Friday, December 15, 2006

The Defensemen

Here are the stats for the Oilers Dmen at 5v5. Simple stuff, organized by the most common defence pairings. This does not include tonight's game.

To add some context, Smith and Tjarnqvist obviously get the lion's share of the icetime against the other teams best players, on most nights anyways. Bergeron and Greene don't see those guys much at all, especially not if the score is close.

To someone who hasn't watched the Oilers this year the odd thing here is going to be the big difference in the goals-against rates of the guys who played on the same pairings.

Sometimes our memories play tricks on us with linemates though, or at least mine does. I tend to forget stretches earlier in the season where the alignment was different, or times when a guy or two was injured. So, as a check of our memories, courtesy of the time on ice (TOI) data sheets. The amount of icetime the D played, at 5v5 only here, with each other on the ice.

By way of example, Smid has played 380 minutes of 5v5 icetime. 317 minutes of that with Staios and 38 minutes with Smith. All of this seems about right to me.

So most of Bergeron's non-Greene ice time has come with the other three real, honest to goodness, NHL calibre defensemen. Same goes for Staios, and to a lesser extent Tjarnqvist. Whereas Smith's sans Shaggy icetime totals over an hour and a half, and most of that has come with some pretty dubious partners. While Smith didn't get off to the strongest of starts, this is probably a factor as well.

My point, and I do have one: Greene and Smid really have been a matching set of boat anchors. And they are going to keep getting thrown over the side of the boat. So my advice would be to learn to appreciate improvement and to see the beauty in 'mistakes that almost worked', drinking during games should help with that.

And now, to get all B.F. Skinner on your asses, I present the The Smidgreene Drinking Game: Every time either one makes a nice play you say "They're gonna be beauties!" and down a shot. You should end up with a light buzz, no hangover the next day, and eventually you'll get a warm tingly feeling every time they handle the puck and be overwhelmed with a sense of optimism about this Oilers squad.


Blogger PDO said...

Before I head off here, a quick request...

Vic could you throw up a table of the guys +/-'s with and without every player? I think that that combined with the 2nd table would just be an awesome analysis.

IE: We're going to make Staios look like God, Smith look respectable and Smid look like the anchor he is ;).

12/15/2006 10:07 pm  
Blogger Lowetide said...

Great, great post. It makes me feel a whole lot better about JSmith and to tell you the truth a little better about Tjarnqvist. He's about where you'd expect him to be, it just looked a little shaky (which should clear up with this drinking programming you're suggesting).

12/15/2006 10:09 pm  
Blogger Black Dog said...

Good post Vic - a nice continuation of the Dman theme if I'm following correctly.

Considering Smith's varied partners, the icetime he's logging, who he's logging it against, the sluggish offence and the fact that its not like he's Bobby Orr when it comes to generating offence, a minus five over all looks pretty goddamn good, I'd say.

12/16/2006 7:20 am  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Just to add:

Since that big Staios post I had I've been keeping track of 5V5 results by 20 game quarters. The first quarter looks like this:

Smid +11/-14
Smith +8/-16
Bergeron +14/-8
Staios +15/-12
Tjarnqvist +9/-13
Greene +14/-12

The 2nd quarter thus far (before last night's game):

Smid +5/-6
Smith +13/-7
Bergeron +4/-2
Staios +2/-4
Tjarnqvist +12/-6
Greene +5/-5

So basically Smith and Tjarnqvist have been charging. (ie. regressing to the mean - that bad luck couldn't continue forever) To my eye, this isn't entirely due to the hot streak of the 14-16-34 line either.

12/16/2006 11:36 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Don't feel better about Smith, he's been bad. He does have a long history of being good though, so I'm sure he'll turn it around. I mean a good defenseman should be able to buoy the schleps like Smid and Greene, but so far Smith is just getting dragged down to their level when he plays with them.

I think that the best gauge of this is the Corsi metric, which is the shots directed at net in either direction when you were on the ice. With few exceptions the cream rises to the top in terms of forwards, and the good defensemen have the worst numbers, because they've been the ones playing against the forwards who are good at this. Simple, basic sense stuff. I mean the puck has to be somewhere.

