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By The Numbers: Florida Panthers 2016-17 defensemen

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Let’s take an analytical look at the Cats blue-liners

Florida Panthers v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Here is a quick run through of the general and advanced stats I will use to evaluate the Florida Panthers blue liners performance during the 2016-17 season.

General Stats - Goals per game, assists per game, shooting %, blocked shots per 60 minutes, hits per 60 minutes and takeaways/giveaway percentage.

Advanced Stats -Corsi For Per 60, Corsi For Relative, Corsi Against Relative, TMGF60 (Teammate goals for per 60 minutes).

Corsi Relative measures the Corsi of the player relative to the team’s talent. This allows a better indication of a player’s performance (Corsi based) on the ice regardless of how great or bad his team is.

I’m also utilizing the TM stat provided by the experts at puckalytics.com. It weighs the value a player has on the ice isolated from the rest of his teammates. This stat gives indication if his teammates are better with or without him. In the case of goals for per 60 minutes, the stat is formulated from the average goals for per 60 minutes of all players when player “A” is not on the ice weighted by ice time they have played with player “A”. Definitions for other puckalytics.com stats provided here.

Continuing on...

TMGA60 (Teammate goals against per 60 minutes), Offensive Point Share and Defensive Point Share.

Hockey Point Shares are a statistic developed by Justin Kubatko of hockeyreference.com. This one is a bit math crazy. The calculation multiplies goals created by time on ice and goals created by all other teammates and divides it by the time on ice by all forwards and defensemen. You then divide by the marginal goals per point. Marginal points per game are the total goals scored in the league divided by the total team points in the league-speaking in terms of team points in the standings. In layman’s terms, it is the amount of offense the player contributes to his team’s success on the standings table. You take the ratio of goals to standings points and use that ratio to see how players share (who contributes) the generation of goals scored throughout the NHL. A similar calculation is used for defensive point shares. To simplify this one it is the ratio of marginal goals scored against a player when he is on the ice multiplied by marginal goals against the team divided by the earlier mentioned marginal points per game. More information can be found here.

Let’s first take look at the big three stats (category leaders in bold)

Goals Per Game, Assists Per Game, Shooting %

Player Goals Per Game Assists Per Game Shooting %
Player Goals Per Game Assists Per Game Shooting %
Jason Demers 0.11 0.23 9.2
Aaron Ekblad 0.14 0.162 4.4
Jakub Kindl 0 0.1 0
Michael Matheson 0.09 0.12 3.9
Alex Petrovic 0.02 0.26 1.8
Mark Pysyk 0.05 0.158 4.7
Keith Yandle 0.06 0.43 2.8

This unfavorable stat sheet doesn’t even hold the category leaders with much notoriety. There is a general lack of offensive contribution (according to basic stats) among all the defenders. The 2015-2016 defense gathered 124 points compared to this year’s 142 points, so the group is improving, even after losing Brian Campbell. Yet, if you look at the defensemen on other teams, Carolina, for example, tallied 148 points while Philadelphia’s group mustered 165, it would be without rational reason to claim Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov and Radko Gudas are offensively better than any three-way combination of the Panthers defensemen, but it presents evidence the Cats need to further progress next year in this department. Obviously you don’t have to have your defense as the guys producing points to have a shot at the Cup. Yet, if your forwards can’t score goals, it’s nice to have them backing them up. This clearly didn’t happen in 2016-2017.

Next, our defense’s general defensive stats.

General Defensive Stats

Player Blocked Shots/60 Minutes Hits/60 Minutes Takeaways/Giveaways
Player Blocked Shots/60 Minutes Hits/60 Minutes Takeaways/Giveaways
Jason Demers 3.4 4 (19/31) 0.61
Aaron Ekblad 2.54 3.62 (25/58) 0.43
Jakub Kindl 3.87 5.13 (9/13) 0.69
Michael Matheson 4.15 2.42 (48/65) 0.73
Alex Petrovic 3.71 7.15 (16/27) 0.59
Mark Pysyk 3.91 2.83 (31/36) 0.87
Keith Yandle 2.52 0.52 (24/76) 0.31

