Defense in the Eastern Conference

A couple days ago I asked who were the best defensemen in the eastern conference and which teams had the best group of defensemen in the conference. The results are in and it seems Zdeno Chara is the consensus pick for the best defenseman in the eastern conference. After him Sergei Gonchar, Jay Bouwmeester, Andrei Markov, Tomas Kaberle, and Mike Green seemed to get the most recognition with Kimmo Timonen, Chris Phillips, Pavel Kubina, Bryan McCabe, Wade Redden, Ryan Whitney, Mike Komisarek, and Marc Staal getting considered as well.

It seemed much more difficult for us to pick the teams with the best defense. The NY Rangers, Boston, Ottawa, Montreal, Pittsburgh seemed to be popular picks with Florida, Philadelphia and Toronto considered by some as well.

Now for a few of my thoughts. First I was a bit surprised at how many people picked Boston as having a top 5 defense. Clearly they did so because they have Zdeno Chara but to me after him they have a lot of average at best players.

People obviously chose Boston because of Chara because after him I really don’t see a lot of top end talent. They certainly have some decent players but nothing too special. It is interesting that the Leafs were the only team where 3 defensemen were considered by at least one person to be in the top 5 and yet most people didn’t consider them as a top 5 team. Dennis Wideman has some offensive puck moving ability but defensively is average at best and Mark Stuart has some promise but neither of the are what you would call top level defensemen. The rest of them are pretty much 3rd pairing or depth guys. I guess having Chara means a lot but I am not convinced they should be a top 5 team.

Another team that surprised me to get as much top 5 consideration as they did is the Ottawa Senators. They seem to still be getting a lot of recongnition for their defensive play during their run to the finals in 2006-07. But the current defense is significantly different. Gone from the cup run defense are Wade Redden, Joe Corvo, and Tom Preissing, their top 3 scoring defensemen from that season. It also shouldn’t be over looked that the Senators had the 7th worst goals against average in the NHL last season. This coming season they will feature an unproven rookie (Brian Lee) and a guy who has played mostly forward over the past couple seasons (Schubert) in their top 6. As of right now I view them as having a below average defense and barring a trade or surprising seasons by Brian Lee and Schubert will be a weak spot for the Senators.

Toronto is almost the opposite of the Senators. The Leafs are awash with offensive defenseman but have really been hurt by not developing a true shutdown defense pairing. Part of that I believe is coaching but part of that is just not having that one pure defensive defenseman on the team. The Leafs are hoping the addition of Jeff Finger and Jonas Frogren will help address that concern and further down the road 2008 first round pick Luke Schenn should be that guy. Since the lockout Tomas Kaberle has the 3rd most points by a defenseman trailing only Nik Lidstrom and Sergei Gonchar and Bryan McCabe is 14th on that list. When considering points per game, Kaberle is 5th post lockout (behind Lidstrom, Gonchar, Zubov and Niedermayer) and McCabe sits in 10th spot just behind Dan Boyle. Pavel Kubina is no slouch with the puck either finishing 18th in scoring by defensemen last season. So while they may not have the defensive shutdown defenseman like some teams do their overall skill and depth is good enough to get them in the top 5 in the eastern conference in my opinion.

So with that said, here are who I consider top 5 defensemen and teams in the east.

Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Sergei Gonchar, Tomas Kaberle, Kimmo Timonen, and Jay Bouwmeester

Teams: Pittsburgh, NY Rangers, Montreal, Toronto, Philadelphia

Posted in NHL

This article has 27 Comments

  1. Get ready for a shitstorm for having Toronto and any players anywhere near the top 5 (not that I necessarily disagree).

    Great discussion though.

  2. First off, great discussion and it was interesting to see the different viewpoints.

    Second, get ready for the shitstorm for having the Leafs and any of their players anywhere near the top 5.

  3. Leaf fans are hoping Ron Wilson can run an effective defensive system that can work well with the smattering of talent the Leafs possess. Paul Maurice couldn’t make it work, and while the Leafs have talented D, they have been painful to watch with their inconsistent play. They are a well-oiled machine one game, and a troupe of sieves and pylons the next. The area they are trying to address is grit on the back end as few opposition players would have fear going into the corners against the Leafs D of last season (unless Belak got a rare start in the thrid pairing). Schenn will definitely provide that in the future and hopefully Finger can lead in that category this Fall.
    As far as Ottawa is concerned, I think Phillips and Volchenkov don’t get enough recognition here, but I agree that the rest of their blue line is nothing to get excited about, even if Mezsaros signs.
    And I’m not sure about Jay B. For one thing, I barely ever get to see the guy play, but when I do he doesn’t seem that exceptional and I thought he would have come farther after being so highly touted at the draft. But then, he hasn’t exactly had a stable organization to grow with either. I’d be curious to see how he would do with a better squad to play with and even get into the post-season.

