Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Who has been the top defensive defender?

Last March, I came up with a funky formula for finding the league's best defensive defenceman, a little post I called The Rod Langway Award.

It was controversial, and my methods are pretty goofy, but those both seem like good enough reasons to bring it back again, 20 games into this season.

Here's how I determined the list:
In order to come up with a manageable number of blueliners to look at, I came up with a few criterion:
  1. They'd have to play a lot, let's say be among the top 90 defencemen in even-strength ice time
  2. Playing shorthanded would also be a big part of being a shutdown blueliner, so we'll take the top 60 from that category
Those two stipulations leave us with a workable number to use. With that group, I've chosen three metrics to look at (with another hat tip to Behind The Net):

(a) rate of goals against at even strength,
(b) rate of goals against shorthanded and
(c) strength of opposition
Come now, down off the edge of your seat. (If you're still reading, that is.)

So, 190 defenders have played 10 games or more so far this season, and only 60 are in the mix here. (I might have to try this again without eliminating so many players, as the high even-strength minutes cut out players like Kyle McLaren, Rusty Klesla, Aaron Ward, Philippe Boucher and Tomas Kaberle.

Here are this year's top 30 defensive defenders, as per the Wacky Mirtle Method™:

NAME TEAM EVGA/60 EV/60 Rank QUALCOMP EV Comp Rank
SHGA/60 PK/60 Rank
1 A. VOLCHENKOV OTT 1.71 6 0.34 1 3.59 8
2 BRIAN RAFALSKI DET 1.49 3 0.13 18 0.00 1
3 CHRIS PHILLIPS OTT 1.58 5 0.31 2 4.62 18
4 NICK LIDSTROM DET 1.10 1 0.18 11 5.16 24
5 CHRIS PRONGER ANA 1.77 11 0.16 14 4.62 18
6 JAN HEJDA CBJ 2.30 28 0.24 5 4.27 14
7 M-E VLASIC S.J 1.74 8 0.06 30 3.96 11
8 HAL GILL TOR 2.21 23 0.09 28 3.44 7
9 MICHAL ROZSIVAL NYR 1.47 2 -0.03 51 3.36 6
10 KIMMO TIMONEN PHI 1.71 6 0.00 44 3.85 10
11 HENRIK TALLINDER BUF 2.71 42 0.16 14 3.19 5
12 ADAM FOOTE CBJ 2.89 47 0.28 3 4.03 12
13 JAY BOUWMEESTER FLA 2.32 29 0.25 4 5.59 33
14 DEREK MORRIS PHX 2.12 21 0.20 9 5.85 36
15 ZDENO CHARA BOS 1.55 4 0.13 18 8.09 45
16 PAUL MARTIN N.J 1.76 9 0.12 23 7.46 40
17 RUSLAN SALEI FLA 2.60 36 0.21 8 5.58 30
18 MATTIAS OHLUND VAN 2.11 19 -0.01 46 3.76 9
19 KIM JOHNSSON MIN 2.26 26 0.03 34 4.29 15
20 GREG DE VRIES NSH 2.60 36 0.13 18 4.96 22
21 BRENT BURNS MIN 2.23 25 0.09 28 5.04 23
22 ANDREW GREENE N.J 1.91 14 0.03 34 5.41 28
23 GREG ZANON NSH 2.22 24 0.02 37 4.51 16
24 ERIC BREWER STL 2.89 47 0.10 27 2.51 3
25 PAUL RANGER T.B 2.58 35 0.18 11 5.59 33
26 ANDREI MARKOV MTL 2.89 47 0.23 6 5.33 27
27 MIKE KOMISAREK MTL 2.41 30 0.20 9 7.62 43
28 RADEK MARTINEK NYI 2.26 26 0.02 37 4.70 20
29 KEITH BALLARD PHX 2.75 43 0.23 6 7.16 38
30 SERGEI ZUBOV DAL 2.79 44 0.01 41 1.02 2

Well, some interesting names there anyway.

Rafalski gets a huge boost by the fact he hasn't been on the ice for a shorthanded goal against, despite playing almost 60 minutes at 4-on-5 this season.

That's almost as impressive as Doug Weight's streak the other way.

And how about guys like Jan Hejda, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Hal Gill and Michal Rozsival, none of whom have gotten much pub this season outside of their home markets.

We heard a ton from the Bloilgosphere about Hejda last year, and new Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson obviously saw it as well. Vlasic and Rozsival continue to be two of the league's best-kept secrets, adn Gill's basically there on the strength of his PK numbers, which are miles better than his fellow Leafs defenders.

On the bottom end were Kevin Bieksa, Brad Stuart, Brian Campbell, Dick Tarnstrom and Jason Smith, but again, this is among guys playing the biggest minutes in the league.

Anyway, food for thought. I'd definitely be interested in seeing other bloggers put together their own, stats-based analysis for who the top defensive defenders are in the league.

7 Comments:

At 12:02 AM, November 22, 2007, Blogger Mike said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 12:07 AM, November 22, 2007, Blogger Mike said...

I did a post about Doug Murray, but he hasn't played enough minutes to be on your list. Hasn't allowed an even-strength goal in a month.

 
At 6:58 AM, November 22, 2007, Anonymous Darren said...

This is a homer pick, but what about Willie Mitchell?

 
At 11:19 AM, November 22, 2007, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Bloilgosphere?

 
At 1:31 PM, November 22, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

It'll catch on, you'll see.

 
At 4:53 PM, November 22, 2007, Blogger Bruce said...

Interesting stuff, James. It's far from perfect, but I've never seen any measurement system that was, and in the case of defensive defencemen, few have even tried.

You will get absolutely zero argument from me that Phillips and Volchenkov are the top shutdown pairing in the league. Besides your numbers based on goals against and quality of competition, individually both rank in the top 10 in blocked shots, top 30 in hits, and top 20 in plus/minus.

Very interesting to see Jan Hejda way up at #6. This Oiler fan was very impressed with what I saw of Hejda in the second half of last season (even as the Universe collapsed over Edmonton), and I have yet to hear an adequate explanation as to why or how the Oilers had let the Czech veteran get away. That Scott Howson snapped him up in one of his first acts as Columbus GM was obviously a bit of insider knowledge, but you have to wonder when the newest kid on the GM block beats your team's GM to the punch on a solid and reasonably-priced commodity.

 
At 2:06 AM, November 24, 2007, Anonymous Ace said...

I can't complain with the results of the metric - those are some great D-men up top, but the formula is still missing a few elements. Namely it doesn't account for the contributions of goaltenders or team defense. I'd like to see it include numbers for Goals Against relative to teammates.
Otherwise its a lot like saying the best goalie in the league is the one with the lowest GAA, when we all know much team defense contributes to the amount of and quality of shots faced.
A few other factors I might consider:
PIM - (excluding fighting majors) A great d-man doesn't need to hook,slash,hold, etc. Besides, the worst thing you can do (other than misplay and let up a scoring chance) is put your team down shorthanded.
A combination of Shots Against & Goaltender Save Percentage (not sure if BTN has individual stats like this) but I'd look for a top d-man to not give up a lot of shots against and if they do, they are likely of the low-percentage/perimeter variety.

 

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