Blog 5: Player evaluation – The Defenders

Next up is the defensemen. I will bring up a few lists, and discuss them a little bit. If you want to take a deeper look into LS-GAA, feel free to download the LS-GAA file under Data. Then you can do your own research.

Here are the top 20 defenders since 2007:

Mark Giordano1946884.83
Shea Weber2185482.08
Zdeno Chara2281776.45
Jared Spurgeon1461175.25
Kris Letang1926573.35
Ryan Ellis1088468.64
Alex Pietrangelo1866368.02
Erik Karlsson1894866.52
Victor Hedman1753765.65
Dan Boyle1430561.31
Brent Burns2059360.52
Brian Campbell1789654.85
Lubomir Visnovsky1034353.54
Ryan McDonagh1529753.09
John Carlson1767150.33
Roman Josi1567849.92
Mike Green1791649.04
P.K. Subban1718046.94
John-Michael Liles1210642.34
Nicklas Lidstrom961341.70

Not a bad list, but there are some obvious players missing. Drew Dougthy is ranked 44th and Duncan Keith is all the way down to 89th. I will look at these two players specifically later on.

But for now let’s look at LS-GAA per 60 minutes. The minimum time on ice is 4000 minutes.

PlayerTOI_ALLTotalper 60
Ryan Ellis1088468.640.378
Charlie McAvoy414523.910.346
Lubomir Visnovsky1034353.540.311
Jared Spurgeon1461175.250.309
Brian Rafalski671633.250.297
Colton Parayko839738.200.273
Mark Giordano1946884.830.261
Nicklas Lidstrom961341.700.260
Dan Boyle1430561.310.257
Jaccob Slavin857634.930.244
Ryan Pulock484918.750.232
John Klingberg984238.010.232
Kris Letang1926573.350.228
Shea Weber2185482.080.225
Victor Hedman1753765.650.225
Alex Pietrangelo1866368.020.219
Dougie Hamilton1116740.080.215
Marc-Andre Bergeron458316.270.213
Chris Tanev1014535.830.212
Erik Karlsson1894866.520.211

I won’t discuss the numbers here. Instead I will leave it up to the readers, to make their own evaluations of the lists.

Here are the best defensive defensemen at even strength (TOI_ALL>4000 minutes):

Niklas Hjalmarsson13601-36.5756.340.249
Chris Tanev8428-7.9432.440.231
Jonas Brodin10354-19.7735.020.203
Charlie McAvoy352311.9711.330.193
Colton Parayko70382.0720.980.179
Greg Pateryn4039-10.9010.970.163
Adam Pelech4081-5.8610.640.156
Josh Gorges11299-24.1929.440.156
Patrik Nemeth4766-8.6612.340.155
Justin Braun11301-31.3729.210.155
Colin Miller45655.4311.630.153
Nick Jensen4350-8.8410.760.148
Mark Giordano1455638.3535.650.147
Chris Pronger50941.0112.380.146
Clayton Stoner5246-13.4012.660.145
Mattias Ekholm962612.3423.020.143
Robert Bortuzzo48723.1411.180.138
Jared Spurgeon1154720.0426.090.136
Kim Johnsson4019-2.588.450.126
Kevan Miller5157-4.7810.820.126

The list is a combination of defensive defensemen (bad offense – good defense) and great two way defenders (good offense – good defense).

And here come the best offensive defenders at even strength (TOI_ALL>4000 minutes)

Erik Gustafsson (D)377420.83-12.300.331
Thomas Chabot394319.83-4.150.302
Dougie Hamilton925840.155.690.260
Erik Karlsson1477863.78-5.630.259
Ryan Ellis880837.7614.500.257
Lubomir Visnovsky811832.754.930.242
John Klingberg807232.31-10.590.240
Ian White726426.400.970.218
Victor Hedman1354448.5312.210.215
Brent Burns1564755.79-10.350.214
Zach Werenski550719.11-10.500.208
Charlie McAvoy352311.9711.330.204
Alex Pietrangelo1421447.96-1.280.202
Steve Montador490416.39-2.660.201
Michal Kempny369612.331.930.200
Dustin Byfuglien1248441.46-4.680.199
John Carlson1324343.95-10.240.199
Nicklas Lidstrom675721.773.620.193
Morgan Rielly917829.29-22.900.191
Kris Letang1446645.723.640.190

The only player to make both lists is Charlie McAvoy.