  4. J-Bo’s put up at least 10 goals in each of his last two seasons, and at least 35 points in each of his last 3. He has yet to miss a single game since the lockout, and has performed at around 0.5 ppg. Any defenseman that can do that will logging big minutes on a crap team like the Panthers has my respect. It’s not conspiracy or accident the guy makes the Canadian squad every time.

  5. As far as Ottawa is concerned, I think Phillips and Volchenkov don’t get enough recognition here

    Phillips is a good defensive defenseman. He plays a very solid positional game. He has good size, but is not overly physical. He is a decent skater, but not necessarily a speedy one. He just plays a good smart game and doesn’t make too many mistakes. He is one of the better defensive defenseman in the eastern conference but he is far from the best offensive defenseman. He isn’t your prototypical #1 defenseman. I think he gets all the credit he deserves.

    Volchenkov is a nice complementary defenseman. He is generally positional sound like Phillips but will get caught of position going for the big hit. He plays more physical than Phillips and is a fearless shot blocker but is a weak puck handler. He has a longer track record but is he a better all round player than Jeff Finger? I am not sure he is.

    I am not trying to say they are bad players, but they are not your typical top pairing defensemen.

    As for the Leafs, it is all about focus for them. When the Leafs were playing a smart, focused game last year they did quite well. But when they weren’t they were a disaster. I think (hope) Ron Wilson and the more stable management system will get them playing a more focused and stable game on the ice as well.

  6. LOL David

    Still have a hate on for the Senators eh?

    We are just so inferior cause we just dont have “your typical top pairing defencemen”, whatever that is….

    Well good luck to you and your Leaves over the next couple of decades, you will need it..

    Oh and who went to the SC finals? eh?

  7. LOL.
    I run the IT Department for a massive Insurance Company with over 8000 computers in our head office alone, not to mention the 35,000 computers throughout Canada.
    Anyways, I found this site through a link on another site I frequent and am proud to say that after reading this article and the dribble you try to pass off on readers, I have blocked this site from ALL computers in our company.
    LOL. The funny thing is, I blocked it and said it was because of the word ANAL in hockeyANALysis.
    I can’t believe too many people read this nonsense anyway.

  8. Funny thing is, this is not your first time visiting here or even posting here. Haha. You just can’t stay away can you. Maybe I should ban you and your (not a bank) ip address.

  9. You’ve go to be kidding, Toronto top 5, Sens not, because of losing Preissing, Corvo and Redden. Have you seen these guys play D lately? Awful, awful, awful defensively. Of those 3, only one represents a top minutes guy, the other 2 were in the 3rd pairing during the cup run. There’s no doubt the Sens lack an all around Dman, but the Leafs certainly haven’t got one either. The closest would be Kabby, and he’s no defensive wonderkind, and is certainly not physical. He has a great first pass, and excellent QB skills on the PP, but a stud he is not.
    Kaberle – 53 pts., minus 8
    McCabe – 23 pts., minus 2
    Kubina – 40 pts., plus 5
    Total Salaries = 18.5M
    Team GFA = 2.780
    Team GAA = 3.122
    Phillips – 18 pts., plus 15
    Volchy – 15 pts., plus 14
    Smith – 10 pts., minus 4 (on PHI)
    Total Salaries = 7.6M
    Team GFA = 3.146
    Team GAA = 2.951

    How you conclude from that the Leafs represent top 5 D in the East, but the Sens do not is beyond surprising. Sure, if goalscoring is the primary purpose of your defense, the Leafs have it over the Sens, but the Sens led the league in scoring, whereas the Leafs lacked scoring punch. Sens had a bad goals against, but still better then the Leafs, in fact, the gap between the Sens (24th) and the Leafs (27th) was huge, and belied their closeness in the hierarchical ranking. More importantly, the Sens had a positive goals differential vs the negative result for the Leafs. The addition of Finger, a player with one season under his belt (and who played on a significantly better defensive team), and was a healthy scratch seems a dubious hook to hang your hat on, but not as dubious as Froegren, a player never to have played in the NHL. If Lee, a solid prospect, and Schubert, can raise your suspicion and create doubt, how do you gloss over Finger and Froegren so easily? It all seems a little too convenient, and in the case of the GAA for the Senators, entirely inconsistent, to say the least. Add to that losing Gill, who was laughed out of Toronto as a hapless waste of ice time, only to look like a solid defensive contributer in Pittsburgh.
    At this point, neither represent good all around defenses, but from a strictly value for money, and goal prevention stand point, Ottawa wins hands down. Ultimately, from a position contribution standpoint, defensive play from the blue line contributes more to wins then offensive contribution from the blue line, and in my view, this leaves Toronto entirely out in the cold.

  10. First off, +/- is the most useless stat when comparing players, especially players on different teams so please, lets not refer to that.

