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Silver Nuggets: In-depth on Eric Gryba

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Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Gryba is a defenseman who's always had a bit of a mixed reputation with Sens fans. One of John Muckler's last picks at the helm (2006, 3rd round), Gryba took the college route, spending four years at Boston University with an NCAA Championship along the way in 2008-09. Due to this, Sens fans didn't really get to see much of the rugged defenseman, and Gryba was allowed to patiently develop for much of three seasons with the Binghamton Senators.

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When Erik Karlsson got injured in the 2013 season, Gryba was the right-handed defenseman called up to play big minutes, and immediately took Karlsson's place alongside Marc Methot. Of course, Gryba is not Karlsson, but it was still a stark contrast to go from a slick, smooth-skating puck-moving defenseman to a physical, choppy-looking defenseman who struggled at moving the puck. What many don't realize is that the Methot - Gryba pairing was 'buried' under Paul MacLean - i.e. they were given really tough defensive minutes in order to free up the Wiercioch - Gonchar pairing to generate offense. Although Methot - Gryba struggled, with Gryba getting much of the blame, it was a smart move by Paul MacLean as Methot was the most trusted defensive blueliner and there was no other capable right-handed D, other than Gonchar, that could've played those minutes.

From getting blamed constantly due to his defensive miscues, Gryba temporarily ascended the ranks to 'folk hero' status during the Sens - Habs series of 2013. We all remember his hit in Lars Eller that knocked the Danish forward out of the series and landed Ol' Grybeard a two game suspension for his troubles. This was the *start* of the bad blood between the two rivals.

The next year, 2013-14, Gryba won a lot of people over, including myself. He looked way more steady on his feet, he was aggressive at the defensive blue line, and was one of the best on the team at repelling zone entries with control. Looking back now, I wonder how much of this 'improvement' was due to lowered expectations in my eyes, seeing as I didn't expect much from Gryba in the first place. Thus, when he didn't outwardly suck, I thought he was doing well, but when if you look at the numbers, there wasn't that big of a change. This line of thinking showed up again this year, where I'm now 'disappointed' in Gryba's porous play this season. Is it because I expected more? Has there been a tangible change in his play? Let's take a look at some numbers quickly, with statistics from War On Ice and Behind The Net.

#62 Eric Gryba

TOI/game

Corsi Rel QoC

CF% Rel

CA/60

On-ice sv%

GF% Rel

Penalty Differential

SCF% Rel

HDSCF% Rel

2012-13 (33 games)

17.07

1.155

-7.75

55.81

0.927%

-7.59

-7

-8.87

-10.02

2013-14 (57 games)

13.52

0.774

-2.51

54.98

0.938%

+5.47

-5

-2.05

-2.25

2014-15 (75 games)

12.75

0.368

-3.82

56.04

0.930%

-0.70

-14

-5.75

-3.95

So here, we can see some of the things I outlined in the text earlier. In 2012-13, Gryba was thrust into top minutes, easily playing 4-5 more minutes a game than he did at any point after that. Those minutes were also hard, and the competition that Gryba has faced as linearly decreased as time has passed according to this measure of quality of competition, perhaps lending to the notion that the coaching staff knows that Gryba was playing over his head. From 2012-13 to 2013-14, there was a definite improvement in every metric listed here. Gryba was giving up less shot attempts, scoring chances, and high-danger scoring chances against, and was taking less penalties - giving us less opportunities to yell at him for doing something silly. When you compare 2013-14 to 2014-15, there has been an unfortunate reversal in Gryba's performance, with the blueliner doing worse in his lower minutes played (against easier competition) compared to his 2013-14 season. Gryba also had a terrible penalty differential - one of the worst on the team - and gave up a ton of scoring chances relative to the team. Both of these metrics lend to our eyes notion of who's playing "bad" and who's not. Penalties are obvious screw ups and 'easy' to blame, so Gryba's bad numbers don't help him there. Ditto for scoring chances, as it's easy to compare the team's numbers against when he's on the ice to other defenders who are faring much better.

Was our perception of Gryba unfounded, then? Was he always mediocre but we got fooled by 2013-14?

I think the correct answer to this question is "kinda." There was definite improvement in all of the numbers from 2012-13 to 2013-14, so I don't think my eyes were "wrong" per se. What's really interesting to look at is that Gryba's "improvement" in terms of CA/60 (shot attempts against/60) is only ONE shot attempt per 60 minutes, which really isn't anything. Despite that, Gryba's GF% relative to the team went from -7.59 to +5.47. There was definite scoring chance improvement relative to the team, but let's break this down even further - and also highlight a limitation when using relative statistics when looking at individual performance.

