Reviewing Flames Defensemen Projections

Robert Vollman
April 19 2012 11:41AM

 

 

Calgary’s blue line was overhauled in the 2011 off-season. Absent for the first time since 1999 was Robyn Regehr, along with depth pieces Steve Staios and Adam Pardy, replaced with Chris Butler, Scott Hannan and Derek Smith.

To help set scoring expectations for Calgary’s blue line, and indeed their entire line-up, we used the Snepsts System of searching NHL’s long history for players with similar scoring totals, and using their following seasons as a basis for predicting how well each of today’s player would do in 2011-12.  For each player we found players with similar historical scoring results to set high-water, low-water and average scoring results.

It’s one thing to publish your pre-season player scoring projections, but it’s another to circle back and see how you did.  We started last week with a look at Calgary’s top-six forwards, for which we were probably 3-3, although we probably picked up the loser point in two of those losses. 

This week we’ll look at Jay Bouwmeester, Anton Babchuk and Mark Giordano, followed by a look at the scaled down version we adopted for those of more modest scoring like Cory Sarich, Scott Hannan and Chris Butler.  We’ll conclude with a look back at the AHL-to-NHL translations we used to predict scoring for those with limited NHL experience like T.J. Brodie, Derek Smith and the relatively unused Brett Carson and Clay Wilson.

Jay Bouwmeester

Jay Bouwmeester’s historical comparables are well documented, having even done an in-depth analysis mid-season, and were also highly consistent, so it was with high confidence that we predicted he’d be below 30 points, much like his closest scoring match Rick Lanz.


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      72  5 20  25
Worst       82  3 16  19
Best        82  4 29  33
Average     82  4 20  24
Actual      82  5 24  29

Jay Bouwmeester’s 5 goals and 29 points were almost exactly what we expected, bang on with his various comparables.  The aforemented in-depth piece identified twelve players, all of whom had similar seasons and histories as Bouwmeester.  We concluded that “those who lacked a strong defensive game were essentially done, like Yushkevich, Potvin, Smith, Mara, Lanz and (probably) Hainsey. Those with strong defensive games enjoyed between three to seven more seasons, like Russell, Hatcher, Green and (probably) Hamhuis. Those who managed to get their scoring back (if only temporarily) also managed to keep going for four to nine more seasons, like Crossman and Huddy.”

Mark Giordano

For two straight seasons the most intriguing historical comparable for Mark Giordano was his best-case scenario: Norris-winning Duncan Keith and a potential 68-point season. Even his average expectation was impressive: 43 points in a complete 82-game season, even higher than the normally more optimistic VUKOTA system, which had him pegged for 35 points in 71 games.


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      71  8 27  35
Worst       82  5 17  22
Best        82 14 54  68
Average     82  9 34  43
Actual      61  9 18  27

Unfortunately Giordano fell short of the best-case scenario, and 5 points shy of the average of his comparables (43 points in 82 games works out to 32 points in 61 games), which put him in the same territory as former Flames like Steve Smith and Igor Kravchuk. Uhh.. that’s not good. Moving on.

Anton Babchuk

Anton Babchuk was signed to an impressive deal in the off-season, leading to hopes that he could manage the 34-point projection (over 82 games), and possibly even exceed it.


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      68  7 23  30
Worst       82  5 15  20
Average     82 11 23  34
Best        77 14 40  54
Actual      32  2  8  10

Despite that big new contract, Anton Babchuk wasn’t used unless everyone (including depth AHLers) were injured - and even then wasn’t given much opportunity to score.  Even if you stretch out his scoring over 82 games, his 26 points would still finish about halfway between the average and worst possible expectations.

Cory Sarich

After reviewing his historical matches last October we wrote “Both the VUKOTA and Snepsts systems agree that Sarich is looking at roughly a 14-point season, much like many veteran depth two-way defensemen of the past. That assumes he can play a full season, otherwise he's more likely to finish with 6 points, like in 2009-10.”


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      62  3 11  14
SNEPSTS     70  4 10  14
Actual      62  1  6   7

Unfortunately our comments were strangely prescient, and Sarich wound up only one point higher than that likely 6 point finish.

Chris Butler

Chris Butler’s closest historical match was Ville Siren, who scored 14 points in 53 games for the Minnesota North Stars, a historical match that agreed with the statistical VUKOTA projection.


