Shut Down Index Revisited

This happens to Korbinian Holzer A LOT. - John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Another Year On - With A Slightly Different Approach - What Can We See About Defensive D?

Ok so last season, I made an attempt at parsing out the key information that in my estimation led to top defensive D in the NHL. There were issues with the results - not the least of which was multi-collinearity (i.e. players who play together unduly influence each other's results - so it's hard to tell which guy is responsible for the solid numbers).

Generally speaking though, the results did make SOME level of sense, but I thought as we entered into this season that I could refine it a bit to see if I can hone in on the information I think is most relevant and/or important.

So how did I change it? Well last year - as the name Shutdown Defenseman Index implies - I structured the value as an index that added together the number of standard deviations a defender was above or below average in a selection of categories I arbitrarily deemed relevant. Then I ranked the players on a seasonal basis, and also explored their average results over the 5 year window for which we had data. I also split the index into a situational and results component for side analysis that I looked into on my own.

This year I've changed it a bit. I'm still using standard deviations above and below league averages, but instead of using the seasonal standard deviation, I'm using the standard deviation for all 6 years worth of data. Also, rather than use an index, I've created a situational score by correlating the various components of the situational index to the results component in order to assess weightings to use when combining the components into a single value.

I then correlated the situational scores to the results scores league wide over the 6 years to explore if a significant correlation between situation score and results exists (it does), and to determine a line of best fit that would allow us to provide an expected result based on a defender's situational usage.

Here is the graph of all 1355 Defender's results over the past 6 seasons (including the 2012-13 data available as of Sunday - all data courtesy BehindTheNet.ca):

Sdi2012-13_medium

The black line through the data set is a trend line, the red bars are 1 Standard Deviation above and below the trend line. For the purpose of this year's run through, I used the trend line as the model for Expected Defender SDI Results. That is to say, I entered the individual defender's SDI Situational Score into the polynomial formula for the trend line to obtain an Expected SDI Result Score. I then compared this Expected score to the defender's Actual SDI Result Score to get a residual - the amount above or below expected that the player's score fell.

Using this residuals as individual yearly defender scores, we get an idea of who is performing above the norm in a given season, and who is able to do so consistently by exploring their average residual score.

So the following chart lists all active NHL Defensemen who have played over 150 gp since the 2007-08 season, faced above average situational difficulty during that time span year to year, and have achieved above average results.

Rank NAME SDI Sit AVG SDI Resid AVG TOTAL GP
1 MARK FAYNE 0.067601725 1.904341253 159
2 FEDOR TYUTIN 0.234636664 0.833134548 422
3 DAN HAMHUIS 0.198997809 0.786461948 417
4 ANTON VOLCHENKOV 0.103622092 0.77945287 356
5 SHEA WEBER 0.526296647 0.756971902 405
6 P.K. SUBBAN 0.050771964 0.711587659 183
7 BARRET JACKMAN 0.515109033 0.69848511 397
8 MARC METHOT 0.219889794 0.598282198 277
9 BRYCE SALVADOR 0.201493046 0.585890535 332
10 ZDENO CHARA 0.122898791 0.5769063 427
11 OLIVER EKMAN-LARSSON 0.196436287 0.571190527 161
12 RYAN SUTER 0.402013685 0.54228973 419
13 STEPHANE ROBIDAS 0.50336494 0.53204345 423
14 KEVIN KLEIN 0.303836519 0.454798657 323
15 MARC-EDOUARD VLASIC 0.010419464 0.441182482 420
16 ROB SCUDERI 0.25205827 0.395132887 420
17 ROMAN POLAK 0.244031345 0.381084746 309
18 RYAN MCDONAGH 0.501394113 0.357784657 151
19 VICTOR HEDMAN 0.585721361 0.357207883 245
20 JAN HEJDA 0.53840918 0.352761095 412
21 FRANCOIS BEAUCHEMIN 0.325188717 0.330998646 377
22 NICKLAS GROSSMAN 0.473537379 0.305954598 377
23 ANDREJ SEKERA 0.112874767 0.286028529 322
24 MARC STAAL 0.078250113 0.278184853 388
25 ZBYNEK MICHALEK 0.328123525 0.265457521 389
26 JASON GARRISON 0.209578067 0.26500188 220
27 ERIC BREWER 0.596547456 0.257925714 353
28 MAREK ZIDLICKY 0.031649016 0.251135284 374
29 KARL ALZNER 0.166828531 0.235510828 246
30 DENNIS WIDEMAN 0.013286915 0.228712766 422
31 MATTHEW CARLE 0.056990688 0.209723846 413
32 JOHN CARLSON 0.183650052 0.178793208 217
33 TOM GILBERT 0.514575472 0.175991162 419
34 JAY BOUWMEESTER 0.730531863 0.15690974 439
35 ROBYN REGEHR 0.339279915 0.139454712 418
36 NICK SCHULTZ 0.931492042 0.132761278 426
37 SAMI SALO 0.253936919 0.123598272 316
38 SCOTT HANNAN 0.618265958 0.11144281 429
39 RON HAINSEY 0.387833112 0.084792176 409
40 KEITH BALLARD 0.333167304 0.073226569 383
41 KIMMO TIMONEN 0.369894496 0.073154908 427
42 JOSH GORGES 0.439347851 0.070569364 374
43 JOHN-MICHAEL LILES 0.060742455 0.003260037 377

