Every summer, an array of players flood the market for a variety of reasons. My aim is to parse through the noise and offer my opinions and insights as to who on defense is worthy of pursuing and who is best avoided like the plague.
However, before getting into that, I’m going to have to preface my write-ups with a legend for the abbreviations of stats I’ll be using throughout my evaluations. Many of you will know some of the stats I’ll be using but- for the sake of the uninitiated- it’s only fair that I take the time to explain the stats and why I use them in my evaluations.
In the following legend, you’ll note a particular focus on high-danger chances and goals. That’s because I believe that this is where hockey games are won and lost. If you can’t outshoot, outchance and outscore your opponents from within the slot area consistently, then chances are you’re not winning all that often. Shots from the slot are worth a lot.
Team Relative High Danger Chances For/60 (relHDCF/60) – The number of chances produced from high-danger areas (the ‘slot arrow’) when the player is on the ice Vs when they’re not. Expressed as a numerical value where positive = good, negative = bad. Highest total is +2.51 held by ex-Oiler draft pick and now-sixty-point Dman, Erik Gustafsson.
Team Relative High Danger Chances Against/60 (relHDCA/60) – The number of chances allowed from high-danger areas (the ‘slot arrow’) when the player is on the ice Vs when they’re not. Expressed as a numerical value where positive = bad, negative = good. Lowest total held by an unsheltered Dman is -1.97 held by Greg Pateryn.
Raw High Danger Goals For Percentage (HDGF%) – A simple expression of the percentage of high-danger goals scored by the player’s team Vs high-danger goals scored by the opposing team. Expressed as a percent value where 50% is the average; above is positive, within ~1.5% is neutral and below is negative.
Team Relative High Danger Goals For Percentage (relHDGF%) – The same as above, but made relative to what the team’s chances are overall.
*High-Danger Conversion Rate (HDC) – The rate at which high-danger chances for are converted into goals while the player is on the ice. The theory behind it is that, while most players will sit within the average range (10-12%), the ones outside that are either taking advantage (above 12%) or being taken advantage of (below 10%) in some manner or another. The higher the number, the better.
*High-Danger Protection Rate (HDP) – Same as above but in reverse.
*High-Danger Differential (HDD) – The overall impact of high-danger conversion minus high danger protection. Expressed as a percentage value where positive = good, negative = bad (with varying degrees, of course). Strongest total is +8.23% held by matchup Dman Matt Grzelyck; weakest total is -6.81% held by the somewhat-sheltered Colin Miller.
* denotes an “in-the-works” stat
RD, Radko Gudas, 6’0 205lbs (77GP, 4G, 16A) – A climber in my current method of evaluation, Gudas does an effective job at limiting high danger chances against (relHDCA/60 of -1.43) and keeps his HDD close to even (12.85% HDC, 12.58% HDP, +0.27 HDD) while playing 2nd pairing competition with various partners (Sanheim, Manning, Ghost). Add to that his rugged game and a consistently positive impact in both HDGF% and relHDGF% (54.7% Raw and +7.85% Rel since 2016-17) I believe he’d be a near-perfect fit next to Nurse and help stabilize our 2nd pairing.
Cost to acquire: Mid-to-Low
RD, Mark Pysyk 6’1 200lbs (70GP, 1G, 10A) – Much like Gudas above, he’s a strong defensive D that contributes greatly to the defensive side of things (relHDCA/60 of -1.64) and would likely help stabilize the team’s 2nd pairing behind Nurse. He’s not without his flaws, though. He has a somewhat negative impact on the offensive side of things (relHDCF/60 of -0.24) and is slightly negative in HDD (15.36% HDC, 15.68% HDP, -0.33 HDD), but these results are also on a volatile and high-event team in Florida.
Cost to acquire: Relatively low
RD, Jared Spurgeon, 5’9 167lbs (82GP, 14G, 29A) – The absolute best player on this lists and a vastly underrated asset by many. He and Suter combine to make for a truly brilliant top pairing that contributes huge positives in a number of stats: +1.41 relHDCF/60, -0.98 relHDCA/60, +4.37 relHDGF% and a consistently above-50 HDGF%. The only two points of weakness are his injury history (more of an issue early in his career) and his high-danger conversion rates (12.50% HDC, 13.73% HDP, -1.23 HDD) but he outchances his opposition enough to make up for that difference. All-in-all, an excellent top pairing RHD that would immediately be our best Dman.
Cost to acquire: High, despite his pending UFA status
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