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A Close Look at Colin White's Performance So Far This Season

Colin White is a pretty good defensive defenseman.   Back in August 2010, I showed exactly that given his last three seasons.  I even made an argument that his $3 million cap hit is justified compared to his similarly paid peers in the NHL in this post and further here.

However, that was in the past.  This is the 2010-11 season, a nightmarish one for the Devils where what could wrong has gone wrong be it poor play, bad luck, or injuries.  The latter has most recently happened to Colin White.  He left the ice during the January 22 game against the Philadelphia Flyers and has been out since.  Tom Gulitti reported on January 26 that a MRI showed no structural damage and that the injury was a "serious bruise."  

Hopefully, that means he won't be out for too long because he's been one of the better defenseman on the Devils this season, as well as one of the few veteran defensemen who's played for New Jersey this season.   With the All Star break underway and the notion of White being out for a while bothering me a bit (and at the notion of Mark Fayne replacing him), I decided to take a deep look at White's underlying stats.  Will we miss White that much, even if it's only for a short time?  Even if he gets healthy soon, how well has he been doing anyway? Please continue reading after the jump to find out.

Colin White's Role in 2010-11

First, let's re-establish Colin White's role on the team by looking at his ice time.  According to, 12 defensemen have played in New Jersey this season.  Therefore, the ranks are all out of those 12 defensemen.

2010-11 - Colin White 44 16:22 4/12 3:08 1/12 0:04 8/12 19:35 4/12

By ice time, it's clear that White's usually on the second defensive pairing and is the first choice on killing penalties.  He has been kept far away from the power play, which should surprise no one at all.  Incidentally, Matt Taorimina (ES TOI/G: 17:11, 17 GP, currently injured, ) is ahead of White in even strength and total time on ice per game.  Even ignoring him, White's still at least a minute behind Andy Greene (ES TOI/G: 17:44, 49 GP) and Henrik Tallinder (ES TOI/G: 19:00, 49 GP).

Now let's look at the advanced 5-on-5 statistics from Behind the Net to see how White has done this season. Basically, if you're a good defenseman, you should come out well at 5-on-5.  I've decided to set a cut off of 10 games, a little over a fifth of the season so far, for the Devils defenseman.   With the injuries and call ups who have received significant minutes this season, this eliminates guys who only got a "cup of coffee" (Alexander Urbom, who should remain in Albany for contract purposes; Tyler Eckford, who should remain in Albany because he's an AHL player).

Quality of Competition, Quality of Teammates, & Corsi

Let's begin with quality of competition and Corsi related to that.  In past seasons, White's usually had a high quality of competition at 5-on-5.  This season, between the coaching changes and injuries, quality of competition is all over the place for the Devils.  However, White's one of the few who has a positive quality of competition, confirming that he's facing top competition.

2010-11 - Colin White 44 0.013 3/10 0.774 1/10 0.539 2/10

Only three defensemen have a positive quality of competition for the Devils at 5-on-5 this season: Mark Fayne (0.018, ES TOI/G of 14:59, 25 GP), Anssi Salmela (0.017, ES TOI/G of 13:45, 15 GP), and White.  Yeah, I'm still scratching my head at that given that Tallinder and Greene has played more at 5-on-5 than both; but it is what it is. As an aside, I suspect Salmela's may be so high because teams tend to pick on him; but I'll just leave it as that - a suspicion.

More importantly than just quality of competition, White's more successful at it them in terms of Corsi.  His relative Corsi per quality of competition is the best on the team. 5 other defensemen have a positive value in this stat, but White's coming out ahead against his competition.  In on-ice Corsi by quality of competition, White's still ahead of the game.  Only Matthew Corrente (ES TOI/G: 13:12, 22 GP) is ahead of him with a 1.469 mark in that stat.

What about Colin White's teammates?  Is White being carried?  The quality of teammates number for him suggests otherwise.

2010-11 - Colin White 44 -0.083 8/10 1.445 1/10 4.614 1/10

Only four defensemen on the Devils have a positive quality of teammates at 5-on-5 this season: Olivier Magnan-Grenier (ES TOI/G: 13:29, 18 GP) has the best at 0.117, followed by Taormina (0.070), Tallinder (0.046), and Greene (0.22).  Only Mark Fraser (ES TOI/G: 13:22, 15 GP, Qualteam: -0.104) and Fayne (-0.177) have a worse quality of teammates than White this season at 5-on-5.

