Last week, I took a deeper dive into how the New Jersey Devils defensemen were performing this season. The Devils have been more productive at generating shots and attempts and at the same time they have allowed more shots and attempts than ever before in recent history. I wanted to see who on the team was playing well and who was suffering the most. Among my many conclusions, it appears that once again, John Moore has not been playing well on defense by way of having some of the worst underlying numbers out of the Devils defensemen this season.
This was the case last season, as Moore “led” the regular Devils defensmen (all numbers are from Corsica) in Corsi Against (shooting attempts against) per sixty minutes with 56.30 (Merrill came in second among regulars with 50.51), shots against per sixty minutes with 32.28 (Severson was second among regulars at 28.45), and scoring chances against per sixty minutes with 8.87 (Severson was second at 8.50). Moore’s Corsi For% (percentage of on-ice shooting attempts for out of total on-ice shooting attempts) was the second lowest to Andy Greene at 43.85% while Moore received easier minutes than Greene. His shots for percentage was still the lowest among regulars at 42.77%. The point of all of those numbers is that other teams enjoyed playing against Moore in 5-on-5 play last season. That’s not a good thing to say about any defenseman. It does not at all suggest he is good at defending. And while numbers shifted a bit after the last three games, Moore is still on the wrong end of each of these stats this season. It is further evidence that he is not good at the defense part of his position. And if the Devils want to strengthen their defense, they’ll have to deal with Moore some how.
Sure, he has his positive points (example: he has points, three goals and four assists so far) in other areas. And he has a cheap contract: a deal with a $1.667 million cap hit that ends next season. He could have a little value for other teams. But even if the Devils do explore a trade - and keep in mind, that would mean someone would have to replace Moore - they have him on the roster now. The coaches have to try to make the most of what he does now. Fortunately, there is one way where we can identify that to a degree.
One of the big factors in a player’s underlying numbers is who they play with. Hockey is a team game and so who one plays with will affect how they perform. There is a good way to identify whether a teammate has worked well with - and even without - a particular teammate. They’re called With or Without You (or WOWY) charts. Corsica generates these under their excellent Combos section and it even includes generated graphs. After utilizing it, I can tell you who has and has not played well with Moore this season among the several players to have played a significant amount of ice time with him. This can identify who Moore should be playing with among others.
So let’s get into it. All of the graphs are from Corsica. They may be a bit small within the post. You can click on them to make them larger. Also, they’re all bubble graphs. The size of the bubble represents 5-on-5 ice time. The Y-axis represents the stat itself. The blue bubble represents how Moore performed with that teammate. The green bubble represents how Moore did without that teammate. The red bubble represents how that teammate performed without Moore.
Corsica determined the following players played enough with Moore this season (minimum appears to be 60 TOI) to warrant inclusion in these charts: P.A. Parenteau, Vernon Fiddler, Travis Zajac, Beau Bennett, Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri, Adam Henrique, Pavel Zacha, Ben Lovejoy, and Kyle Quincey. That was ordered by time on ice with Moore, from the lowest to the most.
Corsi For% & Corsi Against per 60 Minute WOWYs
By way of CF%, Moore has achieved over 50% with only three teammates this season: Parenteau, Bennett, and Quincey. Quincey is the most impressive if only because they have played together more than Moore with any other teammate. This graph alone justifies the coaches’ decision to place Moore with Quincey and keep him there. It’s a far cry better than when he was with Ben Lovejoy. That defensive pairing combined for a 31.85 CF%, which is terrible. As for the forwards, Bennett and Parenteau been decent with Moore behind them - Zajac cannot stay the same. With Taylor Hall out and assuming Parenteau-Zajac-Bennett stick together, I do not know if those combinations will last as I would think Andy Greene and Damon Severson would play with the top line. We’ll see.
What is clear is that just about every teammate has performed better in CF% without Moore than with Moore. That’s even true with Quincey, albeit not by much. Curiously, Moore was better without Palmieri, Hall, and Fiddler. As those three were on separate lines, Moore will likely be with them at some points in games anyway. The hope is that they’ll work out with more time. In their time together though, there’s not a lot of basis for that hope.