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      53  3 11  14
SNEPSTS     53  2  9  11
Actual      68  2 13  15

While we successfully predicted Chris Butler’s scoring production, we also said “don't put him in Regehr's skates because he can't fill them,” and in that we were greatly mistaken. Chris Butler played effectively in top-line duty alongside Jay Bouwmeester, while Robyn Regehr was outscored by Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.

Scott Hannan

Given historical comparables like Tim Watters, Jay Wells, Jason Smith and Curtis Leschyshyn we felt that Scott Hannan’s scoring would continue to drop, and that he was “unlikely to get the opportunity to even hit double-digit scoring.”


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      62  1  9  10
SNEPSTS     80  1  5   6
Actual      78  2 10  12

Scott Hannan’s 12 points were double what we expected, and far more in line with optimistic VUKOTA’s projection. It was actually his 2nd best season scoring-wise since his first season in Colorado back in 2007-08.

T.J. Brodie

For T.J. Brodie we translated his AHL scoring to an NHL equivalent and came up with 17 points in 71 games, which is roughly the same scoring level projected by VUKOTA, which assumed he’d only get the opportunity to play in 25.


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      25  2  5   7
NHLE        71  3 17  17
Actual      54  2 12  14

T.J. Brodie’s 14 points in 54 games further reinforces the validity of AHL-to-NHL translations, as his scoring level of 0.26 points per game very closely matches the expectation of 0.24.

Derek Smith

For Derek Smith, the AHL-to-NHL translation for each of his past two seasons worked out to 23 points, a couple more than what you’d get if you stretched VUKOTA’s projection of 7 points in 27 games out to a full year.


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      27  2  5   7
NHLE        80  4 19  23
Actual      47  2  9  11

Derek Smith’s projection of 23 points in 80 games would work out to 13.5 in 47 games, a little more than he actually scored for the Flames. That’s about as accurate a projection as you can get for a player with just 11 games of NHL experience.

Clay Wilson

Clay Wilson’s AHL-to-NHL translations paint the picture of a very consistent 20-point scorer, coming off a career high 25, just like VUKOTA would project over a full season.


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      31  3  7  10
NHLE        82  8 17  25
Actual       5  0  0   0

Of course we have no idea how many points Wilson would have scored over a full season, having played just 5 games – most of it at the end of the year when Calgary was already eliminated from the play-offs, but we included this projection for completeness sake.

Brett Carson

We went the extra mile with Brett Carson, projecting his AHL data to their NHL equivalent to see how he might to this season even though “barring lots of injuries, Brett Carson is likely to be plying his trade in the same place he has for years – in the AHL. “  In 2010-11, for instance, he would have scored 10 points in 57 games at the NHL level.


System      GP  G  A PTS
VUKOTA      43  2  6   8
SNEPSTS     43  0  7   7
Actual       2  0  0   0

Brett Carson only got two games of action, so we’re including this one only for interest’s sake.

Next Time

Calgary got the most out of low-cost depth pieces like Chris Butler, Scott Hannan, Derek Smith and T.J. Brodie, and ultra-high-cost depth piece Cory Sarich, but failed to justify the hefty contract awarded to Anton Babchuk. Mark Giordano's season didn't live up to his potential, and Jay Bouwmeester's performance, while predictable, is still well short of his Norris-level contract - at least scoring-wise.

Once again our record is roughly even - the projections were largely accurate in the case of Jay Bouwmeester, Chris Butler and the AHLers T.J. Brodie and Derek Smith, but at least a little off in the case of Mark Giordano, Anton Babchuk, Scott Hannan and Cory Sarich. Given that most of them still fell within the range, we should at least get credited with the loser points.

Having already taken a look back at their top-six forwards last week, and their defensemen here this week, all that remains is to look back at their other forwards like David Moss, Matt Stajan, and company – something we’ll do next week.
 

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Rob Vollman of www.HockeyAbstract.com is a regular feature writer on ESPN Insider, co-author of Hockey Prospectus 2010-11 and 2011-12, and regular contributor to NHL Numbers, Flames Nation and Arctic Ice Hockey. Innovator of Player Usage Charts, Quality Starts, GVS (Goals Versus Salary), the Snepsts Projection System, and known for work in League Equivalencies (NHLE). Twitter: @robvollmanNHL
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#1 backburner
April 19 2012, 12:38PM
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I would love to see Feaster sign Ryan Suter.. (I know it won't happen) But I think Calgary really lacks a solid top two pairing.

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#2 Kent Wilson
April 19 2012, 12:50PM
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@backburner

Yeah, Suter would help just about any team in the league. He's going to have a lot of suitors (ZING) if he makes it to market.

