Tommy M gave me a hard time in the comments the other day.
I’d like to point to Green and Schmidt’s fancy stats. Are those two really our best defensemen? Should they be seeing the opposing teams toughest competition as Orpik and Carly are?
Tommy was kind of sticking it to me, which is totally fair, but I think he raises an interesting point. What does it mean for Brooks Orpik to be a first-pair guy and Mike Green to be a third-pair guy? How would they fare if roles were switched?
For background, Schmidt and Green, when healthy, are undoubtedly the Capitals’ third defensive pair. The best way to judge that is ice time, but it’s also reflected in the quality of competition they face. Whatever the measurement, Orpik is tops and Green is bottom. Even compared to defenders across the league, Green and Schmidt are in the bottom third. Green is at the very top of that bottom third, but he’s still down there.
That’s curious. His usage means that Barry Trotz has adjudicated Green to be inferior to as many as four other Caps defenseman, who all get more ice time, but Green’s performance is actually among the best in the league. Maybe Tommy is right and Green’s deployment against weaker competition is making look Green better than he is.
Here’s a quick study to illustrate the differences in defensive pairings across the league.
I made groups for the top pair (I), the second pair (II), and the bottom pair (III) based no ice time, then I averaged their stats. This is all 5v5 data, with possession (Corsi%), relative possession (CorsiRel%), offensive zone starts (ZS%), quality of competition (CompTOI%), shot-attempt rate (CF60), shot suppression (CA60), and– why not– shooting percentage.
That’s a lot of info, so let me unpack it.
In a sloppy oversimplification, good players at top, crummy player belows. Mike Green and Nate Schmidt are decidedly in the “below,” when you go by ice time (though Green is at the very top of that group.)
The important thing to appreciate is that Green and Schmidt get much better results than their comparable pals.
I found a bunch of defenders who are similar to Mike Green in ice time and deployment. To me, that meant ice time per game (third pairing), competition, and zone starts. They’ve all played at least 200 minutes of 5v5. Here’s who I found:
Plus Green and Schmidt.
So, among this group, Green is one of the best. Here’s a Vollman player usage chart via War On Ice.
Green is third in possession relative to his teammates, about one percentage point behind Kindl and Wiercioch.
(Wiercioch is doing stellar in Ottawa against good competition, best in this cohort, and with relatively tough zone starts. Kindl, whose name I always want to misspell as an Amazon product, is getting very cozy starts against lesser competition and thriving. Green is in the middle.)
Green is third in possession overall. Kindle and TVR are above him, one the result of some favorable deployments and the other because he’s on the goshdarn Blackhawks.
Green generates more offense (CF60) than all but two of the group and suppresses shots (CA60) the same.
Basically, for a bottom-pairing defenseman, Mike Green is extraordinary. He could do a lot more …if he were healthy.
Now, I don’t know if that means Green could get those same numbers if he were getting Brooks Orpik’s assignments, but I am confident he could do better with those minutes than the status quo.
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