Fun with Numbers: Evaluating the Panthers' Defense

It turns out that this guy is pretty good.

In the previous installment, we looked at the Panthers' success, or lack thereof, as a team. This time we'll look at the defense. This analysis will cover the seven defensemen who played 40 or more games with the team this season.I'll be referring to a lot of numbers that aren't widely used on this site, so I will explain each as I use them. For a good primer on these numbers, see Matchsticks and Gasoline's Understanding Advanced Stats series.

In a season that saw more than 50% turnover, the defense had the least amount of change. In both seasons, the Panthers had seven defensemen who played 40 games or more. Last year's lineup was Mike Weaver (82GP), Jason Garrison (73GP), Dmitry Kulikov (72GP), Dennis Wideman (61GP), Keaton Ellerby (54GP), Bryan Allen (53GP) and Bryan McCabe (48GP). This season, half of the top six was replaced. Veterans Wideman, McCabe and Allen were traded at the deadline and were replaced in the off-season by Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski, while 2010 first round pick Erik Gudbranson made the team out of training camp. Keaton Ellerby started the year in Rochester, but spent large portions of the season as an injury callup. This year, Ellerby played fewer games, but was with the Panthers all year as a seventh defenseman.

Although there were some complaints about taking on Campbell's contract, the truth is that the Panthers aren't going to spend to the salary cap any time soon and as long as Tallon and Santos can put a competitive team on the ice with the internal budget, one huge contract doesn't matter much. On the ice, the acquisition of Campbell was huge. Campbell is a big upgrade over Dennis Wideman, as we'll see, and the signing of Jovanovski and some reshuffling allowed Jason Garrison to move from the shutdown pair with Mike Weaver to the top pair with Campbell to replace McCabe's scoring. Kulikov moved to the pairing with Weaver, but kept his spot on the second power play unit.

5 on 5

Name Pos Num GP TOI/60 Corsi REL Corsi On Sh% Sv% PDO PT/60 PD/60 ZS ZF Corsi Rel QoC Corsi QoC Corsi Rel QoT Corsi QoT
Jason Garrison D 52 77 17.74 10.8 5.32 7.15 936 1008 0.6 0.3 53.7 49.3 1.015 0.479 2.076 -0.072
Brian Campbell D 51 82 20.32 9.9 4.43 5.99 934 993 0.1 0.4 54 49 0.755 0.133 1.79 -0.25
Erik Gudbranson D 44 72 13.25 -1.3 -2.26 5.73 913 970 0.8 0.6 51.1 47.7 -0.991 -1.292 -0.31 -1.679
Keaton Ellerby D 4 40 14.21 -3 -4.12 6.6 921 987 0.4 0.5 49.7 51.9 0.139 -0.254 -1.49 -2.533
Dmitry Kulikov D 7 58 17.06 -3.2 -4.43 8.88 921 1010 0.8 0.5 45.9 47 0.464 0.166 -0.987 -1.965
Ed Jovanovski D 55 66 12.99 -6.7 -4.97 6.92 919 988 0.6 0.5 53.9 50.6 -1.087 -1.566 -0.082 -1.545
Mike Weaver D 43 82 16.7 -11 -8.55 9.32 923 1016 0.3 0.5 40.3 45.9 1.069 0.235 0.661 -1.118

Several analysts called Jason Garrison the Panthers' best defenseman this year, and the numbers point that way. Besides being the fifth most prolific goal scorer on the team, and fifth in points, his even strength on-ice and relative Corsi numbers were best on the team, with only Brian Campbell coming close, and his Corsi relative to Quality of Competition (or Corsi Rel QoC) was second best, behind Mike Weaver, and no one else on the defense was even close.

For the rest of the defense, Brian Campbell was very good offensively, coming first assists and fourth in points on the team. His Corsi numbers were all positive, even though he finished in the defensive zone more often than not. Mike Weaver, primarily used as a shutdown defenseman, had more starts in the defensive zone than anyone else on the team, and therefore negative Corsi numbers. However, he faced the best in the league, and had the highest Corsi Rel QoC on the team. His defense partners, Dmitry Kulikov and Keaton Ellerby, fared reasonably well too, both having positive Corsi Rel QoC and finishing in the offensive zone more often than they started in the defensive zone.

Ed Jovanovski and Erik Gudbranson had the worst numbers for the defense. Gudbranson, however, was a young rookie as defensemen go and is likely to improve next season. In Jovanovski's case, the aging vet just didn't have a great season all around, though he had a respectable performance on the penalty kill.

