Jan 142012
 

There has been a lot of talk over the last 24 hours about the possibility of the Maple Leafs trading Luke Schenn to the Philadelphia Flyers for James van Riemsdyk?  Personally, I’d seriously consider it and probably do it, but lets take a look at the numbers.

Luke Schenn

HARO+ HARD+ FenHARO+ FenHARD+ Ozone%
2011-12 1.19 0.85 0.94 0.83 45.7%
2010-11 1.05 0.89 1.02 0.94 51.1%
2009-10 1.19 0.85 1.05 0.96 51.7%
2008-09 0.97 0.82 1.06 0.89 53.2%

For those who don’t know what these numbers are they are my all-encompassing (mostly) hockey rating stats.  HARO stands for Hockey Analysis Rating Offense and is an offensive rating for the player based on goals scored.  HARD is the defensive rating based on goals.  The Fen ratings use fenwick stats (shots + missed shots) to calculate the ratings instead of goal stats.  For these ratings anything over 1 is quite good (above average) and anything less than 1 is not so good.  The above ratings are for 5v5 even strength situations.

The one thing these stats do not take into account is zone starts (I have a plan to fix this in future versions of my ratings but haven’t coded it yet) so I have included the Ozone% which indicated how frequently the player started in the offensive zone vs the defensive zone.  >50 means more starts in the offensive zone than the defensive zone and <50 means more starts in the defensive zone than the offensive zone.

So, for Luke Schenn we actually find his numbers quite consistent.  Strangely he has been a pretty solid offensive defenseman but a pretty weak defensive defenseman which is the opposite of what he was projected to be when drafted.  His FenHARD+ rating has dropped significantly this season from the previous 2 seasons but that can be fully explained by the fact that he has had significantly more defensive zone starts this year from previous years.  The same is true for his drop in HARO+.  When we factor in his zone starts he has been extremely consistent over the past 2 1/2 seasons (his rookie season was a little weaker).  That lack of progress is what concerns me most about Schenn.  If he can’t significantly improve his defensive ability his overall value going forward is limited to a #4-6 defenseman.

James van Riemsdyk

HARO+ HARD+ FenHARO+ FenHARD+ Ozone%
2011-12 1.13 0.84 1.07 0.99 54.0%
2010-11 1.29 1.02 1.08 0.93 49.6%
2009-10 1.05 0.97 1.13 0.99 52.9%

Van Riemsdyk’s fenwick ratings have been extremely consistent over the past 2 1/2 seasons with the fluctuations observed in them almost solely due to the fluctuations in his Ozone%, particularly for the fenwick ratings.  Overall he appears to be an above average offensive player and a somewhat weak defensive player, not all that different from Schenn.  Last season was clearly a good season for him with a bit of a drop off this season.

In some other discussions I have compared van Riemsdyk to Joffrey Lupul, just a little bigger.  So let’s take a look a Lupul’s numbers and see how they compare.

Joffrey Lupul

HARO+ HARD+ FenHARO+ FenHARD+ Ozone%
2011-12 1.59 0.68 1.07 0.82 50.0%
2010-11 1.09 0.78 0.93 0.79 47.4%
2009-10 1.32 0.96 0.95 0.96 50.8%
2008-09 1.15 0.83 1.01 0.87 44.4%

Lupul’s seems to be a perfect example of a high risk high reward player.  His offensive numbers are quite good, a little better than van Riemsdyk’s, but his defensive numbers are quite bad, especially over the past 2 seasons.  His offensive numbers have jumped quite a bit this season but his offensive ratings from 2008-09 to 2010-11 had him as an above average offensive player so maybe this season isn’t all that surprising given he is probably playing with better players and given more offensive roles.  Also, his ratings from 2008-09 to 2010-11 are quite comparable to van Riemsdyk’s over the past 2 1/2 years (though van Riemsdyk has benefited more from more offensive zone starts).  Compared to Lupul I think we can say van Riemsdyk is slightly below him offensively (particularly if Lupul’s performance this season is sustainable), and slightly above him defensively.

In the end whether you trade Schenn for van Riemsdyk comes down to each teams need and whether you project improvement in either of them going forward.  Right now Schenn is probably a #4-6 defenseman on most good teams and van Riemsdyk is a second line winger on a team with good depth up front.  The reason I make the trade is Schenn has been given big minutes and top 4 defenseman roles in the past but hasn’t shown he can be that.  Van Riemsdyk has never really been give top line duty or been given top PP unit duty so we don’t know whether if given that opportunity he could have a break out season, much like what Lupul is doing this season.  Plus, I think a line of Van Riemsdyk-Grabovski-Kulemin could be an interesting combination of size and skill and 2-way ability, even more so if Colborne replaces Grabovski down the road.

