Oct 172008
 

Bruce Garrioch, Tim Baines, Don Brennan and Chris Stevenson of the Ottawa Sun wrote a ‘discussion style’ article today that brings up an interesting point about the importance of offense from the defensemen.

Don Brennan: Waiting for you guys to say something smart is like waiting for snow to melt … The Senators’ defence last season was a collection of Orrs, Harveys and Coffeys compared to this group. Each year, the Stanley Cup champions get 200-plus points from their blueline. The Senators will be lucky to get 130 from theirs this season. Case closed.

I decided to look into this a little more. Last years Stanley Cup winner, the Detroit Red Wings, had 204 points from their defensemen in the regular season. That was good for best in the NHL. Here are how the rest of the teams defenses stacked up last year including whether they made the playoffs or not.

Eastern Conference

Rank Team DefPts Playoffs
1 Montreal 198 Y
2 Pittsburgh 160 Y
3 Toronto 160 N
4 Buffalo 154 N
5 Washington 148 Y
6 Florida 146 N
7 Ottawa 146 Y
8 Philadelphia 143 Y
9 Boston 136 Y
10 NY Rangers 134 Y
11 Tampa 131 N
12 Carolina 128 N
13 New Jersey 123 Y
14 NY Islanders 120 N
15 Atlanta 91 N

Western Conference

Rank Team DefPts Playoffs
1 Detroit 204 Y
2 Anaheim 165 Y
3 Nashville 160 Y
4 Chicago 151 N
5 Dallas 150 Y
6 Calgary 148 Y
7 Los Angeles 146 N
8 San Jose 146 Y
9 Minnesota 144 Y
10 Phoenix 140 N
11 Colorado 129 Y
12 St. Louis 120 N
13 Vancouver 116 N
14 Edmonton 114 N
15 Columbus 109 N

In the eastern conference, if offense from the defense was the sole factor in making the playoffs Toronto, Buffalo and Florida would have made it and in the west Chicago and Los Angeles would have. But clearly there is some kind of correlation (direct or indirect) between offense from the defense and a teams success. The bottom four teams in the west and four of the bottom 5 in the east missed the playoffs. Simply put, if your defense aren’t producing much offense you will struggle to make the playoffs.

Going a step further, if we look at each playoff matchup we will find the majority of the matchups had the team with the most regular season points from defensemen winning the playoff series. The only exceptions to this are Dallas (150 points) defeating Anaheim (165 points), Colorado (129) defeating Minnesota (144), San Jose (146) defeating Calgary (148) and Philadelphia (143) defeating Washington (148) in the first round and Philadelphia (143) defeating Montreal (198) in the second round.

Of those 5 exceptions, the San Jose-Calgary and Philadelphia-Washington series very similar point production from their defense (within 5 points of each other) so really they aren’t exceptions. They were also both 7 game series so the closeness of the series matched the closeness of their offense from defensemen totals. Plus San Jose added Brian Campbell to their defense which probably gave them the edge over Calgary in regards to offense from their defense.

That really just leaved three series where the team with the lower scoring defensemen defeated teams with higher scoring defensemen and in the case of Dallas, it isn’t like that are lacking in the offense from defense department anyway. Going back one season we saw two teams with high scoring defenses play in the Stanley Cup finals as the Anaheim Ducks (209) defeat the Ottawa Senators (191).

There are certainly a lot of other factors that go into what makes a successful team but based on the past couple seasons, being able to produce offense from your defense seems to be a fairly important factor. Some highly offensive defensemen switched teams this past summer (Boyle to San Jose, Campbell to Chicago, Visnovsky to Edmonton, Redden to NY Rangers, Streit to NY Islanders, McCabe to Florida, etc) so lets see if this really makes an impact on the success of those teams. So far it is a mixed bag with San Jose (4-0-0), the Rangers (5-1-0) and Edmonton (2-0-0) looking like winners while Chicago (1-2-1) and the Islanders (2-2-0) having mixed results.

As for the Senators, they sit at 1-1-1 with 6 points (on 8 goals) from defensemen with newcomer Filip Kuba leading the team with 4 assists.

  3 Responses to “Importance of Offense from Defence”

  1.  

    Oilers now 3-0-0 as Visnovsky scores on the PP, and Souray has 2 Assists on the PP. Interesting discussion for sure.

  2.  

    You didn’t take into account how much of this “offense” coming from defecemen where second and more importantly third assists. With a high scoring team such as the one I follow in Ottawa, even with the departure of Redden and Meszaros I suspect they’ll get around the same number of points on the back end due to a solid forward group.

    Add to this what should be Ottawa’s greatly improved team defence and the perenial collective assumption that defense wins chanpionships and you’re looking at an Ottawa team that’ll see a fair amount of progression, not regression. Elite offensive defenceman or not.

  3.  

    That’s the optimistic view of the Senators and that their forwards can carry the offense. But so far that hasn’t exactly been the case. Outside of last nights 6-3 win they have scored just 10 goals in 4 games. Two and a half goals a game scoring rate just isn’t going to cut it. And that is with Kuba getting 7 points in 5 games which isn’t likely to continue through the full season.

    As for second and third assists, I am not sure that really matters. I think what this analysis is identifying is which teams have good puck handling defensemen which benefits the team in two ways.

    1. Good puck handling defensemen get the puck out of their own end which helps defensively and also helps the transition to offense.

    2. Good puck handling defensemen really help the power play.

    In the post-lockout NHL special teams and a good transition game are far more important than previously.

    Getting back to Ottawa, I do think they will miss Corvo, Redden and Meszaros back there.

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