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5/24 Discussion - Why is judging defensive value so difficult

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05-24-2010, 04:20 PM
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GopherState
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5/24 Discussion - Why is judging defensive value so difficult

One of the things that remains constant throughout HF and hockey fans in general is the varying degrees of judging defense. If one asked five different people about defenseman X, it is very likely that they would get five different opinions ranging from "overrated and a bust" to "underrated and worth every penny." This is completely different from the group opinion about forwards, which are more consistent with one another. So why is judging defensive value so difficult for the average fan? Does it have to do with looking at offense rather than defense? The various facets of the position (PP time v. shutdown v. puck mover)? Looking at the negatives? Something else?

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05-24-2010, 04:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GopherState View Post
One of the things that remains constant throughout HF and hockey fans in general is the varying degrees of judging defense. If one asked five different people about defenseman X, it is very likely that they would get five different opinions ranging from "overrated and a bust" to "underrated and worth every penny." This is completely different from the group opinion about forwards, which are more consistent with one another. So why is judging defensive value so difficult for the average fan? Does it have to do with looking at offense rather than defense? The various facets of the position (PP time v. shutdown v. puck mover)? Looking at the negatives? Something else?
I'll try to keep my answer short and sweet because I have a tendency to go off on a tangent...

I think evaluating defensive value is difficult because it cannot be done so empirically. Yes, one can look at takeaways, +/-, shots blocked, etc., but those are very misleading and one needs to compare apples to apples. And even when one tries to compare apples to apples, it all comes to to subjectivism. What one person might see as a good defensive play not appear to be so to another. It all comes down to the definition of what defense is...is it shadowing a other star or top line? Is it keeping the forwards on outisde. Does the team implement a defense-first system?

For me, it comes down to watching a player several times. Does the player backcheck? Is the player strong on the boards in their own zone. What is their gap coverage like? Are they on the PK? Do they read plays well (sticks in passing lanes, picking off passes, etc.)? All in all, though, it's purely subjective. Offense, on the other hand, can at least be evaluated more on goals, assists, face-offs, shots, scoring chances, etc.

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05-24-2010, 05:47 PM
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for what its worth puck prospectus breaks it down, for those Sabremetric nerds out there.

Jocksta's right with his post, its about watching the player, but its knowing what to watch for.

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05-25-2010, 09:17 AM
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that is a tough one. short and sweet, for me:
Look for all the usual (giveaways, takeaways, blocked, etc), observe which lines they usually play against. Do they get the job done with good stick, smart positioning, strong body work, aggressive attack, combo? Look at the player and try to figure out if they're using all their tools. For instance, I wouldn't want Kim Johnsson to play more physical. If they're effective, it doesn't matter to me how they get the job done. Certainly different types are going to be more effective in different situations and the more attributes (listed above) they have the more valuable they're going to be.

The off-the-board thing i've been looking at more closely the last couple of years is who they're paired with. Sometimes a good, solid defenseman will be made to look pretty unspectacular because while they're doing everything right, the other guy is blowing position and forcing them out of theirs. Which of course leads to more subjective judgment.

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05-25-2010, 11:31 AM
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I'm hiring Jocksta to write my papers for my Masters after reading that

Personally, you have to know the player and know the team in order to make a good assumption of not only how the player plays, but where he fits in the scheme of things. One big debate that many have had over the course of the last 2 decades in Michigan is if Lidstrom would be as amazing as he is with any other team or if it is because of how the Wings play that has allowed him to flourish into generational talent at the position. Many thought the same thing with Duncan Keith and that he wouldn't be able to handle playing for the Hawks because of their style of play. They put him on the line with Seabrook and those two flourished. When it comes to assessing a player, you have to be able to look outside the box of just him and how he contributes. Watch the Finals and see how Chicago will literally keep the puck away from Progner's side of the ice....when you have that type of effect on an opposing team, you know you're something special.

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05-25-2010, 12:56 PM
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Jocksta nailed it.

There isn't a stat for "breaking out the puck". The hardest defensemen to play against aren't necessarily the ones who are physical and/or block shots. Lidstrom was voted by the players as the best shutdown defenseman, even though he's hardly physical and isn't throwing himself down in front of every shot. It's because he's so good at taking the puck in the defensive end, having poise and patience, and making a great breakout pass. Kim Johnsson was very similar, just without any offensive abilities whatsoever.

I was thinking about this the other day, about why I'm not a Schultz fan. To me, a serviceable third pairing D-man can be a guy who's not noticed out there. That's what Schultz is. But he's not as good at breaking the puck out, isn't physical, isn't blocking shots, and isn't contributing to the offense. That's why I'd love to see him traded. He had the opportunity to get involved more this year and couldn't.

On the other hand, I think Johnsson if healthy would be worth about $4m. Still not sure I could see him making $5m, especially when he signed that contract with the salary cap being a lot lower. But with his concussion problems I couldn't see a long term contract for him. And I don't think the Wild have the cap or roster room for him anymore.

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05-25-2010, 07:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jarick View Post
I was thinking about this the other day, about why I'm not a Schultz fan. To me, a serviceable third pairing D-man can be a guy who's not noticed out there. That's what Schultz is. But he's not as good at breaking the puck out, isn't physical, isn't blocking shots, and isn't contributing to the offense. That's why I'd love to see him traded. He had the opportunity to get involved more this year and couldn't.
Maybe that description of Schultz exemplifies the thread title.

Schultz is very mobile, clears the net, and blocks a lot of shots. He's everything you want in an effective defender.That's why he's valuable and basically irreplaceable from within.

Once people started to hate on Schultz, I watched him closely every time I went to the X. He was playing great and obviously deserved a greater role. Watch him. He's first to the puck to mitigate a forecheck. He's mobile enough and strong enough to get the puck away from the defenders. He's physical enough to block a shot or clear the net. And he's skilled enough to get the puck up the ice to start the offense. No other Wild defensemen can do those four things as well except Burns, but Burns adds a host of mistakes to that list.

That's why he shouldn't be traded. Two wrongs (keeping Zidlicky or Barker over him) don't make a right.

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05-25-2010, 08:45 PM
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Originally Posted by State of Hockey View Post
Maybe that description of Schultz exemplifies the thread title.

Schultz is very mobile, clears the net, and blocks a lot of shots. He's everything you want in an effective defender.That's why he's valuable and basically irreplaceable from within.

Once people started to hate on Schultz, I watched him closely every time I went to the X. He was playing great and obviously deserved a greater role. Watch him. He's first to the puck to mitigate a forecheck. He's mobile enough and strong enough to get the puck away from the defenders. He's physical enough to block a shot or clear the net. And he's skilled enough to get the puck up the ice to start the offense. No other Wild defensemen can do those four things as well except Burns, but Burns adds a host of mistakes to that list.

That's why he shouldn't be traded. Two wrongs (keeping Zidlicky or Barker over him) don't make a right.
I hate you for being right about this

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05-25-2010, 09:25 PM
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BUT the coach doesn't seem to appreciate Schultz' game, so is he not more valuable for his cap space than being used how he was? The GM could force his hand by trading someone currently above him in the apparent depth chart, but there's no guarantee even then that Schultz will get used correctly.

Personally I don't think we can afford to lose him, but that money could work more efficiently in a forward, as offense seems to be 90% of the focus.

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