Jan 262012
 

With the re-signing of John-Michael Liles the Leafs now have an abundance of defensemen signed under control for a number of years, many with big dollar contracts too.  We all have our varying opinions on the relative values of each of these defensemen but I thought it would be an appropriate time to take a closer look at them statistically.

Offensively

2011-12 HARO+ 2010-11 HARO+ 2010-12 HARO+ 2011-12 FenHARO+ 2010-11 FenHARO+ 2010-12 FenHARO+
JOHN-MICHAEL LILES 1.23 1.03 1.11 0.96 0.99 1.00
CODY FRANSON 1.20 1.06 1.10 1.05 1.05 1.03
LUKE SCHENN 1.10 1.08 1.08 0.85 1.02 0.99
DION PHANEUF 1.01 1.08 1.05 1.00 0.99 1.03
CARL GUNNARSSON 1.05 1.00 1.02 1.04 0.92 0.94
MIKE KOMISAREK 1.10 0.96 1.00 1.02 0.90 0.86
KEITH AULIE 0.90 1.02 0.99 0.78 0.86 0.89
JAKE GARDINER 1.18 0.94

The above list are my own offensive ratings (goal based and fenwick based) for 5v5 zone start adjusted (10 seconds) situations sorted by their year and a half (2010-12) HARO+ ratings.

The list generally fits with what we might expect though the one surprise is probably Luke Schenn being rated so highly offensively.  I had a debate with a few people last week where I suggested that Schenn is as good offensively as Phaneuf and got ridiculed for making that statement but the numbers do in fact support that.  The above are based on ‘on-ice’ numbers but individual stats make Schenn look good too.  This season Phaneuf has 2 even strength goals and 13 even strength points while Schenn has 1 even strength goal and 11 even strength points but Phaneuf has played more than 30% more even strength minutes than Schenn.  Last season Phaneuf had 5 goals and 17 points at even strength versus Schenn’s 5 goals and 21 points in 20% more minutes.  Combined Schenn has 6 goals and 32 points in 2237 ES minutes while Phaneuf has 7 goals and 30 points in 2207 ES minutes.  That’s awfully close offensive production if you ask me.  The difference in their overall totals is solely due to Phaneuf’s PP minutes and Schenn’s lack of them.

Getting back to the rest of the team, it is no surprise to see Liles and Franson at the top of the list.  They are known to be more offensive specialists and the stats bear that out.  The reverse is true for Komisarek and Aulie who are viewed as more defensive defensemen and that is the role they are assigned.  They simply do not produce much offense.  We only have half a season of Jake Gardiner, but so far so good.  While his fenwick offensive numbers aren’t crazy good, his HARO+ rating is very very good.  I think Gardiner is someone we can be cautiously optimistic will develop into a very good (maybe Liles-like) offensive defenseman.

For interest sake, here are the players raw offensive numbers for the last 2 seasons combined sorted by GF20.

2010-12 GF20 2010-12 FF20
LUKE SCHENN 0.88 12.62
CODY FRANSON 0.88 13.22
JOHN-MICHAEL LILES 0.87 12.66
DION PHANEUF 0.85 13.01
CARL GUNNARSSON 0.83 11.96
MIKE KOMISAREK 0.81 11.00
KEITH AULIE 0.81 11.41

Gardiner’s GF20 is 0.96 and FF20 is 12.62 so far this season.

Defensively

This is the defensive equivalent of the above offensive rating chart.

