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Checking in with the enemy: Bruins trade for Nick Holden

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The Bruins give up a pick and an AHL player for a depth defensive add of an unusual kind.

NHL: New York Rangers at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The reasoning for the New York Rangers is clear here. They know they need to retool, and getting picks in volume is how you do that.

For the Bruins, this is superficially a strange move. Nick Holden is not at all who you think of when you think of the Bruins-style player. The league’s top Corsi For percentage team (if you score adjust it) is known for limiting shots against, and driving the play heavily towards the opposition. Holden is not.

But, of course he’s spent his career on the Avalanche and the Rangers, so he’s never been on a team that was even good enough to be mediocre at limiting shots against. He also routinely fails the eye-test defensively. In New York, he was often played on the top pair, which is nothing but absurd, and a measure of the state of that team, so it’s hard to take results from such drastically poor use seriously. If only there was a template for how you could translate from overuse on the top pair in NYR to lower down on a good team...

Dan Girardi: NYR vs Tampa

Season Team TOI/GP CF/60 CA/60 CF% GF/60 GA/60 GF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV%
Season Team TOI/GP CF/60 CA/60 CF% GF/60 GA/60 GF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV%
2014-2017 Avg NYR 16.56 50.73 63.07 44.58 2.36 2.22 51.61 8.55 92.95
2017-2018 T.B 13.68 59.68 56.86 51.21 2.90 1.79 61.88 9.15 94.29
Score and Venue Adjusted from Natural Stat Trick

Comparing this year to the past three years, we can see that without a big jump in on-ice shooting or save percentages driving the results, Dan Girardi suddenly looks like a much better player. What he is getting is less ice-time per game, better forwards in front of him, and a system that is very solid. Girardi also increased his personal shooting rate, and he’s getting points at near career-high levels.

Holden has a Corsi For percentage averaged over his last four years of 45%. His Corsi Against is so bad, he’d be bad on the Leafs. His Corsi For rate is terribly low.

Now, let’s try to imagine plunking this guy with similar bad results to Girardi into the hothouse environment of the Bruins where the worst players on the team have a CF% of over 51. That’s their fourth line.

If the Bruins play Holden in place of whoever they are using as their right hand man on the third pair, Adam McQuaid, most recently, they will get a player who is likely no worse at the basics, doesn’t need to be a genius defensively, but does have a history of adding a real scoring ability and more offensive support than the usual sort of depth defender.

Holden’s good personal scoring is one reason why he keeps getting played over his head. On the Bruins, there’s so many other defensively gifted players around, they can afford to skew to offence on their depth players. Assuming that playing on the Bruins with a more realistic usage will up his overall shot suppression results, he looks like an upgrade on McQuaid or Kevan Miller of a modest sort.

Bottom Line

This is a depth insurance deal for a team that is a little weak on defence once you get past the top two or three guys. Once you look below the superficial CF%, you can see that Holden might fit on the Bruins a lot better than he ever did anywhere else.

If you wanted to hear about how bad he is and the Bruins are stupid, sorry for that. Is it a good idea for a team a little light on prospects in development to be spending a pick on insurance? Maybe not, but the cost is not high, and the playoffs loom.

For the Leafs, he really is defensively suspect, so when he’s on the ice, just drive the net on that side.