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01-20-2012, 01:08 AM
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Mathieu Dandenault, D/RW

Dandenault is a really underappreciated player, and he and my other spare were easily the two most interesting players to research. Dandenault was hockey's last true swingman, able to switch seamlessly from forward to defense multiple times, on a regular basis throughout his career. He played 13 seasons, and in just two of them he was exclusively a D-man, and in just three he was exclusively a forward. The others were very mixed.

Using official numbers from 1998-on, and estimates from 1996 and 1997, I can tell you Dandenault played 868 NHL games and 12,661 minutes for a total of 14.59 minutes a game.

If you view him as a forward, his 203 career points look pretty poor for a guy playing 14.59 minutes. And if you view him as a defenseman, his 14.59 minutes a game look pretty poor, even on a really strong team like the wings. But he had two separate careers that occurred at the same time, one as a forward and one as a defenseman, and neither were poor.

Using information provided to me by Detroit fans, the McKeen's and Sports Forecaster guides, the TOI file that I often refer to, positions listed on, Dandenault's game log on, the total GP by other Detroit defensemen in each season, and various statistical indicators (shooting percentage, assists per goal, TOI and points per on-ice goal) I was able to piece this together just about as well as anyone could:

Year GP min min/GP Pts F GP F min F min/GP F Pts D GP D min D min/GP D Pts
1996 34 369 10.85 12 34 369 10.85 12 0 0 #DIV/0! 0
1997 65 859 13.22 12 35 400 11.43 7 30 459 15.30 5
1998 68 684 10.06 17 68 684 10.06 17 0 0 #DIV/0! 0
1999 75 1138 15.17 14 21 227 10.81 6 54 911 16.87 8
2000 81 986 12.17 18 68 770 11.32 15 13 216 16.62 3
2001 73 1175 16.10 25 17 197 11.59 7 56 978 17.46 18
2002 81 1354 16.72 20 15 196 13.07 4 66 1158 17.55 16
2003 74 1415 19.12 19 0 0 #DIV/0! 0 74 1415 19.12 19
2004 65 896 13.78 12 25 238 9.52 6 40 658 16.45 6
2006 82 1528 18.63 20 0 0 #DIV/0! 0 82 1528 18.63 20
2007 68 1096 16.12 8 10 103 10.30 2 58 993 17.12 6
2008 61 679 11.13 14 61 679 11.13 14 0 0 #DIV/0! 0
2009 41 482 11.76 12 37 409 11.05 11 4 73 18.25 1
Career 868 12661 14.59 203 391 4272 10.93 101 477 8389 17.59 102

So Dandenault played 391 games as a 10.93 minute RW, scoring 101 points (21 per 82 games) and 477 games as a 17.59 minute defenseman, scoring 102 points (18 per 82 games).

Either career, taken separately, would not be that impressive. But they happened at the same time, to the same player.

In other words, if Dandenault was never converted to D, it's reasonable to conclude he may have lasted the same 868 games and scored 224 points. If he had that career, he'd be drafted by now, when you consider that he did it mostly buried on the depth chart of the strongest team in the league, on average 16% better than average (that weighted average includes his 4 habs years, the Wings were closer to 128% while he was there). Dynasty role players are popular here, and with fairly good reason.

On the other hand, if he played his whole 868-game career as a 17.59 minute D-man, scoring 186 points, that is approximately Ken Klee territory, and Klee is one of the better defensemen to escape mention in these threads. Klee played just slightly more games, and slightly more per game, but only for average teams. Dandenault's record as a defenseman, if extrapolated over 868 games, should be considered better, which would make him worthy of selection exclusively as a defenseman right around the A draft or now. (please note that the only reason I consider 17.59 minutes a game a decent average is because of the team he was on. 17.59 minutes on average teams is NOT good). Don't forget that he's played 83 playoff games and contributed to three Stanley Cups.

