The Truth about the New York Rangers' Defense

Dan BlumenauContributor IJanuary 20, 2009

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.

To illustrate:


1Dennis WidemanBOS28$3,250,000.0056
2Duncan KeithCHI23$1,600,000.0051
3Zdeno CharaBOS21$7,500,000.0049
4Marc-Edouard VlasicSJS18$735,000.0046
5Nicklas LidstromDET18$7,450,000.0046
6Jan HejdaCBJ17$2,000,000.0045
7Steve MontadorANA16$800,000.0044
8Mike GreenWSH16$6,000,000.0044
9Mike MottauNJD15$750,000.0043
10Brent SeabrookCHI15$3,500,000.0043
11Brian RafalskiDET14$6,000,000.0042
12Matt HunwickBOS13$775,000.0041
13Josh GorgesMTL13$1,000,000.0041
14Aaron WardBOS13$2,500,000.0041
15Rob BlakeSJS13$5,000,000.0041
16David Johnny OduyaNJD12$600,000.0040
17Mike CommodoreCBJ12$4,300,000.0040
18Andrei MarkovMTL12$5,750,000.0040
19Mark StuartBOS11$1,100,000.0039
20Filip KubaOTT11$3,000,000.0039
21Colin (John) WhiteNJD11$3,000,000.0039
22Willie MitchellVAN11$3,500,000.0039
23Dan BoyleSJS11$6,666,667.0039
24Rob ScuderiPIT10$725,000.0038
25Marc MethotCBJ9$522,500.0037
26Ken KleePHX9$1,250,000.0037
27Stephane RobidasDAL9$1,500,000.0037
28Paul MartinNJD9$4,000,000.0037
29Andreas LiljaDET8$1,250,000.0036
30Brad LukowichSJS8$1,650,000.0036
31Niclas HavelidATL8$2,900,000.0036
32Matthew CarlePHI8$2,950,000.0036
33Bryan McCabeFLA8$6,150,000.0036
34Tobias EnstromATL7$750,000.0035
35Alex GoligoskiPIT7$895,260.0035
36Robyn RegehrCGY7$4,600,000.0035
37Lubomir VisnovskyEDM7$7,000,000.0035
38Brian CampbellCHI7$7,142,857.0035
39Matt WalkerCHI6$600,000.0034
40Jeff SchultzWSH6$650,000.0034
41Kent HuskinsANA6$650,000.0034
42Marc StaalNYR6$765,000.0034
43Andrew AlbertsPHI6$1,400,000.0034
44Denis GrebeshkovEDM6$1,500,000.0034
45Keith BallardFLA6$2,500,000.0034
46Shea WeberNSH6$4,500,000.0034
47Shane O'BrienVAN5$1,025,000.0033
48Karlis SkrastinsFLA5$2,400,000.0033
49Mattias OhlundVAN5$3,500,000.0033
50Brett ClarkCOL5$3,500,000.0033
51Roman HamrlikMTL5$5,500,000.0033
52Douglas MurraySJS4$600,000.0032
53Brett LebdaDET4$650,000.0032
54Patrice BriseboisMTL4$750,000.0032
55Alexandre PicardOTT4$1,537,500.0032
56Trevor DaleyDAL4$2,100,000.0032
57Brad StuartDET4$3,750,000.0032
58Jay BouwmeesterFLA4$4,875,000.0032
59Alexander EdlerVAN3$550,000.0031
60Shane HnidyBOS3$760,000.0031
61Ian WhiteTOR3$850,000.0031
62Ladislav SmidEDM3$952,381.0031
63Ossi VaananenPHI3$1,000,000.0031
64Steve EmingerTBL3$1,200,000.0031
65Matt GreeneLAK3$1,250,000.0031
66Francis BouillonMTL3$1,875,000.0031
67Nick SchultzMIN3$3,200,000.0031
68Tom GilbertEDM3$3,500,000.0031
69Kimmo TimonenPHI3$8,000,000.0031
70Bret HedicanANA2$870,500.0030
71Sean O'DonnellLAK2$1,250,000.0030
72Bryce SalvadorNJD2$2,900,000.0030
73Cory SarichCGY2$3,400,000.0030
74Kim JohnssonMIN2$5,250,000.0030
75Adam PardyCGY1$500,000.0029
76Braydon CoburnPHI1$1,200,000.0029
77Zbynek MichalekPHX1$1,400,000.0029
78Kurt SauerPHX1$1,750,000.0029
79Mark EatonPIT1$2,000,000.0029
80Christian BackmanCBJ1$3,400,000.0029
81Mark GiordanoCGY0$600,000.0028
82Keith YandlePHX0$635,000.0028
83Greg ZanonNSH0$750,000.0028
84Paul MaraNYR0$1,950,000.0028
85Hal GillPIT0$2,100,000.0028
