Flames Comparables: Secondary Defensemen



Every Thursday we’re using the Snepsts system to project how many points each of the Flames may score this year. The Snepsts system, explained over at Hockey Prospectus, searches history for players with similar statistics (adjusted for era scoring levels) and uses their future performance as yardsticks for today’s.

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We’ve already looked at most of the Flames key forwards and key defensemen, and this week we’ll look at some of their secondary defensemen: Cory Sarich, Chris Butler, Scott Hannan and Brett Carson.

Cory Sarich

Cory Sarich’s 17 points were actually his 3rd highest ever, only three back of the career high he set with the Flames back in 2008-09. Unfortunately he’s 33 and struggling with serious health issues, and unlikely to continue.

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Historical matches: None
VUKOTA: 62 GP, 3 G, 11 A, 14 PTS
SNEPSTS: 70 GP, 4 G, 10 A, 14 PTS
Closest matches: Tim Bothwell, Rick Zombo, Gary Doak

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.

Chris Butler

Acquired in the off-season in the Regehr/Kotalik salary dump, Chris Butler dropped from 21 points in 59 games in 2009-10 to just 9 points in 49 games last season for the Buffalo Sabres, yielding him just a single close historical match (Ville Siren).

Historical matches: 1
VUKOTA: 53 GP, 3 G, 11 A, 14 PTS
SNEPSTS: 53 GP, 2 G, 9 A, 11 PTS
Closest matches: Ville Siren, Geoff Smith, Tim Watters

Butler’s historical matches are predominantly third-line depth options, that together could scratch 11-14 points in 53 games.  Don’t put him in Regehr’s skates because he can’t fill them.

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Scott Hannan

A great off-season value acquisition, Scott Hannan was brought in for his ability to shut down opponents, not to score.  He’s managed just 10-16 points per season over the past three years, down from the 21-24 in the preceding 5. History predicts another tumble.

Historical matches: 4
VUKOTA: 62 GP, 1 G, 9 A, 10 PTS
SNEPSTS: 80 GP, 1 G, 5 A, 6 PTS
Closest matches: Tim Watters, Jay Wells, Jason Smith, Curtis Leschyshyn

Scott Hannan will very likely be a tough defensive blue-liner for the remainder of his years, unlikely to get the opportunity to even hit double-digit scoring.

Brett Carson

Barring lots of injuries, Brett Carson is likely to be plying his trade in the same place he has for years – in the AHL.  Using league equivalencies to translate his AHL data to NHL data, and adding in his occasional NHL stints, here’s what the 26-year-old’s career would look like had he been up in the big leagues.

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Season  GP G A PTS
2006-07 63 1 10 11
2007-08 77 1 13 14
2008-09 74 3 15 18
2009-10 68 3 13 16
2010-11 57 2  8 10

Had he been fortunate enough to play in the NHL, he would have established a consistent track record of 10-18 points a season by now.  As such, his projections are to score 7-8 points in a half season, much like someone like Darryl Shannon has in the past.

Historical matches: None
VUKOTA: 43 GP, 2 G, 6 A, 8 PTS
SNEPSTS: 43 GP, 0 G, 7 A, 7 PTS
Closest matches: Darryl Shannon

Coming Up

Derek Smith, Clay Wilson, T.J. Brodie and Brendan Mikkelson
Lance Bouma, Stefan Meyer, Paul Byron, Greg Nemisz
Raitis Ivanans, Guillaume Desbiens and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Robert it’s pretty clear none of the players you featured today are expected to put points up. Obviously, defensive dmen are the guys preventing goals or at least theIr role is to limit the opposition chances at scoring.

    That brings me to another thought, I wonder if the reason defensive defense men are less respected and valued is be because their intrinsic value is harder to quantify?

    • Great question. I’ve always wondered why Player X can create 10 goals, get paid $5 million, and Player Y can prevent 10 goals, and get paid $1.5.

      And is it really that much harder to quantify? Measure it by how much fewer goals/shots/scoring chances occur when a defensive player is on the ice.

      Of course, you will successfully argue that the count will be influenced by who the defensive star is playing with, and/or against, and/or the situation in which he was used.

      All of that is completely true – but it applies to offense as well! The same factors that make it difficult to gauge a player’s defensive contributions apply equally to their offensive ones.

      So we’re right back to where we started – why are defensive defensemen less respected and values than offensive ones?

      • ChinookArchYYC

        Has anyone developed a point prevention stat based on TOI? In other words, who are the least likely defensemen to be scored on while on the ice, and at EV.

        I wonder if it could be done for defense pairings, since these are reasonably consistent during each season?

        • Excellent question.

          If you go WAY back, before Tom Awad’s GVT, and before Alan Ryder’s PC, there was Iain Fyffe’s Point Allocations. It was a small field back then, and we all worked pretty closely together, and Point Allocations was the basic system on which a lot of future stuff was based.

          One of his most intriguing ideas was to figure out how much ice-time a guy had earned based on his offensive contributions, and then whatever remained must have been earned by his defensive contributions. Brilliant, really.

          At the time I was fiddling with the exact thing you’re suggesting – figuring out a player’s individual goals-against-average. Which was no easy feat, given this was before the NHL published on-ice goals for, on-ice goals against, broken down by situation – or even breaking down TOI by situation. We had to come up with clever ways of estimating all of that.

          I discovered that goals-against average didn’t really have the predictive value I had hoped. Those with the lowest personal GAA were simply those that played on depth lines on defensive teams. Great defensive players, the kind that were sent out to shut down the top lines, generally had terrible GAA. Obviously.

          That’s why a lot of people lean heavily on zone starts and Quality of Competition to figure out the league’s best defensive players. Unless their coaches are morons, or without any decent defensive options, looking at who is playing the tough minutes can be an excellent guide (or at least a supplement!).

          If you insist on looking at a player’s personal GAA, at the very least don’t use goals. Use Corsi-events against (e.g. shots, goals, missed nets, blocked shots, etc). Why? Because a great goalie can lower your GAA just like a bad goalie can increase it. Plus there’s a lot of luck involved in goals, even over a full season – better to use the larger sample size of all attempted shots.

          Ok that’s probably a longer answer than you wanted.

          Short answer: those least likely to be scored on are guys like Anton Babchuk who play against total scrubs. Those most likely to be scored on are the great defensive players like Jay Bouwmeester, because they’re up against the Sedins, Toews/Kane and Datsyuk/Zetterberg every night.