And then Stevie Y announced the Defenseman.
We heard Dan Boyle and Drew Doughty. Then Duncan Keith and Scott Niedermayer. Next was Chris Pronger and Brent Seabrook. And then… the 7th and final defenseman… Shea Weber?
After all the days that have passed since, we here at RMNB have still struggled to understand how Canada’s Best Defenseman, Mike Green, was left off the roster. Even as recently as Friday Night during the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, I professed to Daniel that Mike Green’s Defensive Acumen was at worst an 8 out of 10 – but more realistically a 9. And I said “EASILY” too. This prompted Daniel to investigate my claims as he was quite suspicious. Below are Daniel’s findings. How has Mike Green stacked up against his fellow countrymen and the rest of the NHL this year? See for yourself below the jump. You might be surprised.
First off, I’d say that you can make a fairly strong argument that the Chicago Blackhawk’s Duncan Keith is actually Canada’s best defenseman overall – at least this season. Green’s a very strong second though.
Here’s a handy table of the defensemen on the Candadian Olympic hockey team, along with the Capital who was left off (stats courtesy of Behind The Net):
Relative plus-minus is plus-minus adjusted for his team so that a good player on a bad team isn’t penalized. OGVT is offensive goals versus threshold (“contributions to goals scored against the opposition” above what a replacement level player would have done – Puck Prospectus); DGVT is defensive goals versus threshold; and GVT is total goals versus threshold (which includes shootout GVT as well).
As you can see, Keith is actually ahead of Green by a little over 1 goal (as of 2/12), though they rank 1-2 amongst all defensemen in the NHL. Also, Niedermayer sort of sticks out like a sore thumb. He’s the Captain of the Canadian team though, and was therefore likely chosen for veteran leadership and other intangibles more than his current playing abilities. And that makes sense considering his long list of accomplishment includes the following: 2 Stanley Cups, the Conn Smyth Trophy as Playoff MVP in 2007 & a Gold Medal with Team Canada in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
The Candian defensemen (not counting the Captian) actually rank 1st-2nd (Green)-3rd-4th-13th and 14th in the whole NHL in GVT. It’s a very strong crew, with or without Mike Green. When the team was chosen and Mike Green was excluded, I heard that one of the potential reasons for it was that Canada was trying to build a strong defensive unit. Looking at the DGVTs, that does indeed appear to be the direction in which they went, as Green – while excellent overall – hasn’t necessarily been the strongest on the defensive end. In fact, ranking all NHL defensemen by DGVT, the Olympic crew is 1st-2nd-4th-5th and 27th, while Green is all the way down at number 47. Taking him over Shea Weber might have been a good call given the narrow difference in DGVT and large difference in OGVT though.
Here’s a graph of all NHL defensemen with at least 50 games played this season, ranked by DGVT:
Those green lines are (somewhat ironically) the top defensemen on the Canadian team (ie. not Niedermayer). The red line is Mike Green. He’s slightly above the average (which is 2.8 DGVT for this group) but not by a great deal.
Even just comparing Green to his fellow Capitals teammates, he doesn’t come out terrifically. He’s third behind Jeff Schultz (4.3) and Alex Ovechkin (3.4) in DGVT, and 6th in relative plus-minus. Additionally, Green is 13th (!) on the team – amongst players with at least 10 games – in Quality of Competition (which GVT apparently does not account for). Even facing lesser competition, he hasn’t been a stand-out defensively (though he’s still good there, and great overall).
I’ll finish by noting that I’m not the only one who doesn’t think all that highly of Green’s defense (from the pre-season projections at Puck Prospectus):
“The one hold up with Green is his sometimes spotty work in the defensive zone. This was especially evident in the playoffs against superior competition, so if Green works on his defensive game, he could become the top defenseman in the entire league.”
That comment was attached to a projection of 6.3 DGVT, whereas Green is currently on pace for just a 4.4 DGVT. I’m just saying…