Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Pronger Finding A Scoring Touch

Chris Pronger is a Hall of Fame defender who has had most of his career value shown in his defensive play. His career best season is a 62 point year in St Louis in 1999/2000 when he won the Hart Trophy. This year, he has been even more dominant offensively. He has 30 points in 29 games which is good for second place in the West Conference. He is still contributing defensively and may be having his best season of his career. Despite that, I believe Nicklas Lidstrom is the best defender in the year so far and also the Hart Trophy favorite. Both Lidstrom and Pronger are haviong fabulous years (at this point I would call them the two best players in the NHL this season). Lidstrom has been extremely dominant in his own zone. He is a big part of the reason Detroit has allowed the least shots in the NHL this season. The fact that the two best players in the NHL are West Conference defenders is part of the reason that the west has been lower scoring than the east.

Wow. Back-to-back Ducks hype, eh?

Pronger has been playing awesome, that's for sure. Very little to knock in his overall game.
I don't have the most recent stats (too lazy to recalculate them) but as of a few weeks ago Lidstrom was in the middle of the pack on his team for shots against while he was on the ice. There were 6.72 shots against Wings goalies per 20 minutes of Lidstrom even strength ice time. Schneider (5.24) and Markov (5.31) led the wings in fewest shots against while on the ice. Intrestingly, Lidstrom was 10th best on the Red Wings and also 10th best in the league. Most people should be able to figure out what that means in terms of which team the rest of the top 10 come from. So my conclusion would be that the Wings keep their shots against totals down either by playing bad teams (like Columbus, St. Louis, and Chicago) or because of the system that they play. Probably a combination of both. Lidstrom was middle of the pack on the Red Wings last year as well.

Prongers shots against per 20 minutes was 8.81. If you are interested I could recalculate them for you with data up to now.

What is missing from your numbers is that Lidstrom plays against the best players on the opposing team so that Markov and Schneider do not have to.

You have no context for the number but seem to think it is meaningful.
To say that Detroit gives up the fewest shots in the NHL and that Lidstrom is a major reason for that is equally nonsensical because you have done nothing to draw the connection between Lidstrom's ability and Detroit's low shots against.

When I calculate my defensive ratings when take into account who Lidstrom plays with and against he still comes out middle of the pack.

In terms of even strength time on ice, Schenider and Markov are only about 9% fewer minutes that Lidstrom so I am pretty sure that one or both of them play significant amounts of ice time against the opposing teams best forwards. In terms of Red Wings defensemen, Schneider, Markov, Kronvall and Lebda all had fewer shots against per 20 minutes of ice time than Lidstrom. Only Chelios is worse. I am not trying to say that Lidstrom isn't a good defenseman because he is, but he isn't the only, or even the main or most significant, reason for Detroit's low shots against totals and he probably has a significantly smaller influence on Detroit's defensive ability than Pronger has on Anaheim's offensive output.
When I watch Detroit it is clear that Lidstrom is the most important guy in their defensive zone. He is the man who is most important to them preventing goals and shots against. It is clear that Mike Babcock thinks that too when you watch the way he uses Lidstrom and his other defenders.

If you thionk your stats show that Brent Lebda is better defensivelky then Lidstrom is, then your problem is with the statistics and their interpretation. Watch a game and it should be obvious that isn't true.
Again, I am not disputing that Lidstrom isn't a great defender. My point is that Lidstrom isn't the reason why Detroits shots against totals are low as much as it is the system the Wings play and their opposition.

Detroit has played the Blues, Sharks and Oilers 3 times each, The Oilers are 4th last in shots, the Blues are 9th last, the Skarks 11th last. They have also played Calgary (3rd worst) twice, Nashville (10th worst) twice and Dallas (12th worst) twice. Add to that a game against Chicago (worst), Columbus (5th worst), Pittsburgh (6th worst) and Phoenix (13th worst) and you will realize that the Wings have played 19 of their 26 games against teams who are in the bottom half of the NHL in terms of shots taken.

Their other games are 3 against Vancouver (8th overall), Buffalo (15th), L.A. (3rd), Anaheim (1st), and Minnesota (13th).

Looking at these stats it should be a surprise that they have the fewest shots against. Unless Lidstrom helped make the NHL schedule he should get credit for that.
The west conference has played the majority of their games against teams with low shots per game (because most of the west conference teams have low shots). This is nothing unique to Detroit. Look at the schedule of any west team and you will see the same thing.

Lidstrom deserves credit for being the best defensive player Detroit has. As such he is a big part of the reason the Red Wings have a large lead on the league in shots allowed and not some other west team.
The average shots on goal per game for the western conference teams is 29.4. For the eastern conference teams it is 29.9. Not a huge difference. Three of the top 4 and 5 of the top 7 teams in shots on goal per game come from the west. (those 5 teams being Colorado, LA, Anaheim, Detroit and Vancouver)

As you have probably seen I am a statgeek. That said, you tend to push statistics too far. If your statistical analysis shows that Nicklas Lidstrom is not a first class defender who deserves MVP consideration, then you need to stop playing with statistics and watch some games. Because if you watched him play, there would be no question in your mind that he is an extremely good player who is a big part of the reason Detroit is a top team.
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