2011-12 HARD+ 2010-11 HARD+ 2010-12 HARD+ 2011-12 FenHARD+ 2010-11 FenHARD+ 2010-12 FenHARD+
CODY FRANSON 0.77 1.39 1.15 1.02 0.98 1.00
KEITH AULIE 0.71 1.22 1.05 0.89 0.87 0.85
DION PHANEUF 0.87 1.07 1.00 1.04 0.94 0.97
CARL GUNNARSSON 1.04 0.86 0.95 1.00 0.94 0.99
LUKE SCHENN 0.83 0.88 0.88 0.89 0.93 0.90
JOHN-MICHAEL LILES 0.85 0.86 0.87 1.00 1.00 0.99
MIKE KOMISAREK 0.78 0.74 0.76 0.90 0.93 0.95
JAKE GARDINER 0.94 0.97

There are definitely some surprises in the above list and there are probably some small sample size issues going on.  Franson looked awesome defensively last season but terrible this season when considering their goal based HARO+ numbers.  The same is true for Aulie, and to some extent Phaneuf while the reverse is true for Gunnarsson.  For each of them their Fenwick numbers are a little more consistent.

All-in all though, Franson looks like he could be a more than respectable defenseman defensively.  His fenwick ratings are pretty solid and his 2-year goal ratings are very good.  On the other side of the spectrum, Komisarek looks awful, regardless of whether you consider goal ratings or fenwick ratings.  This is not good for a guy who doesn’t produce offense either.  Luke Schenn’s defensive numbers are a little better than Komisarek’s but still not great, but at least he is producing offensively.

Again, for interest sake, here are each defenseman’s 2-year raw defensive numbers.

2010-12 GA20 2010-12 FA20
CODY FRANSON 0.67 13.06
KEITH AULIE 0.73 15.36
DION PHANEUF 0.78 13.48
CARL GUNNARSSON 0.83 13.30
LUKE SCHENN 0.88 14.51
JOHN-MICHAEL LILES 0.92 13.05
MIKE KOMISAREK 1.02 13.75

Gardiner’s GA20 is 0.80 and FA20 is 13.83 so far this season.

Contract Status and Moving Forward

Phaneuf and Komisrek are signed for 2 more seasons at $6.5M and $4.5M cap hits respectively.  Liles and Schenn are signed for 4 more seasons each at $3.875M and $3.6M cap hits respectively.  Carl Gunnarsson is signed for another season at $1.325M when he becomes an RFA and will be due a substantial raise.  Cody Franson is set to become an RFA this summer and will deserve a sizeable raise from his current $800K salary.  Jake Gardiner has 2 years left on his entry level deal with a $1.1M cap hit and Keith Aulie is an RFA this summer.  The Leafs also have Korbinian Holzer, Jesse Blacker and others in the farm system ready to make a push for a roster spot on the Leafs in the next year or two.

The Leafs salary cap hit for their defensemen next season will be $21M plus whatever Cody Franson gets on a new contract which quite likely will be around the $1.5-2.5M range.  That would bring their expenditures on defensemen to $23M which actually isn’t all that ridiculous if the salary cap is $65+M.  That said, if they are looking to free up salary to spend on forwards and/or are looking to open up a roster spot for their young defensemen there are a few options.

The first option is to trade (if possible) Mike Komisarek.  He provides no real value to this team but then he will probably provide no value to any team so trading him might be difficult.  He also has a limited no trade clause limiting the number of potential trade partners as well.  He would be a perfect candidate to have his contract buried in the AHL (in actual dollars he’ll earn $3.5M in each of the next 2 seasons and coincidentally Jeff Finger’s buried $3.5M contract expires this summer) but he has a no movement clause which means he cannot be demoted.  The only option to get his contract off the books is via trade.

Another option is to trade Luke Schenn.  He provides some value to the Leafs with his offensive ability but that is not an area where the Leafs are lacking (most of their defensemen have offensive capabilities).  His poor defensive numbers make him expendable in my opinion and being young and on a reasonably priced long term contract he should have a lot of value on the trade market.  He could feasibly be used in a package to land the Leafs the big two-way forward they desperately need.

The other options are trading either Franson or Gunnarsson.  Neither would save the team as much cap space as either Komisarek or Schenn but both would have good value on the trade market.  That said, I would not be a proponent of this as I think they both provide good value to the Leafs, and are likely to provide good value for many years.  Gunnarsson has developed into a solid all-purpose defenseman and I think Franson has that ability too.