Gardiner, Phaneuf, and quality of competition

A reader writes:

You think Gardiner is the Leafs’ best defenceman? According to what criteria would that be?

Bolding these four words will draw the eye to those four words since they’re starkly different from the rest of the text on the page. The words themselves don’t matter, but the presentation is slightly different. It’s the departure from familiarity which attracts our attention.

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In my last post I wrote out the Corsi rates (table at the bottom) of the six defensive pairing combinations that were together for more than 200 minutes in 2013-14. What stood out was Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly, posting an elite-level 54.6% Corsi rate on a team where so many players fail to crack 45%.

That stands out. That’s the highlighted section. The next two highest Corsi rates for a defensive pairing also happen to have Jake Gardiner on them. That also stands out. It’s no secret that the Maple Leafs are a team that struggles with puck possession, but they also happen to have a player who struggles a visibly less.

We’ve established that this stands out. What we haven’t established is whether or not the numbers mean anything. After all, this was also written in the comment section:

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More importantly, when it comes to defencemen, time on ice and quality of competition are very important – Gardiner has been playing sheltered minutes against low quality competition because he hasn’t been able to handle strong forwards.

Hmm. This is a testable hypothesis from leafdreamer. What really stuck out to me was the next line in the commenter’s case against our defendant:

I’m not saying that Gardiner sucks or that he’s not the most talented guy on Leafs’ defense…

I’m going to snip the rest there. It’s interesting that “talent” doesn’t get equated with being the best defenceman on the team. It goes beyond talent—Gardiner gets results like no other defenceman. Since the end of the 2011-12 season, all you can say about Dion Phaneuf, the other man in the discussion, is that he faces the best competition in the league. Phaneuf doesn’t have the results to show for it (he used to!), however. Toronto were out-shot significantly with the Captain on the ice for the past two seasons.

Over at mc79hockey, Tyler has done some great work comparing “skilled” defencemen to “defensive” defencemen against the same competition. His latest post, where he looked at Matt Niskanen versus Brooks Orpik, shouldn’t surprise too many people: Niskanen is a quality blueliner, and Orpik’s major selling point is that he’s big.

Using the pages at Hockey Analysis, I spent some time looking at the star players Phaneuf spent the most time against, and compared how Gardiner played against the same players. The minimum qualifier was that the players needed 15 minutes of ice-time against Jake to qualify:

Phaneuf versus Star Forward Gardiner versus Star Forward
Bergeron, P 86.7 53 114 31.7% 48.7 46 50 47.9%
Callahan, R 61.3 55 51 51.9% 32.7 25 37 40.3%
Gaborik, M 65.7 61 58 51.3% 18.1 15 13 53.6%
Giroux, C 102.0 102 109 48.3% 18.5 17 23 42.5%
Horton, N 67.4 59 92 39.1% 27.9 19 46 29.2%
Little, B 64.2 40 73 35.4% 16.0 22 13 62.9%
Malkin, E 63.2 54 58 48.2% 17.4 13 20 39.4%
Marchand, B 81.5 43 114 27.4% 47.7 33 49 40.2%
Moulson, M 141.8 120 148 44.8% 41.4 41 37 52.6%
Ovechkin, A 102.5 108 96 52.9% 26.3 22 22 50.0%
Pacioretty, M 121.7 124 138 47.4% 39.0 39 43 47.6%
Seguin, T 91.4 62 102 37.8% 36.1 31 27 53.5%
Spezza, J 82.9 87 106 45.1% 26.5 26 26 50.0%
St. Louis, M 103.9 106 98 52.0% 25.4 19 40 32.2%
Staal, E 91.6 77 96 44.5% 18.9 20 18 52.6%
Stamkos, S 90.1 87 86 50.3% 26.5 23 46 33.3%
Tavares, J 119.8 96 133 41.9% 30.1 27 31 46.5%
Vanek, T 103.8 94 104 47.5% 18.3 20 19 51.3%
Wheeler, B 61.3 56 64 46.7% 25.7 30 24 55.6%
TOTAL 1702.5 1484 1840 44.6% 541.2 488 584 45.5%

