A week off between Maple Leafs games to start the season - while probably good for the recovery of the injured players - is hell for the fans. Hopefully some charts can ease the pain.
John-Michael Liles, a 5th round pick by the Avalanche in the 2000 NHL entry draft, has often been described as "Tomas Kaberle lite" - he replaced Kaberle's spot as Schenn's most probable defense partner, plays a similar offensive style of hockey, and is equally as "untruculent" in terms of throwing his body around. The fact that the Leafs traded for Liles with the conditional 2nd round pick acquired from Boston in the Kaberle trade only serves to draw further parallels:
Kaberle and Liles nearly matched each other in points and in overall cap value this past season. Liles will enter the final year of his four-year, $16.8 million contract this fall before he’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He contributed $4.2 million to Colorado’s cap, while Kaberle’s championship year came at a cost of $4.25 million.
Age is the primary difference between the two, with the 30-year-old Liles three years younger than Kaberle. But Liles’ comparative youth isn’t exactly filled with exuberance and strong, healthy bones. While nowhere near the level of the league’s upper echelon of glass men, Liles has still missed 37 games over his last three seasons due to a delightful cornucopia of injuries (broken foot, bruised left shoulder, concussion, wrist injury).
The Kaberle comparisons have been done to death, so let's compare Liles to an offensive D-man from Liles' old division - Marek Zidlicky. Originally a 7th round pick in the 2001 NHL draft by the New York Rangers, Zidlicky spent a number of years in the Finnish league SM-liiga when he couldn't come to contract terms with the Rangers. After a trade to Nashville, Zidlicky quickly found success with a 53 point season playing all 82 games. Since the lockout, Zidlicky has been one of the most consistent 40+ point offensive dmen in the league until a series of injuries (groin, lower-body, undisclosed, shoulder, hamstring) made him miss 36 games last season.
Both players have been core to their respective teams' powerplay and offensive production from the blueline - but who will have the better 2011/2012 season?
How they compare over their last 500 games played:
Liles is on an expiring contract while Zidlicky is signed through 2012/2013, and Liles clearly has the age advantage, being 3 years younger (despite being drafted a year earlier!). Let's dig a little deeper into each of the stats over the last 500 games.
Average Time-on-Ice per game:
Zidlicky gets the TOI advantage, and for a good chunk of games was seeing Phaneuf-type ice-time. Liles on the other hand has consistently been increasing his TOI as he progressed, with a strange startling drop followed by a rapid increase to his current level. If how he's started this season with the Leafs is any indication on his expected ice-time going forward, we can expect 22 mins+ per night.
Shots on Goal per 60 minutes:
J.M. Liles is a model of consistency when it comes to shooting the puck on net - over the last 500 played games, he has hardly deviated from the average. Zidlicky however has seen a sharp drop in his shots over the last 75 or so games played, which possibly at least partially due to his multiple injuries.
Goals per 60 minutes:
While Liles gets the edge in goal production, it looks like a good portion of that advantage came several seasons ago. In more recent seasons, the goal-scoring has been fairly similar. The sharp dropoff in goals for Liles represents a slump with Colorado, which may have ultimately been a reason Liles was available for trade.
Points per 60 minutes:
Much like G/60, Liles gets the slight advantage over the last 500 games played in point-production. Zidlicky seems to have settled into a long-term point-production plateau around the 1.5 P/60 mark, while much like his goal-scoring, Liles has been in a relative slump.