Michael Matheson has become one of the more prominent shot blockers in the league. To compare, Victor Hedman led Tampa Bay with 132 blocks at 4.09 every 60 minutes. Being fearless and putting it all on the line for the team are qualities Matheson has shown this past year. Playing on the penalty kill has influenced his need to place himself in shot lanes. The team finishing 2nd in PK% glorifies Matheson’s power play breaking prowess. Alex Petrovic’s hits/60 dropped from last year - 8.41 to 7.15. Big deal. He is one of the most notorious bell-ringing guys in the league. His total hits were affected due to the ankle injury he sustained in November. The takeaway/giveaway percentage is led by Mark Pysyk at 0.87. This stat is not showcased as much, which I believe is a shame. I would want defensemen that’ll do their best to steal the puck and also have the poise to not make mistakes and give it away. Keith Yandle has an embarrassing TK/GV primarily due to his giveaways. His puck control needs to improve this coming season.

Now, here are the offensive analytics stats

Offensive Analytics

Player Corsi For 60 Minutes Corsi For Relative TMGF60 Offensive Point Shares
Player Corsi For 60 Minutes Corsi For Relative TMGF60 Offensive Point Shares
Jason Demers 51.4 -2.25 1.92 2.1
Aaron Ekblad 57.4 1.98 2.32 1.6
Jakub Kindl 50.6 -3.84 1.97 0.4
Michael Matheson 53.6 -1.61 2.01 0.5
Alex Petrovic 54 0.76 1.95 0.6
Mark Pysyk 51.9 1.55 1.89 -0.3
Keith Yandle 56.7 -0.04 2.11 2.8

The clear victor in this table is Aaron Ekblad. Florida ranked 19th in the league in the Corsi for Per 60 Games at 54.07. Ekblad and Yandle are the only players with CF60M higher than that number. Therefore, when they were on the ice, they generated more shots on net increasing the team average. The shots on net diminished as the other five players stepped on the ice. On the other hand, the “Corsi For Relative” shows Yandle’s CF60M stat is inflated, most likely due to him playing with first-line skaters and Ekblad. If he were not with them, his contribution to the team’s Corsi falls, but, his TMGF60 shows that when Yandle plays the team scores more goals per 60 minutes. This should be expected, as he leads the group in assists. I normally take TMGF60 in a battle with Corsi ForRelative, as TMGF60 directly relates to goals while Corsi relates to shots which have a chance of scoring goals.

Looking at the information from the first two stats on this table, Jason Demers did not do as favorably as he did on the first offensive stat table. In general, the team doesn’t generate as many shots and goals when he is on the ice, compared to when the others are on the rink. Yet, when he shoots the puck (view shooting % in the first table) it is more likely to go in the net by almost more than half the amount of the next guy, Pysyk. So, although we could say Demers has the best chance to score a goal when he shoots, the other four players aren’t as successful at shooting the puck or scoring goals when he is on the ice. He still generates assists, but isn’t able to create scoring chances like the team’s other defensemen. This usually is a telltale sign of a player who isn’t great at stopping pucks from leaving the offensive zone, being in poor positioning and not always passing to the guy with best chance of scoring. Again, when he shoots, he does score more than his teammates. Still, you can’t look past the fact his analytical stats paint a picture of a player who doesn’t jive with the four other skaters when it comes to making ticks on the scoreboard. On the other end of the spectrum, Ekblad does score goals and generates scoring opportunities when he plays, even when isolating him from the first line forwards he usually plays alongside.

Finally, the Panthers’ defensive analytics stats.

