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Characteristics of a good defenseman?

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Old
02-21-2013, 12:56 PM
  #1
Wolf74
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Characteristics of a good defenseman?

Other than ice time and actually watching a defenseman play, what stats are the most important in determining the quality of a defenseman?

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02-21-2013, 01:09 PM
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DuckEatinShark
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For me, takeaways. That's their job as defensemen: to take the puck away from their opponents. Turnovers is second, followed by plus/minus.

I generally don't care for any other stat: hits, blocked shots, etc. when looking at defensemen.

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02-21-2013, 01:12 PM
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hockeyball
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wolf74 View Post
Other than ice time and actually watching a defenseman play, what stats are the most important in determining the quality of a defenseman?
it's highly debateable, I tend to use a variety of stats.

1) Ice Time, as mentioned, generally a pretty good indicator of a reputable hockey minds opinion of the player (an NHL head coach).

2) +- on 60. The +- of the player per 60 minutes played. I prefer to use this in a differential formula where we subtract the +- off 60 from the +- on per 60 and then compare that number to his team-mates. Using this cross team is highly unreliable though.

3) Def zone start % gives you a good idea that this player is trusted in defensive situations. Same with Off zone start if you are looking at the offensive side.

4) Relative Corsi. Gives you an idea of the players positive impact on the team while they are on the ice. Is the team getting more shots against the opponent then they are allowing while this player is on the ice.

5) GA on/60 How many goals are scored against the team while this player is on the ice per 60 minutes played.

6) Blocked shots. Pretty self explanatory.

7) Takeaways/Giveaways.

No particular order.

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02-21-2013, 01:16 PM
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well the obvious broad answer is positioning; not getting lost in their own zone, noy giving up chances, ect.
That is why Vlasic stepped in so well at 18/19, his hockey instinct made up for any physical development he hadn't made yet. He has been so damn good in his own zone for so long,it's amazing he's only 25

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02-21-2013, 01:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hockeyball View Post
it's highly debateable, I tend to use a variety of stats.

1) Ice Time, as mentioned, generally a pretty good indicator of a reputable hockey minds opinion of the player (an NHL head coach).

2) +- on 60. The +- of the player per 60 minutes played. I prefer to use this in a differential formula where we subtract the +- off 60 from the +- on per 60 and then compare that number to his team-mates. Using this cross team is highly unreliable though.

3) Def zone start % gives you a good idea that this player is trusted in defensive situations. Same with Off zone start if you are looking at the offensive side.

4) Relative Corsi. Gives you an idea of the players positive impact on the team while they are on the ice. Is the team getting more shots against the opponent then they are allowing while this player is on the ice.

5) GA on/60 How many goals are scored against the team while this player is on the ice per 60 minutes played.

6) Blocked shots. Pretty self explanatory.

7) Takeaways/Giveaways.

No particular order.
These.

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02-21-2013, 01:40 PM
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WTFetus
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If you go to behindthenet.ca, the two main stats that I look at are

Corsi rel QoC, which give a rough estimate of the type of competition that defenseman (or forward for that matter) is playing. Vlasic and Stuart have the highest, which implies they are typically against the best competition.

Corsi On gives an estimate of on-ice shot differential (negative implies you are being outshot). It gives a measure of how well you're doing against your competition. It isn't atypical for a shut-down defenseman to be in the slight negative for this category (Vlasic is close to even, Stuart is negative), especially if you factor in zone starts (both players are 50% or less in offensive zone starts).
On the other hand, if you look at Murray, he's really low on Corsi rel QoC (goes against weaker competition), but has a horrible Corsi On, which means he is still getting outplayed. This also matches the eye-test, where you can see that Murray is just horrible this season.

Those can also be used as forwards. If you look at the top-lines advanced stats (especially Pavelski), you get a really good gauge of how dominant he was last season. Went against the other team's top lines on a nightly basis and still dominated play.

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02-21-2013, 01:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WTFetus View Post
If you go to behindthenet.ca, the two main stats that I look at are

Corsi rel QoC, which give a rough estimate of the type of competition that defenseman (or forward for that matter) is playing. Vlasic and Stuart have the highest, which implies they are typically against the best competition.

