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Pilot's Logbook: Finding "Moneypuck" UFAs, Defensemen

Looking at how the Jets could improve their roster's competitiveness without adding the expensive "sexy picks"

Marianne Helm

A person referring to "moneyball" or "moneypuck" alludes to far more than numbers and statistics, but rather discovering exploitable market inefficiencies. In other words, moneypuck is about readjusting priorities and decision making in order to improve a team's chance at winning without expending more money.

One of the best exploitable markets currently is players who drive shot metrics, or good Corsi players. Why is that?

Corsi% is a measurement on which net has more pucks being directed than the other. Having better Corsi% players correlates strongly to puck possession and over the long run it also correlates to outscoring the player's opponent, which generates wins. Of course, having better point scorers enhances a team as well. However, as the NHL has performed up to nowthe value per dollar in improving a team exists substantially more within Corsi players over point scorers.

The main reason likely lies in human nature. Scorers create direct contributions to on-ice goals, while superior shot metrics players may be improving their team indirectly. Direct contributions are more noticeable and get rewarded with higher salary. They are also the players that fans tend to exalt the most. Indirect contributions can be noticeable in the micro but over a large sample of season it can be difficult to compare who helped the most without statistics. Players who help indirectly are often the players that fans tend to condemn for lack of scoring. This was discussed in more depth within Further to the Big Mistake. (It should also be noted that there are a lot of players who can do both well and some that can do neither)

Winnipeg Jets Defensive Holes and Needs

The Jets have six defensemen under contract for next year (seven if you included Dustin Byfuglien). However, there is a gap in the Jets depth charts. As it stands, neither Mark Stuart nor Paul Postma have ever successfully undertaken any minutes without being severely sheltered. In addition, Grant Clitsome has only succeeded with the helping hand of shot-metrics virtuoso Dustin Byfuglien and Clitsome's status post-surgery is a huge question mark.

You can never have too much defensive depth and currently the Jets have too little. A mid range 4-5 guy with decent shot metrics would improve the Jets and with the addition of some smart improvements up front could improve Jets possession to make up for their goaltending.

Unlike forwards, some defensemen don't get paid essentially on scoring numbers alone. There is often a larger influence by reputation and plus/minus statistics, often because it is difficult to evaluate indirect contributions and so scouts have become increasingly reliant on evaluating via direct contributions.

Moneypuck players to fill the hole

The best:

Here are some players who haven't pulled the scoring numbers as of late to demand large AAV or term that could bite the Jets back, while still being able to contribute to the Jets in other ways.

Mark Fayne - Age: 27 - Shoots: Right - Last CapHit: 1.30 mill - 72 GP, 4 G, 7 A, 11 PTS

TOI/60 S/60 Penalty +/- Corsi% relCorsi% O/D ZS% rel O/D ZS% PDO
18.0 4.0 -10 55.3% +1.5% 47.3% -7.8% 96.6

There should always be a worry when evaluating any of the New Jersey Devils' underlying numbers. They are a team that has played a system which seems to severely reduce shot events while elevating their Corsi%, and it goes beyond home-scorers bias as this trend continues for road games as well. However, Fayne's positive relCorsi% still puts him ahead of the bunch, despite taking a larger share of the team's defensive zone starts.

These results have been consistent for Fayne over the last three seasons. A player like Fayne could take the tough defensive zone starts with any one of Tobias Enstrom, Zach Bogosian or Jacob Trouba, allowing for the remaining two to be given more optimal scoring minutes. His extremely low PDO also means this is an excellent time to buy low on the 27 year old.

Anton Stralman - Age: 27 - Shoots: Right - Last CapHit: 1.70 mill - 81 GP, 1 G, 12 A, 13 PTS

TOI/60 S/60 Penalty +/- Corsi% relCorsi% O/D ZS% rel O/D ZS% PDO
19.2 4.0 -3 56.5% +6.0% 50.7% -2.3% 99

Stralman was initially the pièce de résistance for free agency, but a huge jump in PDO and some high profile coverage at the finals may have changed that. Tyler Dellow has already recently written about how Stralman's performance has been one of the leading reasons why the New York Rangers made it as far as they have; I highly recommend the article.

This was the first season where Stralman hasn't received an offensive zone deployment push, yet he didn't step back at all when it came to performance. Stralman hasn't been able to produce much offense but with a team with Byfuglien, Enstrom, Bogosian, Trouba and Clitsome all top 60 in points per minute over the last 3 seasons, I think the Jets could do okay with a guy who just simply pushes the play at elite levels.