(Note that since Hockey Analysis calculates shot attempts in rates per 20 minutes rather than raw, the numbers may not be exact)

If our earlier hypothesis was correct, then Phaneuf should have much better numbers against these players than Gardiner. But he doesn’t. In fact, Gardiner’s Corsi rate is much higher. Perhaps not to the extent that we can definitively say Gardiner is better than Phaneuf as much as Niskanen is better than Orpik, but considering these numbers are since Gardiner’s rookie season and include that one last great year from Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson, it’s impressive that Gardiner’s numbers would be a percentage point higher.

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And, yes, Phaneuf plays more against stars. He plays much more against stars. But he still doesn’t have results that clearly separate him from Gardiner when you try to control for the fact that Gardiner plays against mostly scrubs.

Gardiner doesn’t visibly play much defence. He represents the future of defencemen, however. I think in a few years, the majority of defencemen coming up through the junior ranks are going to be more of the puck-moving defencemen, as teams begin to recognize that in hockey, the best defence is a good offence. Since the game is played with a single puck, every second spent with the puck on Jake Gardiner’s stick is a second that the opposition does not have the puck. It’s why we’re more willing to forgive giveaway-prone players at this level: if you never have the puck, you’re never going to give it away.

Those of you who will write in the comment boxes about the defensive gaffes that Gardiner makes that hurt the team are sort of missing the bigger picture. The purpose of hockey is neither to score goals nor to prevent goals. It’s a combination of both, and the best players will do things that help you score more goals than the other team. Corsi, an approximation of possession, is an indicator of whether a team is doing the right things with a player on the ice. If the Leafs, a terrible, terrible possession team, suddenly become respectable when Gardiner and Rielly are on the ice, is that not an indication that the pairing is up to something that you’re missing as a viewer with your own inherent biases about the way defence should be played? Being a good defenceman doesn’t mean being big and mean. Some players, like Zdeno Chara and Chris Pronger, can work being big and mean to their advantage, but a lot of players who can’t move the puck as well as those two get snuffed out of the NHL before they get close to making it.

To conclude: if I’m Jake Gardiner’s agent, I bring these numbers up when I’m negotiating my client’s contract this summer. Once the Leafs get rid of Randy Carlyle and start to play like a real hockey team instead of one that relishes being caught in its own end, Gardiner’s possession and scoring rates will probably some of the best in the league. If I’m Brendan Shanahan, I’d recognize this and try to sign Gardiner on a long, cheaper deal now that will pay Gardiner slightly more in the first year or so, but eventually provide far more value on the back half. He’s going to be really, really good some day. Don’t be surprised when it happens. If he’s standing out this much now, imagine how much he’ll stand out when he’s on a good team.

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  • I should note here that Phaneuf obviously also has a lot to gain if the Leafs played like a real hockey team. The point is this post is more that you can’t only look at quality of competition as the reason for Gardiner’s higher possession numbers. Obviously, the amount of time against star players shrinks the gap, but there’s something else Gardiner is doing.

  • giproc

    Great write-up. $4M x 8 for Gardiner would suit me just fine.

    p.s. not sure if this changes your CF% numbers but I feel like Gards got a lot more friendly zone-starts than Dion.

  • giproc

    “Gardiner doesn’t visibly play much defence. He represents the future of defencemen, however. I think in a few years, the majority of defencemen coming up through the junior ranks are going to be more of the puck-moving defencemen, as teams begin to recognize that in hockey, the best defence is a good offence”

    Wow. What an amazing revelation, did you think of that all by yourself?

    Not trying to be a dick Cam, but you really just don’t know hockey…

    You think that the future of a defensive position is going to be based off offensive skill? Do you understand how stupid that sounds?

    Puck moving d-man are assets yes but in the end their job is to defend. You’re not the first person to come to the conclusion that offense is cool, you have to understand the point of the position.

    • You obviously missed the whole “the best defence is a good offence”.

