clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

New Top Dog: Adam Larsson

Adam Larsson is official. He had a standalone great year last year and we shelled out a big contract and it is paying off big time. We were right and here is why...

Constipation is no laughing matter...
Constipation is no laughing matter...
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

You know what's weird. The big stories about this Devils team are almost all offense-related. Lee Stempniak is having probably the best season of his career. Kyle Palmieri is a budding star. As Gerard mentioned yesterday both Joseph Blandisi and Reid Boucher are producing surprisingly well.

The feel good stories of this year have been almost entirely offensive.

... and yet....

...

...

Devils ESPN

Above is the Clubhouse frontpage from ESPN. The Devils are literally the worst offensive team in the league, and literally the best defensive team in the league.

So who can we talk about that is worthy on that side of the puck. Well, Cory Schneider is considered a Vezina candidate by many and was a deserving All-Star representative. But he's not the only reason we are stingy. Let's look at the #1 option on the blueline: Adam Larsson.

Elite Top Pairing

Mentioned before, Cory Schneider is a big reason for our great defense, but we are top 3 in shot attempt rate against and top 5 in scoring chance rate against according to War-on-Ice. Who is most responsible for this? Probably the guys who are on the ice the most. Our ice time leader is the guy with the "C," Andy Greene. But only 40 seconds his junior is Larsson. They are both hovering around 24 really tough minutes per game. A little while ago I wrote an article about our young blueline and mentioned that Larsson and Greene are given the toughest job of anyone in the league. That is still true. They start in the defensive zone 25% more time than the team average which is the highest such figure in the league (sort for ZSO%Rel). They are also both in the top 6 in the NHL in shorthanded ice time. They play the most minutes on the team in the toughest situations and somehow they are still both plus players.

The Better Half

They are both plus players, but somehow, despite playing every waking minute together, Larsson is a +12 while Greene is a +2. Now most of the readers here are well-versed enough to know that plus/minus is on its way out so lets look at some other things. Take a look at Larsson's WoWYs. Larsson has played around 450 minutes with Greene and about 100 without him in "Close" situations -- when the game is still up for grabs. Together they have a 49% Corsi so they are roughly even. When Larsson is alone he has tougher zone starts (32% for Larsson, 44% for Greene), and yet his Corsi is 53.7% in comparison to Greene's 46.5%.

Possibly Best Skater

There is a stat-lite argument to be made for him as our best skater. He is the more athletic and dynamic of the top defensive pairing on the best defensive team on the league and worst offensive team on the league. However, there is also the statistical method. I ran a regression on all NHL players SCF%Rel (relative scoring chance percentage) versus offensive zone starts and team on-ice% after running a best subset regression and plotted the residuals. I did a statisticky thing and it shows me the how good a player's team does when he's on the ice. In particular, it ranks the scoring chances for and against after controlling for zone-starts, teammate quality, and other mitigating factors. Here are the Devils' top 5 in the statistic:

Name pos Gm ZSO%Rel SCF%Rel Res NHL Rk
Adam.Larsson D 55 -24.9 0.68 5.06 62
Jacob.Josefson CL 44 -5.47 3.15 4.48 78
David.Schlemko D 47 19.92 4.62 3.69 103
Lee.Stempniak R 55 9.98 5.52 2.88 135
Jiri.Tlusty LR 30 -6.32 2.5 2.87 136

Okay ... maybe I should have just shown the top 4. But, like, top 5 sounds so much cooler. Adam Larsson is a top 60 player and top 30 defender by this statistic. And, honestly, I think that might even underrate him.

Conclusion

Larsson still has room to improve. He is second on the team in penalty minutes and 4th in the league in holding calls which indicates getting in a bad habit when he gets beaten. But overall, he is probably one of our 3 best skaters most nights despite the fact that he has received only 1 of each star (1st, 2nd, 3rd).

It is a story not being told about this year because we told it last year--the emergence of Adam Larsson. But so much has changed. Would anyone have been absolutely shocked if the coaching, staff, roster, and expectation changes all contributed to a big regression for Larsson? No. But is anyone talking about how great it is that he didn't do that? No. Because it's boring. He's now just another boring stud Devils defender. And will be for a while.

Your Thoughts

What do you guys think? Where does he rank on the roster of current Devils players? Has he eclipsed Greene? Where is he in the NHL? Top 30 (1 form each team)? Top 60 (2 from each team)? Leave your thoughts below!