5 on 4

Name Pos Num GP TOI/60 Corsi REL Corsi On Sh% Sv% PDO PT/60 PD/60 ZS ZF Corsi Rel QoC Corsi QoC Corsi Rel QoT Corsi QoT
Brian Campbell D 51 82 4.02 14.9 85.81 14.64 886 1032 0 0.2 95.3 59.8 1.417 -78.139 2.792 82.47
Jason Garrison D 52 77 2.41 3.3 84.19 10.49 917 1022 0.3 0 92.9 72.1 -5.229 -79.622 1.74 81.451
Dmitry Kulikov D 7 58 2.82 -4 79.14 15.04 895 1045 0.4 0 94.3 63.5 -0.506 -81.4 4.188 82.129
Ed Jovanovski D 55 66 1.68 -11.9 74.61 7.59 900 976 0 0 94.2 73.2 -1.796 -81.618 -0.263 80.775
Erik Gudbranson D 44 72 0.5 -21.5 63.42 4.17 1000 1042 1.7 0 100 57.1 -0.698 -80.187 -1.518 78.536
Mike Weaver D 43 82 0.09 -50 32.29 0 0 0 0 16.1 71.4 33.3 -2.707 -77.083 -15.052 66.904
Keaton Ellerby D 4 40 0.09 -61.8 16.07 0 0 0 0 0 75 0 -6.482 -79.299 -16.981 64.556

The story of the Panthers' power play last season is Brian Campbell. Campbell spent significantly more time on the power play than anyone else on the team, followed by Kulikov, Garrison and Jovanovski. Only Campbell and his usual partner, Garrison, had positive relative Corsi numbers, though Kulikov's Corsi Rel QoC was second best on the team. What the Panthers need most from their defense next season is for Kulikov and another defenseman to step up on the powerplay and give Campbell more support.

4 on 5

Name Pos Num GP TOI/60 Corsi REL Corsi On Sh% Sv% PDO PT/60 PD/60 ZS ZF Corsi Rel QoC Corsi QoC Corsi Rel QoT Corsi QoT
Dmitry Kulikov D 7 58 1.04 22.4 -63.51 7.69 843 920 0 1 3.4 25 3.38 83.585 1.106 -79.6
Mike Weaver D 43 82 2.79 1.4 -80.82 0 867 867 0 0.3 2.7 31.8 -2.474 75.302 -0.855 -82.012
Jason Garrison D 52 77 2.45 -0.1 -79.02 3.85 857 896 0.3 0 4.2 31.4 2.937 82.546 -0.15 -82.16
Ed Jovanovski D 55 66 1.52 -5.8 -83.51 18.18 912 1094 0.6 0 5.1 23.8 1.815 80.283 2.366 -79.444
Keaton Ellerby D 4 40 0.88 -6.8 -90.17 0 844 844 0 0 0 28.6 0.327 77.316 -2.217 -84.019
Brian Campbell D 51 82 1.26 -7.9 -87.1 10.53 881 986 0 1.2 12.1 26.7 0.61 79.635 0.871 -80.52
Erik Gudbranson D 44 72 0.3 -18.2 -97.83 0 818 818 0 0 15.8 23.1 0.024 77.109 -1.497 -82.627

Where the Panthers' defense really needs help is on the penalty kill. Only Dmitry Kulikov and Mike Weaver had positive Corsi Rel numbers. In a list of defensemen who regularly played shorthanded (at least 20 games played, 1 minute or more TOI/60), Kulikov repeatedly comes in high on the list (seventh in Corsi Rel, eighteenth in Corsi On, thirty-second in Corsi Rel QoC), while most of the rest of the Panthers' defense are lucky to make it into the top 100 in one statistic. Except for Kulikov, who should be playing shorthanded more, everyone needs to improve.

New Additions

The Panthers, of course, lost Jason Garrison this off-season and replaced him with Filip Kuba. Additionally, Tyson Strachan was signed to a one-way deal. Strachan played 15 games for the Panthers last season. In that limited action, he posted Corsi Rel and on-ice Corsi numbers in the middle of the defense, and Corsi Rel QoC lower than Jovanovski's. He will likely be used in a similar fill-in role this season.

Filip Kuba spent last season with the Ottawa Senators. His even strength on-ice Corsi (5.18) and Corsi Rel (-1.6) were second and third best on the Senators and would have been good enough for second and third best on the Panthers last season. His power play numbers were lower than any of the Panthers' power play regulars last season and his penalty kill numbers were similar. Kuba played last season as a top pairing defenseman who benefited greatly from playing with offensive defenseman Erik Karlsson. Provided he stays healthy, he could repeat this success with Brian Campbell at even strength, but the Panthers are going to have to look elsewhere for improved special teams.

In conclusion, while the defense is worse on paper with the loss of Jason Garrison, it is only slightly worse, and if Kulikov and Gudbranson continue to improve and Ellerby can get some more ice time, the chance is there for similar or improved performance.

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