    Second, salaries are useless to consider because we are looking at which teams have the best defense, not the most expensive, or cheapest, or best value, or whatever. Just what teams have the best defense. So please, lets not look at salaries.

    Team GFA and GAA also don’t tell the complete story of defense because we are just looking at 6-7 players from a group of 21-23. Yes, defensemen have a fairly sizable influence on GAA and GFA but they are still minority stake in those stats so just stating those stats without digging deeper is not telling the whole story.

    So, with that said lets start again with the Senators.

    1. They will have a rookie (Lee) on defense and few rookies are able to step in and play a big role. Maybe Brian Lee can, but until he does depending significantly on him has to be considered a negative.

    2. They will have another defenseman who has played mostly forward the past 3 seasons. Maybe Scubert can be a good defenseman but he is mostly unproven. Much like Lee, he has to be considered a question mark.

    So now that we have determined that 1/3 of the Senators defense has to have a question mark associated with it, lets look at the other four which have a proven track record.

    3. Phillips and Volchenkov has proven themselves to be a pretty competent defensive pairing but they have also proven themselves to have little or no offensive ability. A nice pairing but really you would prefer more offensive ability from a top pairing.

    4. Andrej Meszaros is the opposite of Phillips and Volchenkov in that he has some offensive ability but has proven to be weak in his own zone. In many ways he is no different than Wade Redden who Senators fans ran out of town.

    5. And finally we come to Jason Smith who several years ago was a solid defenseman but is now nothing more than a 3rd pairing guy. The Flyers slowly reduced his ice time over the course of the season and he played even less in the playoffs. Essentially he ended the season as the Flyers #6 defenseman. You will have a hard time convincing me that by inserting the Flyers #6 defenseman into your #4 slot you come anywhere close to having a top 5 defense in the NHL.

    Add to that losing Gill, who was laughed out of Toronto as a hapless waste of ice time, only to look like a solid defensive contributer in Pittsburgh.

    This is a very common theme for players, particularly defensemen, leaving the Leafs. Larry Murphy was run out of town only to go to Detroit and play a significant role in two Red Wings Stanley Cups. There are two reasons for this. First is the shortsightedness of media and fans who only want to point out the negative and not the positive or who equate value with ability. By that I mean they factor salary into player evaluation so that if a player seemingly doesn’t play up to his salary he is a crappy player (or perceived as worse than he really is because he gets that negative stigma). Like I said above, salary should not be considered when evaluating the ability of players.

    The second reason is the Leafs were a very poorly coached team (in my opinion) and because of this the team played well below what the sum of the parts indicates they should and Hal Gill got labelled as a bad defenseman because the Leafs were a bad team (through no fault of his own).

    If you don’t believe that Paul Maurice was a bad coach, ask yourself these questions:

    1. How can you take a Pat Quinn coached team that has Alex Khavanov and Aki Berg on defense and essentially upgrade those two to Pavel Kubina and Hal Gill and not make the team any better.

    2. And How can you take that Gill/Kubina upgraded team and add to it a 40 goal scorer in Jason Blake and a much better goalie in Vesa Toskala and get significantly worse.

    3. Would a good coach miss the playoffs 7 of 10 times as Paul Maurice has?

    4. Paul Maurice coached teams have a history of having bad special team units and it is commonly said that one area where coaches can make a difference is in special teams play.

    Paul Maurice was a horrible coach and I think Ron Wilson will get far more out of this group of defensemen (and the team) than Maurice ever was able to.

  11. So the Leafs get off the hook because they were coached poorly, but the Senators who had no defensive system whatsoever under Paddock (and later Murray) don’t?

    Many of the parts on the defence of Ottawa were the same that shut the door on high-flying Buffalo and Pittsburgh on their way to the Cup finals. So what’s the difference? Coaching perhaps?

    Lee is considered a hapless rookie but Frogren who has no North-American hockey experience gets off the hook?

    Schubert is considered unproven but he’s put in a comparable number of NHL games at defence as Jeff Finger, who is apparently proven despite being a healthy scratch on the hapless blueline of the Avs in the playoffs?

    Once again, you’ve managed to prove that you’ve got your conclusions in mind before you even begin writing.

    Toronto Good. Ottawa Bad.

  12. Many of Ottawa’s defensive short commings were probably masked by their primary scoring tandem of Spezza and Heatly, throw in Alfredson and you have a very scary and capable offense. An offense that is capable of covering up for some, if not many defensive lapses and inabilities because they win you games. The Leafs did not have this. What happened when one or more of these players went down with an injury? The Sens defense suddenly seemed to get worse.

  13. The Murray/Paddock tandem is the same tandem that took the Senators to the Stanley cup finals. Unless you can prove to me that they got stupid real quick then you cannot really use that as a reason for your poor defensive play.

    Frogren was not considered when I wrote the article. But I will say that while Frogren does not have NHL experience he, at age 28, has more experience than Lee and he has world championship experience.