Before we turn our attention towards this season, I would also like to look at the worst players. There are some fairly big names on that list. I think some of these players may be better than the numbers suggest, but they have either played in too big a role or played for a really bad team. Most are just bad players though. 

Jack Johnson20803-23.16-37.22-67.03
Jay Bouwmeester22620-30.581.43-51.43
Robyn Regehr11831-28.42-2.85-48.44
Luca Sbisa9893-16.49-18.51-42.87
Derek Morris9779-11.68-14.75-41.39
Zach Bogosian13936-1.13-25.18-38.87
Deryk Engelland11042-16.12-20.43-38.59
Kevin Bieksa14834-10.84-20.09-37.30
Marc Staal18394-27.54-11.43-36.07
John Moore9353-5.18-24.22-36.03
Roman Polak14947-27.351.23-34.87
Tim Gleason10529-16.97-21.89-34.85
Jonathan Ericsson12670-9.93-11.70-33.66
Ryan O’Byrne5364-16.07-4.40-32.98
Michael Stone8901-5.89-15.34-32.75
Rasmus Ristolainen11852-14.61-18.77-31.63
Erik Gudbranson9434-17.63-8.86-31.22
Andrew Ference9778-13.19-12.90-30.93
Matt Hunwick9752-8.73-17.78-30.67
Dmitry Kulikov13508-14.912.04-30.05

Season 2019/2020

Ryan Ellis11518.192.1312.77
Alex Pietrangelo16897.751.0612.17
Jared Spurgeon14005.894.0812.08
Roman Josi17787.931.8711.59
Dougie Hamilton10948.272.3811.46
Victor Hedman15876.710.9310.96
Charlie McAvoy15524.054.8710.75
Adam Fox13237.692.6810.55
Cale Makar11987.120.299.45
Jaccob Slavin15914.521.909.42
John Marino11342.035.768.76
Vince Dunn11543.232.628.54
Ryan Pulock15243.742.908.37
Tony Deangelo13099.97-2.597.79
Matt Roy12683.344.287.58
Shea Theodore15797.260.087.42
Jakob Chychrun14132.582.377.10
Mackenzie Weegar9053.533.226.91
Kevin Shattenkirk13233.033.426.84
Jake Muzzin11455.731.436.82

The model really likes Ryan Ellis, while I think most hockey experts would rank Roman Josi higher this season.

Drew Doughty and Duncan Keith

These two players are interesting to take a deeper look at. Both players (especially Doughty) are considered to be amongst the very best defenders in the last 10+ years, so why doesn’t the model agree? Some of that can be answered by looking at the development graphs of the two. It’s a graph of LS-GAA total over time – the x-axis represents the years, so year 8 is season 2007/2008, year 9 is season 2008/2009 and so on.

I will discuss Duncan Keith first. From 2007/2008 to 2015/2016 he was a very good defender, and if you only look at these years he was the 14th best defender. That still seems a bit too low to me considering how dominant Chicago was in this time frame. Since then he has been really bad. In fact, he was the worst defender in the entire league in 2017/2018 according to the model. How much of this decline is because of age and how much is because Chicago has declined? Keith is probably not a top player anymore, but he is probably not league worst either.

The story about Drew Doughty is similar although the decline has not been as extreme, but he’s also a bit younger. In general, the model seems to be a lot lower on Doughty than the consensus thinking. I think most people considered him a top 5 defender a few years back, but the model never had him that high. So either he’s overvalued by experts or he’s undervalued by the model or maybe truth lies somewhere in between.

Have Doughty and Keith declined because their teams have declined? Or have their teams declined because Doughty and Keith have declined?

That’s it for now. Next blog will be about the goaltenders.


  • Ryan Ellis is apparently really good according to the model – Drew Doughty not so much.
  • Any statistical analysis should always be combined with actual scouting, but the stats can show you things you would otherwise miss.

Stay safe and remember to be kind

All raw data from

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