The Truth about the New York Rangers' Defense
Some of you may have read my last article on how the Rangers overvalue their offensive unit, and how that overvaluation contributes to the team scoring roughly 250 fewer points than they should do every season.
Having watched the Pittsburgh game on Sunday, this was painfully clear in the Rangers complete inefficiency in beating the trap in the neutral zone. No imagination, no ability to retrieve the puck, and most importantly, no goals.
However, as we all know, the offensive unit cannot always be entirely to blame. Support needs to come from the defensive units in many ways. Redden and Rozsival get a hard time from Rangers’ fans and so I thought it might be time to examine how the Rangers value their defensive units.
Okay, so rating offensive units is easy. The number of points they score directly correlate to a teams success.
Defensive units? Not such a simple task. There are simply too many different contributions a single unit can make; the big hit, the takeaway, and the blocked shot. However, one particular stat comes in handy.
Whereas a forward with a negative +/- rating might not surprise us because his line may concede goals due to over commitment to the rush or forecheck (Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers has an incredible 48 points in 46 games, but a terrible -8 +/-), defensive units are more reliably represented by how high their +/- is.
For anyone unsure of what a +/- rating is, it is calculated as follows:
(Even Strength Goals+Shorthanded Goals) Scored - (ESG +SHG) Conceded
Simply put, a defenseman with a negative +/- is not doing their job right.
However, we need to take into consideration their value in relation to the rest of the league. For example, a 3rd line defenseman who earns $750k per year is not expected to have Zdeno Chara’s +21 rating. That’s why he is paid the big bucks!
So…without further ado, let us start.
It took me a while to work out how I was going to fairly compare the players. There was no point working out their contribution by calculating, for instance, how many hits a defenseman makes, as those hits may even take them out of the play and result in a goal. Defeating the object of the hit in the first place.
Blocked shots looked possible, but there was no way of accurately quantifying the value of a blocked shot.
The +/- route takes us along safer territory. If a D-man is on the ice when a goal is conceded, -1. If he is on the ice when a goal is scored, +1. However, calculating their worth required for them to be compared with other players. Hence, we use their contribution.
This is a simple formula to work out how much better or worse a D-man is than the other defensive players’ averages.
|16||David Johnny Oduya||NJD||12||$600,000.00||40|
|21||Colin (John) White||NJD||11||$3,000,000.00||39|
|144||Denis Jr. Gauthier||LAK||-9||$2,200,000.00||19|
|165||Greg De Vries||NSH||-15||$2,750,000.00||13|
It is essential to take the lowest rated player in the exercise to get the contribution of all of the players. In this case, the Islanders’ Brendan Witt shouldn’t play hockey with a -27 rating.
The Red Wings’ star Nick Lidstrom has an awesome +18 rating. This puts him 45 +/- points above Witt.
For divisional reasons later, we need to add one to the rating so that no player’s worth is multiplied by zero.
Therefore, we get the following:
Contribution = ([Lidstrom]18)-([Witt]-27)+1 = 46
Contribution = ([Rozsival]-10)-([Witt]-27)+1 = 18
Contribution = ([Witt]-27)-([Witt]-27)+1 = 1
Honestly, I don’t envy the GMs who have to work out how much a defenseman is worth. More often than not, they have veteran leaders in a team; take Pronger, Niedermayer, and Lidstrom for example. They also have to pay them what they think they are worth rather than following any kind of scoring record or history, as they would for forwards.
Therefore, to find the true worth of the D-men, we have to take into account what teams are willing to pay for them.
From the table above, we can see that the average wage for this group of players (made up of individuals who have played 30 games or more this season) is $2,567,942.65 per season.
From here, we can continue to calculate a player’s worth by multiplying the average salary by their contribution’s relation to the average contribution among the players.
Average salary x (player’s contribution/average contribution)
$2.57m x (Lidstrom)/28.6) = $4.13m
$2.57m x ([Rozsival]18/28.6) = $1.62m
So now that we know the players current salary, their contribution and their worth, we can move ahead with our analysis a little.
The Top 10
Okay. So we may not like it, but true to form Boston rides high. Undervaluing the incredible 56 contribution by Wideman to the tune of $1.78m per season.
In line with my previous article on offensive valuations, we can see similarities in that the Bruins tend to undervalue their entire squad, the Red Wings and Sharks have high contribution players, and worryingly, the Rangers have no representatives in the Top 10.
If they are not there, where are they:
Marc Staal is the first Ranger representative with a contribution of 34, followed closely by Paul Mara with 28 and then Dan Girardi with 22.
Here’s where it gets interesting for the Rangers D.
Staal, Mara, and Girardi have combined for a contribution of 84 so far. Their combined salary packets hit the Rangers’ cap for $4.21m per season, while the second three D-men for the Rangers (Redden, Rozsival and Kalinin) combine for a contribution of 58 and hit the cap for $17.1m.
Let’s clarify this even further shall we, because I am angry now. Glen Sather sees fit to pay $12.89m more to these three players for a contribution 26 points lower than the others.
Okay, rant over, but I do think we should look at this objectively and see where the Rangers are in the over/under-valuation tables.
I think I may have spoken too soon when I said rant over. Rozsival and Redden are statistically the NHL’s most overvalued defenseman.
Here are the facts:
Redden had a 20 contribution, two better than Rozsival, but is paid an astonishing $8m per season, overvalued by $6.20m. He is statistically worth $1.79m. Rozsival’s contribution of 18 puts him in second place, overvalued by $5.38m and worth only $1.62m.
Interestingly, both Niedermayer and Pronger are also in the Top 10 overvalued players. But then again, they probably have more personality and leadership skills in their little fingers than Rozsival and Redden have combined.
Okay. So we’ve seen that the Rangers are guilty again of overvaluing their players statistically, but what about that undervalued talent.
- Marc Staal: Undervalued by $2.29m, the 15th most undervalued defenseman in the league, he is worth $3.05m with his contribution of 34.
- Paul Mara: Undervalued by $564k, his contribution has so far been 28 for a worth of $2.51m.
- Daniel Girardi: Undervalued by $476k, for a worth of $1.96m with a contribution of 22.
So, if we look at how the Rangers compare with the other teams we get the following:
No surprises then. On average the Rangers overvalue their defensemen by $1.43m, whereas Boston with Zdeno Chara and co. undervalue theirs by $1.2m. Sucks if you’re a bruin. Does that mean that the Rangers would pay Chara over $10m per season?
As with my previous article, I would like to rearrange the Rangers lineup with players from outside the existing team. But I have rules.
Say we keep all of the undervalued players as a matter of principle and pay them their worth. Taking out the overvalued players (Redden, Rozsival and Kalinin and thereby saving $17.1m per season), we replace the players with the top three contributors from the league. This is what it would look like.
|PREVIOUS CAP HIT||$21,315,000.00|
|NEW CAP HIT||$19,893,465.17|
Okay, so we pay Chara $3m per season too much, but I figure he’s worth it. Especially when our defensive contributions increase by 98 points, turning the unit into a +72 rather than its current -26.
I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from this one. Personally, hockey isn’t an exact science, but surely if you reduce you purchasing power by overpaying for results you’re not going to have the room to get a balanced team.
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