    Over the past 2 seasons Finger has approximately 1740 minutes of ice time, all on defense.

    Over the past 3 seasons Schubert has played 2631 minutes of ice time, mostly at forward. Even if he played half the time on defense (which he hasn’t) he would only have ~1316 minutes of ice time on defense which is measurabely less than Finger.

    Finger, unlike Schubert, has been a regular on defense. He still doesn’t have the track record of Phillips or Volchenkov but he has more of a track record than Lee or Scubert.

    Plus, whether you accept it or not, age does make a difference. Finger may not have been in the NHL but he is not one year removed from US College hockey either.

  14. Oh man, where to start…
    So, let me get this straight.
    1. Sens GAA – proof Sens D is weak
    2. Leafs GAA – Not the fault of the defense
    3. Sens GFA best in the league – Not helped by the defense, so this is a problem.
    4. Leafs GFA far worse then the Sens – A huge big strength of the Leafs defense.
    Leafs poorly coached, Sens….skip it, just like the GAA, and the GFA stats.
    5. +/- is irrelevant, even though the factors that make it dubious work against the Sens, and for the Leafs. Namely, being an offensive defensemen allows you to hide defensive weaknesses (look at Mesz, +5), while not being an offensive Dman sets you up to take a lot of hits with no emeliorating factors. Add to this Phillips and Volchy play vs the top offensive lines, and their +/- is absolutely outstanding, not something to be denegraded (like Mesz’s, or Kubina’s).
    6. Schubert has likely played near as many minutes as Finger on the blueline, and way more time in the NHL, which, a year removed from the AHL does make a difference.
    7. Comparing Froegren to either Schubert or Lee is absurdly optimistic, I mean ABSURD. Lee is a highly touted prospect, who has played in international competitions, been an all star in the A, and has played well in the NHL post season. This is comparable to play at the WC…this is simply outrageous to say, and clearly shows an complete lack of consistency in evaluation.
    8. Paddock was not a head coach in the run to the Cup, and it is well known that assistant coach and head coach are two entirely different roles. This is something you can overlook, but Maurice as a head coach is a viable excuse? Again, more incredibly convenient inconsistencies. This isn’t just opinion, this represents the epitome of selective analysis.
    9. Smith averaged almost 18 min a game in the regular season, and 17 min. a game in the post season, not bad for a number 6 Dman.
    David, with all due respect, your “analysis” this time entirely lacks credibity, is full of inconsistencies, and when challenged, is rooted in opinion based conclusions (coaching, international play, problematic +/- statistics) that are never critically defended.
    Again, I’m not saying either team represents the class of the East, but when the team with the higher GAA, worse Goal Diff, worse winning record, worse plus minus, and less NHL experience is concluded to be the better….seems awfully predetermined, and dubious to me.

  15. Again, 1,2,3,4 cannot be viewed in isolation. You cannot just say Leafs had a bad goals against average and thus their defense is bad nor can you say the Leafs weren’t a great offensive team and thus the Leafs defense is not very good offensively.

    If you are trying to claim that as much Senators offense is generated from their Defense as Leafs offense is generated from their defense you are crazy.

    5. +/- is a horrible stat. Period. End of argument.

    6. The majority of Schubert’s minutes have been up front. He only played defense as an injury fill in. When the team was healthy he played forward. End of story.

    7. Lee, like Frogren, has accomplished squat in the NHL. Frogren is more defensive minded, Lee is more offensive minded. What they do next year is a guessing game. But, Frogren is not going to be depended on by the Leafs as much as the Senators are likely going to depend on Lee.

    8. Paddock was hired because he worked well with Murray and would implement the same system that the Senators were used to from their Stanley Cup run. Plus, when Bryan Murray took over as coach, they didn’t get any better.

    9. Most #6 defensemen average close to that much. Brian Lee played nearly 17 minutes in his 6 regular season games. But the real problem is that Smith will quite possibly be the Senators #4 defenseman and be required to play 20 minutes.

    The top 10 offensive forwards in the eastern conference last season were:

    St. Louis

    I know for a fact that Phillips played 0 minutes against 3 of those 10.

