David Musil's Lack Of Offense

photo by Orlandkurtenbach, via Wikimedia Commons

David Musil came in at ##14 in The Copper & Blue's Top 25 Under 25, and most took him to task for his lack of offense, especially dawgbone:

Musil’s offence has been basically stagnant throughout his WHL career, scoring 0.43, 0.40, 0.48 points per game. If we can all agree that you win games by scoring more than your opposition, a lack of offensive production means that you have to be that much better at keeping the puck out of your net.

The bottom defensive pairings of NHL clubs are littered with journey defensemen who can’t score and can’t make up for it defensively. They are essentially cheap stop gaps used to give top 4 defensemen a rest from their 24+ minute per night workloads.

I countered:

Musil has steadily climbed up my rankings since I first ranked him 20th in July of 2011 and it's mostly due to speaking with some WHL scouts and writers about Musil's game and his use. He's essentially used like Manny Malhotra - he starts in the defensive zone all of the time and plays against the best opponents Don Hay can find. This isn't Martin Gernat getting soft opponents and easy starts or Martin Marincin getting the same last season - he's doing what you want top players to do and he's coming out ahead. Give him easier assignments and he'll generate more offense.

Vancouver coach Don Hay has used Musil as hit top option in a shutdown role:

Musil’s absence is the largest hole, considering he regularly played well over 20 minutes per game. The 6-foot-4, 203-pound Edmonton Oilers prospect was frequently matched up with the opponent’s No. 1 line, and he was a mainstay to Vancouver’s penalty killing unit.

In addition to matching against the top line, by multiple accounts, it's Musil who gets the call for defensive zone starts as well. That role has had an impact on his point totals:

Season GP G A P P/G
Manning 11-12 59 7 35 42 0.712
Manning 10-11 72 15 36 51 0.708
Musil 11-12 59 6 21 27 0.458
Musil 10-11 62 6 19 25 0.403
Kulak 11-12 72 9 15 24 0.333
Fenske 10-11 55 4 7 11 0.200
Hart 10-11 44 1 7 8 0.182
McNaughton 11-12 42 1 6 7 0.167
Reum 10-11 37 0 6 6 0.162
Vannieuwenhuizen 11-12 69 3 7 10 0.145
Vannieuwenhuizen 10-11 64 0 8 8 0.125
Orban 11-12 43 1 3 4 0.093

but it doesn't mean he's devoid of offensive ability. Musil has ranked second on the GIants in defensive points each of the last two seasons. Neil Manning, a 20-year-old in 11-12, got the second pairing duties and the soft starts as a result of Musil's work and led the team in points as a result. It also helped that Manning was the team's power play option. Even more of an offensive burden for Musil is his most common partner was Wesley Vannieuwenhuizen, a big brawler known for his fists, not his passing or skating. Vannieuwenhuizen totaled 18 points and 309 penalty minutes in 133 games over the last two seasons, not the numbers of an offensive juggernaut. It's Hedman's job to get to the puck in the zone, win possession and move it the other way while playing with an inferior mover of the puck, much like Tom Gilbert in Edmonton. And like Gilbert, Musil isn't a bruiser - he uses smarts, technique, positioning and leverage to win battles and he uses his passing ability and skating to clear the puck.

I don't mean to make the claim that Musil is Mike Green-in-waiting, rather, I point out that Musil may have offensive abilities that he's not able to showcase due to his role. There are NHL examples of the same, for instance, Victor Hedman. Hedman has assumed the shutdown role in Tampa Bay by taking on a massive amount of defensive zonestarts and beating those minutes. But his offense has suffered. Hedman's 62.7% defensive zonestart percentage prevented his offensive game from blossoming - Hedman totaled just 23 points last year. But that doesn't take away from the marvelous game Hedman possesses and his ability to be effective in the toughest of roles. If Musil is filling a similar role for the Giants, his low offensive output is understandable, at least in this context.

Musil may never be a high-end offensive talent - but there is more to his offensive game than we see at first glance. A defenseman who gets the hard matches, starts in his own zone and isn't on the top power play pairing, yet still manages to rank second in his team in points by a defenseman (like Victor Hedman) is going alright in my book.

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