The fact that he seamlessly interweaved these two careers into one is a positive for Dandenault, not a negative. But the impact it makes on his blended career numbers, if you ignore the context, appears negative, and that's why he hasn't been drafted to be a serviceable AAA/AA/A spare player. He should have been.

Originally Posted by Hockey Almanac 1996-97
if you like high speed skating, mad dashes for the net, and a rocket launcher for a shot, then Dandenault is your type of player... in part time duty, he played very well for Scotty Bowman, who has never been easily impressed... Dandenault's weakness is the Red Wings' strength. Though he has all the makings of a solid NHL talent, he has to play his way past several established veterans.

Originally Posted by Sports Forecaster 1996-97
enthusiastic RW, whose feet are almost as swift as they are huge, hung around the team for the whole season... watched his fair share of games from the press box... Bowman likes him because he plays in both ends of the rink...
Originally Posted by Sports Forecaster 1997-98
entering this season, the sophomore forward had never played as much as a shift on defense. After a few weeks, he was moved back to the blueline and turned into a sizaeable rearguard with rushing ability. The kid has highs and lows, being tentative for long streaks after bad mistakes. Bowlam let the experiment last for a few months until he acquired Larry Murphy. Expect him to dress for every gae and to roam up and down the right wing when he gets the call.
Originally Posted by Sports Forecaster 1999-2000
one of the brightest lights during a playoff run gone awry was the emergence of Dandenault as a regular. has adapted well to the blueline and should improve at his new position. On a scale of 1-10, Dandenault's speed is a 15. He has also quickly learned to play his position and rarely looks like an ex-forward out there...Scotty Bowman has hit a home run with this pet project.
Originally Posted by Sports Forecaster 2000-2001
one of the league's fastest skaters and the wings' most versatile player... drafted as a RW, now spends most of his time on the blueline. Either way, he needs to make an impact soon.
Originally Posted by Sports Forecaster 2001-02
after several seasons of bouncing back and forth between forward and defense, Dandenault appears to have settled into a role as a top-four blueliner in Detroit. The six-year pro has exceptional speed for a blueliner and is learning the intricacies of the position with the support of veteran talent on the roster... by the end of the season, he'd become one of Detroit's top four blueliners. Scotty Bowman's gamble has apparently paid off.
Originally Posted by Sports Forecaster 2002-03
The speedster's days as a forward may be a thing of the past. One of the legacies Scotty Bowman leaves behind is his converson of Dandenault to the blueline. He is maturing into a solid, all-around defender.
Originally Posted by McKeen's 2002-03
versatile ex-winger spent the entire year on the blueline and played his best hockey during the playoffs, thriving on a solid third pairing with Steve Duchesne... an explosive skater and good outlet passer, he plays tough, responsible defense and has steadily learned how to exploit his exhilarating speed and acceleration in all three zones. Has continued to mature into a solid, two-way player.
Originally Posted by Sports Forecaster 2003-04
has made a permanent transition to the blueline.
Originally Posted by McKeen's 2005-06
had a trying 03-04 season that saw him shunted to forward for a while though he ended the campaign as a steady defenseman after returning from a broken foot... speedy, hardworking swingman isn't much of a physical deterrent but is a persistent and responsible defender with great recovery powers thanks to his world-class skating... brings coveted speed and versatility.
Originally Posted by Sports Forecaster 2006-07
earned mixed reviews in his first season in Montreal. brought along terrific speed and loads of postseason experience. While he didn't handle the heavy workload very well, he was able to finish 3rd in +/-.
Originally Posted by Sports Forecaster 2007-08
struggled last season and even saw action as a 4th liner down the stretch. Mobility has never been an issue, though he doesn't make the most of his gifts in the offensive zone.
Originally Posted by Sports Forecaster 2008-09
after spending most of his first two seasons in Montreal playing defense, Dandenault switched to energy line winger last year. He was in and out of the lineup in the second half, future with the club is in doubt.

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