As I mentioned with the forward group, evaluating this year's team requires a bit of a retrospective glance. As such, I've put together a brief piece all about the outgoing defencemen from the 2008-09 season.
I should note that I am using the same pie charts to pick apart the defencemen as I did for the forwards (the legend can be found here). However, in the place of breakdowns of goals and assists and things by time, PPG and GWG, I decided to take a look at some statistics I cooked up from more raw numbers at NHL.com that better reflect the skills I would like my defencemen to aspire to (Hits/60, Blocked shots/60, Giveaways/60, Takeaways/60 and the difference between those last two). Hope you enjoy.
Losing Schneider is a funny feeling. Although the statistics do tell me that he played for the Canadiens last season, it was such a short stint, at such a weird time, that it almost seems hard to believe. He will certainly be missed as an offensive producer (his 30+ points season in, season out) for his age is impressive.
The other part of Schneider's game, the defence, is something that is harder to assess. While he had more takeaways than giveaways last season, and is consistently respectable in that regard, he nevertheless stood on the ice for nearly 3 goals for every 60 minutes of play (or a goal a game). The likely story is that Mathieu gets caught up the ice, just like many a forward, while trying to maintain his impressive offensive out put.
If Schneider weren't 40 years old, I feel that he would definitely be back. Instead, Gainey opted for a similar player with a few years to spare in Spacek. At the very least, Schneider taught Gainey that he needed a player like him.
I've been giving Komisarek some flak recently, and I've been feeling some resistance from his fans. But you know what? This off-season, I have the stats on my side. Komisarek had a truly awful 2008-09 campaign, and it's a wonder he got a raise, let alone two offers for him to be paid among the defensive elite of the league.
On the surface, much of Komi's stats were quite rosy. After all, he was in the league leaders for hits and blocked shots again. Though he didn't contribute offensively, his +/- was even. What's my problem, right? Well, it's when you delve a little that you find the truth. To start with, the basic stat we've been trotting out (the Corsi number, which shows total chances for minus those against) is negative, and not hovering around zero either.
His giveaway numbers from last season were atrocious, as well. In all he gave away the puck 89 times, which made for nearly 4 giveaways for every 60 minutes on the ice – the worst among all defencemen with more than 15 games of play. As if to show just how bad a season he was having, he did not make up for his giveaways at all. His paltry 21 takeaways amounted to less than one every three games for him. The difference between the two was again league worst for players with more than 15 games. Maybe I am wrong, but I expect the occasional positive turnover to come from a hit he makes, to see hundreds of hits result in so few takeaways confirms what I'd been saying all along – he started merely hitting for the sake of it.
Perhaps the most telling thing is how he made his partner into a worse player at both ends. Markov with any other partner (mostly Gorges) last year was a 2.8 GF/60 and a 2.3 GA/60 player. With Mike, his numbers suffered significantly to make him a 2.4 GF/60 and 2.7 GA/60 player (a negative plus/minus to boot).
Well that was last year. A bad one indeed. But players have come back from worse, haven't they? And, Mike did have a good season the year before. His hits and blocked shots stats reaching impressive double digits in average.
Can he be replaced? Well the 2008-09 Komisarek does not need replacing, thank you. His influence on the team (certainly on the ice) was not something to cling to. If you mean the 2007-08 Komisarek, then it's harder. I certainly think that in bringing Paul Mara who steadily occupies the middle ground of Komisarek's wild fluctuation should help us see off our memories of #8.
While others were grabbing the headlines for their futility, Francis was turning in a quietly terrible season last year as well. 3.00 GA/60 is never something you want to see from any player, let alone one who spent significant time as a 4th/5th defenceman on the team. And his negative plus/minus and Corsi did not offer any excuses for the little man.
While we should definitely miss his spirit and his hitting, I think that for this time, Frank's trip to Nashville from Montreal should be permanent. I think that Bouillon, despite that nice blip in 2007-08, is indeed going in to the twilight of his career. No longer can he win the foot races, no longer does he surprise with his hip checks. Replacing Frank emotionally may be hard, but the play he was bringing to the team? O'Byrne should handle it.
Ding, dong, the witch... There won't be too much gloating this time, because look where it got us before. When it comes to Brisebois, I have learned never to underestimate his deft ability to convince Bob Gainey he is not a waste of cap space.
To be fair to Brisebois, the last two seasons he actually played like a semi-adequste 6th/7th defenceman. His offensive contributions were above average and his defensive blunders were strategically limited through selective deployment. He can be proud of his reclamation in Montreal too, where he proved upon his comeback that he actually was in the group of 170-210 best defencemen in the NHL. It was a conclusion we would not have accepted back in 2007.
Even so, replacing him is something I will relish as a fan because whereas Patrice's best gift to us was not to make a huge mistake on a shift, we now get a chance to look at players who aspire to more. With all those defencemen in the pipeline, another season of Patrice would have been unforgivable.
Doug Janik, we hardly knew thee. Even putting Doug Janik in here was a last minute decision. as you can see, I didn't bother making him a chart.
While Janik was not really a Hab for more than a few days, he was a contributor. IN his final act, Doug helped the Habs by having his rights act as a trade piece in the Scott Gomez deal. I'm not sure who asked for that, Gainey or Sather, but it'll be on the trivia for years to come if the Alaskan were ever to lead this team past the second round.
Janik, for his part is actually quite a good player. As you can see from his stats he runs a tighter ship than say Komisarek (though with less hits). A depth defender he is though, and he's already moved onto his next stop in Detroit. We wish him luck.
Unlike the departing forwards, the departing defencemen don't have that whole "rip the heart out of the team" feel to them. Yes, they were part of the upheaval, but 2 were never really here, 2 were past their due date and the other – well he was offered the same money and left, so sod him.
In the end, nothing that was lost from the back end of the 2008-09 team was irreplaceable. In fact, many of the subtractions in and of themselves are positive. And, considering the signings, it looks like Gainey has upgraded here. I'll let you in on what we got in the upcoming days from the statistical side of things.
Statistics adapted from nhl.com, behindthenet.ca, Olivier