grabo
…He’s an improvement. A big one.

They’re both presumptive second-line centers in UFA status, but George McPhee upgraded big-time when he signed Mikhail Grabovski to take over Mike Ribeiro‘s spot. “Grabovski is not as good as Ribeiro as a point-producer or set-up man for his wingers”, said Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal, “but he is a better two-way player.” That’s technically correct, but it overestimates Mike Ribeiro’s impact on production and underestimates how Grabovski makes his teammates better.

Because that’s what matters. A good linemate, particularly a good center, relieves pressure from his team’s zone and drives the pucks towards the opponent’s net (i.e. puck possession or “tilting the ice”). A good linemate also tries to help his line score more goals than they would without him.

So I’ll look at both possession and goals. I went to stats.hockeyanalysis.com and grabbed last season’s even-strength data for both players. I used a WOWY (with or without you) comparison to establish how much better or worse teammates did when they played at the same time as Ribs and Grabo. I excluded goalies and any teammates who shared the ice with Grabo or Ribs for less than twenty minutes. I did a really simple calculation: How many teammates did better with each player? How many did worse?

Teammates By Possession

Better Worse
Ribeiro 4 16
Grabovski 12 7

This tables displays the number of teammates who saw a better or worse share of shot attempts (Corsi For %) when sharing the ice with the player.

As measured by shot attempts, nearly everyone Ribeiro played with did worse when they were together, as an average of 4.74% of shot attempts went in the wrong direction. The four players who got better were Troy Brouwer, John Erskine, Jack Hillen, and Martin Erat. Grabovski, meanwhile, improved the ice tilt for 12 of teammates by an average of 2.31%– and that was despite some pretty crummy circumstances, which I’ll explain below.

If possession were truly everything, everyone would just acknowledge that Grabo is a stud. Then he’d never have been bought out by Toronto, and the Caps wouldn’t have been able to gobble him up at a discount. So we should be grateful that Toronto deployed Grabovski in his own zone a ton and didn’t account for the miserable luck he suffered there.

Teammates By Goals

Better Worse
Ribeiro 11 9
Grabovski 4 15

This tables displays the number of teammates who saw better or worse Goal % when sharing the ice with the player.

It’s nearly a reversal of the first table, which seems odd at first, but there are reasons to consider.

First, Grabovski was a de facto grinder in Toronto last season, where he shared the ice with some of the Leafs’ least successful shooters. When on the ice with Grabo at 5v5, Toronto scored on 8.45% of their shots. Compare that to Ribeiro’s above-average 9.03%.

Second, goalies behind Grabovski saved less than goalies behind Ribeiro. Toronto’s save percentage while Grabovski was on ice was .904. Ribeiro was treated to a Lundqvistian .922 in the same circumstances.

There’s no reason to think that either of those percentages will persist next year.

(Not to mention: Grabovski took many more non-neutral faceoffs in his own zone than Ribeiro: 36.7% to 50.8%. Grabo was deployed as a defensive fourth liner with vastly fewer opportunities to score.)

37427567So GMGM had to choose between a terrific player who looked bad last season and got bought out by his team– and a mediocre player who looked good last year and earned a king’s ransom in free agency.

The Caps have a better forward in Mikhail Grabovski at a better price. Unlike Randy Carlyle, Adam Oates is likely to play Grabovski in the offensive zone as a real second-line center. Grabo will turn the Caps’ second line into a real threat for the first time in years, and he will improve the game of pretty much everyone lucky to share the ice with him. The presence of a viable second line center (and the sudden bounty of three terrific centers on the depth chart) gives Oates all kinds of flexibility in deployment and match-ups — and it gives George McPhee latitude to make more roster moves to improve the team with increased specificity.

Mike Ribeiro is a fine player, but he’s in decline. He did best last year on the power play, where he’s least likely to sustain that performance. He committed more penalties than he drew. And worst of all: he didn’t create shot attempts. Grabovski is an improvement in all respects at 60% the cost.

So next time someone calls Grabo a replacement,  assume they are referring to the seminal 80s rock band and consider it a compliment.

And now, because the Internet is great, here is video of every Grabo goal from 2011-12.

I’ve shared the Google Doc of my original data.

Tagged with:
 
  • Rhino40

    –“Lundqvistian”….is that, like, the goalie version of “Datsyukian”?

  • HarmCity

    I hope every other team in the Metropolitan division is getting their tetanus shots.

  • GoCaps

    After watching that highlight video from Grabo you can definetly see that this guy is a finisher. I dont know what the hell Randy Carlyle was thinking putting this kind of scoring talent in to a minor forward role.

    His shot seems to be excellent, his play in front of the crease is amazing considering his size, He can shoot one-timers everywhere on the ice, just like Ovechkin, he has speed and grittiness.