Since Moore had the highest CA/60 among regular defensemen last season and has only recently been beaten by Lovejoy for the highest this season, let’s look at a WOWY of that. Moore on his own has a CA/60 of 56.75 per Corsica right now. There have been a few combinations where Moore has been better than that. Again, Moore-Quincey is one of them. Moore has been far worse without Quincey, which further supports the use of that pairing from Moore’s perspective. It has not gone that way from Quincey’s, though; but it’s doing well. The two forwards that were above 50% in CF%, Bennett and Parenteau, have also been effective together from this standpoint. Again, Moore is worse off without them while the two forwards have been fine without him. Two other forwards have combined with Moore that yielded a CA/60 better than what Moore has done all season: Pavel Zacha and Vernon Fiddler. The value does not have such a wide range for Moore with or without Zacha; it is at least somewhat consistent. The rate of attempts against has been low with Fiddler. While Fiddler has a better one without Moore, it is something good. Their low CF% together just speaks to how little offense may be generated when they’re together.
On the opposite end, the CA/60 soared when Moore played with Hall, Henrique, Palmieri, and Lovejoy. With Hall out for a few weeks, that is not a concern for the short term. When Hall does return, I would not want to see Moore out with him too much, though. The coaches have already went away from a regular Moore-Lovejoy pairing; this further justifies that decision. Given that Henrique and Palmieri have been playing together for most of this season, it appears keeping Moore away from supporting that line may be a good idea.
Expected Goals For Percentage & Expected Goals Per Sixty Minutes WOWY
Corsi focuses on all shooting attempts. Defensively, fewer shooting attempts against are better. But not all shots or even shooting attempts are created equal. To that end, there’s Expected Goals - the expectation of a given shot will go in. According to Corsica, Moore’s expected goals against per sixty rate is the highest among Devils defensemen at 2.5 and his expected goals for percentage is the lowest among Devils defensemen at 43.73% Is there anyone he has played with where this went well?
Looking at expected goals for percentage, it’s not pretty. With the exception of Kyle Palmieri, every teammate Moore has in this graph has done better in this stat without Moore than with him or Moore without them. Moore’s time with Beau Bennett is the only combination that has yielded a expected goals for percentage over 50%. He’s just shy of 50% with Parenteau and while combinations with Quincey (unsurprising given the Corsi-based WOWYs) and Hall (which is more surprising) have not been as bad as others. From this category’s perspective, the expected amount of goals scored by the Devils out of all goals scored when Moore is on the ice is just not that good. That Moore has been present for only five 5-on-5 goals against the Devils speaks to how much the goalies have made up for his issues. At least this does provide further reason that Moore should be kept away from Lovejoy and Palmieri.
As for a rate of expected goals against the Devils, Moore and Lovejoy actually weren’t too terrible together. But it has been better when Moore was with Quincey, his current defensive partner. Again, the expected goals against rate is nearly better for the teammate without Moore than Moore without the teammate. The biggest change is with Hall, who sees his expected goals per sixty rate sink like an anvil in the ocean when he’s not with Moore. That’s something to keep in mind despite a decent rate when they were together. The sole exception is Henrique, a combination with a very high expected goals against rate when the two have been together on the ice. It is worth noting that the best combination in this category for Moore is with Fiddler. Again, they are not allowing a large rate of shooting attempts against - it’s just that there’s not much going forward when they are together.
Scoring Chance Percentage & Scoring Chances Against Per Sixty Minutes WOWY
Now if all shooting attempts are not created equal and expected goals is based off a model, then why not include scoring chances? It is something that, compared to the rest of the league, Moore has been acceptable at. It took last weeks games for Moore’s scoring chance against rate per sixty minutes to rise above the median NHL defenseman. Even so, he’s only at 8.64. True. But that’s still higher than the other Devils defensemen. Let’s see how a WOWY looks.
