The Brandon Sutter Litmus Test

Today on twitter @DTMAboutHeart made a comment that Brandon Sutter is a below replacement level defensive player.

Based on this comment I would like to propose this as a litmus test for whether you are doing hockey analytics correctly or not.

Before I get to that, let me put out a pretty simple claim. If you are a below replacement level defensive player it ought to manifest itself in a high goals against average, probably among the highest on your team. I don’t know how you can argue this point. The whole purpose of defensive play is to reduce goals against. If you are bad at it it ought to mean your team is giving up more goals when you are on the ice. So lets look at Sutter’s on-ice goals against stats in years that he has played more than 500 minutes of ice time compared to his teammates in those seasons.

2009-10

Player Name TOI GA60
1 DWYER, PATRICK 594.0 2.02
2 JOKINEN, JUSSI 1019.3 2.12
3 KOSTOPOULOS, TOM 829.8 2.17
4 SUTTER, BRANDON 879.6 2.18
5 WHITNEY, RAY 1121.9 2.35
6 STAAL, ERIC 1012.8 2.37
7 RUUTU, TUOMO 685.6 2.45
8 COLE, ERIK 512.1 2.93
9 SAMSONOV, SERGEI 770.6 2.96
10 LAROSE, CHAD 727.8 2.97
11 BRIND_AMOUR, ROD 790.2 3.19

Fourth of eleven, not too bad.

 

2010-11

Player Name TOI GA60
1 SUTTER, BRANDON 1044.5 1.84
2 DWYER, PATRICK 807.4 2.23
3 STILLMAN, CORY 852.7 2.25
4 TLUSTY, JIRI 545.4 2.31
5 RUUTU, TUOMO 1051.4 2.45
6 JOKINEN, JUSSI 838.1 2.65
7 SKINNER, JEFF 1033.2 2.67
8 COLE, ERIK 1079.5 2.78
9 LAROSE, CHAD 1108.6 2.87
10 STAAL, ERIC 1172.6 2.92

Best of the bunch, hmmm, maybe he isn’t replacement level.

2011-12

Player Name TOI GA60
1 NODL, ANDREAS 659.6 1.46
2 DWYER, PATRICK 921.7 1.50
3 SUTTER, BRANDON 1128.0 1.65
4 JOKINEN, JUSSI 1000.2 2.40
5 TLUSTY, JIRI 1000.8 2.52
6 RUUTU, TUOMO 952.3 2.52
7 STEWART, ANTHONY 591.9 2.64
8 BRENT, TIM 676.3 2.66
9 SKINNER, JEFF 900.0 2.67
10 LAROSE, CHAD 903.2 2.86
11 STAAL, ERIC 1247.8 3.12

In the top 3 neck and neck with his line mates.

2012-13

Player Name TOI GA60
1 KUNITZ, CHRIS 646.3 1.76
2 DUPUIS, PASCAL 678.3 1.77
3 CROSBY, SIDNEY 544.3 1.98
4 SUTTER, BRANDON 608.0 2.07
5 NEAL, JAMES 516.0 2.09
6 KENNEDY, TYLER 508.4 2.24
7 COOKE, MATT 585.3 2.46
8 IGINLA, JAROME 627.4 2.68
9 MORROW, BRENDEN 535.6 3.36

Man, he’s terrible now having fallen almost, but not quite, to middle of the pack.

2013-14

Player Name TOI GA60
1 SUTTER, BRANDON 960.3 1.75
2 VITALE, JOE 536.9 1.90
3 GLASS, TANNER 670.9 1.97
4 KUNITZ, CHRIS 1127.5 2.13
5 DUPUIS, PASCAL 578.3 2.18
6 JOKINEN, JUSSI 1025.8 2.28
7 GOC, MARCEL 925.5 2.33
8 CROSBY, SIDNEY 1273.1 2.40
9 MALKIN, EVGENI 863.8 2.43
10 ADAMS, CRAIG 758.7 2.45
11 NEAL, JAMES 802.6 2.62
12 PYATT, TAYLOR 583.9 3.08
13 STEMPNIAK, LEE 1057.9 3.18

Oh, 2012-13 must have been a short season blip, he’s moved back to top of the pack.

2014-15

Player Name TOI GA60
1 WINNIK, DANIEL 1021.9 1.35
2 SUTTER, BRANDON 1017.3 1.53
3 DOWNIE, STEVE 777.4 1.62
4 BENNETT, BEAU 561.1 2.03
5 COMEAU, BLAKE 820.8 2.05
6 CROSBY, SIDNEY 1135.5 2.06
7 HORNQVIST, PATRIC 861.9 2.09
8 KUNITZ, CHRIS 1022.6 2.11
9 SPALING, NICK 1037.3 2.14
10 MALKIN, EVGENI 978.2 2.33
11 LAPIERRE, MAXIM 686.2 2.62
12 PERRON, DAVID 1129.4 2.87

Trails only Winnik but Winnik doesn’t really count because he played most of the season on a different team so yeah, tops on the Penguins yet again.

I don’t know about you but I have a really difficult time calling a player that is always, consistently every year, near the top of his team in lowest goals against average a below replacement level defensive player. I will add that during this time period of all forwards with at least 3000 minutes of ice time Brandon Sutter has the 39th highest opponent GF60 so you can’t even argue that he gets easy minutes. He in fact gets tough minutes. His most frequent opponents (forwards) during this time period are Alex Ovechkin, Martin St. Louis, John Tavares, and Steven Stamkos.

I am perfectly willing to debate whether Sutter is one of the best defensive players in the league during this period of time or merely above average. However, I am going to propose that claiming Brandon Sutter is a below replacement level defensive player be a litmus test for whether you are doing hockey analytics correctly or not.

Sorry @DTMAboutHeart, whatever rating system you are using doesn’t pass the test.