Corsi On gives an estimate of on-ice shot differential (negative implies you are being outshot). It gives a measure of how well you're doing against your competition. It isn't atypical for a shut-down defenseman to be in the slight negative for this category (Vlasic is close to even, Stuart is negative), especially if you factor in zone starts (both players are under 50% in offensive zone starts).
On the other hand, if you look at Murray, he's really low on Corsi rel QoC (goes against weaker competition), but has a horrible Corsi On, which means he is still getting outplayed. This also matches the eye-test, where you can see that Murray is just horrible this season.

Those can also be used as forwards. If you look at the top-lines advanced stats (especially Pavelski), you get a really good gauge of how dominant he was last season. Went against the other team's top lines on a nightly basis and still dominated play.
The caveat with Pavelski is that he played with fantastic teammates.

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02-21-2013, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by superroyain10 View Post
The caveat with Pavelski is that he played with fantastic teammates.
Well it works both ways. I didn't mean to say that Pavelski was the reason that the 1st line was great, all of them had a big impact. I used it more as an argument of how underrated Pavelski is (not on our boards, but on the main boards). He's great offensively, and he really provides Selke-level defense. Compare that to a player like Toews who gets a ton of love for how great he is at defense, despite the fact that Bolland does all the heavy lifting against the top guys.

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02-21-2013, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Wolf74 View Post
Other than ice time and actually watching a defenseman play, what stats are the most important in determining the quality of a defenseman?
In this day and age, watch what they do with the puck in their own zone and the neutral zone. Especially under pressure. Of course that requires you to watch.

If you want detailed stats go to behindthenet.ca Just keep in mind that all of the stats work together. I believe it is a common fallacy to just rant about Corsi without any context. There are other stats that can give you an idea as to how a blue liner is used. Quality of Comp is important but offensive zone face off start and finish percentages are equally as important. PDO is a good stat and perhaps the most important of all the advanced stats. It gives a measure of team shot percentage on save percentage while the player is on the ice. Since goalie talent in the NHL has little disparity PDO also shows if a player is riding the percentages or just getting lucky or cheating on defensive duties and not getting caught. PDOs significantly over 100% suggest that a player is riding the percentages. Significantly under one suggests that a player may just be on an unlucky streak. PDO is also an excellent team stat in this regard.

However in my opinion you still have to watch the player. In my opinion what advanced stats do other than offer context for main stats is show whether or not a player is succeeding in the specific role he has been placed into by a teams coach. This is why GMs and scouts have jobs and hockey teams aren't run by computers.


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02-21-2013, 03:44 PM
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When evaluating a player, not just a defenseman, in general, I like to take two different approaches: Numbers, and the eye test.

Obviously ice time is the most important statistic: An elite defensemen will chomp minutes. But you wanted more, so here's a nice long rant for you.

Here's a really easy way to get a feel for a defenseman if you don't get the chance to watch them play: Usage charts. They can be found here.

With advanced stats, you can't really compare two players on different teams in pure numbers, but rather their ranks within their team. So here's how to read this chart: The further to the left a player is, the more they start in their own zone rather than the offensive zone. The further up a player is on the chart, the more difficult competition they play against. If they have a blue bubble, that means that their Corsi (a metric that, basically, describes how well they drive possession in the right direction) is positive. If it's a big blue bubble, it means that they are really, really good at driving play, relative to their teammates. The same holds true if it's a big red bubble: it means they stink at driving play relative to their teammates. The smaller the bubble, the closer they get to zero from either direction.

Those charts are the quickest and easiest way to look at usage: zone starts, quality of competition, and Corsi. Players who play harder minutes tend to have bubbles in the top left of the chart. Easier minute are the bottom right.

If the player starts a lot in their defensive zone and have a high quality of competition, it usually indicates that the player's coach has a lot of faith in them to shut down the opponent's best offensive forwards, like Vlasic. Having a lot of defensive zone starts, but a low quality of comp generally means that the player has no offensive skill to speak of, and being used defensively is simply the only way to get any value out of the player, like Vandermeer. Being in the top-right of the chart usually means that the player isn't necessarily poor defensively, but that they are good offensively and the coach prefers to play them to their strength, like Burns. Being high in offensive zone starts and low in quality of competition means that the coach would like to shelter that player defensively, like Demers. Usually young players are used in these minutes.