So to look at CGY this far, so as to remove the bias we all have towards the Oilers players, some representative guys of the lines:

Regehr: -47
Phaneuf: -2
Giordano: +24

Iginla, Langkow, Tanguay: +35, +38, +39
Huselius: +21
Amonte: +6

And everyone else is in the red, ending with noted scoring threats ..
Lundmark: -32
Friesen: -40 (yikes!)
And McCarty deserves mention for being -13 with barely any icetime, and surely all of that off offensive zone draws against the other team's worst forwards.
And whoever #15 and #26 are for the Flames ... they suck hard at this as well.

12/16/2006 11:36 am  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

I just keep hoping that everytime 5 gets owned, like he has in the last two nights vs Koivu and then Brunette, it makes more of Lowe's hair fall out and that spurs him to try and shore up the shitpile that is the Oilers defense.

MacT must be losing it on a nightly basis, I mean he basically has fuckall options. He's got three guys that can handle tough min and then he's gotta shelter 47 and he REALLY has to shelter Greene and Smid. Or least he should be.

But there's really not a damn thing he can do about it until Lowe augments the roster.

And the more I think about it the more I see that the Oilers need two dmen before the deadline's over and the shitty part of the deal is that we'll be breaking in 2 and 5 again next year and it's gonna be the same shit unless one of them makes significant progress.

12/16/2006 12:31 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


I think Bergeron would be fine if he was bumped up to the middle pair with Staios. I know you didn't like the looks of that tandem last year, Oiler fans seem to like their dmen big and quiet, but all they did was outshoot and outscore in that gig.

Problem is that would leave Smid-Greene as your bottom pairing, and that would be disaster. During their 20 minutes together against cherry opposition they've been -2, have been murdered at shots, a staggering 18 shots against, onyl 6 oiler shots-for. You don't want to extrapolate that through. They really are that bad, and they look every inch of that to me. Cross-Ulanov would be a marked improvement IMO. Hell, if Smid and Greene went knee on knee in practice today and were replaced with some mid 20s, veteran AHL D like Mrozik and Dan Smith ... the bookie's game line would improve the Oiler's odds. Seriously.

Things are just as they appear, and just the opposite of what the papers are telling us ... 2 and 5 are the problem. And they aren't going to get better watching the games from the press box. 5 is probably the bigger problem because he's playing more minutes and against a middling level of competition on the whole ... so he's -83 by the Corsi metric, the Oilers otherwise are an unspectacular -5. But considering that they have Roloson in net and a bunch of forwards who can finish ... that should be enough to hang with the best 5on5 teams in the league.

12/16/2006 1:08 pm  
Blogger PDO said...


Agreed on all points. The thing that gets me though is that neither of them seem to be improving at all other than the occasional one in 10 games... and even then, there's usually a lot of mistakes.

God damn it's a steep curve.

Though, I think they can get a bit better in the pressbox. Yes, they need their live reps.. but practicing in the NHL, watching the game from a different view and having more time to break down their mistakes must help in some form, no?


12/16/2006 1:21 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

No I didn't like that last year Vic but if the numbers say I was wrong, well then I was wrong:)

If you do that though and bring in a vet as the 5 and have Smid/Greene rotate as the 6th, how much better do you think it makes us?

I'm not convinced that the Oilers will sit 5 unless he takes a dump on the hood of MacT's car or something like that. If he's in the lineup on Tues night than I think he's pretty much untouchable.

Speaking of D...I don't know if this means anything other than the obvious but the Flyers picked up Zhitnik and his contract today in return for Meyer. I don't think they'd deal Pitkanen but maybe they just might if say Lupul and Bergeron were going back the other way.

Maybe Holmgren is adding before he subtracts.

12/16/2006 1:35 pm  
Blogger SweatyO said...

Dennis: I think you're hoping with the Flyers like I was when Winchester and Jackman were both healthy scratches earlier this week. ;)

Vic: A couple things to throw your way.

1) If Lowe puts this team in a position where only one of Smid/Greene are in the lineup on any night AND Bergeron is playing elsewhere (I've liked his play lately, but he's taking up sheltered minutes that are needed for 2/5 and that makes him "vulnerable", to quote Lowetide), then I think we'll be in a position to say this team is ready to rock when it comes to the blueline. They need a guy to play with Smith and one "veteran" to play anywhere from the 3rd to 5th blueline minutes. One of these two needs to be a puckmover who can contribute to the PP.

2) You may have said something transcendent right here:

...a good defenseman should be able to buoy the schleps like Smid and Greene, but so far Smith is just getting dragged down to their level when he plays with them.

