Defensemen: A Quick and Dirty Look

There are several fans here calling for certain Rangers defensemen to play more and play less (or disappear). And while everyone has their own system for evaluating players, there doesn't seem to be a consistent way for all of us to look at our blueliners in any sort of context with their teammates or the rest of the league. So I've created a quick little spreadsheet over at google docs to do just that. It relies completely on Tom Awad's GVT (goals versus threshold) calculated by the great guys over at I know GVT is controversial, but this is meant to be quick and dirty, not anything precise and it passes the sniff test, I think...

You can access the sheet here. I suggest opening it and trying to sort and filter on anything you'd like. To follow my explanation, filter the team column to NYR by clicking on the drop down and selecting just NYR.

After you've filtered, the sheet should look something like this:

Dan Girardi D NYR 37 3 16 19 6 18 22.8 -3 3 2.4 0 5.4 21 1 1

Marc Staal D NYR 37 6 10 16 8 17.9 19.8 1.6 2.5 2.6 -0.3 4.8 32 2 2

Michal Rozsival D NYR 28 2 12 14 3 13.6 11.6 1.1 2.1 1.5 -0.3 3.3 59 2 3

Matt Gilroy D NYR 22 2 4 6 9 5.9 6.3 8.1 1.1 1.7 -0.3 2.5 75 3 4

Michael Sauer D NYR 31 1 3 4 11 7 8.8 8.7 0 2.1 0 2.1 86 3 5

Michael Del Zotto D NYR 34 2 7 9 0 18 14.7 -2.1 -0.4 1.4 0 1 144 5 6

Steve Eminger D NYR 34 1 3 4 -4 8.9 11 -6.8 -0.4 0.3 0 0 197 7 7

For the purposes of this quick look, I ranked all NHL defenseman by their total GVT so far this season. I then divided each player's rank by 30 to get his approximate place on an NHL team (first 30 defensemen are #1's, next 30 are #2's, etc.). So far everyone seems to fall into somewhere close to their range. Girardi has been playing like a #1 guy this year and he's right there in the first 30. Staal is just outside the top 30 at 32 and that sounds about right. Up until now, we've had five defenseman playing like top 3 blueliners. That's good, really good [think last year's Blackhawks].

Next, I ranked each player compared to just his own teammates in GVT, defensive ice time, offensive IT, defensive GVT, and offensive GVT. This gives us a little more picture of where each defenseman is contributing; e.g. Marc Staal has been the Rangers most valuable blueliner defensively, but Girardi's offensive value gives him the slight edge so far in total GVT.

Up until now everything is fairly straightforward, here are the leaps: I substract each players defensive value rank from his defensive ice time rank to get a "defensive shortshifting" factor that tells us if a player has been receiving a disproportionate amount of time based on the value he's produced. This is sort of an over/under-production. Quick and dirty, but it passes the sniff test. Staal, Girardi, Rozsival seem to be right on target for their ice times. Sauer and Gilroy at +3 each have been shortshifted, while MDZ and Eminger have been overused based on their production. 

I do the same thing for each player offensively. Again, this passes the sniff test: Staal, Girardi, Rozsival, Sauer and Eminger are proportionate. And it looks like Del Zotto has been "overshifted" while Gilroy has been "shortshifted". Then I add up the defensive and offensive shortshifting to get a "total shortshifted." Nothing too crazy in these factors, Girardi, Rozsival and Staal seem to be proportionately playing for their production so far this season. Gilroy and Sauer have been "shortshifted," Del Zotto and Eminger have been "overshifted."

So what are the major conclusions we can draw from this pile of numbers? Well our defense has been good this year, really good. Girardi, Staal and Rozsival have all produced like top pairing defensemen. Yes that Michal Rozsival. Gilroy, in very limited ice time has produced as much as a 2nd pairing defenseman. Sauer has done the same over most of the season. And young Michael Del Zotto for all that we've alternately talked trash and praised his talents is a number 5 guy on most teams and 6th on our team. Eminger is right where he should be, a 7th defenseman on our team and other teams.  We can also see that it looks a lot like Del Zotto and Eminger have been over-exposed somewhat. This reinforces a lot of the commentary I've read here. Many BSB'ers advocate expanded roles for Sauer and Gilroy and reduced roles for the youngster and our 7th man.  

In short, the numbers match what most of us see! ...Except for all of that Michal Rozsival hate. There's no way to quantify his incredibly noticeable mis-steps when they don't add up to decreased performance for his team overall, but, I guess the haters will keep on hating...

Again, you can find the spreadsheet here:

Let me know how it looks, criticize it, ask questions, request changes, yell at me for not including poise, hits, fights and blocked shots...

And thanks, I'll be here all week. Enjoy the veal.

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