However, I find that quality of competition isn't a great metric over a small sample size. Left Wing Lock has come out with a ton of great tools recently, and one of my favorites is the line matching tool. Using it, you can look up which forwards or defensemen a particular player played against in a particular game, and how often within the game. If, like me, you are suspect of quality of competition at this point in a season, it doesn't hurt to look at a defenseman's opponents in their home games, ie when their coach gets to pick their matchups. Even away games' data can be interesting, as it shows an opposing coach's opinion on your player, depending on that coach's style.

Anyway, so there are a lot of ways to contextualize a defenseman's work using numbers. But while they can explain context, circumstance, and show results, only watching and determining a player's skillset can give you a richer knowledge of the player.

The most important characteristic in a good defenseman is hockey IQ: How well do they judge risks? Do they know when to jump into the play and when to stay back? Are they aware of where their teammates are? Do they have strong positioning? Do they lose their man frequently? A defenseman like Marc-Edouard Vlasic has extremely high hockey IQ, and it shows in his positioning, stickwork, and spacial awareness.

In my opinion, the second more important characteristic in a defenseman is puck-skills. It's one thing to prevent a shot, but quite another to send the puck the other way. A defenseman like Marc-Edouard Vlasic is the best example of a player who has elite hockey IQ, but very poor puck skills. He'll strip the puck from an opponent, great. Then, he'll fail to get it out of the zone or make a poor outlet pass to an opponent and they'll keep attacking the net.

Third is the physical tools, skating and size. Skating's obvious; you need to not get burned by opposing forwards on the rush, you need to be agile enough to get into position as fast as the opponent can pass the puck. Size is another obvious one; you need to win board battles, keep forwards out of your goalie's crease, etc. There are many successful defensemen who are neither speedsters nor giants, but these two characteristics really do wonders.

For every reason in this post, Alex Pietrangelo is my favorite defenseman in the NHL. He's the most intelligent defenseman out there; he's perfect positionally and seems to see what'd going to happen before it does, he can poke the puck off of any dangle. He's got amazing puck skills in all zones; he gets a hold of the puck, and he skates it out or dishes to an open teammate to the tape or makes an incredible stretch pass through the neutral zone to hit a streaking teammate for a 1vgoalie. My favorite part of watching Pietrangelo is the little dipsy-doodles he does with the puck when two forecheckers want to get the puck. He chooses one of the forecheckers, dekes around them, and skates away from the other perfectly. When he gets ahold of the puck in the defensive zone, no one's going to strip it off of him no matter what kind of traffic and chaos is in his way. He uses his reach and size well to win battles and guard a lot of open ice, and he's a very good skater for his size so he can keep up with anyone and skate out of the zone with authority. These amazing things that he can do don't even consider his blazing shot and offensive instincts. But all of these characteristics are reflected in his extremely strong underlying numbers.

Sorry that turned into quite the monster, but I'm very passionate about Alex Pietrangelo. For my money, he's the perfect defenseman. Weber and Chara are up there, and Karlsson is actually capable of proving the old adage "offense is the best defense" simply because the puck is always in the offensive zone when he's on the ice, because he's so good.

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02-21-2013, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by WantonAbandon View Post
However in my opinion you still have to watch the player. In my opinion what advanced stats do other than offer context for main stats is show whether or not a player is succeeding in the specific role he has been placed into by a teams coach. This is why GMs and scouts have jobs and hockey teams aren't run by computers.
The way you're emphasizing that sounds like you think the OP just wants to look at advanced stats. I'm pretty sure OP means what stats to use in addition to watching the player.

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02-21-2013, 04:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Wolf74 View Post
Other than ice time and actually watching a defenseman play, what stats are the most important in determining the quality of a defenseman?
There's a ton of them, but there's one I think is the absolute most important...the amount of ice time a player gets in the last 8 minutes of the third period with a one goal lead.