Raphael Diaz - Age: 28 - Shoots: Right - Last CapHit: 1.23 mill - 63 GP, 2 G, 13 A, 15 PTS

TOI/60 S/60 Penalty +/- Corsi% relCorsi% O/D ZS% rel O/D ZS% PDO
17.7 3.6 -5 49.7% +1.3% 48.9% +2.7% 98.3

Like Stralman and Fayne, Diaz has influenced his team's possession metrics in a positive direction; however, unlike the other two defensemen, Diaz has been given less than the average share of defensive zone starts for the team. There is a risk that this is a lucky blimp, as Diaz's shot metrics have not been as favourable the previous two seasons.

There is a lot more risk to Diaz developing into a poor shot metric player than Stralman or Fayne, although he is still likely to perform similarly to Mark Stuart at a worst.

That is all for low scoring players who pushed the play well. There were three who did both well in Christian Ehrhoff, Matt Niskanen, and Tom Gilbert, but they are likely to cost a lot more in both AAV and term.

The okay:

There are some players who would be upgrades on the Jets although not as optimal. These are players who took tough defensive zone assignments and didn't come ahead, but still did good relatively speaking.

Brett Bellemore - Age: 26 - Shoots Right - 600 thousand - 64 GP, 2 G, 6 A, 8 PTS

TOI/60 S/60 Penalty +/- Corsi% relCorsi% O/D ZS% rel O/D ZS% PDO
17.2 2.9 -3 48.4% -1.2% 44.1% -8.5% 99.6

Bellemore has moved up and down between the NHL and the AHL. While his scoring at both levels leaves a lot to be desired, there is some value to the 26 year old. Bellemore has been deployed severely in the defensive zone, which is not the norm treatment to be given to a depth defensemen. While his Corsi% and relCorsi% indicate that he is not dominating his usage like an elite top 4 defenseman, he is handling them relatively well. A quick look at 2011-14 WOWY's make it appear that Bellemore's 2 most common defensive partners did better with Bellemore than without, which is a positive sign.

The value in a player to Bellemore is in his ability to take defensive zone starts in order to allow Jets strong offensively gifted defensemen more opportunities to perform in the zone they thrive in. While he won't beat those minutes he handles them far more adequately than a Mark Stuart or Keaton Ellerby.

Mike Weaver - Age: 36 - Shoots: Right - Last CapHit: 1.10 mill - 72 GP, 1 G, 12 A, 13 PTS

TOI/60 S/60 Penalty +/- Corsi% relCorsi% O/D ZS% rel O/D ZS% PDO
18.2 2.4 +5 49.1% -1.5% 44.0% -5.6% 99.4

Weaver is another defensemen who has not thrived in defensive zone assignments but has performed better than most of the Jets options. Weaver also had a positive penalty differential, which is rare for a defensemen, especially one taking such a large defensive zone assignment.

Not a sexy pick and risk given his age, but there is likely more benefit to having Weaver line up in the Jets top four than other options that have been used.

From within:

There is also the option also of filling these roles within...

Zach Redmond - Age: 25 - Shoots: Right - Last CapHit: 715 thousand - 10 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 PTS

TOI/60 S/60 Penalty +/- Corsi% relCorsi% O/D ZS% rel O/D ZS% PDO
17.0 4.5 -2 54.8% +5.2% 54.5%

The statistics above are combining the last two seasons, since the blue liner's sample size is small. Zach Redmond has been sheltered for most of his career, but he has dominated these minutes and therefore could take on a tougher workload.

It may be unlikely that we see Redmond, as his best shot with sticking in the NHL may be outside of the Jets organization and he now has UFA status. However, he would likely be a solid asset to retain.

Adam Pardy - Age: 30 - Shoots: Left - Last CapHit: 600 thousand - 60 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 3 PTS

TOI/60 S/60 Penalty +/- Corsi% relCorsi% O/D ZS% rel O/D ZS% PDO
14.2 3.3 -9 53.7% +3.8% 58.8% +9.8% 99.8

EDIT: As of this morning, Adam Pardy was extended, but we'll keep this here anyways.

Pardy was extremely sheltered, but also performed admirably in those sheltered minutes. Although it is highly Pardy could thrive in a defensive zone specialist role, he has faired decently with slightly less sheltered minutes in his previous two seasons.

While Pardy would be a poor candidate for tough minutes, you could do worse in having him on the third pair. The less severe the sheltering pairs need to be sheltered, the less severe assignments the tough minute pairs need to take.