    If and when Oates uses his coaching abilities to make Grabo reach his full potential, the Caps do have a far more better team than the past 2-3 seasons. In grabo we have the scoring abilities of Semin and the hockey iq and defensive awareness of Fedorov.

    It finally seems that every problem that has been a problem for the Caps these few seasons has been fixed. Secondary scoring, two-way hockey, defense, power play, goaltending. I REALLY HOPE we go a bit further than just the first or second round in the playoffs. ///rant over.

  • GoCaps

    I mean Mikhail Grabovski is the shit.

  • elementarynotion

    Grabo’s OT winner against the Habs in the montage above is just a sick display of skill. Very excited to see this guy in a Caps sweater.

  • seandlax9

    It’s amazing how much better I feel about the upcoming season now that this guy has been signed

  • Priscilla Villanueva

    I hope to see him in a jaunty hat. That would be an improvement AND a total replacement.

  • William Obuschking Busch

    put him with ovi damnnnn..i watched leaf games grabooo i hope u stick around.go caps.

  • yv

    There is also video on YouTube of all 29 Grabo goals in 2010-11. He really has a great shot and positioning. Goal #24 against Boston is something to see. If he will repeat or bettered under AOates what he had on those years, Caps would be in very good shape.

  • BPThomas

    The funny thing about it, it’s not even a highlight vid. Almost every goal is highlight-reel though. Awesome stuff.

  • BPThomas

    Hell yea. 1:20 in. HNNNNNNNNNGH

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    The Caps will dearly miss the swag factor this season.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Haha sure

  • maveric101

    Those couple tables are… misleading, I think. Each player pairing should be weighted by time on ice, in my opinion. Okay, Ribs only “improved” four of his teammates, but two of those are his linemates that he spent the most time with. Maybe it’s just that his style of play takes time to mesh with.

    I know you guys love your #fancystats, and they have something to offer, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more subjective analysis from you guys, kind of like GoCaps talks about a bit in their comment. That kind of analysis is completely missing from this article.

    Regardless, I’m glad to have the guy.

  • seandlax9

    Not really, Grabo has had a vastly superior Corsi rating than Ribs for at least the last 3 seasons, playing in a much tougher division, and possession was something that really hurt the Caps last season.

    He’s also another shooter that was desperately needed in our top 6. Our top 6 outside of Ovi and Brows was pass happy.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    A) The stats aren’t fancy. It’s just counting up shot attempts. That’s only fancy insofar as Fancy Feast is fancy cat food. It’s not even “advanced statistics.” It’s just adding things up. Don’t be scared.

    B) If you weight the difference in possession by shared ice time, the results are even more dramatic. I’ve updated the spreadsheet to reflect that: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ajf9iIAZBM1ndHpicWV2VEx5cUtaSzVKQnBmeDlQN3c&usp=sharing

    C) Everything from the Holy Grail macro on down is subjective analysis, which is fine and dandy when it’s based on data. Otherwise, that analysis suffers from human weakness at detecting large patterns. For example, you thinking that as his linemate, Ribeiro spent a ton of time with Martin Erat, when in fact he was 6th-to-last in shared ice time,

  • maveric101

    A) Wow. Nice. I try to give a suggestion, using one of YOUR OWN JOKES, and you reply with mocking condescension? In case you forgot, this is from your post on Hockey Abstract, just five days ago:

    “so-called #fancystats (which most frequently involve such fancy calculations as addition and subtraction)”

    B) Well, thank you. I wasn’t trying to argue that Ribeiro is better, I just thought weighting by time on ice would give a more accurate assessment of the two centers.

    I mean, really. Of course I want Grabovski to be better than Ribeiro, because he’s the guy we have now.

    C) I misspoke (mis-typed?). I meant qualitative instead of quantitative. Look, I’m not asking you to do less statistical analysis, I would just like to more qualitative analysis as well. Obviously statistics has benefits that can help overcome shortcomings of qualitative analysis, but that doesn’t mean that qualitative analysis is useless. Hockey statistics still has a ways to go before it’s fully matured. As you’ve said, we’re lacking passing statistics, among others.

    I really thought you would be at least slightly open to a little constructive criticism. I guess I learned my lesson.

  • maveric101

    I’m not trying to argue that Ribeiro is better than Grabovski, I just think that the way the data is presented here doesn’t paint the most accurate picture.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    What was your criticism? I saw “include subjective analysis.” I pointed out that I did.

    Then you made the point about shared ice time, so I went back to the data, did some new calculations, and responded. That’s being more than slightly open, right?

    Also I made a joke about Fancy Feast.

  • seandlax9

    It paints exactly that, that Grabo is A LOT better at driving possession, has been for awhile, and even is when he is regulated to a 3rd line grinder role.

