Thursday, March 8, 2012

Loss of Lidas: What Lidstrom's Injury Means

Those were the days...

I didn't want to write this post. I put it off longer and longer until I couldn't ignore it any more. Nick Lidstrom is reportedly feeling better and will likely be back in the lineup soon, but it's worth looking at what his loss has meant to the Wings as they're playing sub-.500 hockey without him. Beyond that, I can probably include this as a chapter in my manifesto on why Lidstrom is the best defenseman of all time (and yes, I've heard of Bobby Orr) so that's a plus.

Everything written after this needs to be viewed with this in mind; it was done against the best. Lidstrom's Relative Corsi Quality of Competition is 1.628 at even strength, far and away the highest on the Wings. Ian White is next at 1.222, and Kronwall is third at 0.641. Lidstrom is consistently drawing the toughest assignments, night in and night out while playing 17.49 even strength minutes per 60 minutes played.

Lidstrom has long been known for his ability to quarterback the powerplay, but he's just as adept at generating offense at even strength. His on-ice Corsi is 14.06, more than two shots higher than the next leading Wing (Ian White's 11.87). For every 60 even strength minutes Lidstrom plays, he generates over 14 more shots than he allows.

Relatvie Corsi compares a player's Corsi against his team's Corsi, and Lidstrom shines here as well. He leads the Wings with a 7.8, three shots higher than Ian White's 4.8. The Wings can count on Lidstrom to generate about eight more shots for every 60 5-on-5 minutes he's on the ice than when he's off the ice. Put simply, Lidstrom generates shot attempts more frequently than any defenseman on the team.

Lidstrom is averaging 0.79 points per 60 minutes, or 0.34 goals, 0.17 first assists, and 0.28 second assists. He's been on the ice for 57 goals for and 30 goals against. This works out to be 3.21 goals for per 60 and 1.69 goals against per 60, a +1.52 goals +/- per 60 minutes. Without Lidstrom, the Wings' goal +/- is only +0.72, almost a full goal less than when Lidstrom is on the ice.

On the powerplay, Lidstrom is averaging a defesemen-leading 3.57 minutes per 60 played. To account for any perceived inflation/deflation in scoring stats, we should look at Relative Corsi Quality of Competition. On the powerplay, the closer the Relative Corsi number is to zero the more impressive, as this is a measurement of the weighted average number of shots an opponent is taking or allowing while on the ice. Lidstrom's Relative Corsi QoC is -3.478. This is fourth among Wings d-men, but still respectable as the bottom two numbers are -12.457 and -14.567.

Lidstrom is putting up phenomenal numbers against relatively good penalty killers. He leads all defensemen in Detroit with 3.85 points per 60 minutes played despite not leading a single individual offensive category. Those 3.85 points can be broken down into 1.10 goals, 1.38 first assists, and 1.38 second assists per 60 minutes.

The goal differential while Lidstrom is on the powerplay is +6.33, while Detroit's goal differential on the powerplay with Lidstrom on the bench is +3.70. This is the largest disparity among Detroit defensemen, with Lidstrom's play generating an extra +2.63 in goals differential per 60 minutes.

For as good as Lidstrom's even strength and powerplay stats portray him, his penalty kill stats are just confusing. He's averaging 1.91 minutes on the PK per 60 played, which is the fourth highest total for Wings defensemen. He's being utilized on the penalty kill, but not as much as Stuart and Kronwall.

Relative Corsi Quality of Competition points towards Nick drawing week competition at -1.238. This would mean that the players Lidstrom lines up against are actually allowing more shots attempts than they're taking, despite having a man advantage. That's just bizarre.

The second bizarre stat of the day comes from goal differential. Lidstrom is -6.19 per 60 minutes, while the Wings without Lidstrom on the ice are -5.54. Lidstrom is allowing more goals while he's on the ice than the team allows when he's off it. This seems counterintuitive, and is something that I'll probably write a post about in the future.

What are the Wings missing?
By all accounts, they're missing the defender who draws the toughest even strength assignments and plays the second most minutes. An apt points producer at even strength, Lidstrom is downright spectacular on the powerplay. Penalty killing stats are a surprising weakness, but Lidstrom provides more than enough value in other facets of the game to make up for this, and for the Wings subsequently to be greatly impacted by his loss.

With so many other players injured it's difficult to say that the last few games are a true indication of what life after Lidstrom will be like. If, however, there's any area that may provide clues it's the Wings' 5-on-4 game. I'm looking at you, 0-13 powerplay. Regardless of whether it's life (temporarily) without Lidstrom or life after Lidstrom, this life is sans one of the premier 5-on-5 and 5-on-4 defenders in the league.

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