      The best way to play defence is to have the puck on your own stick. Gardiner does that very, very well. Every second he’s helping his team keep the puck, is a second that the other team has a 0% chance of scoring. It’s really not that difficult a concept, just harder to observe by eye than defensive gaffes.

      • I didn’t miss a thing, and Gardiner doesn’t do a great job when he’s giving the puck away to the other team. He got better near the end of the year but the giveaways were a major issue all year.

        I’m not doubting the kids skill but to try to say he’s the best defenseman even though he struggles defensively (and at times offensively) is just silly.

        • Back in Black

          As Tennyson put it:
          ‘Tis better to have had the puck and lost it
          Than never to have had the puck at all.

          For a decade now the key to defense has been the outlet pass (or failing that, the ability to carry the puck out yourself). You can do all the positioning and shot blocking you want, but if it just leads to another scoring chance eventually you’ll get burned. Plus, every defenceman out there can block shots, it’s not a particularly useful skill.

          So saying Gardiner is the best on the Leafs at moving the puck out of his own zone with control is the same as praising his defence – and if that means occasional turnovers, well, it’s better than standing around Gleason-style watching the other team pass the puck.

          Furthermore, don’t let the traditional name “defenceman” confuse you. In the modern NHL, any offensive system that doesn’t involve all five skaters will not be very successful. Both scoring and defence are part of the job for everybody now.

          • Quasijr

            I appreciate the intelligent response, but I do disagree with you on some points. I wouldn’t underestimate the usefulness of blocking shots, any time that a defender can get in the shooting lane it makes it that much harder to get a legitimate scoring chance. Sometimes that half second is all that’s needed for a fellow teammate to come to the rescue, or for a goaltender to regain position. Sometimes it really can be a game-breaker, and if you’ve noticed many teams who go deep in the playoffs are adept at blocking shots at the right time. I also do believe that some players are much more skilled at doing so than others.

            My point to Cam is that it’s rather redundant to say that puck moving defenseman are a thing of the future, I think Bobby Orr might have started that movement a while back. I understand what you’re saying, but I still personally believe that the defense aspect should be the focus… not at all to refute the usefulness of puck control. But every position has it’s priorites, and offensive skill should come second to defensive prowess.

            And Andre… Ditto. Also, I’m not your buddy, guy.

          • Back in Black

            I shouldn’t have said shot-blocking wasn’t useful, what I meant to say was that it isn’t distinguishing. All defencemen can block shots, and while some are better at it than others (as you say) the difference, IMO, is small. I don’t know that anyone on the Leafs is significantly better than Gardiner is at blocking shots.

            And I maintain that puck control IS defence. There is nothing more effective at suppressing scoring chances against than maintaining possession of the puck. The future of the position Cam refers to is not that teams will want Bobby Orrs (of course they will) but that they will no longer want Komisareks, Gleasons, or Orpiks.

          • Back in Black

            Fair enough, I agree with the Gardiner point. Though I feel your opinion may change if you were to witness a player who is skilled at it every night. (Why the fabled Gorges trade slightly intrigued me)

            Once again, that’s your opinion. Carolina seemed to want Gleason (not at 4 Mil a season) and Washington seemed to really want Orpik. I look at LA with players such as Greene and Mitchell (before he left) and they do bring a different factor to the game. Dare I say intangibles? No, I would never…

            But there’s something to be said about being hit so hard that you see stars. I know it’s happened to me, and it’s not a nice feeling. Unfortunately I have no stats to back up the usefulness of that with the crowd I have here, but ask any hockey player and they’ll tell you they would much rather match up with Gardiner than Orpik any day of the week. Defense will always be the biggest factor in the defensive zone.

          • Back in Black

            No one has mentioned Komisarek other than you. And as for, “old boys”, I just finished my last year of junior eligibility.


            Possession is good, I agree 100%. But when you don’t have the puck, how are you supposed to get it back when you can’t play defense?

            Offence is the forwards job, defending is the defense’s job. The game may be changing but that fact will never waver. Everything else is just gravy

          • Back in Black

            And puck possession is everyone’s job, because you can’t play offence without it, and you don’t have to play defence when you have it.