  16. When examining the quality of a teams defense, you’re not supposed to consider GAA? How can this possibly be true. What should one consider then, honestly?
    You were in fact the first to raise GAA “It also shouldn’t be over looked that the Senators had the 7th worst goals against average in the NHL last season”, I’m merely asking how it can be considered against the Senators defense, yet ignored against the Leafs, who conveniently had a substantially worse GAA then the Sens. This is where your “analysis” is entirely lacking in consistency, these are your own arguments that you are now attempting to dismiss. Why? Only you know, but it does raise some concerns wouldn’t you say?
    At no point did I say the Sens offense was comparable from the back end, I said that, as the Senators have a leading GFA, their lack of blue line generated offensive is not as impactful as the Leafs lack of defense from their blue line, considering their near league worst GAA. As well, even with their superior blue line offense, the Leafs are still far below the Senators in team production.
    End of story…End of argument…seriously? As a follower of the Senators, I assure you Schubert played defense not only as an injury replacement, he also played in short handed situations, and on the power play, for about an additional 344 blue line minutes this past season alone. Included this in his time on the blue line both in a regular shift, and as an injury replacement, combined with his exposure to the NHL, and Schubert is easily comparable to Finger, who, I might add, has 1 season, 1, and making any prognostication after this, let alone as a top 4 Dman, is dubious at best.
    I agree +/- is problematic, but I explained why, you cannot just simply ignore it carte blanch because it doesn’t support your assumptions, then say “End of argument” There are reasons +/- can be dubious, unfortunately, those reason hurt the Senators Blue lines +/-, but help the Leafs blue line…I can see why you want to ignore them.

    Lee will play a 5-6th role, where will Froegren play? If Lee moves into the top two pairings it will be based upon his play, not a lack of depth. I simply cannot see how you include Froegren as a positive for the Leafs, but Lee as a negative. How can this be considered as “analysis”? It’s boosterism writ large.
    Smith played 28 games over the 19 minute mark last season, this on a team with burgeoning young D. You must also remember that he will not be tasked with the first pairing minutes, any PP time, or 1st unit PK time. This will greatly reduce his required playing time. He can easily assume a 4th Dman role.
    So, the fact he didn’t face Heater, Alfie and Spez is why his +/- is better then Kabby’s? That’s your analysis for discrediting Phillips and Volchenkov? Fine, let’s remove Ottawa from Kabbys numbers, and not even have him face anyone, just take thenm out all together, great, now he’s a minus 5 not 8. Wow.

  17. When examining the quality of a teams defense, you’re not supposed to consider GAA?

    Not in isolation because defensemen aren’t the only, and maybe not the primary, cause of good or bad gaa. Forwards and especially goaltenders have a major impact on gaa.

    I’m merely asking how it can be considered against the Senators defense, yet ignored against the Leafs, who conveniently had a substantially worse GAA then the Sens.

    The Leafs did not have a substantially worse gaa. It was 3.08 to 2.92. That isn’t a huge difference. But the Senators had better goaltending with a team save % of 90.1% vs 89.3% which more than makes up for the fact that the Senators gave up 53 more shots.

    And last season was not an anomoly. In 2006-07 the Senators gave up 2479 shots vs the Leafs 2330 but in that season the Senators had the 4th best save % in the NHL at 91.3% vs the Leafs dismal 88.8%.

    Finally, the Senators have lost bodies on defense this summer while the Leafs have added. From last season the Senators have lost Redden, Corvo/Commodore and Richardson and added Smith, Lee and Scubert. Unless Lee and Scubert are better than I expect then that is a downgrade.

    And when you factor in the fact that the Leafs defensemen have far more offensive talent, one can only conclude that the Leafs defense is better.

    But hey, you don’t have to believe me. Take a look at for a more complete and thorough statistical analysis. In that report Alan assigned the Leafs a team defensive index of 29.4 and the Senators 29.6 (lower is better).

    If you look at his marginal goals rating, Ottawa was 7th worst in the league, again slightly behind Toronto.

    His goaltending index had Ottawa at 30 and Toronto at 13 (higher is better) and in 2006-07 he had Ottawa at 65 and Toronto at 7.

    Now, this still doesn’t tell the whole story with regards to evaluating the group of defensemen because while it removes goaltending from the equation (in the defensvie measures) it doesn’t account for the abilities of the forwards. It also doesn’t account for offensive contribution of the defensemen.

    But, if we assume that Ottawa forwards are no worse or better defensively than Leaf forwards, and that Ottawa forwards are better offensively than Leafs forwards (both probably viable assumptions) then one has to conclude that defensively the Leafs defense group is the same or marginally better than the Sens group of defensemen but are significantly better offensively.

    Thus we must conclude that the Leafs defense last year was better than the Senators defense last year and I cannot see them getting any better.

    As a follower of the Senators, I assure you Schubert played defense not only as an injury replacement, he also played in short handed situations, and on the power play, for about an additional 344 blue line minutes this past season alone.

    Yes, he did play some on the second PK and PP units when he was in the lineup as a forward, but playing a couple minutes a game on PK/PP as a defenseman is far different than playing 16-18 minutes a game and a regular shift. I live in Ottawa and watch a lot of Senators games. I realize what Schubert did. From Nov 29-January 5th he played 18 games, 15 of them he played more than 15 minutes. Most of this period Volchenkov was out with an injury.

    On Feb. 2nd he played 21:55 minutes of ice time but Heatley, Alfredsson and Eaves were injured so they were all more mostly as a forward.

