2016/17 Power Play Rankings – Defensemen

We introduced our defensemen power play metric over a week ago (link here), and used a Shea Weber vs Erik Karlsson example to breakdown the 2-lens approach we took towards evaluating special teams ability.

1. Power Play QB / Play Making ability – this measures a defenseman’s ability to control possession, generate scoring chances, make sound decisions, and be a solid play maker.

2. Power Play Shot / Goal Scoring ability – this measures a defenseman’s ability to score on the power play and be a threat with their strong shot.

Both types of defensemen truly add value to a power play. Today, we go through the top-10 of each type and break down how they impact their team. Keep in mind that there were 113 defensemen who played at least 40 mins of 5v4 in 2016/17 – so yes, many good players will not make the ‘top 10’, but still be among the league’s best.

Power Play QB / Play Making Ability

26JUL2017 -- PPQB.JPG This chart is fairly straightforward: the PPQB score represents how each player fared as a QB / power play playmaker. It accounts for several factors: ability to generate scoring chances, team strength, defense partner strength, forward linemates strength, etc. Total TOI and TOI / gp are both layered as balancing metrics.

Some rapid fire observations:

+ Gostisbehere was a rock on the power play for Philadelphia, logging big minutes and generating 2.74 primary assists per 60.

+ Werenski’s strong rookie campaign extends to the PP as well (he was a rock-solid puck mover 5v5). In addition to strong production in both goals (1.12) and primary assists (2.25) per 60, Werenski consistently drove possession and generated high quality chances from the back-end.

+ Ristolainen – although not as strong at even strength as a puck mover – was excellent QBing the Sabres #1 ranked power play. RR generated 2.2 primary assists per 60 and was among the league’s best at creating high danger chances.

+ Some names that barely missed the cut for the top 10: Brent Burns, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Justin Schultz, Damon Severson, Roman Josi, and Erik Karlsson.

Power Play Shot / Goal Scoring Ability

26JUL2017 -- PPGS.JPG

Some rapid fire observations:

+ Shea Weber ranks number 1 – his 2.4 G/60 at 5v4 are among tops in the league. This does not come as much of a surprise, as Weber’s notorious for having one of the most lethal slap shots. Even when not scoring, Weber’s presence requires defenses to over-commit and focus on his side, opening the play for his teammates.

+ There are a trio of Blues defenders in the top 10: Shattenkirk (former Blue), Pietrangelo, and Parayko. When bringing together both charts, Shattenkirk’s impact on the power play is apparent: he’s rock-solid as a QB and play maker, but still has the ability to be a scoring threat. The Rangers addition of Shattenkirk will surely help an already solid 11th ranked PP.

+ Torey Krug and Drew Doughty also appear in the top 10 in both categories. Both players play a key role on their respective team’s powerplays (Bruins ranked 7th, Kings 15th in 2016/17).

Verdict

There are many formulas that could work on a powerplay. Some teams (e.g., Maple Leafs, Capitals, Penguins) relied on elite offensive forwards to drive power play success. Others (e.g., Bruins, Blues, Canadiens) relied on power play specialist defensemen to do much of the heavy lifting.

This is another ‘tool’ in the proverbial ‘toolbox’ that can be used in the evaluation of defensemen. Coupling it with our puck movement metric, defensive ability metric, and QoC estimation, we start to paint a 360 degree picture of each player.


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