Rightly or wrongly, the big minute logging shutdown defenceman can be a thankless job in the world of hockey and the reason is simple. When you’re doing your job right, it doesn’t usually look like much. When you make a mistake, the puck often ends up in the back of the net. People usually take more notice of the latter.
Francois Beauchemin is perhaps exhibit A in this regard. “Getting Beauch’d” has become somewhat of a catchphrase (at least in my residence) for Leafs fans when #22 is on the ice and the puck ends up in the back of the net, usually as a result of one of his team-leading 53 giveaways. Few would argue Beauchemin has been guilty of more than a few glaring defensive miscues this season, perhaps above and beyond what can be expected of a major minute logging defenceman.
I’ve been guilty of letting Beauchemin’s errors dominate the discussion of his overall play as much as the next guy. But with the post Xmas break pick up of trade talk, some of which surrounding the 30-year-old rearguard out of Sorel, Quebec, general sentiment seems to have it that Beauchemin is a bit overpaid and not overly valuable on the open market but still perhaps worth trading for whatever might be out there in terms of offers. Important to consider before drawing up trade scenarios is the value Beauchemin brings to the team that might not be reflected in a potential trade return. The redeeming factors for all of the errors that get much (perhaps too much) of the attention are more resplendent than one might think.
Without getting too long winded with these statistical metrics, I’ll condense the main point here into a sentence: Beauchemin lines up against top opposition (first among Leafs blueliners in QUALCOMP) for big minutes every night (first among Leafs blueliners at 23:54 per game) and the team with Beauchemin on the ice has a good on ice plus/minus per 60 of five on five hockey considering that fact (-0.24 +/- on ice per 60 verus -0.69 off ice per 60).
Further, his possession stats are surprisingly strong considering he’s out against top opposition. CORSI measures the difference between all shots directed at the net for and against at even strength including goals, shots, missed shots and blocked shots. Beauchemin’s sits at 1.87, third on the Leafs blueline behind Tomas Kaberle and Dion Phaneuf.
What hasn’t been there this season for Beauchemin is the offense. Throughout his seven year NHL career Beauchemin has been a consistent 25-30 point producer. In the Ducks’ playoff runs of 2006 and 2007, he put up a combined 17 points in 36 games. Last season’ 26 points lived up to expectations but this season’s two goal, 16 point pace is not. In fact, he scored double the goals he’s on pace for in an abbreviated 20 game season in 2008-09. Beauchemin is undoubtedly partly responsible for the underproducing blueline that has been a contributor to the team’s scoring woes in the first half. Dion Phaneuf even more so, given he sits at seven points and earns double the salary.
Taking a closer look, Beauchemin’s closest comparables include the following, all of whom earn between 3.6 and 3.95 million:
Marc Staal – 6 goals, 10 assists for 16 points
Dennis Wideman – 3 goals, 15 assists for 18 points
Brooks Orpik – 1 goal, 7 assists for 8 points
Mike Commodore – 2 goals, 4 assists for 6 points
Brad Stuart – 3 goals, 9 assists for 12 points
Pavel Kubina – 2 goals, 12 assists for 14 points
Jarsolav Spacek – 1 goal, 11 assists for 12 points
Kevin Bieksa – 5 goals, 9 assists for 14 points
Filip Kuba – 0 goals, 4 assists for 4 points
Barrett Jackman – 0 goals, 8 assists for 8 points
Mattias Ohlund – 0 goals, 4 assists for 4 points
Who among the above play against top competition like Beauchemin does? Brooks Orpik, Marc Staal, Brad Stuart, Jaroslav Spacek, Kevin Bieksa and Filip Kuba. The average point total among these six is eleven points. Beauchemin has had a atypical first half given his career scoring and sits at eight. Even assuming he’s not going to pick it up (which he may well do), he’s not terribly behind the average points pace for a shutdown defenceman in his paygrade.
Giveaway prone? At times, yes. But what I’d say Beauchemin is not is overpaid or worthless. Moving Beauchemin creates a big hole in icetime and responsibility and one he has filled pretty capably, if thanklessly. While he has limited options when looking to move salary off the back end in return for forward help – perhaps necessitating this move – Burke knows this when considering any trade offers in the next two months leading up to the deadline. So should you.