Defensive Analytics

Player Corsi Against 60 Minutes Corsi Against Relative TMGA60 Defensive Point Shares
Player Corsi Against 60 Minutes Corsi Against Relative TMGA60 Defensive Point Shares
Jason Demers 53.5 0.72 2.29 2.8
Aaron Ekblad 53.1 -0.11 2.4 1.7
Jakub Kindl 56 3.05 2.35 0.5
Michael Matheson 55 2.84 2.5 3.9
Alex Petrovic 52.1 -0.26 2.41 2.2
Mark Pysyk 48.7 -6.26 2.48 3.8
Keith Yandle 55.6 4.02 2.66 4

This one will requires a little more nitpicking. Pysyk is the Corsi Against king on this team. His shot blocking and ability to take away the puck are good indications to why his Corsi Against is so great. Just watching him use his high hockey IQ and seeing his great skating ability, it is easy to see why it translates into opponents not getting shots off. His TMGA60 shows his team does allow more goals when he is on the ice compared to some others. A player with low Corsi Against Relative but with a higher TMGA60 leads me to believe the goals against him were luck-influenced or he has a tendency to accidentally screen the goalie and more shots turn into goals. Yet, this isn’t a problem many have accused of him having. Matheson had solid common stats, but is actually more likely to allow shots and have goals scored against his unit. Demers’ weaker offensive analytic stats are countered by his above-average defensive stats.

The DPS stat for defensemen is weighted greatly on plus/minus and time on ice. Yandle gets the benefit of playing with good forwards and logging lots of ice time which notched him a higher DPS. This is why I don’t believe this stat is a great measure of individual defensive ability, but rather the chemistry Player “A” and his teammates have on limiting other team’s scoring and then giving an added bonus to being on the ice more often.

Now that we haveall the ingredients, let’s start cooking.

First step is giving a ranking (from 1 to 7) to each of the seven defensemen according to how they placed in each individual statistical category. Seven players ranked by 14 categories.

Next is adding up the total. I’ll also throw up the ranking based on the offensive and defensive categories to see how much impact these players make in both facets of the game. The player with the lowest score wins, just like in golf. Something the Panthers are practicing now.

All Categories

Player Goals Assists Shooting % Blocks Hits T/A CF60 CFR OPS CA60 CAR TMA DPS Total
Player Goals Assists Shooting % Blocks Hits T/A CF60 CFR OPS CA60 CAR TMA DPS Total
Jason Demers 2 3 1 5 3 4 6 6 2 4 4 1 4 51
Aaron Ekblad 1 4 3 6 4 6 1 1 3 3 3 4 6 46
Jakub Kindl 7 7 7 3 2 3 7 7 6 7 6 2 7 75
Michael Matheson 3 6 4 1 6 5 4 5 5 5 5 6 2 57
Alex Petrovic 6 2 6 3 1 2 3 3 4 2 2 3 5 50
Mark Pysyk 5 5 2 2 5 1 5 2 7 1 1 5 3 51
Keith Yandle 4 1 5 7 7 7 2 4 1 6 7 7 1 61

Final Rankings

Player Offense Defense Total Ranking
Player Offense Defense Total Ranking
Aaron Ekblad 14 32 46 1
Alex Petrovic 29 21 50 2
Jason Demers 26 25 51 3
Mark Pysyk 33 18 51 3
Michael Matheson 30 27 57 5
Keith Yandle 19 42 61 6
Jakub Kindl 45 30 75 7

As many would expect, Aaron Ekblad finishes first, proving that maybe he will indeed live up to expectations as an elite defenseman one day. With time on his side, he can harness his natural instinct and play-making ability while improving the defensive side of his game. Petrovic ranking second might surprise a few. The former Red Deer Rebel broke out this year and displayed his defensive prowess in 5-on-5 situations and on the penalty kill. Alex is more than just the team bruiser now. He’s a set piece to this team. Pysyk and Demers tied for third. Demers the well-balanced blue-liner, Pysyk a quick skater who is transitioning from an offensive defenseman into the opposite. Both welcomed additions to Florida’s back line. Matheson is a young, developing player who has made strides but will need to be more involved on the attack to maintain is place as a second-pairing defenseman. The new recruit Yandle, played a good portion of minutes and enabled the forwards to score many times. His defensive play has hurt the team, ranking last in the data table. Kindl, the offseason UFA, apparently didn’t show enough to be welcomed back.

Overall, you have to be impressed with this unit. They were a strength of the team. Although Roberto Luongo and James Reimer are solid starters, they didn’t play as top 10 goalies, which you need to have in this league to have success. The team finished 7th in Corsi Against Per 60, an admirable feat for this underrated defense corps.

This group has great promise and will be fun to watch next season.