I don't know about you, but I want to talk more about Andy Greene and his new contract. Specifically in the context of two recent offseason moves in the league.
On Monday, defenseman and UFA Anton Babchuk re-signed with the Calgary Flames for two seasons on a deal with $5 million. That's a cap hit of $2.5 million, cheaper than Andy Greene's $3 million hit. On the same day, defenseman and UFA Ian White signed a contract with Detroit for a 2-year, $5.75 million deal, yielding a cap hit of $2.875 million. On Tuesday, Joe Corvo was acquired by Boston from Carolina in exchange for a 2012 fourth round pick. Who knows whether or not the GMs of Boston and Carolina have a great working relationship, but that's a rather low cost to get a veteran offensive defenseman who only has a $2.25 million cap hit for the 2011-12 season. These moves on top of some of the fans' reaction to Greene getting a 4-year, $12 million deal may have some fans wondering whether the Devils made an error by re-signing Greene instead of getting these guys for less.
I can't say I really agree, but let's look at each of their performance last season to see whether or not this view is justified. Should the Devils feel any buyer's remorse over the contract they gave to Greene? Let's find out after the jump.
The Basic Numbers
At first glance, it's easy to see the cap hits and the counting numbers between Greene, Corvo, Babchuk, and White and come away thinking the Devils paid too much. Here are their basic scoring numbers from NHL.com and cap hits from CapGeek.
|11-12 Cap Hit
Now, Ian White and Anton Babchuk played for multiple teams last season, but they still managed to contribute more on a boxscore than Andy Greene did last season. Corvo had the most productive season in Carolina, putting up 40 points and 23 on the power play. Given he's the cheapest guy among the four - he signed his deal after a "down" 2009-10 - I can see why some (many?) Devils fans are feeling some buyer's remorse from this alone. Though, the fact he's 34 may be an indication as to why he wasn't signed for a lot of money in 2009-10 and/or why it only cost Boston a fourth round pick to acquire him.
However, that's just production. This doesn't tell us a whole lot about their defense. Since 5-on-5 play is the most common in hockey, let's look at their advanced stats at 5-on-5 from last season to get a better idea of what they brought to the table. Who knows, maybe they really aren't all that comparable.
Advanced 5-on-5 Statistics
All of the following numbers come from Behind the Net. All rankings are out of all defensemen who have played at least 20 games on their most recent team last season.
Minutes Played & Quality of Competition
This provides are first big difference among these four defensemen. Not all of them played the same amount of minutes at even strength last season. Greene and Corvo both played a lot, but Ian White did not and Anton Babchuk definitely did not. Babchuk got limited minutes and faced weak competition - and came out on the wrong end of Corsi QoC. While he put up a lot of points, he just preyed on weak opposition in Calgary and possibly Carolina as well. White played more respectable minutes, and his negative Corsi QoC was one of the better ones on San Jose. He still didn't face very strong competition at evens.
Due to the disparity in minutes and quality of competition, I am immediately wary of any direct comparisons of White or Babchuk to Greene. It's clear they had different roles last season. This leaves one defenseman: Corvo. Though, that may be a stretch since he had tougher minutes than Greene. Out of all of this, Corvo also looks the most impressive. In addition to putting up 40 points, he took on a relatively strong quality of competition and came out ahead in Corsi QoC.
On-Ice Corsi & Offensive Zone Starts
While his Corsi QoC was good, Joe Corvo's on-ice Corsi is not. On his team, it wasn't so bad, and if adjusted for zone starts, he's a little closer to zero. Still, he's on the wrong side of this stat. The other three are better, but they come with other issues. Babchuk's rate wasn't all that high on the Flames and his extremely favorable offensive zone starts percentage would bring down that Corsi after adjustment. That 61.9% offensive zone start percentage is further evidence that Calgary protected Babchuk as much as possible. Greene's on-ice Corsi rate is similar to White's, but Greene actually suffers from having a more favorable offensive zone start percentage. At the same time, White's Corsi rate of 2.7 isn't all that good relative to the other Shark defenders.
You really can't say that nothing but good things happened when either of these four defensemen were on the ice last season. They weren't awful or swamped by their opposition, but neither really made a significant impact. I'm more sympathetic to Greene and Corvo since they played as many minutes at evens as they did in 10-11, more so for Corvo since he also did it against more difficult opposition players.
