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Chris Wideman is Quietly Becoming a Superb Defenseman

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Although he has been on the third pairing, Chris Wideman has played like Ottawa’s best defenseman outside of Erik Karlsson

Ottawa Senators v Calgary Flames Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

For many average Senators fans who don’t follow the team religiously, Chris Wideman is not necessarily a name that they would think of too often. That should be changing though, as Wideman has cemented himself as a solid second pairing defenseman that Ottawa desperately needed.

He has been an unsung hero for this team, and I view him as what fans believe Cody Ceci is. His rookie season was a bit bumpy, but make no mistake: Wideman is here to stay and has already proven that he should be given more responsibility.

Surprisingly, Wideman just turned 27 last month, so it’s not as if he is super young. If he did not make positive strides this year, then it probably would have been best to cut bait with him. However, he’s improved immensely, is in his prime, and should not have a very expensive next contract.

Ottawa’s blueline has obviously not been very good for quite some time now, and a lot of times it seems like the group is just "Erik Karlsson and Co." Nevertheless, I think it’s fair to say that Wideman has emerged as the Senators best defenseman in the non-Karlsson category.

His point totals are not amazing, but with what he has been given, he has been good. At 5 on 5, he is tied with Marc Methot in points with eight, and he’s second on the team at 5v5 points per 60 at 0.94 (For reference, Karlsson is at 1.34 and Methot is at 0.61). Over the last two seasons, that number is only 0.77, but it is still second on the team behind Karlsson.

Where do those numbers put him amongst all defensemen? Since 2015-16, he ranks 70th out of 202 defensemen, and for just this season, he is 41st out of 178. 13 points this season and 26 points in 109 games overall may not seem like much, but considering that his career average in TOI is only 13:41 and his most common partner is Mark Borowiecki, his point production is actually well above average.

On the powerplay, Wideman has not really been given a chance to succeed. Since the beginning of last season, he has played 109 powerplay minutes, which is 232 fewer minutes than Dion Phaneuf. Cody Ceci actually has slightly fewer minutes than Wideman, but the point is that he has not really gotten the opportunity to be on the first powerplay unit very much, even if he may be a better option than Phaneuf.

The thing that stands out about Wideman this year is not offense though; it is how superb his possession numbers look.

In 508 minutes of playing time, 271 of those minutes have been played with Mark "he of a career 46.2 CF%" Borowiecki. Despite that, his corsi this season sits at 53.9%, and even with Borowiecki it is somehow at 52%.

It is evident that Wideman is the one keeping that pairing afloat, as Borowiecki sinks to 44.2% possession without Wideman, but Wideman goes up all the way to 56% without Borowiecki.

The craziest thing about Wideman’s with or without you numbers (WOWY) is that of his seven most common teammates (and 16 out of 20 with at least 25 minutes together), he is above 50% corsi with them. Here’s a table of ten WOWYs for him (data from Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com)

Player TOI Together Wideman without x Player without Wideman
Mark Borowiecki 271:23 52.0 56.0 44.2
Ryan Dzingel 160:25 51.7 55.1 44.6
Derick Brassard 158 63.3 49.6 53.5
Kyle Turris 152:24 52.8 54.4 44.3
Mark Stone 151:18 62.6 50.3 53.8
Mike Hoffman 127:45 58.5 52.5 49.3
Bobby Ryan 123:45 55.9 53.3 46.4
Chris Neil 112:40 45.0 56.4 46.0
Chris Kelly 111:35 45.1 56.3 39.0
Zack Smith 97:08 57.4 53.1 49.1

As you can see, the only players that play poorly with Wideman are Chris Neil and Chris Kelly (as well as Curtis Lazar and Tom Pyatt who are further down the list). It’s no surprise that the teams worst players are the only ones who drag Wideman down.

The amazing thing about his possession numbers is that out of the 27 skaters that have played any amount of ice time with Wideman this year, Derick Brassard is the only player that pushes his corsi below 50% when he is not on the ice. In other words, Wideman has not been beholden to any player to prop up his possession numbers. Brassard is the only player that might have a significant impact on his game.

Furthermore, his relative corsi numbers have been phenomenal this season.

I found these tweets from Manny Perry quite interesting:

For non-adjusted relative corsi, Wideman ranks first amongst defensemen. First. He sits at +7.6%, while the next closest is Dougie Hamilton at +6.7%. Yes, being on a poor possession team helps his relative numbers a bit, but it is still extremely impressive to be that high on the list.

Not only that, his numbers have been steadily improving since his rookie season. Take a look at his 25-game rolling average for corsi relative and corsi against per 60 for his entire career:

via Corsica Hockey

As you can see, the lines for his first season are below average. However, since the beginning of this season he has continuously gotten better. His progression since October has been almost entirely linear, and it’s gotten to the point where he is dominant when he is on the ice.

There really isn’t much to dislike about Wideman’s game, as he has vastly improved since last year. I think some of that can probably be attributed to "the system" by Guy Boucher, but we still need to give credit to the player as well.

As the Expansion Draft approaches, it is becoming more and more obvious that Wideman needs to be protected by Ottawa. Karlsson and Phaneuf are locks (unless Phaneuf waives his NMC), and Wideman should be the third defenseman protected because he has been better than Methot and Ceci.

One thing is for sure: if Las Vegas is somehow able to scoop him up, they’ll be getting a quality defenseman. In the meantime, let’s appreciate the fact that Ottawa actually developed a second pairing defenseman---even if he isn’t getting second pairing minutes.