A coach's worst nightmare?
Searching for the NHL's worst defence (Part 1)
I did a little bit of work last season trying to figure out things like 'who is the league's best defensive defenceman?' and 'who is the league's best penalty killer?', posts that, if nothing else, made for interesting blog copy.
But the question of 'who are the biggest liabilities?' is another tough one, and something that you hear fans debate all the time. It's pointed to, for instance, as the reason Sheldon Souray wasn't a good signing in Edmonton, or, in this city, whenever a goal goes in and Bryan McCabe is on the ice.
But how do you measure who the worst of the worst are, and can you eliminate factors such as bad goaltending and poor linemates?
Behind The Net has some pretty interesting statistics available that help with this very sort of question. Even strength goals against averages for every single NHL player, both when they are on the ice and off, as well as barometers of quality of competition and quality of teammates.
Here's the list based simply on how much worse off players' teams were with them on the ice:
(40+ games played w/ one team)
|NAME||TM||GP||Qual.||On ice GA/60||Off ice GA/60|
|Comp.||GAA dif||NHL Rank|
(40+ games played w/ one team)
|NAME||TM||GP||Qual.|| ||On ice GA/60||Off ice GA/60|
|Comp.|| ||GAA dif||NHL Rank|
|1||ZUBRUS||WSH||60||0.03|| ||4.27||2.61||1.660||566 |
N.B. for Oilers fans: Joffrey Lupul was No. 21 among forwards on this metric last season.
Quite a few of the players above had god-awful seasons last year, and a few aren't coming back as a result (Jassen Cullimore and Dave Scatchard come to mind). Others, like Nicklas Havelid, Eric Brewer and Karlis Skrastins, played against tough opposition all season.
Still, even if you're producing offence, like Alex Ovechkin or Vincent Lecavalier, this isn't a list you want to be on. (And this makes me wonder how Dainius Zubrus will fit in with New Jersey this season.)
Now, these are not lists of the worst defensive players in the league, but merely a jumping off point: I'm still working on a list that will include strength of competition as well as something that can weight the goals against based on a team's goals against average. I'm hoping to put something together based on this season's numbers as soon as those come available.
As for McCabe? The Maple Leafs' goals against actually improved when he was on the ice at even strength, going from 2.72 to 2.63.
Just don't play him on the penalty kill.
UPDATE This post is being picked up far and wide now, and I want to reiterate that I'm not saying these are the worst defensive players in the league. This is the first post in a series that I'm putting together, and I think you'll see players like Phaneuf, etc., will be eliminated from the equation when I factor in quality of competition and other metrics.
What this does show is that more goals are going in when these players are on the ice, which is step one in determining defensive performance.
Also, these are all even-strength totals; special teams play is not a factor.