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Is Roman Polak Safe?

Well, the Leafs are still good, and there’s pretty much nothing to complain about lately, so I think it’s time I beat the dead horse again and talked about Roman Polak.

So, Babcock had some things to say about him yesterday:

First off, props to Kristen for asking Babcock the tough questions. There’s been a slight trend since he’s got here of the media carrying water for him, and we’ve often found they don’t ask questions like this when Babs makes some questionable roster choices. He may have given her a ho-hum answer, but credit to her for finally stepping up.

Anyway, the main point of this is what Babcock was talking about, that being that Roman Polak is a “safe” defenseman, and is why he’s getting played over Carrick. That’s strange, when I think of Roman Polak playing hockey, the words “reckless”, “terrible”, and “replacement level” come up before “safe”. I’m not Babcock, but that’s just me.

There are two ways that this could be interpreted. Either the players feel safe when he plays, or he plays a safe defensive style of hockey, with the latter probably being the more likely. So, how safe is Roman Polak?

Let’s brush over the “safe to play with” option pretty quickly. In 9 games, Polak ranks 12th on the team in PIM with 8. So, every other game he takes a penalty, whether that be a result of getting turnstiled, or his sometimes reckless play. He’s had his fair share of dirty hits, ejections, and suspensions during his tenure as a Leaf, so I’d say he’s probably causing trouble more than stopping it.

Now, is his style of play safe? By this definition, he should be slowing down the pace of the game, suppressing shots, and preventing scoring chances. So, how does he fair, particularly in comparison to Carrick?

Uh, not well. He’s the worst on the team in a lot of the score adjusted even strength suppression metrics, with a CA/60 of 55.73, a FA/60 of 44.65, and a SA/60 of 31.57. Meanwhile, Carrick is first in all of them, with a CA/60 of 44.62, FA/60 of 35.92, and a SA/60 of 26.71. So, not only is Carrick safer than Polak, he’s the safest defenseman on the team.

The one outlier is xGA/60, as Polak is second on the team with 2.07. But, who’s first, you ask? Why, it’s Connor Carrick, with a 2.05 xGA/60.

We’ve also been told that he’s been drawn in because he can kill penalties. In a limited sample of 7:57, Polak actually ranks second in CA/60 (42.26), first in FA/60 (30.72), second in SA/60 (27.4), and first in xGA/60 (1.58). Except the small sample shows how Babcock doesn’t trust him to kill penalties, as he hasn’t even had eight minutes on the PK in 9 games.

Also, the Leafs are 14-4-1 when Polak doesn’t play, and 3-6 with him in the lineup. So, it’s not like the Leafs suck when he’s in the lineup either.

So, the numbers say that Polak is not safe, but what about the glorified eye test? Well, you tell me.

I don’t know about you, but that isn’t exactly “safe” play from a supposed shut down defenseman. It’s probably just me going crazy though.

    • globalgolfer

      Agreed. Concentrate on Gardiner a bit more. You could find 20X the evidence of his errors. Polak is the coaches choice and all the writers that like to find reasons why he’s wrong don’t have his expertise to do so.

  • Jroc

    He is their best D on the boards, also looked great down the stretch last year. I would like to see more of a rotation, especially on the road as it was sad watching him against MCD. He Isn’t #good, but I don’t think we need to fire him off into the sun

  • FlareKnight

    Says a lot about how much they don’t trust Carrick that Polak is able to hold that roster spot ahead of him. That RD spot needs to be sorted out since it just isn’t good enough. Polak isn’t playing very well and I can’t imagine Babcock is missing the dumb penalties. He has to notice he isn’t available to kill penalties when he’s sitting in the box.

    I don’t get it. But such is. It seems like every coach has a dumb aspect where they like a guy in the lineup that shouldn’t be there. Will just shake my head and look forward to anyone either in the near or far off future making sure that Polak can’t win a spot in the lineup.