Right there might be one of the lines in the sand that separates the true number 1 blueliners from the number 2 guys.

I think I remember seeing Regehr's number's taking a beating when paired with Phaneuf early in the season, then recovering when he was put back with Warrener. This would be a good example because I consider Regehr pretty much the ultimate number-2 defenseman nowadays (Foote used to have this distinction). He's a number 1 on MOST teams, but lack of offensive ability keeps these guys out of the Niedermayer/Pronger/Lidstrom/Zubov class.

12/16/2006 2:06 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

You know Dennis, I've learned to believe the numbers too, and I wish I could have a do-over with a disagreement with Matt at BofA when I had "a feeling that Friesen could regain his old form" even though all the results were damning, and he was playing cherry opp to boot.

To that end I'd hold off on Lupul bashing. His underlying numbers are actually really good, the thing that's killing him is his inability to finish, which history tells us is his real strength. Sort of like Hecht when he was an Oiler, though Hecht was a much better player and could face tough comp as well, as Ruff has since shown us.

Hell, you don't need the numbers, just agree with Lowetide when he's standing up for a maligned forward ... and always disagree with him on defencemen, no matter what, and you'll hit for a high average ;)

And some how Raffi "the play always dies with him" Torres is again an outshooting guy again, after being a RonWilson# leader last year. Obviously Sykora and Hemsky, in that order, are kicking ass in this regard, as you know they're just too good for the level of comp they usually face. If you care about the "How Much" more than the "How" then you stick with the guys that keep delivering results, even if it's in a fashion that contradicts your own sensibilities. And the Oilers claim to count scoring chance +/-, so even if Bergeron's chronic overconfidence disorder really does piss of the coaching staff at practice 100x more than the other D combined, they'll stick with the guy.

BTW: Pouliot looked good last night after the soft goal, but before that I thought he sucked. Yet in terms of outshooting he's far outperforming his linemates so far this season, sooner or later that will turn into results. And he'll get surely better to boot, granted against soft opp, still ... should've just agreed with Lowetide there.

12/16/2006 2:12 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Vic: I think there's a little problem with the Corsi metric as applied to dmen. It inherently assumes that the blocked shot is a bad thing and I'm not so sure that's the case. First off, dmen block alot of shots relative to forwards. This certainly has a little to do with the extra minutes but mostly to do with the position. This compounds what you mentioned about good dmen playing good forwards.

If I'm a dman and you're a forward and I force you to shoot it into my shinpads, that can't be a bad thing can it? I realize that I (and my linemates) yielded that shooting opportunity, but I had some say in dictating the outcome.

I think different coaches have different approaches to preventing scoring chances.

Anaheim hardly blocks any shots. Is that because they don't allow the other team to gain the zone and thus don't have to block shots or do they just have a different d-zone coverage strategy?

Meanwhile, Buffalo blocks a crap-tonne of shots and I'm pretty sure they're outchancing their opposition most nights - is this indicative of their strategy or do they truly not control most of their games? Funny enough, this is Corsi's team right?

Meanwhile San Jose is right about in the middle of the pack and I'm pretty confident assuming that they're outchancing their opposition.

If blocked shots really are a bad thing, then MacT has his d-zone coverage completely wrong because I swear the forwards are forcing the point shot in many circumstances. I recall Roloson talking about the difference in the Oilers' approach compared to the Wild with respect to shot blocking last year. He may have been making excuses, but there might be something to it.

I have no doubt that the Oilers are going to significantly outchance more than a few teams in the last 50 games while getting thumped by the Corsi metric in those games. The Oilers' dmen are going to look worse as a result too.

12/16/2006 11:12 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


I agree, I didn't include blocked shots here, in general I just don't because it doesn't seem fair to me. Clearly you agree.

It's just goals + shots + missed shots here.

12/17/2006 9:38 am  
Blogger Doogie said...

I'm still mystified as to why they haven't gone with Hejda as 4D, Bergeron as 5D, and the kids rotated as need be/gone to the AHL. Surely to God there must be some better way to break in two kids and shelter a third "chaos" defender than this? I sure don't recall Hejda doing anything overtly bad, and while I didn't see the last three games, I do recall him completely biffing his coverage on the 2-1 goal against Anaheim three weeks ago. I mean, buddy had a good three to five seconds there to tie up Selanne's stick, even if he didn't see Pronger coming.

12/17/2006 12:00 pm  

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