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Devil's Advocate: Andy Greene is a Better Defender than Shea Weber

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Yeah I said it. Come on you know you're curious what I'm gonna say to defend this statement. Ignoring offensive production, Andy Greene has become a more reliable defender than most blueliners in the NHL, Shea Weber included.

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No, I haven't learned a damn thing.

I said we needed more from Severson... cuz that was the problem.

I said Dainus Zubrus was a bright spot... the most unnoticeable 57-game player in the NHL to date.

I said Cory Schneider was holding us back... thank God we've managed without his help amiright?

And now I'm saying Andy Greene is a better defender than Shea Weber.

So let me start out with my usual list of qualifiers. First of all I'm only speaking about defense not offense so Shea Weber's offensive advantage its irrelevant to this conversation. My claim is that, all other things equal, it is harder to score against a team icing Andy Greene than one using Shea Weber.

Does Andy Even Belong in this Conversation

In short; yes, absolutely. As one marker for this let's look at positive games by top pair defenders. Using the handy "play index" tool from hockey-reference, I decided to use 2014 as a litmus test to see how well this related to a team's wins. According to hockey-reference, there were 1818 defenders that had 20:00 of ice time and were a plus-1 in games they won. There were only 306 in games where they lost. That means 85% of the time that a defender got those numbers their team won the game (assuming double counts are roughly equal). Bearing that significance in mind, lets see which defenders have done that the most times since 2012-2013.

Let me read off some of the players at the top of this list: Duncan Keith, Ryan Suter, Andrei Markov, Zdeno Chara, Ryan McDonagh, Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo, Francois Beauchemin, ANDY GREENE, P.K. Subban, and Weber. WOW that's a stacked list. And smack dab in the middle of that list is Andy Greene at #9. Of those top 11 players I listed, 2 through 11 are separated by only 10 games. Zid is the next highest Devil at #67.

So Seriously, BETTER?

For this section I will make reference to Point Shares. For those unfamiliar, they are an early attempt at WAR from hockey-reference. They are divided into offensive and defensive components. Since 2012-2013, Andy Greene is 3rd in the NHL in Defensive Point Shares. Before you write off the stat, take a look at that link and some of his company. It looks pretty convincing to me.

Surely Weber is right there with him though right? Top 5? Top 10? Well, close but he's actually 13th in the NHL, behind players like Bouwmeester and Brodin. His Offensive Point Shares are second only to PK's, but again, that's not what we're discussing.

This is a fluke right? Goals are fluky. Also the Devils have been better than the Predators. And Shea's offense certainly prevents other teams from scoring. Well we can answer all of those concerns with one stat: Relative Scoring Chance percentage.

Goals CAN be fluky, but scoring chances are repeatable and predictable.The Devils have actually been worse than the Predators, but even if they were better, the "relative" portion of the stat isolates their effect on the game. And this is a ratio statistic which means it incorporates both the scoring chances for AND against.

WAR on Ice can help us directly compare two players in these stats. Take a look at Greene vs Weber. Greene has a better effect on scoring chances for and against. His scoring chance rate per 60 minutes is identical to Webers and the scoring chance against rate is over 3 scoring chances per 60 minutes lower. If you analyze this further it will consistently come back with the simple statement that it has been harder to score against the Devils with Greene than the Preds with Weber.

Conclusion

Andy Greene is an elite defender in the NHL. This is a legitimate argument and Greene's defensive stats are better than Webers in the last 3 years pretty much across the board. Greene excels at playing a responsible defensive game and protecting leads (4th in NHL in SCA60 since 2013). The offensive component makes Weber a more impactful player on the whole, but if you want to stop the other team from scoring, give me Greene.

Counter Argument

Weber is an offensive dynamo and his ability to maintain the offensive zone has an impact on the defensive zone. Weber is relied on much more heavily than Greene (3 more minutes per game, lower zone start, similar QoC). He runs the ice for the Predators in every sense of the word and only Rinne can bail him out. Greene is responsible, but not a game-changer. His best immediate comparable is probably someone like Marc-Edouard Vlasic, not Subban, Weber, Doughty, and Keith.

Your Thoughts

Go ahead tell me why I'm wrong. If there are fans here who have seen a lot more of Weber please let me know because I haven't actually seen the guy play all that much except a bit in the postseason. Do you think that the defensive skills of each play are comparable? Was this a stupid premise to begin with? Leave your thoughts below!!