These 43 defenders are basically the only active Defensemen in the NHL that have a reliable history over the past 6 years of outperforming expectations defensively. The defensive result is a measurement of Corsi events against and penalty differential. So basically - defenders that suppress shot attempts against consistently, without taking an inordinate amount of penalties, will do well by this measure. A few D men that ARE NOT on this list do deserve honourable mentions.

Henrik Tallinder, Mike Weaver, James Wisniewski, Lubomir Visnovsky, Brent Burns, and Tobias Enstrom are all active, but had not yet hit the 20 game plateau this season, due to a variety of reasons, at the time the list was compiled (Sunday) and thus were filtered off of the it. Their SDI Residual Score Averages would rank 3rd, 6th, 19th, 24th, 35th, and 40th on this list respectively if it was expanded to include them, thus making any list excluding them an unfair one. The total goes up from 43 to 49 D men when those names are factored in.

In a slightly different situation would be LA Kings rearguard Willie Mitchell, and Ottawa Senator defender Mike Lundin. Mitchell is struggling to return from a career threatening knee injury, but he too deserves ranking here as his average scores would put him solidly in the top 15 on this list, between Ryan Suter and Stephane Robidas. Lundin has had an injury plagued career the past two years, and has only played a combined total of 26 games over two seasons. In his previous 4 years in Tampa Bay though his combined average score would have ranked him between Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Rob Scuderi.

Also worthy of mention are youngsters Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin of the Minnesota Wild. Spurgeon is sitting at 144 career NHL gp as of this ranking - and thus 6 games away from making the list. Despite that, his career to date has been sparkling from a defensive standpoint, and this as a player more noted for his diminutive size and offensive skill set. He would rank in the top 10 between Barret Jackman and Marc Methot - which is one of the most surprising developments in this ranking that I've observed.

Brodin is another case entirely. He is the top youngester on the list in his rookie season as a 19 year old. Not only is he very young at 19 - his results are amazingly impressive. His score for this year is 14th for the entire NHL. He ranks ahead of the likes of Victor Hedman, Roman Josi, Anton Volchenkov, Stephane Robidas, and Bryce Salvador to name a few. He definitely deserves to be in discussion for the Calder on the basis of these results alone. Minnesota's defense is quietly shaping up to be very solid in the future.

So from the looks of things we have a list of around 50 NHL D men that consistently produce above average results when being asked to take on tough situations regularly. That's about 1.67 Shut Down D men per team in the NHL... thus they're at a bit of a premium... which explains why everyone wants two of them - but most teams can only find one. The truly elite teams seem to have more than two though - and this may help explain why.

Personally I'm happier with this listing than the one I produced last season, and frankly it seems to generally make sense based on what we see defensively around the NHL. It should be noted that NO offensive component is registered in the result score, thus there is no favouring to offensive defenders. Thus while some D men on this list do exhibit offensive ability, it isn't a determining factor in their SDI Result Score.

