About a week ago I published the individual point percentage for all of the defensemen who saw significant ice time in 2010-11 in the Western Conference, and today I'll do the same for the Eastern Conference, including a few comments for each team.
In case you need a refresher, the results here are supposed to give us a better idea of which guys are handling the puck a lot in the offensive zone and helping to create goals. Unsurprisingly, defensemen tend to be less involved in this process than forwards, and when I looked at the four-year average, I saw that the average defenseman only got a point on about 28.5% of the five-on-five goals scored while he was on the ice (as compared to about 69.5% for forwards). Still, there are some defensemen who are more offensively inclined, and it's fun to see which guys end up near the top of the chart. When we look at the results over a long period of time, the results generally make sense, but in any one year, an unlikely candidate might put up a particularly good or bad season before regressing to their personal average, something that's important to keep in mind as we look at the results for 2010-11. The raw data here all comes from Gabriel Desjardins' behindthenet.ca. Now on to the teams (in alphabetical order by city including every player who was on the ice for at least ten goals-for):
Interesting to see that all four of Atlanta's top four defensemen ended up with numbers higher than thirty per cent, and just one player (Stuart played most of the year with the Bruins) who was below average. Some of that is no doubt because of the lack of offensive talent among Atlanta's forwards, but I do wonder if that reality may have resulted in Craig Ramsey encouraging his defensemen to jump into the play more than most of the league's coaches.
No one here comes through with an incredible season, but all of Tomas Kaberle, Zdeno Chara, and Dennis Seidenberg have been consistently above-average. Kaberle has moved on to Carolina, but the Bruins have replaced him with Joe Corvo who should be able to deliver at least average offensive performance (his IPP over the last four seasons was 27.0% on 196 goals-for) at a much cheaper price.
Mike Weber had an outstanding rookie season by this measure, but I get the feeling that it's probably not something that will have much in the way of sustain, mostly because of his lack of offensive production in the OHL (his best season was 34 points in 60 games) and AHL (his best season was 21 points in 80 games). Unfortunately for the Sabres, Weber was in a contract year and had arbitration rights, so he was able to turn this season into a two-year contract that will pay him an average of $950,000 per season. Steve Montador, on the other hand, actually had the best four-year average in the entire league! He's not a player that I've seen a whole lot, but the Blackhawks are a pretty dominant team in terms of possession, and Keith and Seabrook take on the toughs, so Montador may well have another fantastic year.
One of the interesting things about this statistic is that you end up with some very good defensemen near the bottom of the list. A lot shut-down defenders do poorly here, and Tim Gleason is no different: over the last four seasons he has an IPP of 25.9% on 185 goals-for, but I'd take him and his $2.75M cap hit on my team any day (unless my team was in a fantasy league).
Dmitry Kulikov now has two complete seasons under his belt, and has gotten plenty of time on the power play in both of them, but has scored just 42 points in his 140 games. In 2009-10, he was awful in all situations, scoring just six points on thirty five-on-five goals for an IPP of 19.9% to go along with horrendous power play rates. In 2010-11, his five-on-five scoring took a big turn in the right direction, but he (along with the rest of Florida's power play) was still horrendous. No doubt the Panthers are hoping that the improvement they saw in 2010-11 is a harbinger of things to come, and not just a bump in the offensively inept road.
Here's a list that reads exactly as you'd expect with the offensive defensemen at the top and the defensive defensemen at the bottom. James Wisniewski is of particular interest here given his new (rather enormous) contract. He scored a career-high 51 points (his previous high was 30). It's no surprise, then, that this season is somewhat anomalous, but Wisniewski has been very good offensively five-on-five for some time now with an IPP of 35.0% in the three seasons prior to 2010-11, which means this monster isn't really out of place. The big difference for Wisniewski in 2010-11 actually seems to be a major increase in power play time: he played more on the power play than he ever had in 2009-10 with about two and a half minutes of five-on-four time per game, but that pales in comparison to the four (plus) minutes he got in 2010-11.
This team doesn't have much in the way of offensive talent. Players like Anton Volchenkov, Henrik Tallinder, and Colin White have consistently been well below average, and that lack of offensive presence from the blue-line might be one of the reasons the Devils struggled last year (though they sure didn't have trouble moving the puck in the right direction).
Travis Hamonic didn't get even one top-five vote for the Calder Trophy, which isn't totally shocking (I don't know that I would've voted for him), but he had an absolutely outstanding rookie season. He finished among the Islanders' top two defenders in each of the three quality of competition categories, started in the defensive zone more frequently than the offensive zone, and had the best Corsi among regular Islander defenders. He also scored! With twenty points five-on-five, Hamonic led the Islanders' defense, and was among the league's top twenty defenders in five-on-five scoring per sixty minutes. That's a great, great year for a twenty year-old fresh out of the WHL.
So Bryan McCabe still doesn't have a contract. He's been over 30% by this measure in each of the last three seasons, and can play reasonable defense if he isn't asked to do too much. It seems obvious that he was probably overvaluing himself at the start of free agency - especially since he's now over thirty-five years old - but I'm surprised to see that he's still holding out and/or that no one is interested in giving him a contract.
With 37 five-on-five points on 80 goals-for over the last two seasons and a very good season on the power play in 2010-11, Erik Karlsson looks like he's going to be the real deal offensively. The big question now is how well he'll be able to handle tougher defensive assignments. Sergei Gonchar, meanwhile, had a bad year for counting numbers in 2010-11, but should be able to bounce back next season.
The Flyers had one of the best defense corps in the league last season, and the key cogs - Carle, Meszaros, Timonen, Pronger, and Coburn - are all coming back for another year. Chris Pronger was only average a year ago, but over the last four seasons, he's been among the league's best at generating offense five-on-five, which is especially impressive considering how much ice time he's generally been asked to play.
Another of the league's best groups is also in Pennsylvania. Zbynek Michalek isn't going to put up a number over 30% too often, but he and Brooks Orpik are very good defensively, and Kris Letang has emerged as a quality offensive defender with three consecutive years between 34% and 35% after adjusting to the NHL. If he stays in Pittsburgh (along with Crosby and Malkin), last year's Norris Trophy nomination surely won't be his last.
Victor Hedman is an outstanding young defenseman, a fact that's somewhat obscured by the fact that he hasn't been on Tampa's first power play unit in either of his first two seasons in the NHL. What he has done is played a lot at even strength and played very effectively, taking on tough competition in only his second year in the league, and participating effectively in the team's offense. In his first two seasons, Hedman has scored 41 of his 46 points during five-on-five play, and has registered a point on 33.9% of the 121 five-on-five goals that the Lightning have scored with him on the ice.
Keith Aulie is an impressive prospect who was probably quite unlucky offensively in his rookie season in more ways than one. Aulie obviously didn't get many bounces in terms of generating points, but he was also put into just awful circumstances for a rookie. Aulie had just 43.9% of his end-zone starts in the offensive zone, and played against tough competition with predictable results. It'll be very interesting to see how the Maple Leafs use the young defender going forward.
Mike Green's season looks good here, but not overly impressive, but looking at the four-year sample, we can see that he's one of the very best five-on-five defensemen in the league, at least when it comes to generating offense. Since the start of the 2007-08 season, Green has been on the ice for 262 goals-for five-on-five, and has registered a point on 107 of those for an IPP of 40.8%. In fact, the 36.4% that he put up in 2010-11 is his lowest IPP of the four seasons for which I've gathered the data.