    On February 28th he played 20:56 but on that night both Volchenkov and Spezza got injured early.

    He rarely got big minutes on defense except when filling in for injuries. When the defense crew were healthy he generally didn’t play much.

    Lee will play a 5-6th role, where will Froegren play?

    Ultimately we don’t know where Frogren will play. Partly because we don’t know what will happen with possible Kubina/McCabe trades and we don’t know how he will play. But the difference is the Leafs do not need Frogren to play a second in the NHL to have a good defense because the Leafs have Kaberle, Kubina, McCabe, Finger, Colaiacovo, Stralman, White and Kronwall that can also play. And I haven’t even mentioned Schenn who may or may not be ready. The Senators need Lee to play a lot and play well because they only have Phillips, Volchenkov, Meszaros, Smith and Schubert to go with him. There are no alternatives if he can’t make the jump to a productive every day defenseman.

  18. The spread in the GAA between OTT and TOR is considerable. If this same spread were to be removed from Ottawa’s GAA, they would go from 24th to 16th. Remove this spread from Toronto and they would go from 27th to 24th. .171 represents a considerable gap, when put in context.
    SOG were a virtual statistical dead heat between Toronto and Ottawa, yet still Toronto’s GAA was considerably worse. What you attribute this too is goaltending. Again, convenient, and new.
    I have a world of respect for Alan Ryder, and thoroughly enjoy reading his analysis, unfortunately what it doesn’t provide for (from the Senators perspective) is individual assessment. I’ve asked him for this, but so far no luck. This renders using his analysis, to evaluate just defensive talent, all but useless. As well, Alan constructs much of his Player Contribution around points, which, as we already agree, favours Toronto’s defensemen over Ottawa’s, in much the same manner as does plus minus. As well, MGD is largely a factor which includes forward impact, and does a poor job at isolating singular defenseman contribution. What Ryder does attribute directly to defensman contribution is shot quality, and in this metric, Ottawa’s defenseman surpass those of Toronto. But what is most germain about Ryders analysis, is that it ranks neither Toronto, nor Ottawa as top 5 defensive clubs in the East (which I’ve never claimed they were), using any metric. According to Ryders analysis, that you’ve introduced to support your claims, last years top 5 defensive units in the East were:

    TBL, yup, top 5 according to Ryder, 13th best defensive core over-all. Toronto? 10th in the East, 22nd over-all. Ottawa? 11th in the East, 24th over-all. Oddly enough, only one of those clubs on Ryders list made it onto your list, the NYR.
    This, above all else, is the thrust of my argument, that how Toronto has earned your top 5 standing in the East, yet Ottawa has not, is puzzling, and appears to be rooted more in opinion, then fact.
    So, looking forward, considering the roster changes, how do you justify Toronto moving from the 9th to top 5, and Ottawa remaining out of the top 5?
    With Redden, Corvo and Richardson gone, and Smith, Schubert and Lee in, defensively, Ottawa has probably improved over-all. Smith is a far better defensive contributor then Redden, and Lee will likely match Corvo’s 3rd pairing offensive output, and likely easily match his defensive contribution (or quit possibly better it). Schubert will improve on Richardsons contribution both offensively and defensively, and pick up the slack offensively to fill the with Redden gone. Toronto removed Gill, an experienced Dman who appeared to be dragged down in Toronto, and replaced him with what was an average Dman, with one year of experience in Finger. Frogren, honestly, I simply do not see how a lifelong SEL player represents an improvement of note beyond hope. How do these changes represent a sizable upgrade again?
    Ultimately you believe Smith is not an upgrade over Redden, but Finger is an upgrade over Gill. You do not believe Lee can contribute as much as Corvo, in a third line role, but Frogren will improve over Wozniewski. That sounds an awful lot like opinion to me.

  19. Oh, and if Stralman, White and Krovnval are considered locked in depth assets, but neither Lee nor Nycholat nor Bell nor Carkner are, I’m even more confused. Again, you seem very willing to provide the Leafs prospects and depth payers with the benefit of the doubt, but withhold the same from those of the Sens. Why? Only you know, but it certainly does seem biased to me. Remember, Lee has already played in the NHL, and in the post season, and would have been up sooner if not for injury. You talk about him as if he were some border line prospect…he isn’t, at all, and you’ll see soon enough. I’d take Lee over any of Strahlman, White, Kronvall or even Colaiacovo. That’s my opinion.

  20. Oh, and if Stralman, White and Krovnval are considered locked in depth assets, but neither Lee nor Nycholat nor Bell nor Carkner are, I’m even more confused.

    1. Lee is not viewed as a depth asset. He is viewed as a core asset.

    2. Stralman is 21 coming off a moderately successful rookie season with ample upside. White is 24 with two full seasons and 169 games as an NHL regular defenseman. There is zero comparison between these two guys and 29 year old Nycholat with his 31 games experience or the 27 year old Carkner and his one NHL game experience, both with their forth NHL organization.