Update:  Apparently Van Riemsdyk is now out with a concussion so the idea if trading Schenn for van Rymsdyk right now is a moot point, but the analysis (concussion aside) is still valid.

Aug 252011
 

A few weeks ago I questioned whether Luke Schenn was really a quality shut down defenseman as some believe and some people too exception to that.  Additionally, now that Lebda has been traded away the favourite defenseman whipping boy of Leaf fans seems to be Mike Komisarek.  Because of this, I decided we should conduct a comparison of the defensive ability of these two players to see if Leaf fans perceptions of these two players matches reality.

Schenn Komisarek
TOI 864:56 558:53
Goals Against per 20 min. 0.902 0.895
Opposition GF/20min. 0.767 0.757
HARD+ 0.810 0.840
Fenwick Against per 20min. 15.400 15.424
Opposition FenF/20min. 13.708 13.798
FenHARD+ 0.934 0.929
Def. Zone Face Off % 31.9% 37.8%

The above table shows all of the pertinent stats from the 2010-11 season for 5v5 close situations (close being teams are within 1 goal in first or second period or tied in third).  I have included both goal and fenwick based stats because I know some people prefer fenwick but in reality they tell pretty much the same story.

Last season when Luke Schenn was on the ice the Leafs gave up about the same number of goals against per 20 minutes (0.902 vs 0.895) and fenwick against per 20 minutes (15.400 vs 15.424) as when Komisarek was on the ice.  Schenn played against slightly tougher competition based on opposition goals for per 20 minutes while Komisarek played against slightly tougher competition based on opposition fenwick for per 20 minutes.  The end results were Komisarek had a slightly better HARD+ than Schenn (0.840 vs 0.810) but Schenn had a slightly better FenHARD+ (0.934 vs 0.929).  It should be noted that these ratings are quite poor for both players.

HARD+ and FenHARD+ take into account quality of teammates and competition, but they do not take into account zone starts.  For Komisarek, 37.8% of the faceoffs he was on the ice for were taken in the defensive zone while only 31.9% were in the defensive zone for Luke Schenn.  So, while all the other numbers are quite similar, the defensive zone face off percentage clearly means Komisarek faced tougher situations defensively than Luke Schenn.  I didn’t include the data above, but Schenn played with higher quality teammates than Komisarek (for example, Lebda’s #1 defense partner was Komisarek).

For interest sake, and to gain more confidence in the results, here are each players stats over the past 2 seasons.

Schenn Komisarek
TOI 1537:15 853:46
Goals Against per 20 min. 0.976 0.890
Opposition GF/20min. 0.751 0.759
HARD+ 0.783 0.853
Fenwick Against per 20min. 15.053 14.641
Opposition FenF/20min. 13.534 13.679
FenHARD+ 0.932 0.957
Def. Zone Face Off % 31.9% 35.7%

Over the past 2 seasons the edge is distinctly in Komisarek’s favour though in 2009-10 Komisarek had far fewer defensive zone faceoffs than last season (only 28.7%).  For the 2 years Schenn gave up more shots and goals per 20 minutes than Komisarek and faced weaker opponents (offensively at least) and had a much lower defensive zone face off percentage.

Based on the above, Leaf fans perceptions of Komisarek are pretty much true.  He has struggled defensively and hasn’t lived up to his contract or expectations but is also nothing to suggest that Luke Schenn has been any better at the defensive aspect of the game.  Schenn has just played more, not better.

Jul 202011
 

So I woke up this morning and started reading the usual morning news and blogs and one of the first ones I happened to read was an article at Maple Leafs Hot Stove on the Luke Schenn contract negotiations.  One comment early in the post really caught my attention.

While he may not be an offensive machine (I believe there is still some upside there), at 23, he has blossomed into one of the leagues best shutdown defensemen.

First off, Schenn is 21 not 23 but what really caught my attention is the assertion that he is one of the leagues best shutdown defensemen.  This isn’t an uncommon sentiment regarding Schenn, especially among Leaf fans.  There are a lot of people who believe Schenn has developed into a superior shut down defenseman, or at the very minimum is on track to becoming one.  The thing is, the stats don’t back that up.

