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Was Cam Barker the Worst Defenseman in the NHL?

Cam Barker on the ice with Pavel Datsyuk. What could possibly go wrong!
Cam Barker on the ice with Pavel Datsyuk. What could possibly go wrong!

Cam Barker was terrible for the Edmonton Oilers, and even though there was some talk of him being the team's third-best defenseman when he was sitting out because of injury, by the end of the season he was sitting out because of being a crappy defenseman, so we can be pretty sure that he's not coming back. There's no room for him, and there's no reason to make room.

But was he really the absolute nadir of NHL defenders? Might it be possible that there was someone somewhere in the NHL who played somewhat regularly who was actually worse? Might that player have played for the Edmonton Oilers? I think that the answer to all of these questions could be "yes" and that the answer to two of them should be "yes". In the poll below, I've put up ten candidates (they all played a minimum of twenty games, so if you've got a alternate suggestion in the comments, make sure he qualifies), and after the jump we'll compare those players statistically.

It's always tough to know what to use to compare players across teams, but I've settled on seven categories that will tell us something about the situation and performance of each player. The first category is the player's raw Corsi number per sixty minutes of five-on-five ice time, which is more of a team statistic, but does offer some insight into what was happening when the player was on the ice. The second category is offensive zone start percentage, which tells us what percentage of end-zone starts each player had in the offensive zone. The third category is Relative Corsi, which compares a team's Corsi number when a player is on the ice to the team's Corsi number when that player isn't on the ice during the games the player is dressed. The fourth category is minor penalties per game, which tells us how often a player is putting his team down a player. The fifth category is points per game, which tells us in a pretty crude way how much the player is contributing offensively. The sixth category is Corsi Quality of Competition, which tells us what kind of opposition the player faced (I've compared each player against his teammates so that "8th of 9" would mean that the player had the 8th toughest opposition among nine qualifying defenders on his team). The last category is time on ice per game, which is useful in telling us how much the player's coach trusted him.


Cam Barker actually doesn't look too bad on this list! He's second in time on ice, has the best QC ranking, has one of the more difficult end-zone start percentages, and avoids placing last in any of the other categories. I'd put him behind Ryan Whitney for sure, but the race between Barker and fellow-Oiler Theo Peckham is a tight one. Peckham definitely has an edge in the toughness department, but his numbers above are just grotesque.

Still, I don't think anyone takes this title from Derek Joslin. Such poor results with such soft ice time is impressively repulsive, and that guy has already got a one-way contract for 2012-13 signed, sealed, and delivered! So you never know. Maybe Barker will be back.