Radko Gudas was supposed to be a moneyball-style upgrade over Matt Niskanen. Ha. Nope. Extremely 2020 vibes.
|16.7||time on ice per game|
|51.6||5-on-5 shot-attempt percentage, adjusted|
|49.6||5-on-5 expected goal percentage, adjusted|
|54.6||5-on-5 goal percentage, adjusted|
About this visualization: This series of charts made by Micah Blake McCurdy of hockeyviz.com shows lots of information for the player over the season. A short description of each chart:
Well, this was a miss, and not a small one. Last summer’s big Caps move was trading Matt Niskanen to the Philadelphia Flyers for Radko Gudas. At the time, Niskanen was a somewhat-hindered defender whose workload outmatched his capabilities, and Gudas was an underappreciated defensive stalwart with slight goonish tendencies. These were two players on opposite trajectories, or so I thought. What I then described as a huge win turned out to be the other thing instead.
Here, using Evolving Hockey’s model for the catch-all goals-above-replacement stat, are figures per season for Niskanen and Gudas.
Niskanen’s star had faded since 2014, but he was a major contributor for the Capitals through the Cup year. Then he hit a wall in 2018-19, but he reversed that trend after moving to Philly for 2019-20 and put up a damn fine season there. Meanwhile, Gudas’ play eroded. Here’s each player’s 2019-20 GAR stat broken into component pieces.
Gudas got way more offense than we expected, but he was a net negative on the other end of the puck, and he took too many penalties (12 minors, third most among defenders). Gudas goosed his offensive stats by being a surprisingly high-volume shooter– barely behind Carlson in shot attempts per hour — but with only a 2.4 accuracy percentage. The Caps didn’t expect Gudas to score, and he sure as hell didn’t, and he might have deprived others from doing so. He was responsible for nearly 30 percent of Caps attempts when he was on the ice, which is maybe twice as high as we’d expect for a defender of his profile.
Honestly, I’m a bit bewildered by what we got out of Gudas. For example, he and Michal Kempny paired together for awhile late in the season. In their 144 minutes together, the Caps controlled 51.6 percent of shot attempts. Not bad. But they controlled just 42.7 percent of the expected goals, which is terrible. And the crease-clearing that Niskanen had so much trouble with in 2018-19? Gudas was arguably worse at it in 2019-20.
So, yeah, this was a big miss. Even if you imagined Gudas as a depth defender, being unable to rely on him clearly impacted how Todd Reirden used his defense. There was not much stability in the pairings. For example, in 2018-19, John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov spent four to five times longer with their most common defensive partners than their second most common partner. That was already less steady than Trotz’s wildly stable D pairs, but in 2019-20 the pairings became chaotic. Carlson spent two times longer with Kempny than Orlov, but Siegenthaler and Dillon were right behind Orlov. Meanwhile, Orlov spent most of his time with Nick Jensen, but also more than 200 minutes with Gudas and Carlson. Reirden tried everything, and nothing worked. Gudas isn’t the sole reason for that lack of flexibility (I mean — Martin Fehervary was just sitting there), but he was one of those reasons.
Anyway, if reading this gets you worried about the 2020-21 season, I wouldn’t get too worked up over it. Gudas is an unrestricted free agent with a disappointing season in the rear view and a team who’s got real cap constraints. Even he knows it’s over.
What went wrong here? Obviously, we didn’t foresee Niskanen’s turnaround, but why did Gudas as a Cap fail?
Read more: Japers Rink
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.