Attack or defense? The best defense is a good offense, but defense wins championships. A series of cliches.
A lot of talk has been made of how the leafs are spending too much on heir defense. I thought this to be true, though I thought most of the reason this has been true was because of Komisarek's big cap hit pushing them into the top of team spending. In order to see how they faired against other teams, I created a list of all the teams and their defensemen cap hits.
Follow the jump to see the list of teams and how their defense fair relative to cap spending.
This list does two things. First, it limits the number of players per team to six. Anaheim only has 6 defenseman under contract (or has only used 6 this year) and the rest are in the minors. However, Buffalo has used over 10D already. Buffalo is not really playing 10D at once, so its unfair to count all of their caphits. Thus I took the most expensive 6 D on each team. If a player has been in the minors all year, he is not included (Finger, Redden). This overlooks certain situations that I am unaware of. For example, Montreal may play Subban (on an ELC) and have a more expensive player sitting, just as we have played Gardiner over Komisarek. However, the top 6 cap hits are counted. For Montreal this also means that Markov is counted, despite barely playing. I don't know of every injury in the NHL so it's hard to get around this. I just did the top 6 committed $s.
The other thing this list does is adjust a few cap hits. Below is a list of players who's cap hits have been adjusted. All of these players signed new deals this year, which do not kick in until next season. Their current cap hit is the first number, and their cap hit for next season is the second number, or the one following the equal sign. The second number (next year's cap hit) is the one included in the calculation. The reason I did this was because most players were on ELCs or RFA deals, and I wanted the cap hit to more accurately affect the team's value. If they agree to pay said player so much money, then it should be reflected in how the team is arguably doing. I understand that this leads to some errors. Obviously Florida doesn't really want to pay Campbell what he's making, but the difference is that all of these players were re-signed by their own team, and so I believe it's a fair representation.
Alex Goligoski 1.83333M = 4.6M
John-Michael Liles 4.2M = 3.8M
Niklas Kronwall (Detroit) 3M = 4.75M
Mike Weaver (Florida) 900K = 1.1M
Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay) 3.5M = 4M
Brent Burns (San Jose) 3.55M = 5.76M
Adam McQuaid (Boston) 575K = 1.566667M
Tyler Myers (Buffalo) 1.3M = 5.5M
Fedor Tyutin (Columbus) 2.84375M = 4.5M
Without further ado, here are the charts to depict the trends:
Shots against is a valuable stat for indicating the defensiveness of a team. Obviously the forwards have some play, as do the systems in place, coaching, and goalies (rebounds), but the shots against given up are a general indicator of how a team is at limitting opposition scoring chances. There are some anomalies on the list but in general, the good teams are to the left of the chart and the bad teams are to the right of the chart. However, looking vertically, spending less cap hit is ideal. Thus the ideal position a team would like to be in is that held by St. Louis or the bottom left. Teams at the top right are earning very little production for the amount their spending (Toronto, Buffalo, Phoenix). Because of the outliers of cap spending, the trendline does not see a very steep decline. This is because there is not a HUGE variation in shots against relative to the variation in cap spend. A more accurate trendline would show a sharper decline from $ spend to shots against, but ideally, teams want to be as far below as the trend line as possible. Thus it is arguable that even teams like Detroit, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles, who are relatively good at limitting shots, are spending too much on their defense, as the average amount spent should be between $19M and $17M.
I drew this line in myself, as I didn't like the average excel was generating itself. I put the line right between the cluster of 16 or so teams that all follow the same sort of pattern. Teams should aim to be to the bottom left of this line or the inside. The further out a team is from this line, the worse they are at limiting goals against. Of course goals against are reflected heavily by goaltenders as well--it is no surprise that Henrik Lundqvist, Tim Thomas, Nicklas Backstrom, Brian Elliott, and Pekka Rinne are on the inside of the line, as it is no surprise that Ilya Bryzgalov, James Reimer, Dwayne Roloson and Steve Mason are on the outside of the line. Thus I drew up the chart below:
(Like the defense, the goalies are accounted for according to their new deals, if applicable. This means that Pekka Rinne counts as 7M$ against the cap).
As shown, the same sort of teams show up below, when factoring in goalie contract. That means that either the team is getting super value out of their goalies (which is the case for Brian Elliott), or they're getting value out of their Defense. New York Rangers & Minnesota Wild are paying 1st and 4th most for their #1 Goalies, who are putting up good numbers, but its clear that the defense are outperforming the contracts. Philadelphia and Buffalo are suffering in this department, and with the amount the leafs are paying their goalies, they are closer to the line of best spending.
In conclusion, the Leafs are likely spending too much based on the performance of their defense. While they are on the wrong side of the middle for both Shots Against and Goals Against, and with expensive defense they are not spending correctly. Most of this is implicit on the big contracts of Luke Schenn and Mike Komisarek, who for #5 and #6 defense are making much too much money. However, when examining the goalie spending as well, they come back down to the line of best spending. Feel free to ask any questions