2011-12 NHL Season Review: Is Jeff Petry as Good a Defenceman as Drew Doughty?
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When the average hockey fan reads the headline above, their first thoughts are to question the brand of prescription pills the writer is on and whether or not a qualified pharmacist prescribed said pills. One is a Canadian who went the major junior route, the other American who played in the NCAA. Doughty, after all, was drafted second overall in 2008 out of the Guelph Storm of the Canadian Hockey League. Petry was the 45th overall selection in 2006 out of the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL. When Petry was drafted, little was known about the Oiler prospect aside from the fact that he was going to play his college hockey at Michigan State.
Doughty stepped into the NHL immediately after he was drafted. Petry took another four full seasons before he even signed his first professional contract. Despite Doughty being 22 years old and Petry 24 years old, Doughty has 208 more NHL games under his belt. Those numbers tell the average fan that Doughty is the far superior player, a perception almost anyone who pays attention to the game has. That being said, numbers from this season don't paint such an obvious picture, at least from an advanced statistics point of view.
We'll start on the defensive side of the game, considering that Petry and Doughty's responsibilities are primarily in their own end. During the regular season, it was clear that Drew Doughty was not playing up to the level that he had showed in previous seasons. Defensively the advanced stats are limited, however there are a few numbers that can be used. Relative Corsi is a number calculated to measure puck possession and which team controls the flow of play when a particular player is on the ice. There is an excellent definition of the term in this piece Relative Corsi is measured by taking the Corsi number of a player and subtracting it from the Corsi number of the team when he is not on the ice.
Corsi Number = (Shots on Target For + Missed Shots For + Blocked Shots Against ) - (Shots on Target Against + Missed Shots Against + Blocked Shots For)
Drew Doughty's Relative Corsi number was 1.5. Jeff Petry's was 2.6. Per 60 minutes of even strength play when Drew Doughty is on the ice as opposed to off the ice, the LA Kings will benefit by a net 1.5 shots. In Petry's case, that number is a net 2.6 shots. It is a small difference, but it sheds light on the play of the LA Kings and Edmonton Oilers when the defencemen are on the ice as opposed to off it.
Another figure to pay attention to is zone starts. Coaches deploy their players in specific zones to better use their talents. Rob Scuderi and Ladislav Smid, for example, are two defensive defencemen who were brought out more when faceoffs were in their own zone as opposed to the other team's zone. Doughty's shifts started in his own zone 49.2 percent of the time. Petry's shifts started in his own zone 50.9 percent of the time. The difference between the two is minute.
Both defencemen faced roughly the same level of competition as well. If you evaluate their quality of competition based on the Relative Corsi of their opponents, both Doughty and Petry faced players who generated more scoring chances than they gave up; genuine top six forwards. The Relative Corsi of Doughty's opponents was 0.986, while the Relative Corsi of Petry's opponents was 0.970. Again, a small difference. At this point, it's safe to say that the numbers are about even for Doughty and Petry when it comes to defensive play.
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The ratio of giveaways to takeaways sheds light into each player's ability to protect the puck. In this regard, both players struggled as they each had more giveaways than takeaways. For Drew Doughty, for every takeaway he had he gave the puck away 2.5 times. In Petry's case, for every takeaway he recorded, he gave the puck away 2.47 times. Again, the difference is very negligible.
The numbers that turn the tides in favour of Petry, for me at least, are Petry's 126 hits and 126 blocked shots. In four more games Doughty recorded 124 hits, but just 70 blocked shots. The blocked shots indicate that Petry was more willing to embrace the defensive defenceman role he was assigned. The two were very close in every other category, but from an advanced statistics perspective, Petry was slightly more effective. Another number to consider is that Petry played more shorthanded than Doughty. Petry averaged 2.42 minutes per game shorthanded, while Doughty averaged 2.27 minutes per game shorthanded.
This is the sexy stuff: Goals, assists, points. Doughty averaged 17.90 five on five minutes per game, while Petry averaged 17.21 minutes. Accounting for ice time differences such that both players were on even footing, Doughty averaged 0.96 points per 60 minutes of even strength play. Petry averaged 0.91 points per 60 minutes of even strength play. The main difference between the two is that Doughty is more of a shooter as seen by his 168 shots compared to Petry's 111. Even Strength, here was both player's overall production:
Given their contract scenarios, who would you rather have on your team?
Doughty: 77 GP, 4 G, 16 A, 23 PTS
Petry: 73 GP, 1 G, 18 A, 19 PTS
On the powerplay, Doughty averaged 3.43 minutes per game. Petry averaged just 1.26 minutes of powerplay time per game. Adjusted for ice time, Doughty averaged 2.04 point per 60 minutes of powerplay time. Petry averaged 3.25 points per 60 minutes of powerplay time, the first real discrepancy seen in the two players. Here are both player's powerplay production:
Doughty: 77 GP, 3 G, 10 A, 13 P
Petry: 73 GP, 1 G, 5 A, 6 P
From these numbers, Petry and Doughty's offense, like their defence, is quite comparable, with Petry holding a huge advantage in points per 60 minutes of powerplay time.
Believe it or not the players had quite similar seasons. An interesting point to consider is that this was Petry's first full NHL season, while it was Doughty's fourth. After reading this, the question is whether you as an NHL GM would rather have the 22 year old Drew Doughty signed at $7 million per year until the 2018-19 season, or the 24-year-old Jeff Petry signed at $1.75 million per year until the 2013-14 season where he would still be a Restricted Free Agent? After reading the above statistics, the choice should be clear. And it isn't what most fans would think.
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