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06-04-2013, 06:08 PM
  #88
Richter Scale
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And of course, the other part of the picture that I think is being ignored in a lot of this debate over Leetch and Park is their relative defensive strength. I've already said this, but Park was a good amount ahead of Leetch in this aspect of his game. I really don't think there is much of an argument to be made there. Other guys who saw him play have already talked about this -- he was defensively sound, an intimidating presence, a good checker, etc.

Leetch, while not bad by any means, didn't have those same kind of tools in his tool box. It is at least a part of why the Beukeboom pairing worked and made sense; what Leetch lacked in physicality, Beukeboom more than made up for... not so much on being defensively sound, though. There were times when that pairing was an absolute nightmare in their own zone.

Here is a look at some relevant defensive stats for Leetch and Park during their time with NYR:

Park:
- 452 GP; +177.
- Had a plus rating in every single one of his 7 full seasons with NYR. 4 of these plus seasons were +15 or above.
- Zero full seasons with minus ratings with NYR.
- Just two seasons below +15.
- Had one season with a ridiculous +62.
- Plus/minus per game: +0.4

- Just 2 seasons in which he was on the ice for more than 100 goals against. All 5 of his other seasons he was on the ice for 70 goals or less. But since the season length was slightly shorter in his era...
- Park was on the ice for an average of 1.17 goals per game.
- If you subtract power play goals against, he was on the ice for 0.94 even strength goals per game.


Leetch:
- 1,129 GP; +24.
- Had a plus rating in 8 of 15 full seasons with NYR. Just 3 of his plus seasons were +15 or above.
- Had 6 minus seasons and one even season. Of these minus seasons, all but one were -15 or worse. (Though, to give context, at least a few of these seasons also came during the dark years...)
- Plus/minus per game: +0.02. But to give a comparable # to Park's, Leetch's first 7 full seasons with NYR (excluding 92-93 injury season and lockout season) his "plus/minus per game" was +0.16.

- Leetch had 11 seasons in which he was on the ice for 110 goals against or more. Of the 6 seasons with NYR that he was on the ice for less than 100 goals, all of them were shortened seasons (whether due to his first season, injury or the lockout). But again, since seasons were different lengths, to provide a decent comparison to Park...
- Leetch was on the ice for an average of 1.46 goals per game. Almost 0.3 goals per game higher than Park. In an 82 game season, that is 25 more goals against. Not an insignificant number.
- If you subtract power play goals against, Leetch closes the gap somewhat, to an average of 1.04 even strength goals per game. 0.1 more than Park.
- To again, look at Leetch's prime to get a decent comparison to Park, if you look at his first 7 full seasons (excluding 92-93 injury season and the lockout season), those #s actually go up slightly. He was on the ice for an average of 1.48 goals per game, of those, 1.04 were even strength goals.



I know plus/minus is a flawed stat in a lot of ways; but a question to ask nonetheless is: Even though Leetch was likely the better offensive talent and scored or contributed to more goals, if he gave up more goals while he was on the ice, does that not detract from him?

--

I completely understand why the defensive part of these guys' games isn't really being discussed a ton. It is hard to make an argument either way when there are a dearth of tangible statistics to back up the point you're making. Or to compare players' defensive attributes in different eras or even to try to describe their game to people who may not have seen them play. But I hope that we find a way to include this part of each players' game in the discussion of the rest of this list as we move forward. It is a big part of why I've been playing devil's advocate to a degree and throwing out arguments against Leetch. If we end up with a list of dmen that is ranked solely based on the offensive side of the puck, I think that will do a great disservice to some of the best dmen that this team had play for it.


In that light, does anyone know of any other stats that have been used or could be used to try to quantify some of this stuff?

I know Crease is looking closely at AST voting; that seems like a good start that could do a decent job at pinpointing some of the elite defensive guys from before all of our times.

Other thoughts I've had for ways to try to quantify some of this stuff (which are, unfortunately, all imperfect in some way or another):

- Plus/minus (only '67 forward)
- Total goals against (and perhaps trying to weight by quality of goalie the team had?)
- Goals against per game / TOI
- Shots against per game / TOI (not recorded officially until '83)
- Hockey reference has a stat called "Defensive Point Shares". It seems a bit contrived, but doesn't seem like an awful place to start.


Last edited by Richter Scale: 06-04-2013 at 06:20 PM.
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