What do stats say the Sabres should do with....everyone? Part 2
The Buffalo Sabres have new life. With the firing of Darcy Regier and hiring of Tim Murray, every player is being evaluated. Murray says he already has an idea of what he thinks of each player. Do you know what you'd like to see the Sabres do with each guy?
Well, what do the stats say? In Part 2 of 4, we explore what the numbers (and skill sets, contracts and intangibles) hint about what the Sabres should and will do with their veteran defenseman.
There's a misconception out there that Tyler Myers was only good during his rookie season. Looking beyond just his goals and assists, the 6-foot-7 D-man's second season could easily be considered his best year. He faced tough competition and came out as one of the Sabres' best possession players and had a +6.0 shot differential per 60 minutes.
Unfortunately, that was the only season in which the Sabres have out-shot their opponents when Myers was on the ice. In fact, outside of his first two seasons, he's statistically been a below average second pairing defenseman, facing second-pair competition and putting up negative shot differentials of as much as -6.1 per 60 minutes and average to well-below average possession statistics. During his career, Myers has only been a positive Corsi% player once.
On the power play, he was strong during his rookie season, but has been drifting southward since. His highest points per 60 minutes of 3.97. P.K. Subban was the league's leader last year at 6.97 points/60 on the power play.
On the ice:
The Sabres and their fans have been hopeful that Myers' consistency and physical play will come with age. For some players, becoming a consistent night-to-night competitor can develop over time, but in order to improve, a player must have the drive, ability to learn from coaching and intelligence to reach their ceiling.
It's questionable whether Myers has those things. It's also possible his ceiling has been overstated, setting unfair expectations. Some may argue his ceiling is a No. 1, franchise defenseman. There's two things missing from Myers' game that the true No. 1's such as Keith, Weber, Subban, Doughty, Pietrangelo: 1) High-end offensive production 2) Consistent physical play in the form of hits and battles in front of and behind the net.
He might very well end up as a No. 4 or 5 defenseman because of his constant ups and downs. The positives there are that he still has amazing skating skill, ability to carry the puck get deep and create offense. In the right role, you could deal with mental lapses and inconsistent physical efforts.
There's no question he's been better under Ted Nolan – and he may very well be maturing at last – but he was also good for a stretch when Lindy Ruff was first fired. And at the end of 2010-11 when he earned a long-term deal. And on and on....so we'll wait to see it for 82 games.
Contract: $5.5M cap hit UFA 2019
To quote Breaking Bad, is there anything in this world that's non-negotiable? If a team felt Myers was of good enough value to give up a top scoring winger, high draft pick or two-way top-six center, you'd have to consider it.
That ship may have sailed for now. Word is out around the league that Myers was out of shape last year and doesn't have great makeup. His value is not currently high, but could bounce back quickly if he dominates for a long stretch.
The salary cap plays a role in what happens with Myers. All the sudden a $5.5M hit doesn't seem all that bad. And if he does only end up as a No. 4 or 5 defenseman and all the defensive prospects turn out to be as good as they should be, he'll make for a terrific second or third pairing Dman - inconsistencies and all.
Basically, Myers isn't by any means a must move or must keep.
(This is what confident Tyler Myers looks like)
What the stats say:
Over the past three years, Ehrhoff has been the Sabres' best statistical defenseman. While facing decent competition, the Sabres have been a much better possession team with him on the ice than when he's off. A LOT better. Add up his on-ice vs. off ice Corsi (in other words, Relative Corsi) and he's +30.4 since joining the Sabres. That's by far the best.
The German defender wasn't used as a “shutdown” defenseman in his first two years – believe it or not, Andrej Sekera was used against the toughest competition. But this season, Ehrhoff has been the Sabres' clear go-to guy against top lines. He hasn't been protected by only being used purely offensively, either. This year, his Ozone start % is 45.7%.
