TOP-10 UFA COUNTDOWN #2—MIKE GREEN

USATSI_8501696_168381338_lowres
Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports

The free-agent pool for 2015 lacks a complete defenseman but does offer a substantial offensive player in Mike Green. The Washington Capitals blue liner has majestic career stats that tower over most of the free agents available and he is one of the 10 best offensive producers from the 2004 entry draft. He turns 30 in October, is close to 600 NHL games in his career, and posted 45 points in 2014-15 for the Caps. What is Mike Green’s actual value, and how far is that number from what he’ll get? The mind boggles.

Green’s timing is very good entering free agency, his boxcar numbers (72GP, 10-35-45) were the best since the 2009-10 season. He’s also a very famous player, so his arrival in free agency is notable because Washington hasn’t signed a big piece of their history. How big? A good way to look at Green in franchise perspective is his ranking among Capitals defensemen all-time in the points category:

  1. Calle Johansson 983GP, 113-361-474
  2. Scott Stevens 601GP, 98-331-429
  3. Kevin Hatcher 685GP, 149-277-426
  4. Sergei Gonchar 654GP, 144-272-416
  5. Mike Green 575GP, 113-247-360

That’s some very nice company and if we factor in changes in offensive levels over these many years, Green’s overall offensive value has been impressive since his arrival. The Washington Capitals may be allowing Green to test free agency, but his Washington years were extremely productive. 

TRACK RECORD

Green’s usage has changed over the last few seasons, due to coaching changes and deployment. Let’s start with time-on-ice, and a total last year that was his lowest since age 21:

  • 2013-14: 22:43 per game. That ranked No. 2 among Washington defenders, behind only John Carlson. Green again had 2:45 a night PP, trailing Carlson in the category as well.
  • 2014-15: 19:06 per game. That ranks No.5 among Washington
    defenders, behind Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik and Karl
    Alzner. The only discipline Green ranked inside Washington’s top 4D:
    Power play, where he was No. 1 at 2:45 per night. By usage, he was third
    pairing at Evens.

The big difference year over year? In 2013-14, Green led the team in even-strength TOI, falling to third pairing under button down coach Barry Trotz. This isn’t to imply Green isn’t a useful player—he clearly is—but the veteran Trotz found a different way to use him and that may be a reason we’re seeing Green heading to free agency. Adam Oates ran Green heavily in 2013-14—Trotz had Matt Niskanen for cover and used him effectively.

Let’s have a look at Green in his Adam Oates season (2013-14) and then we’ll look at him last year with Trotz:

VOLLMAN USAGE CHART, 2013-14

green vollman 1314

Rob Vollman’s Usage Charts are here. Adam Oates deployed Green in a ‘two-way’ role, giving the veteran a zone-start push and keeping him away from the very toughest moments of the game (Alzner—Carlson). Green did well in this situation, posting a possession number above 50% (via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com) and scoring 5-16-21 at 5×5.

VOLLMAN USAGE CHART, 2014-15

green trotz 14-15

As you can see, Trotz was even more aggressive, stretching out the zone-start push to ultimate and pushing Green even farther from the tough minutes of the game. Green’s production: Even better than the previous season. His possession number jumped to over 52% and he posted 9-15-24 at 5×5 (again via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com).

A big selling point for Green as an NHL player is his production on the power play. Here are five prominent free-agent defensemen and their numbers in various categories—sorted by 5×4 points-per-60:

green chart

Green is a very effective power-play defenseman and that’s one of the main reasons he’s going to get paid. Green consistently produces PP points, as reflected by the last three seasons:

  • 2012-13: 35GP, 4-10-14
  • 2013-14: 70GP, 3-12-15
  • 2014-15: 72GP, 1-16-17

Green helps the power play—not like he did in 2009-10 when he posted 35 power-play points—and that has value in today’s NHL. 

FUTURE PERFORMANCE

Here we arrive at the crux of the issue for a team pondering Mike Green as an option. There’s a lot of miles on the player and he’s entering a period where erosion typically sets in. He’ll be 30 in October and has played 575 games over 10 seasons, along with 71 more in the playoffs. Add to that his workload (well over 20 minutes a night for most of his career) and we’re looking at a defenseman with (probably) more productive miles behind him than in front—but an NHL team is going to future pay for his past record (more on that later).

I would suggest most fans like Mike Green a lot. He’s a tough defender, will hit and take a hit, has impressive boxcar numbers and even 10 years in the man can skate pretty well. He’s famous, for all kinds of things, including scoring 31 goals in a single season—a monster number in the modern game. 