            So far your criticisms of Gardiner are that he gives the puck away too much when he has it, and can’t get it back once he loses it. Do I have that right?

            Then how on Earth can he possibly have the best possession numbers among Leafs defencemen? If you prefer more traditional numbers, with Gardiner on the ice they’ve scored three more goals than they’ve allowed.

            Obviously, whatever he’s doing well is outweighing whatever you’re perceiving as his weaknesses. You’re either underrating his abilities, or overvaluing the importance of skills you consider him lacking.

            Is there room for improvement in his defensive game? Sure. Despite that, he’s a net positive for the team, not a liability as you’re making him out to be.

          • Back in Black

            “Offence is the forwards job, defending is the defense’s job. The game may be changing but that fact will never waver. Everything else is just gravy”

            Did you really just say that? Man, Patrice Bergeron must be doing his job wrong…

          • STAN

            Gumby is getting tired from typing…

            Dill: Not once did I say that Gardiner is a liability, just trying to give perspective. You may not believe it but I’m a huge fan of Gardiners. The point that I’m trying to get across is that you can’t have a team of Jakes. You need a balance, such as a Robidas to play beside him.

            Dear question mark, I’m going to keep it short and sweet so you don’t get confused.

            Orpik is 100% a better defender than Gardiner, if you think that poke checking if the way to defend then you need to realize that this isn’t NHL 14. And if you’re of the opinion that you’re going to stop a power forward by trying to lift his stick… well just keep on sniffing that glue son.

            Yeah I did just say that, Bergeron is regarded as one of the top forwards in the league because he has offensive skill combined with defensive skill. Which isn’t necessarily his job. He’s recognized because of his special play in both ends.

            That’s why there’s awards for such behavior.

            In conclusion, don’t say stupid things. It hurts my brain to read

          • Back in Black

            I mentioned Komisarek in response to your appeal to the authority of Carolina wanting Gleason. There is a pattern here of Carolina being wrong about what a useful defenceman looks like.

            “Old boys” is an expression referring to the hidebound traditionalists in charge of an institution. I was referring to various members of NHL administration (and your appeal to their supposed wisdom), not to you personally – but it is admittedly more about attitude than age.

            And as I said before, your last paragraph is out of date. Offence is everyone’s job, defence is everyone’s job. Without exception; any player who cannot do one or the other is of limited use. The game is changing and that is one thing that has changed already.

          • Back in Black

            I guess my point is that I would rather have a defensive d-man who can contribute offensively, than an offensive d-man who’s may or may not be soft on certain match-ups. Because I have been raised by traditionalists and that’s how I view the sport.

            There’s nothing wrong with having differing opinions, and I look forward to debating with you in the future

          • Back in Black

            “An offensive d-man who may or may not be soft on certain match-ups”. Would you be talking about Gardiner because then I think you should re-read the article because the purpose was to show that Gardiner does perfectly well against tough opposition. Just as well as the captain in fact (according to the numbers). Now, I don’t think that Gardiner can do as well as Phaneuf against this sort of competition if he were to play the sort of minutes that Phaneuf does against them. However, at the same time Gardiner should be given a chance (for a longer amount of time than last year) on the first pairing because he has not shown himself to be “soft on certain match-ups” as you claim he has shown.

            Also a “defensive d-man who can contribute offensively” that you so desire. Would that be Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, or Zdeno Chara? Point is, the description you gave basically describes the best d-men in the league and of course anyone would want them if they could have them. And wouldn’t you know it, they all have excellent corsi. Why are they the best d-men in the league? They keep the puck away from the other team. Who on the Leafs does that remind you of? Gardiner. Why? Because he’s a damn fine hockey player. His occasional atrocious giveaway is easily correctable (as we saw throughout the course of the season last year).

