Monday, February 6, 2012

Trade Deadline Targets: Who to Add and Who's Just Bad- Defensemen

It's no secret that Ken Holland will be looking to add at the trade deadline. For the first time in a number of years Holland has salary cap space to work with, and the Wings could use a defesemen and a forward. Who should be added? Who's all hype? Over the next few weeks I'll be looking at potential targets and trying to use statistics to help find some answers.

Defense seemed like a natural place to start as this may be the biggest area of need, especially when looking past the end of the season and into next year. I have a bad feeling that this is Nick Lidstrom's last season, and we might as well just resign ourselves to the fact that he can't and won't be replaced. Not now, and maybe not ever. Generational talents only come along once in a generation, after all. That doesn't mean that the sting can't be lessened by adding a top tier d-man. This will become even more important if Brad Stuart decides to leave via free agency. As time goes on I'm less and less sure about Stuart and his contract situation, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if he re-joins his family on the west coast and signs with a new team on July 1st.

There's an uncomfortably high probability that the Wings will have to replace two of their top four defensemen before next September. One intriguing name floating around the rumor mill that would fill one of those spots is Nashville's Ryan Suter. Suter made it clear that he intends to test the market on July 1st. This may force David Poile to move him before the trade deadline, lest he risk getting nothing in return when Suter hits the open market.

 Is Suter worth trading for? Is he someone who would fit on the top pair or just in the top four? Today I'll look at 5-on-5 statistics for Lidstrom, Stuart, and Suter in the hopes of finding some objective answers.

The first stat we'll look at is on-ice Corsi rating. This is the on-ice shot differential (goals+saves+missed shots+blocked shots) per 60 minutes of even strength time. Essentially, it's looking at how a player impacts the team and the number of shots they get towards the net. Nick Lidstrom leads the league at 16.27. Brad Stuart checks in at 6.36, and Ryan Suter at -3.59. Lidstrom obviously helps the Wings put a lot of shots on net, while Stuart helps to a lesser degree. In Suter's case, the Preds are allowing more shots than they're taking with him on the ice. That's not great, but Detroit's style of play lends itself nicely to holding on to the puck and shooting as much as possible, while Nashville doesn't have the offensive talent that Detroit.

Could the Corsi ratings be accounted for by the quality of competition each player is facing? Relative Corsi Quality of Competition tries to account for this. The higher the positive number, the better the competition a player faces on a nightly basis. More explanation can be found here. Lidstrom's Relative Corsi QoC is 1.481, while Stuart's is 0.252 and Suter's is 1.180. Lidstrom is playing against the best of the best and still getting shots on net, while Suter is likely playing against first liners as well but doesn't have the same offensive impact as Lidstrom (at least, not in terms of shots). Stuart's lower QoC is accounted for by the fact that he is playing more against third and fourth line players relative to the others, a byproduct of his playing on the second pair.

No breakdown would be complete without an analysis of goals and assists. Lidstrom's on-ice goals for per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play is 3.56 while his on-ice goals against per 60 is 1.75. His on-ice plus-minus per 60 minutes of even strength play is 1.81, which means that the Wings score almost two more goals than they allow for every 60 minutes of even strength ice time that Lidstrom logs.

Stuart's on-ice goals for per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play is 2.94 and his on-ice goals against per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play is 2.24. His on-ice plus-minus per 60 minutes of even strength play is 0.70.

Suter's on-ice goals for per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play is 2.45 and his on-ice goals against per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play is 2.08. His on-ice plus-minus per 60 minutes of even strength play is 0.38.

Lidstrom is clearly the best defensemen of the trio. Stuart's +/- is better than Suter's, but Suter's team is allowing less goals for every 60 minutes of even strength time he plays.

Suter is playing against better players than Stuart and his team is allowing less even strength goals with him on the ice for every 60 minutes he logs. Plugging Suter into the Wings' system would likely result in an increase in his offensive statistics, while we can expect him to continue to play well in the defensive zone. While not in the same stratosphere as Lidstrom, Suter looks like he could fit on the first pair. At least, that's what even strength statistics tell us.

Tomorrow: 5-on-4 statistics

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