Crunching the Numbers on the League’s Top Crunchers

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    As has been the case for most of this season, rookie defenseman Luke Schenn was one of the lone brights spots as the Toronto Maple Leafs came away with yet another disappointing result on Friday night against the Atlanta Thrashers. Schenn logged nearly 25 minutes of ice-time, 4 minutes on the PK, recorded an assist, made a brilliant defensive play on the Kovalchuk near-breakaway and threw in a couple of resounding hits for good measure. Among the 4 defensemen who logged 20+ minutes of ice-time (Kubina, Kaberle, Schenn, White), Luke was the only one not to finish with a minus rating.

    When glancing at Schenn’s modest stat line for this season (33 GP, 0 G, 4 A, -5 rating), you might be quick to say that you know he’s been pretty decent so far this season, but I suppose the stats don’t show it. Well, let’s dig a little deeper and see what we can find:

    The first thing is to establish an efficiency measurement of some sort, to determine a defenseman’s contribution on the defensive aspect of the game. To do this, we’ll use some of the league’s most recognized shutdown defensemen.

    All stats are on an average per-game basis:

    Mike Komisarek: 3.5 hits, 3.6 blocked shots, 0.8 giveaways, 0.5 takeaways

    Anton Volchenkov: 2.9 hits, 2.8 blocked shots, 0.4 giveaways, 0.3 takeaways

    Brendan Witt: 2.0 hits, 2.5 blocked shots, 0.6 giveaways, 0.5 takeaways

    Brooks Orpik: 3.7 hits, 2.0 blocked shots, 0.5 giveaways, 0.1 takeaways

    Robyn Regehr: 1.6 hits, 1.2 blocked shots, 0.5 giveaways, 0.1 takeaways

    Average: 2.74 hits, 2.42 blocked shots, 0.56 giveaways, 0.3 takeaways

    Ratio: 9 hits, 8 blocked shots, 2 giveaways, 1 takeaway

    The average gives us an idea of how much the average “elite” shutdown defenseman records in each category, and an idea of what categories are harder to record.

    Therefore, the magic formula to give us an efficiency rating is:

    (1/9 hits + 1/8 blocked shots – 1/2 giveaways + takeaways) x 100

    That formula allows us to “even” out the stats so that the easiest stats categories to record such as hits and blocked shots guess less weighting than the harder stats categories such as takeaways. Applying this to our 5 shutdown defensemen:

    Mike Komisarek: 93.89 efficiency rating

    Anton Volchenkov: 77.22 efficiency rating

    Brendan Witt: 73.56 efficiency rating

    Brooks Orpik: 51.11 efficiency rating

    Robyn Regehr: 17.78 efficiency rating

    First thought: Ouch, Robyn Regehr, but he’s having an off-year. If we did the same exercise using last year’s stats, Robyn would have given him a more reasonable 40.38 efficiency rating. For interest’s sake:

    Chris Pronger: 52.04 efficency rating

    Zdeno Chara: 51.33 efficieny rating

    Jay Bouwmeester: 33.80 efficieny rating

    Tomas Kaberle: 7.04 efficieny rating (Ouch.)

    Alright, back to Luke Schenn:

    102 hits, 52 blocked shots, 31 giveaways and 15 takeaways in 33 games played yields a 52.52 efficiency rating, which would have placed him just a notch under some of the league’s top defensemen.

    What about his fellow rookies?

    Drew Doughty: 29.13 efficiency rating

    Zach Bogosian: 57.63 efficieny rating (through 12 games played)

    Luca Sbisa: 9.17 efficiency rating

    Kevin Klein: 18.67 efficiency rating

    Alex Goligoski: 15.18 efficiency rating

    Basically, the stats say that Luke completely blows them out of the water defensively. Interesting stuff.

    Now obviously there are a multitude of factors that this method fails to account for, including level of competition. But for the most part, it does give us a general idea and another perspective when it comes to evaluating defensive play. Now what are your thoughts? Agree/disagree with this method? Hope you guys enjoyed that as much as I did.

    Always a pleasure,

    Alex Tran

    [email protected]

    P.S. Big props to hockeysense over at hfboards for giving me the idea of using an efficiency rating calculation.