White impressively comes out ahead in relative Corsi and on-ice Corsi with his quality of teammates, leading the team in both.  Between this and his quality of competition, it means that when White's on the ice, the puck is going in the right direction while facing relatively tough competition and having relatively weak teammates.   That's pretty impressive.

What's pretty impressive becomes more impressive when you consider where he starts on the ice.  White starts the least in the offensive zone among defensemen and his net zone starts (defensive zone starts minus offensive zone starts) is not only the highest on the team, but the only one that is positive.

2010-11 - Colin White 44 48.3 10/10 13 1/10 53.8 3/10

Again, between two coaches and amid other changes, the numbers aren't as impressive as prior seasons.  Still, White's starting outside of the easier offensive zone more than anyone else on the team.  White is the only defenseman on the team who's taken more starts in the defensive zone than the offensive zone; though it's not by a whole lot.

The "ZF" stands for zone finishes. Believe it or not, White's shifts tend to end in the offensive zone more often than not.  Only Taormina (57.2%) and Magnan-Grenier (54.7%) has a higher offensive zone finish. That's really good since he is the only defenseman on the New Jersey Devils who has a higher offensive zone finish percentage than offensive zone start percentage.

As impressive as all this is, this page at Behind the Net pours a lot of cold water about White's effect on possession. His standard Corsi at 5-on-5 isn't good.  Or average.  Or even below-average.

2010-11 - Colin White 44 -8.1 9/10 -1.82 10/10 6.56 5/10 91.4 4/10 979 t-2/10

Yep, White's not a positive player when it comes to possession in general at 5-on-5. He's below zeo both in relative Corsi and on-ice Corsi. Among defensemen, his relative Corsi is one of the worst on the team; and his on-ice rate is the worst on the team.  Even adjusting it for zone starts (which won't be much since his net is only +13) won't make it look any better. It is what it is.  White's only positive in Corsi when one take his quality of competition and his teammates into account.  

In a way, it shouldn't be so surprising that White's not a great puck possession player.

I've included the PDO stats to denote what happens when White's on the ice.  The team's shooting percentage and save percentage isn't all that bad when he's out there.  Relative to the rest of the team, White's not being undercut by either (or possibly White's not having an ill effect on either?).  He's not near 100 in PDO (tied with Fayne), but he's not in the depths like so many of his teammates.  Only one defenseman has a PDO (shooting percentage plus save percentage) above 100, Mark Fraser rocking a 102, which is what it tends to regress to.  With better goaltending behind him and continued or improved defending, that save percentage could go up; and if the team continues to hit higher percentages shooting, White will benefit too.

On-Ice / Off-Ice Rates

Let's get to the meat of his performance: on-ice effect of team shooting and scoring rates.  First, the offensive ones:

2010-11 - Colin White 1.73 7/10 24.7 9/10 -0.03 6/10 -4.2 10/10

When Colin White steps on the ice, offense really doesn't happen.  The rate of scoring goals at 5-on-5 doesn't get hurt too much when White's out there.  The rate of shooting, however, drops like an anvil in the air (usually over a coyote).  In case you needed proof he contributes little offense, here it is.

Defensively, though, White looks better. (Note: A lower value is better for the first two stats, ranks reflect this. Also the rate differentials are off-ice minus on-ice here - higher values are better.)

2010-11 - Colin White 2.43 5/10 25.7 8/10 0.64 3/10 -1.4 7/10

Recall earlier in this post that White has one of the positive quality of competition values, one of the lowest quality of teammate values, and that only two active players have got more minutes at even strength than White. This helps put these numbers in more context.

That in mind, while White's in the middle in on-ice goals against per 60, the four ahead of him (Magnan-Grenier - 2.02, Taormina - 2.03, Fraser - 2.08, Salmela - 2.37) have played less than White and only Salmela has a higher quality of competition than White.  Fayne sits behind White with a GA ON/60 of 2.78.

The differential in goals against per 60 when White comes on the ice looks even better since only Taormina (1.48, better teammates, weaker competition, hasn't played as much as White) and Magnan-Grenier (1.01, ditto) are ahead of him.

The on-ice shots against per 60 isn't very flattering, but again, White's faced tougher competition with weaker teammates than most of his fellow Devils defensemen.  A negative on-ice differential for SA/60 isn't so bad with that in mind.  While it's not great among his teammates, an on-ice 25.7 SA/60 rate isn't  at all bad on it's own.  