    3. Bell is 25 with 48 games NHL experience while Kronwall is 25 as well with 52 games experience. If you want to compare those two, I’ll give it to you.

    Only the rediculous would conclude that Ottawa has more depth on defense than Toronto.

    But let’s go a step further and look at my player ratings which you can find at What these ratings look at is who the player is playing with and against and considers how the player performed with or against that player and compares with it how he and the player performed when not playing with or agaisnt each other. So, if opposing players generally score fewer goals when playing against Phillips than when not playing against Phillips then Phillips will get a boost to his defensive rating. If teammates get fewer goals scored against them when they are playing with Phillips than when they are not, then Phillips gets a boost to his defensive rating. The converse is true so that if teammates produce better when not with Phillips then Phillips gets penalized a bit.

    I am generally fairly happy with these ratings, especially for players with a lot of ice time. But, there is one aspect of the game that I do not fully or perfectly account for and that is goaltending. Mostly this will show up in defensive numbers and on teams with better than average goaltending (especially the teams that play mostly just one goalie) defensive ratings are probably slightly biased to the high side and on teams with bad goaltending slightly biased to the low side. Last year Ottawa probably had average goaltending and Toronto slightly below average goaltending. It’s likely the differences are marginal but if anything it would penalize Toronto’s defensive ratings more.

    So with that said, here are Ottawa’s and Toronto’s current group of defensemen and their ratings: Offensive, Defensive, Overall.

    Meszaros, 122, 0.93, 1.08
    Phillips, 1.09, 1.07, 1.08
    Volchenkov, 0.98, 1.16, 1.08
    Smith, 0.96, 1.06, 1.01

    Kaberle, 1.09, 0.99, 1.04
    Kubina, 1.28, 0.96, 1.12
    Finger, 1.27, 0.96, 1.11
    McCabe, 1.11, 1.09, 1.10
    White, 1.10, 0.89, 0.99
    Colaiacovo, 0.98, 0.87, 0.92
    Stralman, 0.87, 0.97, 0.89

    I am unable to include Schubert because I am unable to separate out his time as a defenseman and his time as a forward and Lee does not have enough ice time at all. But if I were to include Schubert’s ratings they were 1.04, 1.08, 1.06.

    From those ratings, Toronto’s defense is better and deeper.

    I don’t know how many more ways I need to look at this. Toronto’s defense is better than Ottawa’s. My numbers support it. Alan Ryder’s analysis supports it. Ottawa’s lack of depth supports it.

  21. David, to be clear, the argument is how the Leafs D have graduated into the to 5, with marginal diference between them and Ottawa (debateable who’s is better). Your data is based almost entirely on projected performance, and skewed data. Your data set values offense and defense evenly, which from the perspective of a defensive core is biased, and suffers from the same indemic errors as plus minus. Does it acount for goal scoring opportunity, goal preventing opportunity, ice time? These are all critical factors.
    Look, you think Toronto has a better defense then Ottawa, I find that argument deeply susect, but at the end of the day, neither here nor there. What I find impossible to agree with is that Torontos defense represents a top 5 standing in the East, and is thus considerably better then the defense of Ottawa.
    Your ratings have White as among one of the best defensive players in the entire group, surpased only by…Stralman.
    Good luck advancing that argument, and as such, the entire data set becomes deeply suspect.

  22. and to be clear, at no poinrt did I advance that Ottawa had more defensive depth then Toronto, I merely stated that you included all of Toronto’s Dmen in the list of viable options, and precluded all of Ottawa’s as viable options, including pre-empting Lee. This is simply not rational analysis. It’s cheerleading, which is fine, I’m a Sens fan, but why frame it as “analysis” Ultimately, that’s my concern.

  23. Your data set values offense and defense evenly, which from the perspective of a defensive core is biased, and suffers from the same indemic errors as plus minus. Does it acount for goal scoring opportunity, goal preventing opportunity, ice time?

    Success in hockey is based on two things.

    1. Scoring goals
    2. Not allowing your opponent to score goals.

    A players +/- evaluates exactly how many goals are scored by a players team – how many goals are scored by the opposing team while a player is on the ice.

    Now, the problem with +/- is that it doesn’t:

    1. Take into account who the player is playing with (i.e. how good are his team mates)

    2. Take into account who the player is playing against (i.e. is the player asked to shut down Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Holmstrom or does he get matched up against the other teams 3rd line)

    3. Takes into account whether a player kills penalties and if so how well do they do on the PK.

    4. Takes into account whether a player plays on the power play and if so, how well do they do on the PP.

    My ratings attempts to factor in all of that. The ratings I posted above do not account for ice time but I have calculated that as well but it isn’t as good at comparing players. Go to and click on the links below Player Rankings in the side bar menu. The ‘Contribution’ column factors in ice time.