Five years ago (2010-11 season) the NHL employed 16 defensemen who were 30 years old (born 1980). Here are those defensemen, the NHL GP totals since the end of 2010-11 and their TOI/game from 2014-15 (if applicable):

  1. Brooks Orpik 269 games (21:48)
  2. Francois Beauchemin 264 games (22:45)
  3. Brad Stuart 255 games (20:21)
  4. Robyn Regehr 253 games (20:20)
  5. Bryan Allen 202 games (15:43)
  6. Jordan Leopold 188 games (14:55)
  7. Douglas Murray 156 games
  8. Greg Zanon 100 games
  9. John Erskine 95 games
  10. Steve Montador 52 games
  11. Mike Commodore 30 games
  12. Jim Vandermeer 25 games
  13. Doug Janik 9 games
  14. Matt Walker 4 games
  15. Garrett Stafford 0
  16. Andrew Hutchinson 0

The maximum number of games played for this four-year period (294) means Orpik played 91% of his team’s games. Green played 209 games during this period—71% of the overall total—and had significant injuries, including groin issues in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

There were times during this five-year look where things looked bleak in terms of health, but recent seasons have seen improvement. Green’s injury history at this age suggests a team should factor in significant time on IR for the length of what is likely to be a long deal. 

CONTRACT OUTLOOK

Mike Green is going to get paid, the only question is how much. Christian Ehrhoff signed for $4 million last season but most everyone agreed that was a crazy value for Pittsburgh and the Ehrhoff had left money on the table. Washington signed Matt Niskanen after he scored 46 points in 2013-14 and gave him a deal worth $5.75M a season—and he had less of a track record than Green.

I believe in the case of Mike Green it comes down to a combination of fame,  established performance and reputation. He is absolute gold for NHL organizations trying to send a message to fans or change a downward conversation. Often we talk about value but I don’t think the Mike Green contract to come will be about value—in fact, I’m calling it now, the contract signed will be a significant overpay.

How much? ? Unless Mike Green pulls a Christian Ehrhoff, we’d be well advised to take that $5.75M Niskanen deal and use it as a guide. I suspect he’ll get more if two teams have targeted him in free agency. It will be one of the biggest stories of the summer and that’s partly what an NHL team will no doubt be paying for when they get him.

    • Robs

      The last thing I want to see is this site degenerating into a childish debate forum with Calgary trolls. I don’t know who I am more upset with – Oiler fans allowing themselves to get sucked into this BS, or ON not deactivating the trolls who are polluting these threads.

      • radicator

        This is a sports page and those morons’ opinions are as welcome as anyone’s. Do you want to read comment after comment ‘The Oilers are the best!!’ “The Oilers are the best!!!”? Look at our friends in Vancouver, saying it over and over again doesn’t make it true.
        The Flames are going to crash and burn this season, everyone knows it. They weren’t as good as they played last season and the pressure of being that team that they’re not will contribute to their downfall. Also after reading some of the press out of Boston it looks like the Oilers might have dodged a bit of a lockerroom bullet by missing out on Hamilton. Maybe Giordano can help him out, but maybe he’s coming in figuring he can help Giordano out.
        Let them have their summer, it’s a long season that’s going to be starting in Calgary this fall.

        • radicator

          There is a significant difference between a Calgary fan giving his rational opinion and a troll trying to get a rise out of suckers for his shallow idea of fun. Can’t you make that distinction? You ALWAYS lose when you engage with these clowns, but people just keep taking the bait. This kind of stirring the pot issue is widespread on social media and our site minders are letting us all down by not stepping in and deactivating the trolls. As long as we ignore these pests I don’t care and they will go away, but too many posters here get sucked in again and again, throwing the thread discussion totally off course. Over the years we have had the occasional serious Calgary fan offer his reasonable opinions and I have had no problem with that, but this is totally different. And I think it is obvious this is no Yes Man site. There is plenty of impassioned criticism of the Oilers without trolls.

    • With our cap situation and contracts like Nikitin and Percell all they can really do is go after tier two guys so 3rd and 4th line guys unless they dump those salaries. Shawn Mattias I would target…a big centre who could play the wing. 18 goals last year and probably only cost about 2-2.5 mil and at 6’4 220 would be a big body in front of the net on the pp. I think that would be a good pick-up. Oil fans don’t you think that we got enough smaller forwards that don’t really play the body? Hey Stauffer said that would be a good addition soooo I must be right eh!! LOL!! Go Oil!!

    • Clyde is right and in fact the posters on the Bruin fan sites are saying the same thing. It is Seguin all over again, with the aid of some fawning media figures. You make a bad deal and then you smear the player you lost. This is a technique Glen Sather perfected in a different way. First he would leak negative hints to favoured media figures about a fairly well-liked player, then the player would be unloaded, often for financial reasons in the later Pocklington days. Don’t be fooled. Chia did nothing wrong here. Sweeney and Neely tried to be clever and wound up as the laughing stock of the NHL, by getting far, far too little for a premium asset.