Maple Leaf defensemen and their effect on save percentage
The other day I looked at the effect that Mike Weaver and Bryce Salvador had on their teams save percentage (if you haven’t read it, definitely go give it a read) when they were on the ice versus when they weren’t on the ice. Today I am going to take a look at the Maple Leaf defensemen to see if there are any interesting trends to spot. We’ll start with the new acquisitions.
(Blue line above orange is good in these charts, opposite is not good)
Aside from 2008-09 he has had a negative impact on his team save percentage. In 2007-08, 2009-10 and 2010-11 his main defense partner was Nicklas Grossman but in 2008-09 his main defense partner was Trevor Daley. Did this have anything to do with his poor effect on save percentage in 2008-09? Well, aside from last season Daley’s on-ice save percentage has been at or better than the team save percentage so there might be something to that.
Not really a lot happening there except in 2011-12 when he was worse than the team (and the team had significantly better goaltending). Rembember though, the Blues have a pretty good defense so it is quite possible that not being worse than the rest of them is a good thing. Will be interesting to see how he does in a Leaf jersey this season.
Aside from 2008-09 there has been a slight positive impact on save percentage when he is on the ice. In 2008-09 he didn’t have a regular defense partner. At 5v5 he played a total of 1348:08 in ice time and his main defense partners were Giordano (364:56), Vandermeer (342:47), Pardy (304:27), Leopold (163:47), Regehr (85:08) and Sarich (77:41). That variety in defense partners can’t be a good thing. But, maybe Phaneuf has a slight positive impact on save percentage.
So, he was good for a few years and then he was bad. What happened? Well, he was traded to the Leafs. For the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons his main defense partner was Shane O’Brien and he also spent significant time with Hamhuis. This could be a case of him playing “protected” minutes as he had really easy offensive QoC but I generally don’t think QoC has anything near as significant an impact as other factors so I am not sure what is going on. He has had pretty weak QoC the last couple seasons too so who knows.
It is only 3 seasons of data but so far so good for Gardiner. He has been a boost to the teams save percentage and that is on top of his good possession numbers. In my opinion, Gardiner is quite likely the best defenseman. I’ll drop the “quite likely” from that statement when he repeats his success but against tougher QoC as that will remove any doubt.
Now, let’s take a look at a couple of departing Leaf defensemen.
Save for 2010-11 Leaf save percentage has been better whith Gunnarsson on the ice. His two main defense partners that year were Luke Schenn and Mike Komisarek so maybe we can forgive him. In 2009-10 his defense partner was mainly Beauchemin or Kaberle and starting in 1011-12 it has mainly been Phaneuf.
Tim Gleason gets a lot of criticism from Leaf fans, the analytics community, and maybe pretty much everyone but his teams have generally had a positive boost in save % when he is on the ice and in some cases a significant boost.
Based on the loss of Gunnarsson and Gleason, two defenseman who seem to be able to boost on-ice save percentage, and the addition of Robidas who has a negative impact and Polak who has more neutral impact it is quite possible the Leafs suffer a drop off in save percentage this season.
That said, I am not certain what to make of the impact we see and why they occur. Of the 9 defenseman I have presented charts for the past few days (the 7 above as well as Weaver and Salvador in my previous post) it seems that the majority of them have all but one or two of their seasons consistently boosting or inhibiting their teams save percentage. More investigation is needed as to why but I am becoming fairly confident that this is a repeatable talent. There is just too much consistency to consider it purely random.