Ottawa Senators Player Grades - Vladimir Tarasenko

He was good.

Reader Grade: B, Staff Grade: B

Like most members of the 2023-2024 Ottawa Senators, Vladimir Tarasenko was nothing special. Unlike most of that team, however, his performance at the very least met the expectations of what he was being paid to do. In particular, he found some early chemistry with Ridly Greig and Mathieu Joseph.

It's a refreshing change of pace to see Ottawa making an effort to sign decent hockey players, on top of those players meeting expectations in terms of production. He had 17 goals and 24 assists in 57 games before being traded to a good hockey team at the deadline. Had Ottawa been a good hockey team themselves, we likely would've seen Tarasenko hit the 60-point mark.

There's been a lot of discussion about Tarasenko's defensive game, with several metrics potentially serving both sides of the argument.

Among 14 Sens forwards with at least 200 minutes, he had the best 5-on-5 goal differential of +8, but ranked 10th in Corsi% (48.92%) and 9th in Expected Goals% (47.61%).

Given the conflicting numbers, should we call Tarasenko a good defensive player, or is he maybe getting more support from goaltending than others?

After playing around with NaturalStatTrick's available data, I noticed they track goals against by threat level, i.e. the larger xG value of a shot attempt, the larger the threat level. This is primarily based on the location of the attempt, but the model also takes into account whether or not the attempt is made on the rush, or a rebound, or if it was blocked. It's not perfect, but it should give us a better data set than if we treat every shot the same.

With the recorded numbers for low, medium, and high danger goals against, we can get the percentage of each type. Here's what that looks like for Ottawa's forwards:

Player TOI GA Low% Med% High%
Brady Tkachuk 1182.4 59 13.56% 32.20% 54.24%
Claude Giroux 1154.3 66 24.24% 25.76% 50.00%
Tim Stützle 1183.2 67 22.39% 34.33% 43.28%
Drake Batherson 1173.9 56 16.07% 32.14% 51.79%
Mathieu Joseph 981.9 50 12.00% 34.00% 54.00%
Ridly Greig 881.4 35 14.29% 28.57% 57.14%
Vladimir Tarasenko 742.1 34 0.00% 38.24% 61.76%
Shane Pinto 587.0 22 4.55% 40.91% 54.55%
Parker Kelly 742.3 35 22.86% 28.57% 48.57%
Josh Norris 641.1 35 8.57% 28.57% 62.86%
Dominik Kubalik 745.8 44 20.45% 38.64% 40.91%
Mark Kastelic 474.6 19 21.05% 31.58% 47.37%
Rourke Chartier 322.6 11 9.09% 36.36% 54.55%
Boris Katchouk 202.5 9 22.22% 22.22% 55.56%

As you might've expected, high-danger goals are the most common, followed by medium-danger and low-danger.

That said, there is still some pretty significant variance in the data. If we focus on low-danger goals, we see that Claude Giroux was on the ice for quite a lot – specifically, 16 low-danger goals against. Tarasenko, on the other hand, wasn't on the ice for a single one. I'll bet you that if you go back and watch every single soft goal let in by Joonas Korpisalo and Anton Forsberg, you'd contract an incurable depression, and perhaps trypophobia as well. More pertinent to this article, however, is that finding Tarasenko on the ice will be next to impossible.

The conclusion I'd draw here is that Tarasenko was one of the luckiest forwards from a defensive standpoint, benefitting from much better goaltending than his teammates. It doesn't affect his grade much, though, because he did what he was supposed to do in Ottawa. As a complementary top-six winger at a $5M price tag, you could do a lot worse.

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