    If you want to know some of the numbers that went into creating these rankings look at When you click on a players name you will be shown four tables. The first two are how well he and a team mate played together and apart. The first being goals against followed by goals for. The next two tables are who the player played against and how well he did when playing against him and when not playing against him.

    For example, take a look at Chris Phillips ( He played 894:53 (even strength) with Anton Volvhenkov. When the two of them were on the ice together opposing teams scored at a rate of 0.603 goals per 20 minutes (even strength). When Phillips was on the ice and Volchenkov was not (536:43) opponents scored at a rate of 1.006 goals per 20 minutes against the Senators. When Volchenkov was on the ice and Phillips was not, opponents scored at a rate of 0.878 goals per 20 minutes.

    What does this tell us? It tells us that Phillips and Volchenkov allow far fewer goals against together than apart and when apart, Volchenkov gives up fewer goals than Phillips.

    Now, when I aggregate all this information I come up with defensive and offensive ratings which I then combine into an overall rating which I then combine with ice time to get an overall contribution.

    Your ratings have White as among one of the best defensive players in the entire group, surpased only by…Stralman.

    Now sure what you are reading but Stralman has the second worst defensive rating in the group with a 0.89 rating. Only Colaiacovo with a 0.87 rating was lower. Of the group Volchenkov has the best defensive rating at 1.16.

    and to be clear, at no poinrt did I advance that Ottawa had more defensive depth then Toronto, I merely stated that you included all of Toronto’s Dmen in the list of viable options, and precluded all of Ottawa’s as viable options, including pre-empting Lee.

    I didn’t ignore Lee from any of my analysis if I had an alternative. Lee simply didn’t have enough ice time last season to allow me to develop ratings for him. Schubert played a significant portion of last year at forward so I can’t call his ratings reliable evidence to support his ability as a defenseman.

    I don’t want you to think I am completely discounting what Lee can do. He is a good prospect and could develop into a good defenseman down the road. But there have been far better defense prospects than Lee come to the NHL and not make a significant impact in their rookie season. Jack Johnson had 3g, 11pts and -19 last year and was relative unspectacular. Erik Johnson, a first overall pick and a significantly better prospect than Lee, had a decent year with 5g, 33 points and -9. Even if Lee were that good, it isn’t anything special.

    Maybe I am wrong. Maybe Lee will score 12 goals, 45 points, and be a solid defensive player next year. If he does, it’ll be great for the Senators because they desperately need that kind of player. But I doubt he will and I cannot make my projections on that. I have to project him as an inconsistent rookie defenseman who at times will look very good but at other times will make the rookie mistakes and look like the inexperienced defenseman he is.

    As for whether the Leafs are a top 5 team, let’s debate that, but you started this debate asking why the Leafs are a top 5 and the Sens are not.

    “You’ve go to be kidding, Toronto top 5, Sens not”

    Who would your top 5 be and why?

  24. David – why don’t you just say “I think Toronto has a better defense than Ottawa” and leave it at that. Or maybe offer one or two reasons that you feel support this OPINION. By inserting the word “analysis” in any of your posts, you’re just confusing people. You see, the word “analysis” adds unjustified credibility. People typically conduct an analysis to find trends in a data set and then form some type of conclusion based on those trends.

    What you have done, is form a conclusion, and then gather data that supports that conclusion while ignoring any and all data that doesn’t. You’ve also managed to gather a long list of “adjustments” that need to be made so that negative Ottawa data can be counted, while negative Toronto data should be discounted.

    You’re a Leaf fan, I get it. And I’m a Sens fan. Your opinion is that the Leafs are better than the Sens. My opinion is that your opinion, and therefore the bulk of your posts on your website, is unjustified.

    If you want to conduct proper statistical analysis, I’m sure your local community college offers some courses in statistics. It’s been a while since you’ve been back to your old stomping grounds anyway….

  25. Hmmm. I wrote “So with that said, here are who I consider top 5 defensemen and teams in the east.” which I think should get the point across that this is my opinion. I also never once used analysis in the post. In fact, the only reference to analysis I made is in reference to Alan Ryder’s work.

    I realize that my stuff I post here isn’t the hard core formal statistical analysis that some do or I could do. That is not my goal, but if you look at what I have done here and what others such as Alan Ryder have done you will find that many of our conclusions are the same even though my work here is far less rigourous.

    But if you don’t like my work or what I write, feel free to not read it. I don’t mind and my feelings won’t get hurt.

  26. Go right ahead and block my home IP address. It doesn’t change the fact that I blocked this useless site from 40,000+ computers at my workplace.

  27. So, not that I really care, but just for the laugh of it, AFTER blocking this site (so you say), because it is so bad, you still found the time in your (obviously) busy life to come back and bag on it some more….so basically, you’re a liar, or your insane….seems pretty slim pickins’ to me, lol!

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