Of some concern to Leafs fans is likely the fact that John-Michael Liles is the only current Leaf to make the list... and his play since arriving in Toronto is actually poorer than indicated by his ranking in the top 43. The only other two Leafs D men to face above average Situational difficulty for the past years are Phaneuf and Gunnarsson:

Rank NAME SDI Sit AVG SDI Resid AVG TOTAL GP
50 CARL GUNNARSSON 0.49550617 -0.102496092 211
62 DION PHANEUF 0.238218179 -0.250114271 423

It should be noted that both Gunnarsson and Phaneuf are well within 1 standard deviation for their career averages, and Gunnarsson has actually been hovering around the even mark for the past season and a half. The following charts indicate the current Leafs D results during their tenure with the blue and white. It doesn't paint the prettiest picture but it does shed some light on who is playing well/poorly:

Dion Phaneuf

SEASON GP TOI/60 SDI Sit SDI Res SDI Exp SDI Resid SDI Sit AVG SDI Resid AVG
09-10 81 17.47 -0.105045669 0.156290377 0.093756336 0.062534042 0.238218179 -0.250114271
10-11 66 18.62 0.557426716 -1.070281123 -0.453722049 -0.616559073 0.238218179 -0.250114271
11-12 82 18.55 0.653388124 -0.246871129 -0.526012333 0.279141204 0.238218179 -0.250114271
12-13 32 18.7 1.663480025 -2.648571875 -1.682121793 -0.966450083 0.238218179 -0.250114271

Dion has obviously oscillated between solid and poor seasons. Last year with Gunnarsson he produced well above average defensive results despite being asked to perform in above average situations. This year though he is on the receiving end of the most difficult minutes of any defenseman in the NHL. He's drowning as a result, and carrying AHL partners for much of the season hasn't helped him (Korbinian Holzer is currently the 2nd worst defender by this measure in the NHL).

Carl Gunnarsson

SEASON GP TOI/60 SDI Sit SDI Res SDI Exp SDI Resid SDI Sit AVG SDI Resid AVG
09-10 43 15.93 -0.224637337 -0.35585532 0.194650513 -0.550505833 0.49550617 -0.102496092
10-11 68 13.86 0.436769912 -0.441333805 -0.360518527 -0.080815278 0.49550617 -0.102496092
11-12 76 17.17 0.644196755 -0.112687451 -0.519132212 0.406444761 0.49550617 -0.102496092
12-13 24 17.63 1.125695352 -1.091766635 -0.906658617 -0.185108019 0.49550617 -0.102496092

Gunnarsson's best year by far came last season, and up until this past week alongside Phaneuf his SDI Resid for this season was again above average. He likely is currently the Leafs best defender, but he's had some issues staying healthy, and is unlikely to rise above being a solid #3 without an extended run of good fortune on that front.

Mike Kostka

SEASON GP TOI/60 SDI Sit SDI Res SDI Exp SDI Resid SDI Sit AVG SDI Resid AVG
12-13 27 17.46 1.134113339 -1.083135687 -0.914763423 -0.168372264 1.134113339 -0.168372264

Kostka is being asked to do too much... just like Holzer, and Phaneuf. Having an SDI Situational Score of +1.134 in his first NHL season is absolutely absurd, and a huge indictment of Carlyle's ability to select a roster and line up his D in a position to succeed. It's ridiculous that this has been going on for most of the year, and hopefully somebody above RC in the Leafs organization recognizes the absurdity.

Jake Gardiner

SEASON GP TOI/60 SDI Sit SDI Res SDI Exp SDI Resid SDI Sit AVG SDI Resid AVG
11-12 75 17.11 -0.227017322 -0.551701441 0.196625078 -0.748326519 -0.227017322 -0.748326519

So far this season Gardiner has played under 20 games so his scores aren't listed. Last year, this data is a bit of an indictment of his defensive ability, but we know Gardiner's offensive acumen is largely what kept him up with the big club. Look for this to improve over time as he does skate very well and will eventually learn the defensive side (assuming his coaches are working on it in a solid fashion? Randy?).

