Oh boy, today's
supposed to be the day we find out the name, find out our 1st round pick, realize we wish we had a 2nd rounder...but before that, one last Who We Be. Like the previous one, there's a lot to look at, so let me just preface this by saying that our D was bailed out the first two-thirds of last year by Ondrej Pavelec, and played a bit better in the latter third only to have their credibility further torpedoed by a rough year for Chris Mason.
Another chart of league averages, so you know where I'm at when I used them for our guys:
|Statistic||League Average||Range - Low||Range - High|
|5v5 PIMtake/60 def||0.72||0.1||2.3|
|5v5 TOI/60 def||15.59||6.07||20.48|
|5v5 G/60 def||0.15||0.0||0.52|
|5v4 G/60 def||0.62||0.0||2.71|
|5v5 A1/60 def||0.25||0.0||0.89|
|5v4 A1/60 def||1.1||0.0||3.55|
|5v5 A2/60 def||0.31||0.0||0.71|
|5v4 A2/60 def||1.26||0.0||4.32|
|* Ranges for forwards and defensemen are established across players playing at least 30 games last year|
|* Ranges for those in special teams situations are across players playing at least 30 games and 1 min/60 of PK/PP|
A bit different than the ones I used for forwards, described here, though there's a little overlap. Quick explanations for the stats different from the forwards: instead of doing a penalties drawn/penalties taken differential, I simply went with penalties taken. Almost by definition, the amount of penalties drawn for defencemen is low, and those taken high, so what we really want to know is whether they are taking bad penalties. I'm considering a drawn penalty fluky and not repeatable. Also, I include secondary assists for defencemen, as I have reason to believe it matters slightly more to a defenceman's talent than it does to a forward's. Okey dokey.
New place, guy should get a new nickname. Big Buff is too easy, Buff Daddy trying a little too hard. Maybe Brick, or Tank, or Rock. "Rock" Byfuglien...hmmm...Mount Byfuglien? I think there's potential here. Nicknames aside, he took soft minutes but somewhat tough competition and dominated them. That's great, but before we christen the guy a Norris-candidate we need to see him play on the penalty kill. Grade: B+
Toby is a great passing defenceman, but like Byfuglien he didn't take on a lot of penalty-killing time. Moving into his prime, he should continue to be a solid PP quarterback, and can hopefully grow into tougher minutes. Grade: B+
Bogosian received arguably the toughest minutes on the team last year, and though he was none too impressive on the powerplay, he did fairly well on the kill (best 4v5 SA/60 among the regular Atlanta defencemen penalty killers) and showed flickers of the player the team had in mind when they took him 3rd overall. I think there were a lot of expectations of him that weren't deserved, particularly because Atlanta committed major powerplay minutes to Byfuglien and Enstrom (rightly) which sapped his offensive output, and the tough minutes took his other metrics south, too. That said, he's still a raw player, but should be trusted in his development. Winnipeg would do well to make sure he's re-signed. Grade: C-
Hainsey was one of those guys that took his assignment, be it shorthanded minutes or weaker matchups, and didn't do a ton with it. There was a time in his career where he looked like he might make it as a PP specialist, but those days might be rapidly fading, particularly on a team like Winnipeg where PP defencemen are not in short supply. Grade: D+
The idea was that Oduya would add a solid defensive defenceman to the Atlanta blue line. At least, that was the idea. Instead, he took a major step backward from his impressive run at the end of 2009-10, and like Hainsey didn't impress anybody when given tougher assignments. He needs to have a good year this year, or he will not be long for this team. Grade: D-
Came over in the Rich Peverley trade with Boston and sucked. I really can't articulate it any better than that. Grade: F
Having looked at the NHL level guys, here's a quick list of our guys in the minor and collegiate levels (NHLE's are scoring totals that project their performance last year to the NHL level; I assume a full, 82-game season):
|Name||Age||Height||Weight||10-'11 League(s)||GP||PP?||SH?||NHLE G||NHLE A||NHLE Pts||PIM/G|
|Paul Postma||22||191cm (6'3")||86kg (190 lbs)||AHL,NHL||70||Y||N||6||17||23||0.286|
|Zach Redmond||23||188cm (6'2")||93kg (205 lbs)||CCHA,AHL||29||Y||Y||8||15||23||0.828|
|Ben Chiarot||20||191cm (6'3")||102kg (224 lbs)||OHL||64||Y||Y||4||10||14||1.766|
|Jaime Sifers||28||180cm(5'11")||95kg (210 lbs)||AHL||68||N||N||2||10||12||0.971|
|Brett Festerling||25||185cm (6'1")||94kg (208 lbs)||AHL,NHL||54||Y||N||2||9||11||1.037|
|Andrei Zubarev||24||185cm (6'1")||92kg (202 lbs)||AHL,NHL||55||Y||N||2||9||11||0.582|
|Arturs Kulda||23||188cm (6'2")||88kg (195 lbs)||AHL,NHL||71||N||Y||3||6||9||1.056|
|Noah Welch||29||193cm (6'4")||100kg (220 lbs)||AHL,NHL||52||N||N||1||8||9||1.250|
|Cody Sol||20||196cm (6'5")||110kg (242 lbs)||OHL,AHL||61||N||N||2||5||7||1.869|
Postma has looked like a solid PP quarterback, though as I mentioned before we don't really need any more of those. At his age, he might make a good trade chip. Chiarot and Kulda are both guys who could eventually be defensive-minded third-pairing players. Welch and Sifers are both about to become UFAs, which isn't a big deal, but Kulda also needs to be signed, and for what he'll be worth, I think they should go for it.
For as many chinks in the armour as we see here, the team is really one good, second-pairing defensive defenceman and a steadily-improving Zach Bogosian away from being a pretty good defensive corps. This is one case where free agency might help us, as defensive defencemen can come at reasonable prices. A guy like Jan Hejda could be had for peanuts. I like a two-way player that the Ottawa Senators are about to let slide, Derek Smith, who appears to be mature enough to handle an NHL role.
Considering the options, defence is a position that should be addressed through free agency, and maybe with a few late-round picks. What we're looking for is not something you can reliably spend a high-round pick on, but can be found with good scouting on the cheap. As I've mentioned previously, I think it takes a backseat in priority to centre and right wing.
Note: For more information on how the Atlanta D fared last year, check out the time-on-ice charts I put together about two months ago.