First: scoring chance for percentage. In 5-on-5 play, this is the percentage of scoring chances by the Devils compared to total scoring chances for and against. The goal is to be above 50% in this regard. This only happened with three Devils for John Moore: Parenteau, Hall, and Zajac. Granted, there was not a lot of time or chances together. And Zajac and Hall have been much better without Moore. Curiously not the case for Parenteau, though. As for all other combinations below 50%, at least Moore-Quincey did better than Moore-Lovejoy. The time with Henrique, Palmieri, and Zacha were also pretty bad in this regard.
Second and perhaps more relevant to defending, let’s look at scoring chances against per sixty minutes. A lower rate is better and sadly everyone but Henrique had a better SCA/60 rate without Moore than with him. And with Henrique, well, other teams had prime chances to score. Anyway, this is the one category where Moore-Lovejoy was superior to Moore-Quincey. This may explain why the expected goals against per sixty rate was closer than Corsi against per sixty would suggest. So there’s that. Additionally, Moore with Hall, Parenteau, and Zajac also posted lower SCA/60 rates than what Moore has done all season.
Let’s put all of these WOWYs together. Which Devils have played well with John Moore? Clearly, it’s Kyle Quincey. While the scoring chances against rate was not superior, Moore-Quincey has out-performed Moore-Lovejoy by these stats. Moore with Lovejoy witnessed a lot more of the play in their end of the rink and the opposition taking more attempts than what Moore-Quincey did. That Moore has broken 50% Corsi with Quincey says a lot given that Moore all alone has been well below that break even mark in his time in New Jersey. Based on this evidence, John Hynes and his staff made the right call switching Moore’s partner from Lovejoy with Quincey. We can say that Kyle Quincey has played well with John Moore. They should keep that pairing together as much as they can.
Up front, it is harder to ascertain which forwards should be with Moore if only because the small amount of ice time with each. Early on, it looks like Parenteau and Bennett are the best of the bunch., Those two have been together but with Zajac, so it remains to be seen whether that line with Moore would work. Or even if they’ll have minutes together; New Jersey’s de facto top line will likely have Greene and Severson supporting them instead of Moore and Quincey. While they’re not pushing the shooting attempts, expected goals, or scoring chance percentages forward, that Moore has good defensive rates with Fiddler suggests that Moore could work well with the fourth line. Moore’s time with Hall has not been a disaster, but it appears he is dragging him back. Moore should absolutely not be with Henrique or Palmieri if the coaches can help it; those combinations have not worked well. I’m surprised no third liner (e.g. Cammalleri, Josefson, DSP, etc.) made Corsica’s cut off; it would have been good to see if Moore’s performances have at least been decent with those players. Then we could see whether Moore have had better 5-on-5 performances with the bottom six (Bennett moved up after Hall’s injury, so there was that) as opposed to the top six. Of course, this will all be clearer in time. The low amount of ice time, again, makes it difficult to really pick out which forward(s) Moore has played relatively well with. Based on the data so far, Moore can work with Bennett and Parenteau; the defensive rates will be good when he’s with Fiddler; and he should be kept away from the ice when Henrique and Palmieri are out there - either combination has not worked well at all.
Over all of the WOWYs, one of the common themes was that the teammate was usually better away from Moore than with him or Moore without that teammate in all six categories. There were only a few exceptions and even those exceptions did not yield a conclusion that Moore was doing all that well. This goes back to what I wrote earlier: John Moore has not been playing well on defense by way of having some of the worst underlying numbers out of the Devils defensemen this season. There’s plenty of hockey left to be played in 2016-17 and he now has a defensive partner in Quincey where his underlying numbers with him are not horrible. That helps. Plus, time will show others to really be more applicable for a WOWY than those in these graphs; some of this noise will go away. But that so many Teammate without Moore stats were better across all six WOWY graphs were not in favor of Moore suggests that they can only do so much with him. If the Devils want improve on defense, then they may need to improve on Moore. Either Moore needs to play better or they need someone else better than Moore in the future.
I’d like to thank Corsica for having the WOWY feature available. Please leave your thoughts about John Moore and who he should or should not be playing with in the comments. Thank you for reading.