happening. Thing is, Blake can skate, he wasn't supposed to be a guy that got affected badly by the rule changes. Whoever is GM of the Avs now must've talked with Q about this, and you can't blame them for letting Blake walk. That's a lot of scratch for a PP specialist and mid-level defender, and that's all that Rob was last season.

Probably just a bad year. Maybe nagging injuries? It would have to be something serious, groin or back, a core injury, cause it lasted a while. I imagine that he'll bounce back. Though I wouldn't have bet $6M bucks on it like Dean Lombardi did this summer.

As a brief aside: Looking at those COL numbers, Sakic could have won the Selke this past year. Who woulda thunk that about Joe when he was 22? :-)

9/14/2006 11:00 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Nice stuff Vic. I really do think some people are stoned out of their gourds about this New NHL somehow actually favouring smaller players. I recall ranting about this after the 2005 draft. They're still playing hockey - the big man always has advantages. That's just the way sports are and the NHL didn't enter the Bizarro dimension by making a few rule changes or actually calling the existing rules.

9/14/2006 11:59 pm  

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