Replaceable and Replacement Level Players

In the wake of the article I posted about Chad LaRose and Jerome Samson’s performance last night, there’s been some debate about how what LaRose does can be easily replaced. First, we need to talk about what exactly a “replaceable player” is. In baseball and hockey, statisticians throw around the word “replacement level player” to describe a player who can be easily replaced by a call-up from the minors. Fourth liners and back-up goalies are the most common example of this. A player who is just replaceable is very different than one who is “replacement level.” It basically means that his role can be played by someone else for less money and losing him would not set the team back that much. The new player filling in for him could be better or worse. Is LaRose “replaceable” or “replacement level.” Samson’s performance is making some people lean towards the latter but that isn’t completely true.

Yes, Samson made not having LaRose in the lineup virturally noticeable last night, but it was just one game and Samson was by far Carolina’s best forward last night. That won’t be the case with every game but if Samson can play like that on a consistent basis, then we can start talking about shipping out players to make room for him. You could argue that he may not get another chance but he’s earned himself a few more NHL games after last night, in my opinion. Still, to say that everything LaRose does can be replaced by an AHL call-up isn’t neccesarily true when you look into everything he’s been doing this year. LaRose ranks third in quality of competition faced among forwards, starts only 42.2% of his draws in the offensive zone and has been contributing on both the powerplay and the penalty kill. Add in his 11 goals and 21 points and I don’t think you can call him a replacement level player who can be subbed out of the lineup by anyone without a problem. However, LaRose IS replaceable but that does not mean he is a bad player. 

He does a lot of good things for the team and would be a productive third liner just about everywhere he goes. Third liners can be found just about anywhere for a low cost, though. There are some who are better than others but for the most part, production from third liners can be replaced even if it doesn’t happen immediately. A good example of a replaceable third liner is former Tampa Bay Lightning heavy-lifter Sean Bergenheim. He was one of Tampa Bay’s best possession forwards despite constantly being thrown out in the defensive zone by coach Guy Boucher. He also killed penalties and modestly chipped in on offense (never scored more than 30 points in a season). He cashed in on a strong playoff performance and is now a Florida Panther and Tampa Bay signed Tom Pyatt and Ryan Shannon to replace him, both of whom are making less than $1 mil. this season. These three aren’t nearly as good as Bergenheim but they both play a similar role and cost a lot less. Steve Yzerman was smart to let Bergenheim walk because while it is unpopular to let a fan-favorite go, Bergenheim’s role in Tampa Bay could be done for a lot less than the $2.75 mil. he is making in Florida right now.

LaRose is signed to a cheap contract for the next few years and is giving the Canes a lot for the $1.9 they are paying him right now. He is also on pace to have a career year offensively but according to the VUKOTA projection I made for him, there’s a good chance that this season is an aberration if he gets above 35 points. What I am trying to say here is that I would not rule out LaRose’s name when if comes to players that might be traded. Make no mistake about it, LaRose has been one of the Hurricanes better players this season but what he does can be replaced and his value now could be at an all-time high.

Does this mean he will be traded? No, but his name could be on the block since there might be a lot of teams looking for a quality third liner signed a cheap contract. He’s been a big part of the Canes this year but he can be replaced but remember, that isn’t a knock against him. Hell, I can think of only three or four players on this team right now that aren’t replaceable and I would likely trade LaRose before someone like Tuomo Ruutu, who might be on the block, as well.

My question to you is what players on the Canes do you see as replaceable and which ones are at “replacement level?”

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