Why am I comparing Stefan Noesen to Beau Bennett? Beau is no longer on the team, but they played together so it’s not like Noesen took Bennett’s spot. What is the purpose in comparing them? For me, it is their position as analytics darlings on their respective Devils teams.
In 2016-17 Beau Bennett trailed only Taylor Hall in CF%Rel. There was a sizable gap between Hall (+7.51) and Bennett (+6.81) and the rest of the team — lead by P.A. Parenteau (+4.06).
In 2017-18 so far, Stefan Noesen leads the Devils in CF%Rel. He (+3.96) and Hall (+3.41) are well above the next tier, lead by Coleman (+1.73).
After Bennett’s season, was not only not re-signed, but he signed a dirt-cheap 1-year, $650K contract elsewhere after the Devils never really entered talks with him. How did it work out? He has 35 points in 43 games with Chicago! ... The Chicago Wolves, the St. Louis Blues’s AHL affiliate. The Blues sent him down after playing only 6 games (0 pts) in the NHL this year — his last NHL action was November 13th.
Stefan Noesen is a restricted free agent at the end of this year. Given his similarities to Bennett, what should we be willing to offer him? Do we even care to bring him back at all? What makes him better than Beau Bennett — or is he at all?
Let’s start out with the stats that traditional sites have to offer. Everything below was acquired via Corsica except for HDCF%Rel which was from Natural Stat Trick. All stats here are 5v5 only.
As we can see from the first pair of rows, Noesen is producing points at a slightly higher pace — though neither of them are likely to be confused with a Rocket Richard contender anytime soon. Noesen just tacked on goal to that total as I write this.
The second row pair tells us that the team’s goal totals were better with Noesen than Bennett, but Bennett was slightly positive in penalty differential whereas Noesen clearly takes more than he draws. For a depth player like these guys, not getting put in the box, and putting the other team in can be among the most important things you can do.
The third pair of rows is the analytics row. Game Score (GS) is a stat concocted by Dom Luszczyszyn to include all of the stats we’ve looked at already, plus Corsi. Noesen comes out on top. Bennett is better in CF%Rel, but Noesen is better in HDCF% and xGF%. This means that, although Bennett was a more positive effect on possession, Noesen has a bigger positive impact on scoring opportunities. Given the Devils propensity to value those types of players (at least earlier this season), it’s not shocking that they prefered Noesen’s particular brand of stat darling. He had a hand in some of those himself as well — his individual expected goals (ixGF) totals are already notably higher than Bennett’s despite having played 70 fewer minutes.
The final row pair is not statistically rigorous, but I think might be the most important one in identifying what coaching staff sees in Noesen. He gives and takes more hits. He blocks more shots. He takes the puck away more and gives it away less. He has a physical presence and aggression that Bennett simply did not have. Does that mean he’s more likely to get re-signed? I’d imagine so. Does that mean he’s a better player? Not necessarily. His individual production is better, but his on-ice numbers are probably a push — Noesen has opportunity ratio, but Bennett has possession ratio. What are they personally contributing to moving the play forward? For that we can look at my Tableau of Corey Sznajder’s A3Z Project.
According to this, Bennett is better at pretty much all aspects of moving the puck forward. He was more prolific and more efficient at exiting the defensive zone, entering the offensive zone, and generating shots once there. Noesen’s only benefit seems to be getting himself in positions to produce high quality chances.
Concluding Thoughts and Your Thoughts
I should probably answer the titular question here. Is Noesen an improvement? I don’t think we have sufficient evidence to say that he is. What I do think is clear is that Noesen possesses a specific skill set that this staff (and possibly the NHL in general) seem to value more than what Beau Bennett had to offer. He seems to be better at the things the Devils are trying to do as well. So even if he isn’t a better overally player than Bennett, I do believe he may be better for this team.
I will be interested to see how Shero approaches guys like Noesen. Signing depth guys to long contracts is rarely smart since they are so replaceable. How Shero handles these deals will give us a peak into the way he expects to build a regular contender.
That’s all I have to say on the matter. What are your thoughts? Do you think Noesen is a significant improvement or an improvement at all over Bennett? What should we do with him as his contract expires, keeping in mind he’s an RFA? Do you like his game in general?
Leave your thoughts below and thanks for reading!