John-Michael Liles

SEASON GP TOI/60 SDI Sit SDI Res SDI Exp SDI Resid SDI Sit AVG SDI Resid AVG
11-12 66 16.99 -0.076155708 0.024413263 0.069019685 -0.044606422 0.061029452 0.003260037
12-13 20 15.74 0.456334885 -0.310481506 -0.375853482 0.065371976 0.061029452 0.003260037

Liles has actually done reasonably well in his time with the Leafs - he looked solid until his concussion last year - then his play took a serious nose dive. His results by the end of the year were slightly below what would be expected of a guy giving his slightly above average situational difficulty. That being said - they were still well within the range of an "average" defender in the league. This season - Liles hasn't played all that much, and when he has he's been given relatively easy assignments. Despite that, he's outperformed them slightly from a defensive stand point, and thus shows he's still an adequate NHLer defensively. In his first few games back in the line up with Jake Gardiner - prior to his recent ankle injury - Liles looked to be back in decent form. He should probably be playing a regular shift for the Leafs given how thin the D is. NHL quality D is lacking in this line up.

Cody Franson

SEASON GP TOI/60 SDI Sit SDI Res SDI Exp SDI Resid SDI Sit AVG SDI Resid AVG
11-12 57 14.26 -0.292542912 -0.094052671 0.25032162 -0.344374291 -0.333329938 -0.140514925
12-13 29 13.76 -0.065063576 -0.418857975 0.059499012 -0.478356986 -0.333329938 -0.140514925

Hopefully this is where people start to notice that Cody Franson's play really HASN'T been up to expectations defensively - and this is why he keeps seeing easy defensive minutes in the NHL. He's been worse with the Leafs than he was in Nashville from a defensive standpoint, and he wasn't known for his D prior to his arrival in Toronto. To be fair to Cody, he is playing with a bit of an anchor in Fraser this year, but that doesn't entirely excuse the lack of results given expectations. This type of number is exactly why I don't look forward to Franson playing an increased role with the team this season. He's a bottom pairing D man at ES who gets PP minutes as an offensive specialist. He requires sheltering defensively, and until that changes (it's gotten worse not better) he isn't someone I'm expecting D from.

Mark Fraser

SEASON GP TOI/60 SDI Sit SDI Res SDI Exp SDI Resid SDI Sit AVG SDI Resid AVG
12-13 29 13.56 -0.023371583 -1.25580712 0.023635264 -1.279442384 -0.55152523 0.038146992

So Mark Fraser is like the Anti-Holzer for this season. He seems to be getting a complete and total get out of jail free card / pass to the fun house on Sundays from the press because he has a nice +/- rating, he hits people, he likes to fight Randy Carlyle style, and yanno... he's a good guy that thinks blocking shots is the type of "craziness" that wins. He gives interviews about how Randy is implementing the vaunted NJ Devils D schemes (apparently they're doing a bang up job of that - or not so much). He also seems like a stand up dude and very approachable.

In his other life as a New Jersey Devil he was even passable defensively. Unfortunately in his current incarnation as an AHL call up to the Toronto Maple Leafs, he isn't. His situational difficulty is below average in terms of difficulty. His SDI Residual Score is WAY below average in terms of comparison to expected defensive results. He's basically running around in his own end while the other team turns things into a shooting gallery.

Sure he's blocking shots, but that's because the other team has the puck all the time, and Mark seems to get in the way on occasion. He's not doing a good job defensively, and all this talk of his huge impact on the blue line really needs to stop. He makes the team worse, and I don't care that he'll run through a wall to win, because that isn't what MAKES teams win. Unless you're trying to win a contest to see who can run through the most walls... in which case, have at it... but yeah - this is hockey.

Korbinian Holzer

SEASON GP TOI/60 SDI Sit SDI Res SDI Exp SDI Resid SDI Sit AVG SDI Resid AVG
12-13 22 15.58 1.432901702 -3.338691324 -1.271885851 -2.066805473 1.432901702 -2.066805473

Holzer is by far the worst of a bunch of sad sack Leafs D men over the past 6 years. He makes Brett Lebda look great, and that's saying something. His results are over 2 standard deviations below average. They are the 4th worst in the NHL over the past 6 seasons - with the only active defender to have surpassed these depths being my new favourite defensive punching bag - Doug "Two Second Rounders" Murray... I'll get to him in a second. In other words Holzer has been horrible, and I'm really hoping for his sake that he gets to improve on these results in easier minutes. Why? Because I don't think it's entirely his fault that he was demolished in tough minutes. INSANELY tough minutes.