86Fedor TyutinCBJ0$2,250,000.0028
87Philippe BoucherPIT0$2,500,000.0028
88Henrik TallinderBUF0$2,900,000.0028
89Sheldon SourayEDM0$6,250,000.0028
90Kyle QuinceyLAK-1$500,000.0027
91Paul RangerTBL-1$950,000.0027
92Lukas KrajicekTBL-1$1,100,000.0027
93Marek MalikTBL-1$1,250,000.0027
94Ruslan SaleiCOL-1$3,025,000.0027
95John-Michael LilesCOL-1$3,700,000.0027
96Erik ReitzMIN-2$500,000.0026
97Jason StrudwickEDM-2$650,000.0026
98Milan JurcinaWSH-2$912,500.0026
99Marc-Andre BergeronMIN-2$1,691,000.0026
100Shaone MorrisonnWSH-2$1,975,000.0026
101Tim GleasonCAR-2$2,000,000.0026
102Andrej MeszarosTBL-2$2,500,000.0026
103Steve StaiosEDM-2$2,900,000.0026
104Nick BoyntonFLA-2$2,950,000.0026
105Niklas KronwallDET-2$3,000,000.0026
106Kristopher LetangPIT-3$685,000.0025
107Carlo ColaiacovoSTL-3$1,400,000.0025
108Jordan LeopoldCOL-3$1,500,000.0025
109Niclas WallinCAR-3$1,725,000.0025
110Darryl SydorDAL-3$2,500,000.0025
111Joseph CorvoCAR-3$2,750,000.0025
112Toni LydmanBUF-3$3,150,000.0025
113Jaroslav SpacekBUF-3$3,300,000.0025
114Joni PitkanenCAR-3$3,500,000.0025
115Jay McKeeSTL-3$4,000,000.0025
116Adrian AucoinCGY-3$4,000,000.0025
117Mark StreitNYI-3$4,100,000.0025
118Chris ProngerANA-3$6,250,000.0025
119Scott NiedermayerANA-3$6,750,000.0025
120Luca SbisaPHI-4$875,000.0024
121Drew DoughtyLAK-4$875,000.0024
122Cameron BarkerCHI-4$984,200.0024
123Teppo NumminenBUF-4$1,100,000.0024
124Marek ZidlickyMIN-4$3,500,000.0024
125Brooks OrpikPIT-4$3,750,000.0024
126Kevin BieksaVAN-4$4,250,000.0024
127Roman PolakSTL-5$475,000.0023
128David HalePHX-5$675,000.0023
129Luke SchennTOR-5$875,000.0023
130Ryan SuterNSH-5$3,500,000.0023
131Christoph SchubertOTT-6$900,000.0022
132Anton BabchukCAR-6$1,000,000.0022
133Garnet ExelbyATL-6$1,400,000.0022
134Daniel GirardiNYR-6$1,500,000.0022
135Jason SmithOTT-6$2,600,000.0022
136Christian EhrhoffSJS-6$2,750,000.0022
137Adam FooteCOL-7$2,750,000.0021
138Scott HannanCOL-7$4,500,000.0021
139Peter HarroldLAK-8$650,000.0020
140Jassen CullimoreFLA-8$830,000.0020
141Dmitri KalininNYR-8$2,100,000.0020
142Jeff FingerTOR-8$3,500,000.0020
143Wade ReddenNYR-8$8,000,000.0020
144Denis Jr. GauthierLAK-9$2,200,000.0019
145Dion PhaneufCGY-9$7,000,000.0019
146Bruno GervaisNYI-10$522,500.0018
147Thomas PockNYI-10$685,000.0018
148Martin SkoulaMIN-10$1,900,000.0018
149Brent BurnsMIN-10$3,000,000.0018
150Tomas KaberleTOR-10$4,250,000.0018
151Michal RozsivalNYR-10$7,000,000.0018
152Andrej SekeraBUF-11$659,000.0017
153Nicklas GrossmanDAL-11$900,000.0017
154Dennis SeidenbergCAR-11$1,200,000.0017
155Barret JackmanSTL-11$2,500,000.0017
156Derek MorrisPHX-11$3,950,000.0017
157Pavel KubinaTOR-11$5,000,000.0017
158Nathan OystrickATL-12$577,500.0016
159Matt NiskanenDAL-12$635,000.0016
160Dan HamhuisNSH-12$2,250,000.0016
161Ed JovanovskiPHX-12$6,500,000.0016
162Anton VolchenkovOTT-13$2,200,000.0015
163Mathieu SchneiderATL-13$5,750,000.0015
164Chris CampoliNYI-15$625,000.0013
165Greg De VriesNSH-15$2,750,000.0013
166Ron HainseyATL-15$4,500,000.0013
167Chris PhillipsOTT-19$3,500,000.009
168Brendan WittNYI-27$3,000,000.001