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02-21-2013, 04:40 PM
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There's a ton of them, but there's one I think is the absolute most important...the amount of ice time a player gets in the last 8 minutes of the third period with a one goal lead.
Also a one-goal deficit?

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02-21-2013, 05:23 PM
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Breakout skating / passing is paramount.

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02-21-2013, 05:30 PM
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Doug Murray is what a good defenseman should look like. Fast, physical, good defensive positioning, cannon of a shot, pinpoint passing. A team will get an absolute steal if they trade 2 1st round picks for him.

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02-21-2013, 05:34 PM
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Also a one-goal deficit?
Sure, if you're looking for defenseman with some offense...

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02-21-2013, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Shark Fin Soup View Post
Doug Murray is what a good defenseman should look like. Fast, physical, good defensive positioning, cannon of a shot, pinpoint passing. A team will get an absolute steal if they trade 2 1st round picks for him.
Man! I was gonna make a post about the great Doug Murray.

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02-21-2013, 06:02 PM
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Also a one-goal deficit?
Also tied?

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02-21-2013, 06:31 PM
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Sure, if you're looking for defenseman with some offense...
It is only fair. Down a goal, I'd take a prime Douglas Murray over a prime Dan Boyle, which of course doesn't tell the story about who I'd take overall!

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02-21-2013, 07:00 PM
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Defensive Awareness and positioning is most important for the defenseman.
As for stats, I think TOI, rel Corsi, and Corsi QoC are pretty important to keep an eye on.

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02-21-2013, 08:50 PM
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Originally Posted by WTFetus View Post
The way you're emphasizing that sounds like you think the OP just wants to look at advanced stats. I'm pretty sure OP means what stats to use in addition to watching the player.
Well in thinking about the NHL as a whole, I seriously doubt he has time to really spend time watching them all. Stats can be used to an extent but too often I see people relying too much on them.

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02-21-2013, 08:55 PM
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Thanks for the info, looks like I got some research to do.

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02-22-2013, 01:29 AM
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All I know is that our team defense will once again be our downfall.

What is it about this team (players, strategy ... ?) that has led to a consistent difficulty with clearing the puck from our own zone (year after year)? Anyone have any ideas because I'm lost on this one?

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02-22-2013, 04:16 AM
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All I know is that our team defense will once again be our downfall.

What is it about this team (players, strategy ... ?) that has led to a consistent difficulty with clearing the puck from our own zone (year after year)? Anyone have any ideas because I'm lost on this one?
The Sharks have tended to take the safe way on defense and breakout strategy generically. There are a lot of details. They are quick to use the hard around under pressure. A lot of d to d in prior years as well. They have relied heavily on using the left side boards for their exits. It ends with a lot of pucks getting out but just coming back in shortly after they change lines.

One of my issues with Vlasic is that he comes up well defensively but leaves the hard work to the next pair as his outlets are that poor and he falls back on the hard around/up the boards far too much. The eyeball test for defenders in this regard is to watch them select their escape, skating or type of outlet, and see how quickly they arrive at their decision relative to their brethren on the blueline. See if they look ahead before they secure the puck. The look ahead is what gives many an advantage for the decision that will come less than 2 seconds later.

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02-22-2013, 11:22 PM
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The Sharks have tended to take the safe way on defense and breakout strategy generically. There are a lot of details. They are quick to use the hard around under pressure. A lot of d to d in prior years as well. They have relied heavily on using the left side boards for their exits. It ends with a lot of pucks getting out but just coming back in shortly after they change lines.

One of my issues with Vlasic is that he comes up well defensively but leaves the hard work to the next pair as his outlets are that poor and he falls back on the hard around/up the boards far too much. The eyeball test for defenders in this regard is to watch them select their escape, skating or type of outlet, and see how quickly they arrive at their decision relative to their brethren on the blueline. See if they look ahead before they secure the puck. The look ahead is what gives many an advantage for the decision that will come less than 2 seconds later.
Without having a thorough understanding of the details of their strategy, all I can say is that what they are doing hasn't been working for years now. Watching the Sharks trying to clear the zone and watching other teams attempts, it's pretty clear whatever we are doing isn't working.

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