ESPN: "Byfuglien trade a big Hawks mistake"

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 04: Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Atlanta Thrashers prepares to check Nikita Filatov #28 of the Columbus Blue Jackets into the boards at Philips Arena on November 4 2010 in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

This story has been sitting on my ESPN sidebar all week:

"Byfuglien stands as an All-Star defenseman and a top candidate for the Norris Trophy."

"Big Mistake"? Norris Trophy candidate?  Hyperbole?  Let's go to the numbers:

Name Age GP TOI/60 QoC Ozone% Corsi Salary Events F Events A
Bogosian 20 43 17.49 1 43.5 -15.5 0.9 48.1 63.6
Oduya 29 54 17.13 2 41.6 -16.3 3.5 46.7 63.0
Byfuglien 25 54 18.31 3 52.8 1.7 3.0 59.6 58.0
Enstrom 26 50 17.89 4 54.3 -1.4 3.5 59.1 60.4
Hainsey 29 54 14.21 5 47.1 -13.4 5.0 48.5 61.9
Sopel 34 53 12.90 6 48.3 -14.4 2.0 48.5 62.9

 

Atlanta's #1 pairing is Bogosian/Oduya - they face slightly tougher competition than Byfuglien/Enstrom, except they get defensive zone draws, while Buf goes out in the offensive zone.  Is Dustin Byfuglien worth significantly more than the $3.5M he's being paid?

 

CorsiRelQoC Ozone% Corsi-50 Adj Corsi 5v5 TOI 5v4 TOI 4v5 TOI Salary
25 Comps 0.27 51.9 2.51 4.26 16.50 1.99 2.30 4.22
Buf 0.26 52.8 1.70 4.25 18.31 3.68 0.09 3.50

 

Byfuglien's comps are made up of 25 D who faced roughly the same quality of competition and had roughly the same faceoff zone percentage in 2009-10.  The comps were all age 27 or older - hence paid at UFA levels - and made $0.72M more than Byfuglien this season.  Adjusting for small differences in QoC and Zone%, Buf and this group were indistinguishable in shot differential.  Buf plays the PP but is 16th on the PK depth chart in Atlanta, so special teams are a wash; Buf plays slightly more 5v5 ice time, so let's say he's underpaid by $1M this season.

Let's look back at the trade that brought him to Atlanta:

Atlanta gets: Buf, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel and Akim Aliu

Chicago gets: Marty Reasoner, Jeremy Morin, Joey Crabb and the #24 and #54 picks in the 2010 draft

Other than Buf, Atlanta got nothing out of this deal: Sopel is paid roughly his true value as a #6 D; Aliu can't cut it in the AHL; and Eager was dealt to San Jose for a 5th-round draft pick.  On Chicago's end, the established players brought nothing to the table: Reasoner was traded to Florida for a minor-leaguer; and Crabb was a UFA and signed with Toronto.  But Chicago picked up three young players - Jeremy Morin, Justin Holl and Kevin Hayes - who will, on average, produce one solid professional player between them.  I'd estimate Chicago got $3M in excess value here.

It looks like Atlanta sent $3M in future value to Chicago in exchange for $1M of value in 2010-11.  How is that a win for a team whose upside in 2010-11 is four-and-gone in the first round of the playoffs?

The answer is pretty simple: Dustin Byfuglien is tied for the league lead in PP points by a defenseman, and he leads the league in goals by a defenseman.  If that's all we look at, then he's a Norris candidate and an All-Star.  In reality, he's nowhere near that class - off the top of my head, in the East alone, Zdeno Chara, Tyler Myers and Kris Letang are all demonstrably better players in virtually every category, and at least another two dozen D would be better if we looked closely at their numbers.  Hell, Buf isn't even the best defenseman on his own team (Bogosian.)  It would be great if ESPN moved beyond who wins hockey pools when they evaluate players.

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