The disappointing part of Ehrhoff's game is his power play scoring. Coming over from Vancouver, he was expected to repeat his elite PP scoring. But the Sedins clearly played a role there. Since being signed by Buffalo, he hasn't cleared 3 points per 60 minutes on the power play.
At 5v5, his scoring production has been decent and consistent at 0.76 points per 60 this season, 0.83 last year and 0.97 in 2011-12.
On the ice:
While Ehrhoff isn't the No. 1 defenseman he's been used as over the past three years, he is a terrific skater whose positive possession statistics are a product of an exceptional ability to move the puck in the defensive zone to wingers in the neutral zone. He doesn't panic in tight situations, can escape the hardest forechecks and still come out with the puck and has tremendous vision to find his partner even when it seems like he isn't looking.
While he will never be the type of defender who stands guys up at the blue line or provides smashing hits against the boards, he does play hard night in and night out and battles for the puck. Ehrhoff has the effort level, skating and anticipating to be an exceptional penalty killer. On the power play, something hasn't worked right since he came to Buffalo. His low, powerful shot – one that he can get through traffic – should cause havoc in front of the net, but the chemistry has simply never been there.
Yes, there are turnovers. A puck-handling defenseman who faces the league's toughest every night and is charged with every D-zone exit will occasionally make mistakes that lead to goals. It happens. But Ehrhoff is well above average at this skill.
Contract: $4.0M through 2019
With an extremely favorable cap hit and quality performance in a top defenseman role, Ehrhoff is a good guy to have around. Of course, that also makes him one of the most valuable players on the team. However, being that he isn't a physical defenseman and it's probable that his prime will last into his mid-to-late 30s, Ehrhoff is the type of player you'd rather keep than move – crazy return notwithstanding.
Had the Sabres been in a position to compete for a playoff spot this year, Tallinder may have appeared a shrewd pickup in the off-season. In a limited amount of action last season with New Jersey the veteran D-man had an outstanding +18.8 Relative Corsi. His minutes were protected from tough competition and defensive zone faceoffs, but that's generally how a third pairing defenseman would be used.
The previous season, Tallinder kept up a positive possession statistic at +3.1 while being used predominantly in the defensive zone against top lines.
The issue is that he hasn't stayed healthy. In 10-11 he played 82 games, but only 39 and 28 the two years after and 32 so far this season. He's been above team average in 13-14 with a +3.1 Relative Corsi with a middle-of-the-road 47.6 O-zone start %.
On the ice:
It's been a tough year for Tallinder. He spent the early part of this season playing with a struggling Tyler Myers, then got injured as soon as his gangly partner was getting it together.
It was clear Hank's veteran savvy hadn't disappeared nor had his skating – though he wasn't as quick on the first step as he used to be. But the nightly battles and losing seemed to weigh on him and he appeared sluggish at times. Still, Tallinder had enough puck-moving skill to effectively make difficult passes out of the D-zone and occasionally jump into the rush and create offense.
Contract: UFA $3.375M
Tallinder could help a competitor. He's exactly the type of player who gets moved on deadline day after some first place team has one of their defenseman go down with an injury.
What's he worth? As always, it depends on the market. If he's healthy, a mid-round draft pick or average prospect seems plausible.
What the stats say:
McBain is in the unfortunate position of being acquired for a top pairing defenseman in Andrej Sekera (in Carolina, Sekera has 24 points in 44 games and a Corsi % of 50.7 while facing top pair minutes).It's an unfair comparison because Sekera is in a different class and the Sabres received a draft pick back in the trade.
McBain has statistically been an average third pairing defenseman for Buffalo, facing the 7th most difficult competition this season and only pulling a +0.1 Relative Corsi. Last season with Carolina his usage was similar. They gave him easy minutes with a 55.8% O-zone start % and the 5th hardest competition. There he had a solid +6.1 Relative Corsi.
For a player with a reputation as an “offensive defenseman,” he hasn't provided much for production. On the power play, he's seen the second most minutes at 5v4 (only behind Ehrhoff) yet has only scored one goal and three assists.