          • Back in Black

            Well I guess it depends on your definition of contributing offensively because to me, that means a 30-40 point player at least. To list some of the names Gumby wrote about earlier in the comments, Orpik got a measly 13 points. I certainly would not consider that contributing offensively and his -3 rating would lead me to believe at least on the surface that he is not terribly good at defending either. Another name mentioned, Willie Mitchell got 12 points. Certainly not contributing offensively. He did however perform well in the playoffs which matters but one should not solely base a player off one playoff performance. Point is, if you’re looking for defensive d-men that contribute offensively (30-40 points in a season), you have to look at the best d-men in the league.

          • Back in Black

            If that were your point no-one would have argued with you in the first place. I hesitate to put words in your mouth, but it seems to me that your position has been that moving the puck out of the zone is not a valuable “defensive d-man” skill.

          • STAN

            “Once again, that’s your opinion. Carolina seemed to want Gleason (not at 4 Mil a season) and Washington seemed to really want Orpik. I look at LA with players such as Greene and Mitchell (before he left) and they do bring a different factor to the game. Dare I say intangibles? No, I would never..”

            Love how it comes down to the “This NHL team values it by acquiring this player, that justifies it.”

            Ask any hockey player, and they’ll tell you they’d rather play against a pylon like Orpik over someone who can actually skate, like Gardiner, any day of the week. Gardiner’s gotta get 1 stick life or poke check, and the play is done. Orpik has to stay close enough to the forward, which is difficult enough for him, and then block the shot or hit they guy.

        • Back in Black

          Giveaway opportunities aren’t equally distributed amongst players. As Back in Black has been saying, you have to possess the puck in order to have an opportunity to give it away. The more you’re in possession of the puck, and trying to do something useful with it like pass/carry it out, the more chances you have to give it away.

          Regardless of his giveaways, the Leafs possess the puck more when Gardiner’s on the ice than when he’s not. If you have possession, the other team’s chances of scoring are pretty much 0%. More puck possession can ONLY be a good thing.

          The whole problem you’re having right now is that you’re considering puck possession an “offensive skill”, and saying that defence is the priority for defencemen. Well given that the other team can’t score when yours has the puck, puck possession is unquestionably also a defensive skill, arguably the most important one.

          Blocking shots is all fine and good, but the problem is that if you’re having to employ that skill, you’ve already failed at the most basic job of every player on the ice. Possess the puck.

          So yes, Gardiner gives the puck away sometimes, and it’s noticeable, and it makes you have yucky feelings when you’re watching it happen to your team. I get it. What you’re not realizing is that the negatives that are the giveaways are outweighed by all the positive things he does from a puck possession standpoint. Far more so than you’re giving him credit for.

      • Back in Black

        I wonder how long it took for you to come up with that mind-blowing insult.

        Sit down for a bit, that probably took all of your brainpower, and Jerry Springer starts at 3

  • giproc

    Another issue that clouds the comparison is familiarity with the competition. Phaneuf has been playing against the same top competition for years. Gardiner is only slowly being introduced to them and should improve as he learns their tendencies.

  • Back in Black

    Corsi has some use, but what really matters is goals. What was Phaneuf’s and Gardiner’s plus minus against the best competition that’s what matters. Not the plus minus in shots.

    And if you want you can express the goals for/against as a percentage, as you do with Corsi.

  • STAN

    Gumby writes:

    “My point to Cam is that it’s rather redundant to say that puck moving defenseman are a thing of the future, I think Bobby Orr might have started that movement a while back.”

    Yes, but you have to recognize there have been recent rule changes that make the speedy and/or offensive defenseman even more important. The game is faster. You can’t hook and hold like you used to. The goons and headhunters are on the decline (stiffer penaties than ever and suspensions will continue become more harsh) so the speedy and/or smaller offensive defenceman has less to worry about.

    You also can’t just point to the big guys on LA. Chicago won the year before and took LA to overtime in the seventh game. Look at the top four of Chicago…they aren’t that huge. Seabrook is big at 221 lbs, but Keith is only 200 lbs, Hjalmarsson is 207, Oduya is 190lbs.

    I frequently disagree with Cam, but this time I think he is right.

    • Back in Black

      Let me start off by saying that I’ve read a number of your comments in the past DP, and I agree with nearly every one.