2010-11 GA20 TMGA20 OppGF20 ExpGA20 GA20-ExpGA20
Tomas Kaberle 0.638 0.843 0.756 0.800 -0.162
Keith Aulie 0.745 0.845 0.780 0.813 -0.068
Dion Phaneuf 0.783 0.846 0.786 0.816 -0.033
Carl Gunnarsson 0.838 0.831 0.741 0.786 0.052
Luke Schenn 0.838 0.785 0.753 0.769 0.069
Francois Beauchemin 0.884 0.792 0.759 0.776 0.109
Mike Komisarek 0.994 0.782 0.740 0.761 0.233

The above table shows the most used defensemen for the Leafs last season.  Numbers are for 5v5 ice time.  GA20 is the players on ice goals against per 20 minutes.  TMGA20 is a defensive quality of teammates measure in goals against per 20 minutes.  OppGF20 is an offenwive quality of opponent measure in goals for per 20 minutes.  ExpGA20 is an expected goals against average based on quality of teammates and quality of opponents and is simply an average of TMGA20 and OppGF20.  The final column is GA20-ExpGA20 which tells us whether fewer or more goals were scored against than expected when the player was on the ice so negative values are better than positive values.  Note:  Kaberle and Beauchemin’s stats include their time with Boston and Anaheim respectively.

What it all means is Schenn was far from a good shutdown defenseman last year.  His defensive numbers are actually quite poor.  He didn’t play against especially tough opposition (especially compared to Phaneuf and Aulie) and had a very poor GA20.  Overall one could say he was a weak defensive defenseman.  Based on the numbers above, only Beauchemin and Komisarek were worse.  So how does he stack up against the rest of the leagues defensemen?  Lets take a look.

Season(s) GA20 Rank OppGF20 Rank HARD+ Rank CorHARD+ Rank
2010-11 0.838 122/163 0.753 94/163 0.888 121/163 0.922 142/163
2009-10 0.930 145/169 0.744 152/169 0.846 140/169 0.929 142/169
2008-09 0.971 152/159 0.774 44/159 0.818 143/159 0.870 156/159
2009-11 (2yr) 0.876 138/157 0.753 128/157 0.880 138/157 0.922 146/157
2008-11 (3yr) 0.907 161/169 0.762 123/169 0.868 154/169 0.930 160/169

The above table shows how Schenn compares to the rest of the defensemen in the league at 5v5 even strength ice time.  GA20 and OppGF20 are the same as above.  HARD+ is a composite defensive ranking that takes into account the players GF20 as well as defensive quality of teammates (TMGA20) and offensive quality of opponents (OppGA20).  CorHARD+ is similar to HARD+ but instead of using goal data to calculate it uses corsi data.  Personally I think this is somewhat meaningless but this is for those out there who put stock in corsi based stats.

As you can see, his 5v5 even strength defensive numbers range from bad to horrible, his quality of opponent is mediocre at best, his HARD+ rankings are quite poor, and his CorHARD+ rankings are even worse.  IT is really tough to find a compelling argument that Schenn is even an average defensive defenseman let alone one of the best shut down defensemen in the NHL.

His 4v5 PK numbers are even worse.  Of the 87 defensemen with 400 4v5 PK minutes over the past 3 seasons, Schenn has the highest (by a decent margin too) goals against per 20 minutes on the PK.  His 4v5 PK HARD+ rating is also the worst at 0.652 which is pretty atrocious.  His PK corsi numbers aren’t quite as bad, but are still below average (67th of 87 in corsi against per 20 minutes).

All in all it is really difficult to suggest that Schenn is even an average defensive defenseman.  He is certainly not among the leagues best shut down defenseman.

Now, with all that said, I am all for signing Schenn to a new 3 or 4 year contract in the $3-3.5M range.  He is a physical defenseman who blocks shots (as noted by the Maple Leaf Hot Stove article) and gives a good effort all the time.  It could be that he is just a little over zealous with the hits and blocked shots that he gets out of position a bit too often and just needs to learn when to take chances going for the hit or blocked shot.

Part of the problem is also that he was rushed to the NHL and put in a high pressure situation with a lot of expectations placed on him so we was never really given an opportunity to really learn the craft.  I really hope that with the addition of Liles and Franson and the further development of Aulie and Gunnarsson that some of the pressure comes off Schenn and he can take a bit of a step back and really learn the details of playing defense (maybe some new assistant coaches will help too).  Some good goaltending and team success will take some pressure off him as well.

Finally, as fans, I really hope we stop putting pressure on him to be one of the best shutdown defensemen today and one of the faces of the franchise and we begin to view him for what he really is: a young 21 year old defenseman with lots of ability and drive but with lots still to learn.  There really haven’t ever been many elite shut down defensemen at 21 years of age so we should stop expecting him to be that now and instead hope he can be that a year or three from now.

(Final note:  Strangely enough, Schenn’s on ice offensive numbers are actually reasonably good.  His 3 year on ice GF20 is 0.833 which ranks 44th of 169 defensemen and his HARO+ is 1.030 which is good for 42nd.  His 2 year numbers are even better.)