Toronto re-signs Korbinian Holzer for two years

Cam Charron
March 05 2013 03:34PM

When Dion Phaneuf and Korbinian Holzer are together, the Toronto Maple Leafs take just 43.2% of the total shots. It is worth noting that the pairing play often against other teams' top lines.

That said, with Phaneuf on the ice with Michael Kostka in a similar role, the Leafs manage slightly better, 45.8% of all shots. When Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson were together last season in an identical role, the Leafs managed 49.8% of all shots.

That third number is a hair short of even, and despite tough minutes, Phaneuf and Gunnarsson kept the Leafs' head above water last season as the second and third pairings struggled a little more with puck-possession relative to where they started on the ice.

Last season, when John-Michael Liles struggled with underlying numbers, the Maple Leafs signed him to an extension. Liles is now a healthy scratch. When Andrei Markov played alongside Mike Komisarek in Montreal, the two had little synergy and the Markov's puck-possession rate dropped from 48.5% without Komisarek to 46.4% with. Komisarek signed with the Leafs and is now a healthy scratch.

There is a flaw with how the Maple Leafs deploy their defencemen. There is a flaw with how the Maple Leafs select their defencemen. Considering the play they've gotten out of Kostka and Mark Fraser this season, you'd think that they'd try to do more of that, plug holes with good AHL players, rather than overvalue their current players.

Korbinian Holzer was signed to a two-year contract extension, no longer a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Via the release:

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Tuesday that the hockey club has signed defenceman Korbinian Holzer to a two-year contract extension through the 2014-15 season. As per club policy, financial terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Holzer, 25, has played 16 games for the Leafs this season scoring two goals and registering 19 minutes in penalties. He recorded his first NHL goal, which was also the game-winner, in the Leafs’ 3-2 win at Washington on February 5 and he logged a career-high 23:41 of ice-time on February 7 at Winnipeg. The 6-3, 205-pound defenceman ranks third (tie) on the team in blocked shots with 37. He has also skated in 34 games for the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies in 2012-13 collecting eight points (one goal, seven assists) and 28 penalty minutes.

The timing is odd because there is no worse time to sign a player to an extension than during the period where the team is winning unsustainably. Hockey teams that can grasp the Leafs' results are a short-term thing would probably not look to sign up every player available. My scoring chance differential numbers from the first half of the season will be published Thursday afternoon, and let me tell you, they are not kind to Holzer. Among Leaf regulars, Holzer is last in shot attempt differential per 60 minutes (Corsi) at -19.81 this season as him and Phaneuf are frequently caught in their own end. That pairing is not working, and if the Leafs have signed him because they're pleased with what they've seen from him on the top pairing, something is going horribly wrong.

Holzer is still waiver-ineligible, the only defenceman to be such, and it was expected he would be the guy to eventually go down for Jake Gardiner. This contract probably signals the Leafs desire to give him a full-time job with the Leafs, which may be a positive if he had a lesser role with the team, but each night Randy Carlyle chooses to keep Phaneuf away from Carl Gunnarsson and Holzer sent to the dogs on the top pairing.

This post is more of an indictment of the top pairing than of Holzer himself. I'm sure he worked very hard for that contract, but given the Leafs' recent history of giving mid-season extensions to defencemen, it's probably a contract that didn't have to be given.

Update: Money...

Jeffler has more on Holzer, a player who struggled in his adjustment to pro hockey. The dollars are fair, considering there's a chance the 25-year old could find his way into a regular third pairing spot once the mess that's the Leafs' defence this season clears up.

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 The Bag
March 06 2013, 09:00AM
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2 thoughts:

1. You write " Considering the play they've gotten out of Kostka and Mark Fraser this season, you'd think that they'd try to do more of that, plug holes with good AHL players, rather than overvalue their current players." It's not obvious to me why that's not what they're setting themselves up to do here. 787.5K doesn't scream "we think he's a top-pairing defender," and comparing this deal to the Komi and Liles signings seems like a stretch. To me, the deal says that they see a valuable AHL/NHL fringe guy who could develop into a regular (bottom pairing) NHL player.

2. You write "The timing is odd because there is no worse time to sign a player to an extension than during the period where the team is winning unsustainably. Hockey teams that can grasp the Leafs' results are a short-term thing would probably not look to sign up every player available." Again, you're making strange assumptions. The Leafs front office would have to be populated with mouth-breathing pre-humans to think that the team's recent success is sustainable. Again, the only thing comparing the Holzer and Lupul deals is that they were signed mid-season. But I don't see why mid-season deals are necessarily bad, assuming that, again, management isn't dumbstruck by the last 2 wins and are caught up in a frenzy of retaining every guy who played in those games. Which, c'mon.

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#2 BCapp
March 06 2013, 08:58AM
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We signed him to 7th defenseman money... Where is the problem?

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#3 MorganC
March 06 2013, 12:29PM
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@BCapp

Totally agree. The article is based on an incorrect premise - we paid Holzer like we paid Liles or Komisarek (or even half). Problem is we signed him for closer to league minimum than even $1 million! The only way this is a "bad" contract is if this guy regresses to worse than an 8th defenseman. Totally a non-issue for this tiny money. Stop hating.

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