      I think you mis-read me, I’m not talking about those players size. The focus was more on the fact that those players are considered defensive d-men.

      Oduya is a perfect example of a player who’s not the least bit flashy, yet was traded for because Chicago recognized his usefulness in the defensive aspect of the game.

      If you find a player like Rielly who can do both, well then perfect. But he won’t come around as often as we would like, and like a broken record, defense should be the focus for that position.

  • Back in Black

    The question that needs to be answer is – if the leafs replaced Phaneuf and Gardiner by two Gardiners, then would the leafs defence would be superior?

    Also this just looks at corsi rates. Have you looked at their respective offensive production.

    And third why do fans pick on Kessel, Phaneuf and our best players? I mean Clarkson is just terrible player. Orr, Bozak, Mclaren. I think we have bigger problems them Phaneuf.

  • Back in Black

    Also, the PPP analytics folks always ask people who put down Phaneuf to name 30 better dmen then Phaneuf. My your methodology what NHL defenders are “better” then Phaneuf. It appears Gardiner is one of them by this.

  • Back in Black

    This is something totally off topic but in order to fill the second line winger void why not bring back Kris versteeg. He was a quality winger back in Toronto (35 points in 53 games) and is a hella lot better than frattin or Clarkson. Not to mention but his value is a all time low and his cap hit is only 2.2m. We could probably trade a 3rd round pick for him since the hawks are clearly trying to free up cap space. Seriously I never really got why the leafs traded him.

  • STAN

    Great piece Cam. The Corsi stats don’t lie. But you can see it with our own eyes. Phaneuf is almost always looking to get rid of the puck, whereas Gardiner is always looking to get and keep it for a while.

    I’ve been making the argument for years that the best defence is great offence. Granted times have changed, but the reason the Edmonton Oilers were arguably the best team ever was POSSESSION. They were puck hogs and relished getting it, keeping it and always pushing forward. That and some great skaters.

    I’m not sure what diehard Phaneuf fans have been watching the past three seasons. He’s obviously slower, increasingly mistake prone and just makes far too many bone-headed decisions.

  • STAN

    Jake and Morgan are the future of this teams blue line…

    Obviously Jake has amazing skill with the puck and is a good distributor as well and will only get better at moving the puck.

    But what people don’t seem to realize is his defensive potential.

    Mobility is key to defend top players in the league, and Gardiner is above average in the mobility department.

    He has a 6 foot 2 frame to fill out, so hes not a small guy, he has a long reach and is pretty good at reading the play as it develops.

    Hes essentially a pretty big guy with great skating and good anticipation, i don’t see how hes weak defensively…I watched every game he didn’t stand out to me as the worst defender defensively, although his partner Franson did.

  • STAN

    Ok I’m not big believer in advanced stats but in this case I will make an exception. Because I will support anything that paints Phaneuf and his poor captaincy negatively.

    There is a good facebook group you guys might like with a goal to get rid of Phaneuf. And when they trade Phaneuf, it would great to make Gardiner the captain. I think he listens to Beiber doesn’t he?

    But this to me is not prove that Phaneuf is not good at playing defence but that he is not a good captain and team leader.

      • Back in Black

        He wrote an intelligent and well-reasoned post, to which your most consistent responses have been “you just don’t know hockey” and “defenceman has the word defence in it”.

        • Quasijr

          Intelligent and well reasoned ?

          I’m sorry, but no.

          His response was to call me a monkey.

          If that’s all that you got out of my posts, then perhaps you’re a lost cause?

          Oddly enough, a few people did seem to understand what I was getting at

          There’s more to the game than “goals win hockey”, and possession stats. And if you don’t get that, well I guess that’s where the “do you even play” argument constantly comes up.

          Call them anecdotes or whatever makes you feel better, but hockey people know the importance of such things. As do the ones in charge of the NHL teams

          And as long as there’s people like Cam that have never played a game of high level hockey talking like they’re geniuses, there will be pricks like me bringing them back down to earth

          The backwards thing is that this site treats hockey experience as useless. On a hockey fan page.

