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I’m Back: The Jo(h)ns

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Two things: 1, I’m back after a two month hiatus. And 2, all of our defenders are gone. Two-fifths of what remains are guys with various spellings of the name John. Here we analyze if either is poised to make significant contributions in this teams hour of need.

New York Islanders v New Jersey Devils Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

I’m back!

Did you guys miss me?

Did you even notice I was gone?

Don’t answer that — I’ll just assume all of you endured a gaping hole in your lives in my absence and so I may continue feeling important.

For the seven or eight people that noticed I was gone and do not know me personally I probably owe you a small explanation, if for no other reason than it is relevant to my hockey blog writing.

I am a high school math teacher full-time, but I’m also a student at Penn State online going for a Master’s Degree in Applied Statistics. I try to load my school work towards the Summer to make it manageable. Unfortunately, Penn State and my district disagree severely on precisely when it is that “Summer” begins. I understand that it’s hard to concur on such a divisive subject, but I had hoped that they would be a little closer than 2 months. That’s right, there was a 2 month disagreement between two institutions on when a season begins. For those new to this world, seasons are 3 months long....

So how is this related to hockey? Well a big part of the reason I am taking courses in applied statistics is so that I can better understand the mathematical machinations of the advanced statistics world, specifically in hockey. Considering the fact that this should enhance the level of contribution I am able to make to the blog, John very graciously allowed me to take time off to focus on my job and studies. John is great isn’t he?

Speaking of great Jo(h)ns, the actual hockey portion of this article is going to be about who is the better defender — John Moore or Jon Merrill — and objectively if either is any good at all. Disclaimer, I do not claim that these stats are fully descriptive of either player or any player, they are merely things that I found interesting. In particular they are all retrieved from Rob Vollman’s Annual Player Data release

John Moore

Adjusted Corsi -5.1 (600th out of 740 eligible NHLers)

GVT 4.1 (309th out of 899 NHLers)

DGVT 3.9 (114th out of 899 NHLers)

NetPen (penalties drawn-taken vs expectation) -1.5 (615th out of 899 NHLers)

PPCorsi (CF/60 on PP) 0.5 (364th out of 419 NHLers)

OPS (Offensive Point Shares) 0.8 (99th out of 304 NHL defenders)

Short blurb about this with regards to Moore specifically. I, personally, was hugely disappointed by his performance this season. Partially that is because I was looking at time plots like the one below from Corsica.

And coming into the year I thought he was going to be a young, fast, and offensive. I envisioned Moore and Severson developing into the lightening to Greene and Larsson’s thunder. If you look at Moore’s CF60 time plot, it’s even more discouraging.

In summary, Moore does well on the shallow statsheet (G,A,+/-) for a defender but he is a liability in possession, a decent contributor on offense, but he negatively impacts our powerplay/shorthanded time ratio which is probably good considering how abysmal he is with the man-advantage. Moore played a lot for us this year and may have just been handed too much too fast. For context, he’s under contract for two years so he does have some wiggle room.

Jon Merrill

Adjusted Corsi -3.3 (527th out of 740 eligible NHLers)

GVT -0.1 (719th out of 899 NHLers)

DGVT 1.7 (385th out of 899 NHLers)

NetPen (penalties drawn-taken vs expectation) -4.8 (777th out of 899 NHLers)

OPS (Offensive Point Shares) -0.3 (281st out of 304 NHL defenders)

This is an even shorter blurb about Merrill. I’m not going to lie to you guys, I have a pretty strong bias here. The last time I was excited about Jon Merril, he was in college. He had a 54.1% xGF in his rookie year according to Corsica, but it plummeted to 44.6% last year and rose to 48.25% this past year. That being said, he has underachieved those in actual GF% every year and since xGF% is a new and malleable statistic it is unclear whether he would be to blame for that. There is a narrative that could be spun that he suffered a sophomore slump and is now a candidate for the same type of resurgence that Larsson experienced in his 4th year. Defenders take a while to develop.

All that being said, he gave absolutely nothing to be excited about last year.

Team Context

I would say that these numbers would indicate that John Moore is confortably a 3rd pairing defender and still needs to prove himself as a 2nd pairing one. Merrill still needs to prove he belongs in the league at all.

As far as team context is concerned, Andy Greene and Adam Larsson were #1 and #2 in DGVT in the entire NHL. Larsson ran away with that title. Schlemko was 1st on the team in OPS. We debatably lost our best defensive defenceman and best offensive defenceman. We replaced them with Ben Lovejoy. BLJ for all his reputation as a stay-at-home defender had a 3.5 DGVT (lower than John Moore). But that’s okay, because he had an OPS of 0.0 to round it out.

Conclusion

Mike talked about why Damon Severson may be the X-factor in the crew just over a week ago. I agree with that possibility, but more so, it is just patently obvious to anyone looking at this group that despite the addition of Hall, this team is not going anywhere without someone stepping up on defense. I had hoped to unveil another candidate in researching this article, but as you can see it didn’t go particularly well.

I’ve been gone so I haven’t been able to express my opinions on that trade since it’s happened or on the FA moves. I like Hall as much as the next guy, but the Devils scored 184 goals last year which is the worst in the NHL by 7 and 38 below league average. Furthermore, I don’t know how someone can think this set of defenders will produce league average results. The two mentioned in this article are going to be the 4th and 5th defenders AT MINIMUM and they will probably be asked to be more.

So it seems to me we’ve gone from an awful offensive team and above average defensive team to an overall average team. And Hockey Gods help us if Greene gets injured.

It’s good to be back and as usual leave your comments below.