#62 Eric Gryba

GF/60

GA/60

On-ice shooting%

SCF60

SCA60

HSCF60

HSCA60

2012-13 (33 games)

1.60

2.24

5.84

23.75

27.27

12.78

15.12

2013-14 (57 games)

2.49

2.02

8.42

26.17

26.40

14.33

15.81

2014-15 (75 games)

2.20

2.26

8.66

22.72

25.79

13.62

13.99

Here we can see that when looking at Gryba's "defensive" ability, the against numbers, there was really only a small improvement in both goals and scoring chance against per 60 from 2012-13 to 2013-14. In the relative numbers, it looked like a massive improvement - and it was - but it was localized to the Senators offense with Gryba on the ice. In 2013-14, the Sens shot 8.42%,  leading to increased goals for totals which skewed the relative numbers, perhaps by shooting more in high danger areas (12.78 -> 14.33 high danger scoring chances for/60). This year, the team generated less scoring chances AND high danger scoring chances for with Gryba on the ice, so despite a sustained shooting percentage, the team didn't score that many goals, bringing the GF% numbers in the first table back down.

What can we gather from all this?

When Gryba is on the ice, his team is routinely outshot - leading to negative Corsi Rel numbers. Although there was improvement in 2013-14, especially in the relative goal and scoring chance numbers, we can see that this improvement was in the offensive ability of the Senators with Gryba on the ice, generating more goals (GF/60) and scoring chances (SCF60/HSCF60). These offensive numbers curiously slipped back down in 2014-15, so it remains to be seen whether this was just random variance or if there was something systematic going on here.

Despite this though, when looking at Gryba's defensive metrics, we can see that there really hasn't been that much of a difference year-to-year; our perceptions of Gryba's defensive ability may have been fooled by the offensive improvement. His CA/60, despite a one shot attempt improvement from his rookie to sophomore year, went back up this year. His place relative to his teammates in terms of scoring chance differentials has consistently been in the negative, and there has only been an improvement of ~1.5 scoring chances against per 60 minutes from his rookie year to last year.

It's interesting that despite similar shot attempt and normal scoring chance numbers per 60 year-to-year, Gryba generated and gave up less high-danger scoring chance numbers overall. When splitting the numbers this season to look for an effect between Paul MacLean and Dave Cameron this season, I found that Gryba's high-danger scoring chances against numbers went from 15.72 (on par with his previous seasons) to 13.23 - a massive improvement.

Given Gryba's status relative to the team still being in the negative, do you think that Gryba should still be shipped out to give a chance to another defenseman like Chris Wideman or a free-agent signing? Or, do you think his high-danger scoring chance improvement is real and deserves another chance on the Senators blueline?

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Sens Links

  • Good news! Eugene Melnyk's liver transplant was a success [Silver Seven, 6th SensOttawa Citizen]
  • The biggest hockey related news is obviously the signing of Andrew Hammond, giving the Senators three goaltenders on one-way deals heading into 2015-16. [Silver Seven, 6th SensSensChirpOttawa Citizen]
  • Afterwards, Sens AGM Pierre Dorion took to the radio and spoke at length about Hammond, the RFAs, and the draft. Nichols has a transcript, Chirp has some thoughts, and I've linked the TSN1200 audio if you prefer that. [6th SensSensChirpTSN1200]
  • A fun pair of articles from Trevor as he plays Armchair GM for the upcoming season. Do you agree with his moves? [SenShot - Armchair GM III]
  • A wonderful news + notes column from Peter Levi that touches on a number of topics this month; a really good recap + quick analysis in case you missed anything. [Eye on the Sens]
  • Trevor has a piece on Matt Puempel, a player who got an extended call up with the Senators despite not dominating the AHL. The team appears to think that he's NHL ready, but does he need more time? I think so. [SenShot]
  • Former Senator Nick Foligno was named the Captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets this week. Jack looks back on the big trade, and Trevor juxtaposes it with the five worst trades of the Bryan Murray era. I don't think the Foligno-Methot trade is one of them. [SenShot - FolignoWorst Trades]
  • The S7 staff continue to give our predictions for the offseason, this time discussing Chris Phillips + Chris Neil, Erik Condra, and Sens management. [Silver Seven Offseason - ChrisesCondraManagement]
  • Given all the news about the Leafs this week, Jack has an appropriate column that compares the state of the two Ontario franchises. [SenShot]
  • Our series when you give your thoughts + grades on players continues, with Jared Cowen and Marc Methot this week's topics. [Your Say - CowenMethot]
  • Travis looks at the biggest bargains and rip-offs on the 2014-15 Senators. Too bad the bargains he identified won't be bargains any longer.. [SenShot]

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Thanks for reading!