  • Back in Black

    Cam – I don’t disagree with the point about Gardiner being the type of “future” D people will see more of. But I don’t think there is only room for mobile puck movers for a few reasons.

    1. They don’t tend to excel on the PK… and the PK (while less important) is still important.

    2. Your statements about the linkage between Corsi For and Corsi Against are not true at the individual level. They ARE true for teams… but not individual players.

    That is to say – the correlation between CF and CA is virtually zero for individual skaters. Guys that generate offense do not necessarily excel at defense. In fact there’s zero reason to assume that they do. If anything the correlation is POSITIVE (very slight R^2 of +0.03).

    So while team may want more of these guys to help improve their possession, it doesn’t follow that all the guys with the higher CF numbers are going to have lower CA numbers… can we please stop promulgating this misconception?

  • Two things pop out in the article and the ensuing thread of insults.

    1) The “data set” is only 19 players. If an agent brought me this to support their client, I would wipe my ass with it. They have both played against hundreds of players so a subset of 19 players (Little and Wheeler?) is arbitrary. It’s pick and choose – and in that there is a big issue with bias. I put less than zero weight on those stats – especially since they come out 1% apart. From someone who has done business stats at the graduate level – this isn’t a good analysis by any measure. At very least, I would recommend expanding to at least 30 data points. That being said, I appreciate the analysis and it is FAR better than the majority of drivel that is a bunch of incoherent thoughts by someone who barely knows hockey.

    2) Maybe puck carrying D-Men are the future. Maybe that help possession and helps teams win games. And if that is the proxy for winning, then you it would make sense. However, if you play against teams that are roughly as good at possession or better – then you have an issue if you’re a weak defender. And you wold expect that this is what moving through the playoffs would look like. You would face increasingly better possession teams. Your answer to this has to be to keep the opposition to weaker shots and block when you can. That’s where Gardiner is less good.

    He skates incredibly well and makes amazing offensive plays which supports your stats. He is weak down low and makes some irresponsible plays that don’t support your stat.

    Also, I actually wanted to check to see what removing Bryan Little would do to the stats. When I reviewed your Totals, I am not sure how you arrived at them – I can’ recreate them. Phaneuf’s weighted avg adds up but can’t recreate your Gardiner total.

    Anyway, thanks.

  • Back in Black

    Jesus… I don’t read that much of Leafs Nation, being a Vancouver guy, but had no idea the comment section was so utterly and irredeemably awful. Do you guys not have a “ban” button? How do you manage to put up with this low-level trolling interspersed with one-off drive by posts extolling the virtues of plus/minus as a stat for measuring defensemen?

    The level of patience it must take to write for this blog is unfathomable to me.

  • Back in Black

    A single percentage point isn’t really that strong and you have to consider a) zone starts and b) fatigue.

    Phaneuf has far fewer OZ starts and also plays far more minutes. The fact that Gardiner is only 1% higher in CF% doesn’t really tell us much about Gardiner’s game. If anything it supports Dion.

  • Back in Black

    Just to build on what I wrote above:

    Phaneuf logged 23:33 minutes per game (33rd most overall)
    Gardiner logged 21:04 minutes per game (78th most overall)

    That’s 2 1/2 minutes more per game for Phaneuf, and practically all of that extra 2 1/2 minutes was short-handed play which obviously is far more tiring.

    OZS% Phaneuf 37.2
    OZS% Gardiner 43.0

    Put those two together and a 1% difference in CF% is meaningless. It’s not even statistically significantly different to begin with.

  • Quasijr

    The only thing I come up with this post is that yes its time to give Gardiner more time against top lines. Then we can see if he’s ready as this small sample says he is.
    Gardiners CF is basically the same as Dions playing 1/3 the time. If he played as much against the top lines would they have eaten his lunch & took his money too.
    My view is Jake plays 5 minutes a game against Dions 13-15 mins . Its time to move Jakes time up to 8-10 mins a game lightening the load on Dion. This automatically makes the Leafs defence better.