Analyzing defensemen is something that a lot of hockey fans and statisticians struggle with because certian players have different roles on their respective teams and their +/- and corsi rating would suggest. For example, a defenseman who is primarily used in offensive situations like Christian Ehrhoff or Marc-Andre Bergeron, is more likely to have a better corsi rating than a defenseman who is trusted with a lot of defensive zone starts like Nick Schultz of the Minnesota Wild. Some bloggers have come up with a stat that takes context (i.e. zone starts) into consideration, which I will look at later but others like Oilers blogger David Staples, analyze the raw footage of these defenseman and keep track of the mistakes they made through something called “the error stat.” What exactly is an error? It’s pretty self-explanitory. It’s a defensive gaffe that leads to a goal for the opposing team. An failed clear, poor net coverage, a turnover or a defenseman getting undressed by an opposing forward like Zdeno Chara did right here, are all examples of things that are counted as errors by this stat. The Oilers Blog, Copper and Blue looked at this for Edmonton during the 2009-10 season and Behind The Net’s Gabe Desjardins look at this for the San Jose Sharks in 2008-09. I, as you probably could have guessed by now, watched every goal the Hurricanes surrendered last season and tallied the defensive errors as I saw them in the highlight packages and replays. There are likely to be some disputes because I am only judging this by what I saw on the highlights and replays, which do not give you the best picture and sometimes miss the beginning of a play where an error could have occurred but I did my best to be as accurate as possible. At the very least, this is a good way to test if the underlying numbers for these defensemen reflect what happened on the ice.
2010-11 Hurricanes Defensemen Errors
Note: Corsi is basically just a +/- system using shots instead of goals. OZ% = Offensive Zone Start Percentage, QCR = Quality of Competition Ranking. Stats taken from behindthenet.ca
See my thoughts after the jump
- Joni Pitkanen’s performance from this season wasn’t terribly promising. He was not matched up against the toughest competition, had somewhat sheltered minutes, was on ice for a lot of goal against and had the second most errors on the team. That said, the amount of goals he was responsible for isn’t that bad in comparison to some of his teammates but is 5 goals and 35 points enough to justify giving him more ice-time than anyone else on the team despite his shaky defensive play? I am a big fan of his and it took me awhile to admit this but Pitkanen has a lot of probelms in his own zone. Most of his errors were due to him making a bad pinch and getting caught up in his own zone or losing a battle in the corner with a forward that led to a goal. His defensive play has come a long way ever since he came to Carolina but there’s definitely some more work to be done with him. Some of the offensive burden might be taken off him next year with the signing of Tomas Kaberle but with Joe Corvo gone, someone is going to have to make up for the defensive zone draws and shorthanded ice-time that he had last year and that someone might have to be Pitkanen if he wants to justify his $4.5 mil cap hit for the next three years.
- Corvo played better than Pitkanen did on the powerplay last year and 23 of his 40 points last season came with the man advantage. He also faced the second toughest competition had the second most shorthanded ice-time among Hurricanes defensemen last season. What that tells me is that the coaching staff trusted Corvo’s defensive play more than his ability because he was on ice for more goals against than any other d-man with 94 and had the most errors. That and most of his errors were pretty ugly. In my notes, I jotted down ” Corvo doing nothing about goal scorer in front of the net” and “awful turnover by Corvo at blue line” more times than I would have liked. I know this is bound to happen with a defenseman who gets a lot of ice-time but if a defenseman is on ice for over 90 goals and is somewhat responsbile for almost half of them, that tells me he shouldn’t be playing that many minutes. Corvo wwas traded to Boston (where he will have a smaller role, most likely) and the team signed Tomas Kaberle almost immediately after that. Either Pitkanen, Allen, McBain or Harrison are going to have to make up for all of the shorthanded ice-time Corvo played this year because Kaberle likely won’t do it.
- Tim Gleason is Carolina’s best defensive defenseman. He took on the toughest competition, played the most shorthanded minutes and had most of his starts start in the defensive zone. He was on ice for a lot of goals against but his low error percentage shows that the fault was mostly on his partner than Gleason himself. The low corsi rate is a bit concerning but I would like to see how it looks when adjusted to his low offensive zone percentage. I’m not sure if he produces enough offensively to be considered a “top defenseman” but he’s very solid and somewhat underrated in the grand scheme of things.
- Jamie McBain had an okay rookie season and looks like he can be a solid puck-mover but he definitely had a lot of ugly gaffes in his own zone and at the blue line. He mishandled a lot of pucks which led to breakaway chances for the opposing team and a good few of his errors were from failed clears, which might be why he did not get a lot of time on the penalty kill. As of now, he seems to be somewhat of a Corvo/Pitkanen-type player only he isn’t ready to face top competition but he did get top-4 minutes on a lot of nights this season. Curious to see how the team goes forward with him.
- Harrison had a solid season defensively but I want to see how he does against tougher competition because the minutes he played this year appeared to be against opponents 3rd and 4th lines. However, he did get a lot of tough draws and had a lot of shorthanded ice-time, though. That said, most of the errors I charged him with were when he was on the penalty kill and well…they weren’t pretty. At all. He is still a good 3rd pairing/depth defenseman but nothing more than that.
- The trade for Ian White didn’t quite work out in Carolina’s favor. White struggled to gel in with the Hurricanes and displayed some statue-like defense in his own zone and didn’t produce that much at the other end of the ice either. White’s a frustrating player because he can be good when he wants to be but he has a bit of an “on-and-off” switch and it’s been like that since his days in Toronto. The Sharks got the good side of him in the playoffs and the Canes got mostly the bad part of him while he was in Carolina.
- One of the guys they traded to get White, Anton Babchuk, also performed slightly better with his new team than he did with the Canes. Look at the table above and you will see why Babchuk was traded. The guy is a great offensive talent but a complete wreck in his own end. He was responsible for more than half the goals he was on ice for and most of them were due to him being just plain lazy and careless in his own end. He was coasting back into the defensive zone while an odd-man rush was occurring on at least three of them. The Canes have/had enough guys on the blue line who think offense first, especially with McBain’s emergance so Babchuk became expandable. The only thing that is missed are his powerplay goals.
- Derek Joslin played well with sheltered minutes against below average competition during his brief tenure in Carolina so he was worth keeping around at a low cost. I’d imagine that he could be a good in a third pairing role with Harrison next season and the fact that he played on both the powerplay and PK helps even if he wasn’t terribly impressive.
- Bryan Allen might be the guy who replaces all of the tough minutes that Corvo took last season and he actually might be somewhat of an improvement if he plays like he did down the stretch last season and less like he did in Florida. He isn’t nearly as good offensively as Corvo is but I guess that’s why Rutherford signed Kaberle. The one thing that concerns me is that he didn’t seem to be matched up against the toughest competition but the data might be skewed with his data in Florida and it could change with Corvo gone and someone needing to fill that void on the PK.
- I don’t have much to say about either Carson or Rodney except that they were only used in call-up situations and Carson was traded despite not playing horribly during his brief time in Carolina.
I do not consider this an “defining stat” at all but I think it’s very interesting to explore and it’s a good way to see how the underlying numbers compare with what you saw on the ice. It’s also a good way to judge the performance of a defense corps with a lot of young players in it like Carolina had this season. I think it’s better for judging team data, though rather than using it to see who the best defenseman in the league might be.