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[46])/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


1Dennis WidemanBOS28$3,250,000.0056$5,028,976.78-$1,778,976.78
2Duncan KeithCHI23$1,600,000.0051$4,579,960.99-$2,979,960.99
3Zdeno CharaBOS21$7,500,000.0049$4,400,354.68$3,099,645.32
4Marc-Edouard VlasicSJS18$735,000.0046$4,130,945.21-$3,395,945.21
5Nicklas LidstromDET18$7,450,000.0046$4,130,945.21$3,319,054.79
6Jan HejdaCBJ17$2,000,000.0045$4,041,142.05-$2,041,142.05
7Steve MontadorANA16$800,000.0044$3,951,338.90-$3,151,338.90
8Mike GreenWSH16$6,000,000.0044$3,951,338.90$2,048,661.10
9Mike MottauNJD15$750,000.0043$3,861,535.74-$3,111,535.74
10Brent SeabrookCHI15$3,500,000.0043$3,861,535.74-$361,535.74


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:


42Marc StaalNYR6$765,000.0034$3,053,307.33-$2,288,307.33
84Paul MaraNYR0$1,950,000.0028$2,514,488.39-$564,488.39
134Daniel GirardiNYR-6$1,500,000.0022$1,975,669.45-$475,669.45
141Dmitri KalininNYR-8$2,100,000.0020$1,796,063.13$303,936.87
143Wade ReddenNYR-8$8,000,000.0020$1,796,063.13$6,203,936.87
151Michal RozsivalNYR-10$7,000,000.0018$1,616,456.82$5,383,543.18


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.


1Wade ReddenNYR-8$8,000,000.0020$1,796,063.13$6,203,936.87
2Michal RozsivalNYR-10$7,000,000.0018$1,616,456.82$5,383,543.18
3Dion PhaneufCGY-9$7,000,000.0019$1,706,259.98$5,293,740.02
4Kimmo TimonenPHI3$8,000,000.0031$2,783,897.86$5,216,102.14
5Ed JovanovskiPHX-12$6,500,000.0016$1,436,850.51$5,063,149.49
6Scott NiedermayerANA-3$6,750,000.0025$2,245,078.92$4,504,921.08
7Mathieu SchneiderATL-13$5,750,000.0015$1,347,047.35$4,402,952.65
8Chris ProngerANA-3$6,250,000.0025$2,245,078.92$4,004,921.08
9Brian CampbellCHI7$7,142,857.0035$3,143,110.49$3,999,746.51
10Lubomir VisnovskyEDM7$7,000,000.0035$3,143,110.49$3,856,889.51


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:

TeamAverage Over/Under

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.

Marc StaalNYR6$765,000.0034.00$3,053,307.33$-2,288,307.33
Paul MaraNYR0$1,950,000.0028.00$2,514,488.39$-564,488.39
Daniel GirardiNYR-6$1,500,000.0022.00$1,975,669.45$-475,669.45
Dennis WidemanBOS28$3,250,000.0056.00$5,028,976.78$-1,778,976.78
Duncan KeithCHI23$1,600,000.0051.00$4,579,960.99$-2,979,960.99
Zdeno CharaBOS21$7,500,000.0049.00$4,400,354.68$3,099,645.32
    PREVIOUS CAP HIT $21,315,000.00
    PREVIOUS +/- -26.00
    NEW CAP HIT $19,893,465.17
    NEW +/- 72.00

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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