That said, Fayne (stronger quality of competition, weaker quality of teammates, less minutes) does come out much better than White in both categories: an on-ice SA/60 of 22.9 and a differential of +2.4 (second behind Taormina in both).   Maybe I shouldn't be so concerned about Fayne taking White's spot for a few games.  Maybe I should be hoping Taormina gets healthy soon, though that may seem unlikely given his ankle.

A Quick Look at the 4-on-5

Only 6 defensemen has had an on-ice average of 1 minute at 4-on-5 per Behind the Net for the New Jersey Devils this season.on.   Since White plays a lot of minutes on the PK, his on-ice/off-ice numbers aren't very good.  He's facing most of the attack given how much shorthanded time he has seen per

2010-11 - Colin White 3.09 6.33 5/6 43.4 5/6 -2.73 5/6 -6.9 6/6

This is for 4-on-5 situations, so looking at the offensive numbers don't make too much sense. It's all about defense and White faces quite a bit.  He's the only Devils defenseman where when he comes on the PK (or starts it, I suppose), the shots against per 60 actually rises.  So do the goals against per 60 rate. 

Personally, I want to say it's because of the large amount of time he spends in those situations, where upon he's up against the opposition's best attackers and pinned back in his own end.   Yet that theory is blown up by his quality of competition at 4-on-5.  It's actually negative.  It's -0.513, the second lowest on the team and just ahead of Anton Volchenkov.

Speaking of Volchenkov, he's got the best GA/60 off-on differential at 4.05 (yes,a drop from 5.72 to 1.67) on the team by far and one of the best on-ice SA/60 rates at 38.3.  It suggests to me that Volchenkov should be able to take up some of White's time at 4-on-5.


To summarize this post:

  • Colin White plays a significant numbers of minutes at even strength and on the penalty kill.
  • Colin White faces relatively tough competition with relatively weak teammates on the Devils at 5-on-5. 
  • At 5-on-5, White starts his shifts outside of the offensive zone for a slight majority of the time, but finishes his shifts in the offensive zone for a slight majority of the time.  White is the only defenseman on the team with more defensive zone starts than offensive zone starts. 
  • When Colin White is on the ice at 5-on-5, the puck is usually in New Jersey's end as shown by relative and on-ice Corsi. When factoring in either his quality of competition and teammates, however, White comes out ahead of all other defenseman by relative and on-ice Corsi.
  • When Colin White is on the ice at 5-on-5, the shots for rate decreases dramatically and the goals for rate decreases slightly.
  • When Colin White is on the ice at 5-on-5, the shots against rate rises (mitigated by competition) and the goals against rate decreases (due to improved on-ice save percentage).
  • Colin White's underlying numbers at 4-on-5 situations aren't great, possibly a result of how much ice time he gets in those situations.

In terms of the on-ice/off-ice numbers, Mark Fayne and Matt Taormina have the best defensive numbers and Fayne does have a higher quality of competition than White at 5-on-5.  My concerns over Fayne having to take up White's minutes for the time being may be unfounded at 5-on-5.  Fayne being a rookie, though, makes me uneasy as to whether he can keep it up.  But it wouldn't be the worst idea given what he's done so far.  At 4-on-5, giving Volchenkov some of White's time would be a good idea. He has experience at the role before and despite a low quality of competition, I think his underlying numbers look fantastic enough to warrant more time.

Still, I still think well of White because he's given tough assignments fairly regularly, he's not put into easy situations regularly, and he's not getting completely destroyed.  Given the nature of the 2010-11 Devils, not getting completely destroyed is a compliment.  He's had the good fortune of relatively good goaltending behind him when he's out there, true, but some of this should surprise nobody given his last three seasons.  I will say he was better in the last two seasons, but he's not particularly bad this season. Essentially, I'd like him back soon; but it may not be the end of the world if he doesn't.  While not bad at all, he's has not been the defensive stalwart he was in past seasons.

Hopefully you found this look at Colin White somewhat enlightening.  What do you think of Colin White's performance season? Will you miss him any more or less knowing the underlying numbers to his season so far?   Please leave your thoughts about White in the comments. Thanks to Behind the Net for their excellent providing of stats and thank you for reading.