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Pending UFA: Marc Methot

A look at what the Sens should do with Methot as the trade deadline approaches.

Does anyone else think that stick blade looks too large to be legal?
Does anyone else think that stick blade looks too large to be legal?
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Is there a more polarizing player on the team right now than Marc Methot? I would say no. On the one hand, he has been Erik Karlsson's most reliable partner. The defence corps is a whole lot better with Methot in the lineup. On the other hand, he's probably not worth five years at $5.5-million, and his back injury that kept him out for most of the season is a reason to worry. Some people say he should be signed for what he wants, because the Senators really don't have a better option for top-four defence, and because he's better than whatever will be available in free agency. Some people say that as a budget team, Ottawa can't afford to overpay a guy whose health may be problematic.

Sadly, I don't think there's a great answer. Both sides have good points. One thing I want to look at is how much of a difference Methot has made to the team since he's been back. In fourteen games with the team this year, he has five assists. Last year he put up 23 points in 75 games, both career highs. In the nine or so games in which Methot has been Karlsson's partner this season, Karlsson has put up six points, which is right around his season average of 0.686 points per game. It's important to remember though that Karlsson won the Norris Trophy as Filip Kuba's partner, and only a year later Kuba was bought out by the Panthers. It's possible anyone can look good on Karlsson's pairing. However, based on the last couple of seasons, that doesn't appear to be true. It's safe to say that Chris Phillips, Mark Borowiecki, and Jared Cowen have been lousy partners for Karlsson. None can handle the tough minutes that Karlsson plays. Patrick Wiercioch has put up good stats with Karlsson, but this may be a product of them being seen as a high-risk, high-reward pairing. Both MacLean and Cameron have given them offensive zone starts, and chances late in a game when Ottawa needs a goal. Additionally, the coaching staff seem intent on having a "puck-mover" and a "stay-at-home" guy on each pair. If having Methot saves them from putting Borowiecki or Phillips on Karlsson's pairing, it's a good thing to have Methot play.

Below is a look at the usage of the team's defencemen this year:

Methot is one of only three defencemen this year to put up positive possession numbers. He does this while facing the toughest competition on the team. He plays the second-most minutes per game for the team, and has a lower share of offensive zone starts than Karlsson and especially Wiercioch. All these things show the great value Methot provides to the team.

A lot gets made of the benefits of playing Methot and Karlsson together. According to Natural Stat Trick, they have a Corsi-for percentage of 55.77% when on the ice together. Most likely Karlsson drives the bus on that pairing, since Karlsson puts up 51.42% without Methot, while Methot drops further to 46.67% without Karlsson. To be fair to Methot though, here's a comprehensive list of players whose Corsi numbers get better without Karlsson: Colin Greening. That's it. It's hardly fair to say Methot isn't as good as Ottawa's most dynamic player. Below is a comparison using every player on the team:

Time together (min) Methot effect on teammate Teammate effect on Methot Difference
Erik Karlsson 12738 -3.72 9.10 -12.82
Bobby Ryan 5185 -2.85 -4.21 1.36
Kyle Turris 5084 3.73 3.58 0.15
Clarke MacArthur 4986 6.75 3.07 3.68
Mika Zibanejad 4956 -1.01 -2.05 1.04
Mark Stone 4153 7.49 6.31 1.18
Mike Hoffman 4087 -0.61 -0.41 -0.20
Milan Michalek 3624 1.90 -0.38 2.28
Jean-Gabriel Pageau 2991 5.67 -0.94 6.61
Erik Condra 2976 8.12 2.44 5.68
Alex Chiasson 2954 -3.69 2.04 -5.73
Curtis Lazar 2669 0.40 -3.79 4.19
David Legwand 1877 -7.83 -2.65 -5.18
Eric Gryba 1521 -4.76 -9.72 4.96
Cody Ceci 22 0.75 -1.79 2.54
Chris Neil 19 5.44 -8.85 14.29
Chris Phillips 3 -24.54 -32.51 7.97
Jared Cowen 2 -52.19 -54.47 2.28
Colin Greening 2 23.08 46.12 -23.04
Zack Smith 2 1.58 3.03 -1.45

In the third column, a positive number indicates that Methot positively affects the teammate's stats; similarly, in the fourth column a positive number indicates that the teammate positively affects Methot. The final column subtracts the fourth column from the third, so a positive number indicates that Methot's effect on the player is greater than their effect on him. Interestingly, Methot has only caused a significantly negative differential in three players' stats who have played more than four minutes with him this season: Karlsson, Alex Chiasson, and David Legwand. For the last two, it may be an effect of these two playing far too difficult competition when on the ice with him. Overall, nearly everyone fairs better with Methot than without.

Lastly, here's a look at an Own The Puck HERO chart, a fantastic tool for visualizing stats:

The chart shows that Methot is great at generating shot attempts (probably from playing with Karlsson so much), and is still at least second pairing in every other stat they keep track of. I found the points/60 particularly interesting, because I think of Methot as a low-scoring defenceman. This all points to the fact that Methot is top-four defenceman by some of the most common measures used to evaluate players.

So what can we take away from all this? Not much. I think it's safe to say that you can use the stats to pad any argument you want to say. As more of a "stay-at-home" type, you could argue that the stats aren't really suited to him anyway. You could also argue that today's game is making his type more and more obsolete.

My thoughts are that Ottawa can ill-afford to lose Methot. Karlsson would clearly look better with Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Alex Pietrangelo on his pairing, but neither of those are going to happen. No one in the organization can handle Methot's minutes in the short-term, and as an unattractive free agent destination, Ottawa can hardly expect to fill Methot's role through free agency. Barring a fantastic trade, Methot remains Ottawa's best option for a number two defenceman.

Best-case scenario: Methot signs a four-year, $4.7-million contract. He takes a discount on money and term because he loves it here and knows his back is a problem.

Expected scenario: This is so hard to predict. I think there are two options: A) he signs a five-year, $5-million contract before March 2 (with a no-trade clause, of course), or B) he's traded by the deadline. Good luck predicting which one will happen.