Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ray Shero's NHL Defense Corps

Ray Shero is the GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Prior to that he was an assistant to Predators GM David Poile, who I think is one of the smartest guys in the league. And before that he was the assistant GM in Ottawa. A total of 14 years as the second in charge. He has also worked as a player agent, played NCAA hockey and was selected by the L.A Kings in the later rounds, but never made it to the bigs. And, the most interesting thing in Ray's bio ... he is the son of legendary coach Freddy Shero.

He had a terrific trade deadline day, which moved me to google his name.

The way his defense corps is structured makes a lot of sense to me. Granted he did inherit much of it.

First his comments on Sergei Gonchar:
"'Gonch' is a quiet guy by nature, but a real good person who really cares about winning and his teammates," said Penguins GM Ray Shero. "He plays lots of quality minutes and hard minutes. He's a guy who wants to play against top players. He's a top defender, but everyone thinks of his offense only. Gonchar plays plenty of time on the penalty kill with Mark Eaton. He wants that reputation of an all-around defenseman. That's a great attitude to have. The most important thing he gives us is minutes, the quality minutes that allow us to bring other players along properly."

It's the ripple effect. And it's good to see Gonchar getting some credit for this. Zubov is another who doesn't get the props he deserves for playing against quality opposition.

Shero also acquired Mark Eaton. You may remember riversQ hammering away at us trying to make us believe that Eaton was playing the hard minutes in Nashville last season. Turns out Mark himself agrees:
“My role in Nashville was a defensive role. I played a lot of penalty kill and played the tough minutes against other opponents’ big lines,” he said. “Going into turning pro, I had more of an offensive game that I think now is still a little bit untapped. Hopefully, that can come to the table as well in Pittsburgh.”

Turns out that Eaton's offensive potential would remain untapped this season. A gaudy plus-minus though, +14 at 5v5. Trailing only Crosby at this.

He inherited Ryan Whitney, a promising young defenseman who was drafted 5th overall in 2002 but was not brought into the NHL until last season. He just turned 24, and he's already the third best defenseman on a good team, he's going to be a helluva player.

Then there is the list of AHL and Euro league vets that got a chance. Scuderi, Nasreddine and Welch seemed to stick. Orpik is 26 now and isn't the player everyone hoped he would be, but he's a useful NHLer in the same mould as the other three. Same goes for Melichar, who is 28 years old now.

When they traded Welch in the Roberts deal they acquired Kwiatkowski to replace him as a depth defenseman, he's 30 years old and has played 264 NHL games, and a lot more AHL games than that. A useful player though. If you consider Welch and Kwiatkowski to have similar value, then Ray Shero essentially acquired Gary Roberts for a 4th round pick. Not a bad day for him.

They also have veteran bruising defenseman Eric Cairns on the roster, but with the addition of Laraque I suspect he is redundant now.

Gonchar is expensive, but he's worth it. The guy is a difference maker at even strength, shorthanded and especially on the powerplay. And the rest of this D corps is pretty effective and will be cheap as borscht again next season.

7 Comments:

Blogger Boondock said...

How close do you think a guy like A. Markov comes to bringing what Gonchar does to the table?

He seems like the top UFA d-man that would be able to come in and be solid at ES, plus on the PP and the PK.

I guess there's Timonen too, but I've never really been a big fan.

3/31/2007 10:47 am  
Blogger Bank Shot said...

I was surprised to find that the Penguins are as good as 15th in the league in GAA allowed.

Even with that relative success I don't think that their D-core is good enough and they'll pay for it in the playoffs.

I think the Penguins may have a similiar thing going on as the Sharks did last season in that they have forwards so good that the D-men don't have to shoulder a huge load.

When they run into a team in the playoffs with alot of secondary scoring we could see their defence crack like a nut.

3/31/2007 11:32 pm  
Blogger Kyle said...

Watching the Penguins game last night I think I can safely say their defence is competent but nothing spectacular. There was a lot of in zone giveaway problems (although that could have been more of an anomaly). I think when you can afford to put Jordan Staal on the 3rd line even though he's potted 29 goals gives you small taste of their depth up front, which I think compensates for their potential defensive (corps) issues.

4/01/2007 1:15 pm  
Blogger Showerhead said...

Great post - I love when you take a look at what is going right/wrong for other franchises.

I can see a direct but not entirely perfect comparison being made between Pittsburgh's defense capable of winning now (considering what it's got in front of it) and Edmonton's ability to compete for draft picks.

If you're going to be paying $1M or less for a bunch of filler players to complete your roster, the only way to have a hope in hell to win is if you've either got grade "A" kids or cheap veterans.

Obviously Pittsburgh and Edmonton's goals as franchises are a little bit different right now but the shortcomings of a kids-only strategy is just so painfully obvious and has been for so long that any fan who can't stomach cheering for a loss gets a little bit sick anyway.

Yes there are a lot of differences without getting into Tjarnqvist's injury or Hejda being ignored but is this the analogy/contrast you were going for Vic?

4/01/2007 3:59 pm  
Blogger Dennis said...

I believe Eaton only signed a one year deal, didn't he?

4/04/2007 11:39 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

boondock:

I haven't seen enough of Andrei Markov to have a strong opinion, sounds like you have seen more of him. On the surface he doesn't seem to be in the same league as Gonchar.

bank shot:

Wow. Completely disagree. I've seen the Pens play a bit lately ... and I'm completely underwhelmed with Malkin, and overwhelmed by Crosby. He's stunningly good in all places on the ice. Peter Forsberg before his body started disintegrating good ... and he's just 19. Yowza!

Good numbers next to Staal's name. Presumably they're earned, but I haven't seen it so far.

Without Crosby that good young Pittburgh forward group would be just bad IMO, Oiler-bad.

4/05/2007 1:21 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

showerhead:

Not looking for a contrast here. Just looking at Shero, interesting cat.

About a day after I posted this I read an article on USA Today about Ted Nolan. Apparently he admired Fred Shero, and when he was cutting his teeth as an OHL coach he sent a letter to Ray asking for coaching information passed down from his father, Fred. Ray sent him "a box of stuff".

That's cool to me. I love that about hockey.

.

Dennis:

According to nhlnumbers.com Eaton is on a two year deal.

4/05/2007 1:25 am  

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