Not that hits are a great stat because of their subjectivity, McBain has an extremely low number for a defenseman - only has 17 in 33 games.
On the ice:
The former second round pick has been a threat offensively from time to time at even strength, jumping up in the play and creating shots in front of the net.
On both the offensive and defensive end, he's mostly been a strong passer, but turns the puck over often in the defensive zone.
McBain's two biggest issues are instincts and physical presence in the defensive zone. He gets caught chasing the puck around at times and struggles in battles in front and behind the net.
Contract: $1.8M UFA 2014
The Edina, Minn., native has done a fine job filling a role for the Sabres this season and may fit the “puck moving” defenseman bill enough to convince Tim Murray to re-sign him. He could fill the seventh D-man spot next year or be allowed to hit the UFA market and move on. It'll be difficult to move him for anything significant at the deadline.
What the stats say:
The stats are scratching their head(s?). In 2010-11, Weber showed a great deal of promise by scoring 17 points in 58 games and posting a plus-13 in his first full season in Buffalo. Since then, he has 12 points and is minus-37 in 125 games.
Puck possession wise, look away from your screens. After two average years, he’s posted -12.7 and -8.4 Relative Corsi – both of which rank at the bottom for the team.
You might think his Corsi number is being affected by playing tough minutes, but it really hasn’t been. He’s faced the 6th most difficult competition this season and 3rd last year.
On the ice:
It’s hard to pinpoint why Weber hasn’t been able to repeat or build on his rookie year. Maybe his focus has been too much on hitting and not enough on skating or puck handling – who knows.
But the fact of the matter is, Weber hasn’t played up to NHL level recently. He’s a hard working leader who is very well liked in the room. But he turns over the puck under pressure in his own zone, takes himself out of position to check, is always the outlet rather than the player carrying the puck through the neutral zone and does not have the skating ability or offensive skills to jump into the rush or pinch in the O-zone.
Contract: $1.67M UFA 2016
Like many players on the Sabres, Tim Murray may have to take a wait-and-see approach. Weber doesn’t have a weighty cap hit, but takes up a roster spot that may be reserved for a prospect like Nikita Zadorov, Rasmus Ristolainen or Jake McCabe. There’s still some value around the league in stay-at-home defenseman. If he doesn’t fit into the plan next year, he could be moved.
What the stats say:
The veteran has had a rough first 13 games, posting an awful -20.1 Relative Corsi. However, he has a history of being a decent-to-good possession stats, especially when paired with Christian Ehrhoff.
Here are his overall Relative Corsi’s:
When paired with Ehrhoff last season, the Sabres took an outstanding 56.7% of the shot attempts in 182 minutes of ice time. In 2011-12, that number was eye-popping at 58.3%.
This year, the German pair is only at 42.9% Corsi%, but in only 106 minutes and they haven’t been together since the very beginning of the season.
You might say the Corsi% when they’re paired are simply because Ehrhoff is great with possession, but when he was away from Sulzer, his Corsi% was 50.2%
Again, in the 13 games this season, Sulzer hasn’t offered much. He has only registered one point, but in the past he has provided some offensive production from time to time, with 13 even strength points in 45 games.
On the ice:
While he lacks top notch speed, Sulzer has good hands and ability to carry and distribute the puck. The former Olympian doesn’t have a bomb shot, but can get pucks through traffic from the point when he does wind up.
In his own zone, Sulzer’s D-zone decisions with the puck are one of his strongest assets. However, his zone coverage is shaky at times and he isn’t good at beating opponents to 50-50 pucks or winning battles along the wall.
Contract: UFA 2014
The Sabres have many options for a seventh defenseman and Sulzer would make a fine choice for the role. His chemistry with Ehrhoff is undeniable. You wouldn’t want to play him a full season with the Sabres’ $40 million man, but when injuries hit, he would easily be able to slide in.