When comparing the change in team stats - shots against per 60, goals against per 60, shots for per 60, and goalss for per 60 - there's a mixture of conclusions. In terms of shots against per 60, no one really stands out. White's presence on ice led to a reduction of 0.2 shots against per 60; 0.1 for Babchuk and his limited, weak minutes; and Carolina saw it go up 0.1 when Corvo was out there. None of this strikes me as particularly good or bad. As for shots for per 60, everyone had a positive effect though Babchuk (+2.4) and White (+1.4) had larger positive effects than Greene and Corvo.
Greene stands out in a bad way on goals against per 60; as the Devils allowed 0.43 more goals per 60 when he was on the ice. White's and Corvo's respective teams saw a smaller increase, while Babchuk's presence led to fewer goals. That makes some sense given his weak competition and limited minutes, it would be rather awful if it went up given his usage. Babchuk also looks good in goals for per 60 as the only defenseman among the four to have it go up by 0.30 for his team when he was on the ice. It all went down when White, Corvo, and Greene took their shifts at even strength. Lastly, everyone had a positive
The differentials make Babchuk look the best among the four. However, recall the quality of competition and minutes played for each defender. Babchuk played weak competition and not nearly as much as the other three. His differentials should be good, and if nothing else, it may make a good argument that he deserves more minutes in 2011-12. The differentials make the strongest argument against keeping Greene considering White and Corvo, since Greene didn't do as well.
A Conditional Conclusion
The biggest point I want to make is that White, Babchuk, and Corvo are quite different from Greene. Ian White did not play as difficult competition as Greene and was played less than him at even strength. Anton Babchuk was apparently heavily protected and limited at even strength. I don't think there would be much argument in saying that Joe Corvo had a flat out better 2010-11 than Greene, but at age 34, who knows whether Corvo can keep up being productive and effective in his own end? Given that he'll be in Boston, he may not have to worry about taking on the tough players as he could be behind the Zdeno Chara pairing - who would take on the stiffest competition.
Since they were used differently on their teams, it doesn't make much sense to me to believe that the Devils should have gone after them instead of Greene since it begs the question of whether they can handle the tough minutes. Joe Corvo could do it; but that requires a big assumption that Carolina would want to trade with New Jersey and just settle for a fourth round pick. Who knows whether such a deal would ever be discussed, much less agreed upon? It's easy to say this now that Boston did it, but I can't emphasize that it's a big "what if." A second one along with the first one of "What if Corvo starts declining this season now that he's 34?" I'd be tempted to do it just for a fourth rounder, I would admit.
I definitely don't think the Devils should regret going for Greene over Ian White or Anton Babchuk. Through the advanced stats, I see why they got paid less than Greene if only because they didn't play nearly as much or did so much better than Greene considering their respective situations. In fact, I'm pretty sure Babchuk got his contract just because he put up a lot of points with weak, limited minutes. Who knows if he can handle more minutes or better opponents? Who knows whether Ian White can be anything more than what he is - a definitive second pairing guy - and could take on the larger - in minutes and competition - role Greene has taken in the past two seasons?
There is a conditional, though, and that's also based on whether Greene can have a better 2011-12. In the first half of last season, he was playing a ton of minutes, usually on a pairing with Henrik Tallinder that often saw a lot of mishaps happen, and on a team that couldn't do much right for one reason or another. In the second, Greene still played significant minutes, but he was often paired with Anssi Salmela and while the team as a whole was far more competitive, Greene's production or performance didn't sparkle like, say, Henrik Tallinder. I believe Greene will do better next season with a more stable (and effective) partner on what should hopefully be a more stable team. Should that happen, I don't think too many Devils fans would be wishing Lou signed Ian White or Anton Babchuk instead; or said Devils fans would be wishing Lou made a deal like Boston did for Corvo on Tuesday. Therefore, I don't think the Devils should feel any buyer's remorse over Andy Greene right now. If Greene bombs in 2011-12, then sure, feel as much of it as you'd like. But for now, I think it's too early to truly say.
Perhaps you feel differently about this. Did you feel the Devils should have some buyer's remorse over re-signing Greene instead of going after these other three defensemen? Do you still feel it after reading all of this? What do you make of the even strength stats for each of these defensemen? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on Greene, Corvo, Babchuk, and White in the comments. Thank you for reading.