P.K. Subban or Shea Weber: Analytics vs Old School

pk-vs-shea

Photo Courtesy of coolhockey.com

The hockey world was shocked this offseason when the Montreal Canadiens traded former Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for 3-time Norris finalist Shea Weber. Undoubtedly, it was a blockbuster deal, but in the eyes of many it was the biggest 1-for-1 trade ever seen in the NHL salary cap era. With these defensemen having such tremendous pedigrees, we saw countless post-trade opinions and we will continue to see new stances until both of these players have hung up their skates. There was one opinion though, that of former Montreal Canadiens’ analytics consultant Matt Pfeiffer, which really caught my attention as well as the majority of those following the trade’s reactions. He told THN,

“There’s nothing wrong with being average in the NHL. An average NHLer is worth a heck of a lot, and that’s what Shea is.”

Although Pfeiffer took to Twitter shortly after to retract his comments, this former Canadiens’ employee spoke about Weber referring solely to analytics, making me rethink Weber’s skills on the ice. But hold on a minute, we are talking about Shea Weber: 5-time All-Star, 6-time top 10 defenseman in points in a season, World Championship Best Defenseman in 2009, the league’s hardest shot winner in both 2015 and 2016 and not to mention he is on the first defensive pairing for Team Canada at this year’s World Cup. Clearly, we can all agree that Shea Weber is better than an “average NHLer.” The analytics, however, are telling a different story, thus once again issuing the debate between analytics vs traditionalism in sports and the extent of which analytics should play in making executive decisions.

Now let me give you a better idea of the comparison between these two defensemen when it comes to analytics.

*Corsi, Fenwick (Fen), OPS, DPS explained in Glossary

P.K. Subban

Shea Weber

PPG

Corsi For% Fen% OPS DPS PPG Corsi For% Fen% OPS

DPS

2011-2012

0.44 49.6 50.0 2.6 5.3 0.63 49.5 49.9 5.2 6.2

2012-2013

0.90 56.7 57.8 4.3 2.9 0.58 46.7 48.2 2.6 2.7

2013-2014

0.65 50.5 50.5 4.7 4.6 0.71 47.9 50.1 6.2

4.5

2014-2015 0.73 52.2 52.1 5.8 6.6 0.58 50.2 51.0 4.2

5.4

2015-2016 0.75 52.8 51.7 4.1 4.2 0.65 51.6 53.6 5.6

3.9

*Source: hockey-reference.com

Looking at these statistics, I think most would agree that there is not much separation between the two players, except that Subban has had a higher Corsi For % than Weber every year he has been in the league. Nevertheless, this does not explain why we often hear how Subban dominates analytics when compared to Weber. Below, however, are some advanced statistics that reveal more of the story.

screen-shot-2016-09-01-at-12-16-57-pm

As you can see, Subban beats Weber in each of these categories demonstrating just how much of a playmaker the ex-Canadien is on the ice. In fact, take Shea Weber out of the equation and focus your eyes on the second column, number of possession driving plays. This is saying, in simpler terms, Subban averages 1 possession driving play a minute when on the ice! Talk about a player who can influence the game every time he touches the puck. It’s exactly what analytics experts see when they analyze Subban with respect to the trade.

Now if you ask a knowledgeable hockey fan about this trade, I almost guarantee you he/she will start by saying how the Predators benefit with P.K. Subban now on their blue line and I wouldn’t disagree with them. Not only do the analytics favor Subban’s ability on the ice, but also the Predators will get one of the NHL’s most dynamic players, a perfect fit in Peter Laviolette’s fast-paced system. In addition, they have acquired a defenseman who at a younger age can still run the power play effectively. But what many fail to notice is, although the analytics are against him, Shea Weber is one of the best all-around defensemen in the World. The Canadiens are getting a world class star who can assuredly solve the team’s leadership problems, remember the 2014-15 season when the Canadiens did not have a captain, and be a physical specimen on the ice, someone who forwards loath playing against. Just ask Jonathan Toews.

 

Glossary

  • Corsi: shots + shot attempts that missed the net + shot attempts that were blocked
  • Fenwick: shots + shot attempts that missed the net
  • Corsi For %: Corsi For/(Corsi For + Corsi Against)
  • Fenwick %: Fenwick For/(Fenwick For + Fenwick Against)
  • OPS (Offensive Point Shares): estimate of number of points contributed by player from his offense
  • DPS (Deffensive Point Shares): estimate of number of points contributed by player from his defense
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Posted in NHL

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