    He then further emphasizes that the drop in Grabos offensive output was from being put around less talented players and regulated to a more defensive role, while Ribs offensive output was exaggerated by the PP.

    It’s pretty clear

  • maveric101

    “It’s just adding things up. Don’t be scared.”

    That’s not “joking.” That’s being condescending, which is just rude.

    I didn’t say to “include subjective analysis.” I’m already starting to sound like a broken record, but I was just suggesting that you include MORE qualitative analysis. Saying MORE obviously implies that you already do some qualitative analysis.

  • maveric101

    You don’t understand what I’m trying to say. I get that the data favors Grabovski. I just think that weighting player pairs by ice time gives a more accurate assessment of the two centers. At my suggestion, Peter actually ran those numbers as well, and it turns out that they favor Grabovski even more. You know what? Great! Of course I want Grabovski to be awesome. I just happen to favor good statistics even more.

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ajf9iIAZBM1ndHpicWV2VEx5cUtaSzVKQnBmeDlQN3c#gid=0

  • elguapo

    I really don’t like the 1 year deal. It sets up the idea that its one year and he’s gone, or will we have to move him at the deadline if things aren’t going well? Would have preferred a 2 year deal.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    “I wouldn’t mind seeing more subjective analysis from you guys, kind of like GoCaps talks about a bit in their comment. That kind of analysis is completely missing from this article.”

  • maveric101

    I already told you that I misspoke, and meant qualitative, which IS missing from this post. This article is all quantitative. But that’s fine. I never said that THIS article needed more qualitative analysis. I said that it was missing it, and tried to convey that I would appreciate more qualitative analysis on the site in general.

    Y’know, I really didn’t expect this kind of response from you. I figured you’d be more like “Okay, I”ll take that into consideration,” or “I’d rather stick to the numbers,” instead of this defensive bickering.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I’m not trying to stick you about the qualitative/subjective line. You said whatever-it-was was “completely missing from this article.” I don’t think it is though.

    Here are two grafs that are entirely qualitative:

    “So GMGM had to choose between a terrific player who looked bad last season and got bought out by his team– and a mediocre player who looked good last year and earned a king’s ransom in free agency.

    The Caps have a better forward in Mikhail Grabovski at a better price. Unlike Randy Carlyle, Adam Oates is likely to play Grabovski in the offensive zone as a real second-line center. Grabo will turn the Caps’ second line into a real threat for the first time in years, and he will improve the game of pretty much everyone lucky to share the ice with him. The presence of a viable second line center (and the sudden bounty of three terrific centers on the depth chart) gives Oates all kinds of flexibility in deployment and match-ups — and it gives George McPhee latitude to make more roster moves to improve the team with increased specificity.”

    So I guess I don’t understand the substance of your point. When you say qualitative, are you talking about a discussion of individual styles of play (power forward vs finesse player, etc.)? I definitely don’t talk about that here, so if that’s you mean I accept that.

    Re: the “scared of stats joke”, I’m sorry that my tone came off more dickish than I wanted– I was trying to be playful.

    As far as my response, I’ve entertained your points (which I admit I haven’t understood well) thoroughly because they were interesting. I hope you don’t feel unwelcome to discuss stuff here, but I do want to ignore it like a jerk.

    P.S. I’ve got more Grabo vs Ribs coming tomorrow AM.

  • maveric101

    Those paragraphs may seem qualitative on their own, but they’re conclusions reached based on the quantitative data.

    As for what I’m trying to talk about, I’ll refer you again to GoCaps’ comment. Take this bit, for example: “his play in front of the crease is amazing considering his size.” This kind of thing is very difficult to describe with the available statistics. Of course, I would like a deeper analysis. Talking about styles of play is a broader example of what I’m talking about.

    If your original bit about being “scared of stats” was really, entirely a joke, be aware that it can be difficult to convey that with plain text. There were six sentences in that first paragraph with the same tone/theme, and the rest of the comment read as defensive, which didn’t do much to disprove my opinion of that first paragraph. If you’re going to be that dedicated to the delivery of your jokes, then I would advise you to make use of the HTML tags that Discuss supports, namely the italics tag. Using italics to put emphasis on the right words can make a huge difference.

    I’ll be sure to read what you post tomorrow.

  • Priscilla Villanueva

    So agree. I enjoyed the soap opera of a rap star that Ribeiro was. His wife’s twitter was outstanding too.

  • Rhino40

    OK, so, we’ve covered forwards & ‘keeps, Peter. What then would be your selected adjective to describe otherworldly mutant cyborg excellence among defensemen?
    Lidstromic
    Charanoid
    Stevensite
    Coffeycake…
    …or maybe something else?