Since Thursday, our comments and Facebook page have sort of been railroaded by Ribeiro loyalists. These folks have been saying that Mike Ribeiro is the superior player compared to Mikhail Grabovski. I’m gonna let two guys in particular have the floor for a moment, and then I’m gonna be a jerk and tell them why they’re wrong.
Alex: This is ridiculous. Grabovski didn’t do anything for the Leafs last year. How can you possibly compare Grabovski to Ribero? It’s a good signing for the caps, but he does not replace Ribero at all.
Nick: Yeah, Ribeiro knows some crazy [fecal expletive] with the puck. Grabovski has potential, but he seemed pretty much worse than useless last season.
Nick: I prefer to look at real stats. You know, goals, assists, PPG? As opposed to teammate-played-better-assists. tl;dr Objectivity over subjectivity.
Alex: Grabovski can’t even replace Ribeiro, let alone be an improvement. Nick’s right; you cant judge two players by some [fecal expletive] stats. The only stats that matter are the real ones. The other stats are just a replacement for not actually watching the guy play.
Nick: You can say that Grabo was playing with terrible linemates, or that Ribeiro had more favorable ice time, or whatever. The fact still remains that Ribs has produced way better. [. . .] Plus Ribeiro is just jokes to watch [. . .] Anyway, Grabovski will do well, good signing, but I can’t see this is an upgrade.
(Comments were edited for clarity, brevity, and profanity.)
So the argument goes like this: Grabovski didn’t help the Leafs in 2012-13. Ribeiro had more goals and assists, which are better indications of how those players will produce in the future anyway.
And also Ribeiro is something called “jokes”, which is apparently good.
Okay, my turn.
Rob Vollman, author of Hockey Abstract (which I recently reviewed and I think you should read), created Player Usage Charts, which visualize how a coach deployed a player and how the player did within that context. Using these charts we can classify player assignments as “sheltered” (lots of offensive starts against weak competition) or “shutdown” (starting in your own zone against really good players). Here’s how those classifications break down by quadrant:
And now here’s how Mike Ribeiro and Mikhail Grabovski performed and were deployed in the last few seasons (chart courtesy of Rob Vollman):
- Grabovski’s 2013 season found him starting in his own zone a ton. In fact, in offensive zone start percentage, Grabo ranked 365th out of the 395 forwards who played more than 20 games last season. He was almost an entirely defensive player.
- Grabovski played against tougher competition last season than he or Ribeiro have faced before.
- Despite observations #1 and 2, Grabovski’s line attempted more shots than they allowed– hence the blue color of the bubble.
- Last year, like every year, Mike Ribeiro started in the offensive zone a lot (he’s 183 spots above Grabovski in the list I mentioned in #1).
- In his defense, Ribeiro does play against better-than-average competition. He was not sheltered.
- Mike Ribeiro’s bubbles started big and blue back in 2009 and have steadily grown redder. That means his possession skills have eroded each season.
Until last year, Ribs and Grabo were used a lot alike. But Randy Carlyle turned Grabovski into a grinder in 2013. That resulted in Grabo not scoring many goals, but he still excelled as a shutdown defensive center. Most players that high and left on the chart would have big honking red bubbles.
So if you want to count only goals and assists, please go ahead, but the chart above tells you how foolish that is. Ribeiro and Grabovski were used in entirely different ways last season, and their point production reflects that.
Points Per Season 2009-2013
There had similar output until last season– when Grabovski’s deployment changed dramatically and Mike Ribeiro made out like a bandit on the powerplay. But the important differences are under the surface, and they are drastic.
Ribeiro demands $2.5M more per year. Ribeiro is 3 years older. Ribeiro’s possession has steadily declined for three years. Ribeiro commits more penalties than he draws. Ribeiro doesn’t make his teammates better.
The only way in which I don’t consider Grabovski an upgrade over Ribeiro is Swag.
Finally, I looked up “jokes” on Urban Dictionary.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure Grabo is jokes too.
Thanks to Robert Vollman for the Player Usage Chart.