The "insane" part of all this is Holzer's situational difficulty. An SDI Sit of +1.432901702 is the 7th most difficult rating in the past 6 seasons for ANY NHL DEFENDER. Phaneuf's SDI Sit rating from this season is the 2nd most difficult. Randy Carlyle is basically asking an NHL rookie to play the 7th most difficult minutes recorded by any D Man in the past 6 seasons... gee Randy I wonder how that's going to work out? NOT WELL!!!!!

These are Kurt Sauer, Nick Schultz, Zbynek Michalek, Brendan Witt type minutes. These are minutes that are more difficult than anything Shea Weber, Jay Bouwmeester or Eric Brewer have EVER played in their career. Yet, somehow, Randy Carlyle thinks this is a good idea for an AHL call up. Great defensive scheming there Randy - get back to us when you figure out how to draft a decent line up...

While on the theme of bad Defenders, I think this is a good time to rehash the whole Douglas Murray trade to Pittsburgh. Murray is currently producing the 3rd worst results by SDI Residual Score in the ENTIRE NHL in the past 6 years. Here are his residual scores for the last 6 seasons:

SEASON GP SDI Sit SDI Res SDI Exp SDI Resid SDI Sit AVG SDI Resid AVG TOTAL GP
07-08 66 -0.359247054 1.355009707 0.303467257 1.05154245


08-09 75 -0.66279454 1.414077983 0.521754506 0.892323477


09-10 79 0.053254672 -0.352372003 -0.042368565 -0.310003438


10-11 73 -0.309039068 0.256850312 0.263617558 -0.006767246


11-12 60 0.038246547 -1.006518808 -0.029450378 -0.977068429


12-13 29 -0.305353957 -1.81879516 0.260655699 -2.079450859 -0.2574889 -0.238237341 382

You can probably see the trend - that is his SDI Sit has never been particularly difficult - but his SDI Residual scores have been dropping pretty steadily for 6 straight years. Back in 07-08 he was well above average, and in 08-09 he was still pretty good. Then he dipped in 09-10 drastically. He caught it back up to about average again in the 2010-11 season in fairly easy minutes, but since then it's like his numbers fell off of a cliff.

San Jose should be ecstatic they have gotten rid of him on the blue line. This is a huge case of addition via subtraction and they got to add two 2nd round draft picks in the deal. Most other D men with single season numbers remotely comparable to these after semi-decent careers quickly fell out of an NHL job. Think Paul Mara, Mike Commodore, Andy Sutton, and Milan Jurcina (all retired). Leafs fans might remember another lesser light down in these depths - Andy Wozniewski in 2007-08... if you're looking for a reason the Leafs didn't make the playoffs that year - he's a good place to start.

Below is a listing of the worst 10 Active NHL Defenders Defensively over the past 6 years who have played at least 150 NHL games. I guess this type of list is of morbid interest to me. I take some solace in noting that this spread of un-talent is pretty even around the NHL and the former Leafs on it are now no longer with the team.

Rank NAME SDI Sit AVG SDI Resid AVG TOTAL GP
112 DENNIS SEIDENBERG -0.134086543 -0.472179613 385
113 JACK JOHNSON 0.267572196 -0.526216654 387
114 MICHAEL DEL ZOTTO -0.329814751 -0.570562531 232
115 LUKE SCHENN 0.079480265 -0.579691098 339
116 BRYAN ALLEN 0.627049227 -0.595503378 326
117 LUCA SBISA 0.123387083 -0.648066855 216
118 JAMIE MCBANE -0.054131504 -0.695770759 175
119 JAY HARRISON 0.057207295 -0.70209771 212
120 RYAN WHITNEY 0.369259081 -0.743101359 314
121 RYAN O'BYRNE 0.422399437 -0.841666917 295

That being said, Luke Schenn and Jack Johnson both are actually playing well above average this season, so perhaps a change of scenery does do more for a player than I've been led to believe. We'll see how the rest of this year goes, but if both continue to show marked improvement, then maybe there is more to "coaching" and actual player development on the defensive end. It'll be interesting to see where the end up in the long run.

I look forward to discussion and comments regarding my efforts. Let me know what you think.

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