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#3 everton fc
April 19 2012, 02:11PM
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Bouwmeester/Gio/Butler/Smith/Brodie... Even adding a 6th man to this... With, say, Sarich as your 6-7...

We'll need a #2 d-man. And maybe an upgrade to Smith, as I am not convinced he's more than a 5-6 man.

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#4 loudogYYC
April 19 2012, 02:17PM
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No more Sarich.... Please, no more Sarich.

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#5 Kevin R
April 19 2012, 02:40PM
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I think we need 2 top 4 d men. I still think Brodie & Butler should start 5-6 spots & move up during the year as the injuies start to pile up. Smith to be a #7 & somehow get rid of Babchuk.

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#6 everton fc
April 19 2012, 02:54PM
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I agree w/you, Kevin. Always felt Butler better suited in the 5-6 role, thoug one could argue he earned a 3-4 role this season.

Smith/Brodie as a 5-6 doesn't scare me... But certainly won't win us the Cup.

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#7 Sobueno
April 19 2012, 03:45PM
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I know it's completely off topic, but did anyone watch the Flyers-Pens game last night??

SO MANY GOALS! This series must be an NHL record for offensive output... oh wait...

Perhaps not entirely off topic then, because this leads me to: we're going to need to add quite a few key pieces on both defense and in terms of forwards if we ever expect to compete against teams like that. Wow.

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#8 MC Hockey
April 19 2012, 04:20PM
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First off, Gio's head fits that picture very well. I bet the ladies would like it....I should ask my sister or wife LOL.

Second, I am glad to see some of Feaster's low-cost players did OK in these rankings, surprised by Sarich and Hannan for sure but I won't be sad to see one or both be gone.

Third, if the Flames "go all free-agent-spendy" this summer to get a top 2-3 D-man with a future, I like UFAs like:

Suter (age 27) the best but other reasonably young guys under 30 and available include Garrison (27) but he's mainly offensive, Wideman (29), Carle (27).

Or other UFU free-agent D available with lesser talent (so more like a 3-5 rank D-man on Flames) include:

Gilroy (age 27), Colaiacovo (29), Campoli (27), Jurcina (28), Shane O'Brien (28), Bickel (just 25 and a tough guy to replace Sarich's ruggedness and can fight), Oduya (but he is 30), Campoli (27), and many more depending on what skills you want.

Also lesser-kknow remember Flames properties becoming UFA D-men are: Brian Connelly (offensive talent) and Jordan Hendry (good training camp last year)

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#9 Vintage Flame
April 19 2012, 04:53PM
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Jay Bouwmeester’s historical comparables are well documented, having even done an in-depth analysis mid-season, and were also highly consistent, so it was with high confidence that we predicted he’d be below 30 points, much like his closest scoring match Rick Lanz.

Okay Robert, here is my main problem with relying just on statistical numbers. In casual conversation, if someone asked you who you would compare Jay Bouwmeester to and what his value to any team was, is the first name that would pop into your head Rick Lanz?

We all know he hasn't put up the numbers that he did in Florida, no news there, but he also carries and intrinsic value that I think ranks him higher than the likes of Lanz. I wouldn't consider him a suitable comparable.

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#12 Vintage Flame
April 19 2012, 05:43PM
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@Robert Vollman

First of all, the new version of Snepsts that will be revealed this off-season does include some defensive measurements.

Cool.. I'll be interested to see that when it does, especially when referencing guys like Bouw.

Third - don't cherry-pick.

Wait.. I thought we were talking Bouw, why you have to bring up Iggy?

Fourth and finally, there is still something to be learned from Rick Lanz. Regardless of how they came to walk such a similar statistical path, there they are, and the path Lanz takes from here could still be of great value. Although I'll admit - Bouwmeester's defensive skills will keep him playing long after an offensive-only comparable is long retired.

... I'll reserve judgement until the new Snepsts system comes out. :)

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#13 MC Hockey
April 19 2012, 07:22PM
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While we are talking ex-Canucks (Lanz), is the Snepsts system named for good old Harold Snepsts .....I know it's probably not but it's funny a bit!

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#15 DieHard
April 20 2012, 06:46PM
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Robert Vollman wrote:

You don't have to sign a big name to have a big impact.

You know who I had at the top of my list of suggested signings for the Flames last year? Jay Garrison. This year he had 33 points and led Florida with a +6 (playing alongside Campbell, but still) - all for $675,000.

Suter's awesome, and the secret's out on Garrison, but there are great values out there to be had.

What would you pay for Garrison?

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