FanPost

The 3 Muskeeters - Analyzing a trio of Senators' Defensemen

(Note: Before reading this piece, I highly suggest reading this from @DownGoesBrown on Grantland)

(Note #2: Keep in mind that we're dealing with very small samples here, but we have to use what we've got. In terms of the stats that I'll be using in this post, I have a short primer at the beginning of this piece, though there are many out there if you look!)

Currently, the Ottawa Senators have 6 defenseman on 1-way contracts for the 2013-14 season, with RFA Jared Cowen left to be resigned. Over the last month or so, I've heard Cowen being compared to a variety of players. Pronger, Chara, Weber - basically any tall defenseman who's All-Star or HHoF caliber. On Twitter (the cool thing to do today, I'm looking at you, Parisi), Peter asked how far apart could the Sens and Cowen possibly be, and got some interesting replies, especially from Shawn Simpson (Team 1200) who called Cowen a "top pairing" player, and a "young Weber".

In light of these sentiments, I'll present the table below comparing Player X, Y, and Z and I'll let you all take a guess at who's who.

PLAYER

GP

G

A

PTS

SH

TOI/gm

PP TOI/gm

SH TOI/gm

X

50

5

16

21

84

15.41

2.19

0.03

Y

33

2

4

6

51

20.16

0.07

2.21

Z

90

6

12

18

66

18.52

0.40

3.01

(numbers from NHL.com)

From this table with "traditional stats", one could infer that Player X has done well in his limited TOI, with way more PP time than the other two players. In contrast, Player Y has had the most TOI by almost a full 2 minutes, and seems like a defensive specialist (though SH numbers look okay) and gets some nice PK time. Player Z is the most interesting, with TOI/gm in the middle of the other two players, and both PP + PK time, though the shot numbers don't look too great.

Next, I'll be breaking down the 3 players further by looking at their underlying numbers. All of these numbers were from either Hockey Analysis or Behind the Net.

Player X

PLAYER

X

GP

Corsi Rel

Corsi Rel QoC

PDO

Off Zone Start %

2010-11

8

5.4

-1.035

1011

61.2

2012-13

42

16.5

-0.649

1018

62.7

Player X did very well for himself possession wise (using the shot differential metric, Corsi, relative to his teammates), though he had played against easier competition - ranked 8/10 out of Senators defenseman with min. 5+ games played in 2012-13, sheltered in terms of zone starts, and was a bit lucky (though that mainly has to do with the Senators unsustainable save % numbers).

Player Y

PLAYER

Y

GP

Corsi Rel

Corsi Rel QoC

PDO

Off Zone Start %

2012-13

33

-18.3

1.155

996

50.4

Player Y is almost like a reverse of Player X (again). He got crushed in terms of possession metrics - his -18.3 Corsi Rel is by far the worst on the team, forwards and defensemen. However, he also faced the toughest competition of any Senators defenseman, and was not sheltered at all in terms of offensive zone starts.

Player Z

PLAYER

Z

GP

Corsi Rel

Corsi Rel QoC

PDO

Off Zone Start %

2011-12

82

-2.5

-0.288

994

56.8

2012-13

7

-6.3

0.052

1009

62.2

Player Z, once again, is in somewhere in the middle between Player X and Y, and the hardest to analyze. His -2.5 Corsi Rel is 4/7 in 2011-12, with the only Senator defenseman with a positive number being Erik Karlsson (11.3), though he faced the 2nd easiest competition of the group. He was moderately sheltered in terms of offensive zone starts (only Kuba and Karlsson were higher), but one can still infer that he wasn't trusted with "shut-down minutes", as to be expected by a rookie defenseman at the time.

In 2012-13, Player Z only appeared in 7 games, he had a negative possession #s - ranked 7/10 in terms of Senators defenseman, with 4 of the 10 with positive numbers [not like 2011-12]. He also ranked in the middle in terms of Quality of Competition faced (6/10) and was sheltered in terms of offensive zone starts. With these numbers, one can infer that again, Player Z was not given tough minutes at all.

Summary

I'm more certain than the chances of Erik Condra hitting an empty net that you all have figured out who the players are, but juuuuuust in case, I'll now list the Players and their respective contracts.

Player X: Patrick Wiercioch - just signed for 3 years, 2M per (1.1M, 2.2M, 2.7M)

Player Y: Eric Gryba - 2 year, 2-way deal, 562K; RFA next year

Player Z: Jared Cowen - coming off his ELC, current RFA

By looking at the tables above, I would infer that Wiercioch is the best offensive defenseman of the bunch by far. I'm extremely interested to see how he'll do with more TOI (had the least TOI out of the other Top-5 rookie defenseman) and I think he's the best bet to improve as his possession numbers are great. I don't think he'll ever be counted on for defensive minutes, and is likely to be the go-to offensive guy on the second pairing, and PP 2.

I've been hinting that Gryba and Wiercioch are the reverse of each other for quite some time now, and it sure looks that way when looking at the numbers. Gryba has never had offensive numbers for his career, but was a shutdown defender for Boston University, and was relied on the same way by Coach MacLean in his rookie season. His special team minutes were primarily on the PK, and he was the best defender on the team this year in that role. I believe that his usage this year was out of necessity, and I doubt that he'll be used the same way if he's on the team this year. MacLean utilized his lineup the best way possible, as by giving Wiercioch easier minutes and more offensive zone starts with Gonchar, it gave him a chance to succeed while Methot and Gryba were given primarily defensive minutes. Balancing the minutes or pairings out might have resulted in two "dud" pairings, so I'm okay with this decision.

As I said earlier, Cowen is the hardest to predict, and this season will be extremely important to see if he can be a two-way defender on the second pairing and thrive. It's worrying to me that he didn't really thrive in his soft-ish minutes but it was his first full season in the league. Though he provided offense in junior, he hasn't done so in the NHL to this point. 22% of his NHL offense came in ONE game (Dec. 16th vs. Pittsburgh; 2011-12). He hasn't really succeeded on the PK either, so hence the stressed importance on how well he does this season.

If anyone wants to know what type of money I think Cowen should get, Scott at the 6th Sens did an amazing job finding comparables (and is often right on these matters) here and I highly recommend checking that out. Fans always overrate their own prospects, but ultimately, you have to pay a player for what he's done on the ice, not be anchored to draft position or potential. We are dealing with very small samples here, but nonetheless, I hope that this piece has shed some light on Cowen's play (as well as Gryba and Wiercioch) and I don't mind Murray playing hardball with him to get the right deal done.

Thanks for reading!

This FanPost was written by a member of the Silver Seven community, and does not necessarily reflect the beliefs or opinions of the site managers, editors, or Sports Blogs Nation, Inc.

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