Erik Gudbranson Showed More Than The Stats Suggest

Feb 28, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson (44) looks on from the bench during their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. The Panthers beat the Maple Leafs 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

Erik Gudbranson‘s rookie season was considered a success by many: he managed to hold on to a roster spot for most of the year, he showed glimpses of his fantastic potential on defense, he was fine in the offensive zone, and he turned into one of the best fighters in the NHL.  For a 19 to 20-year old, his performance was right about where most people would’ve liked it.

Others weren’t as pleased.  Statistically, they said Gudbranson was the weakest defenseman on the team, did not outplay Keaton Ellerby, and should even start the next season in the AHL to tune things up.  Although a few numbers and statistics were provided to prove this, there are quite a few more to suggest that Gudbranson is turning quickly into a top flight NHL defenseman.

First, let’s looks at Corsi, what was used to suggest that Gudbranson was a liability on defense.  (Corsi by the way is the average +/- of shots attempted while a player is on the ice for 60 minutes)…

Relative to his teammates and quality of his competition, Gudbranson gave up a little less than a shot (-.991) more per 60 minutes than his team took while he was on the ice.  Not great, but for a rookie that’s not all that bad either.  He stayed pretty close to average in that category, receiving only a little more shots than his team.  And considering he started with faceoffs in the offensive zone about half of the time (51.1%), that isn’t all that bad either.  So let’s recap: Erik Gudbranson had almost as many shots shot at his net as his teammates shot towards the other team’s net, and he played about equally in the offensive and defensive zones all year.  Despite all the negative signs and comparisons with his teammates, Gudbranson’s performance was pretty close to the mean.

What isn’t close to the mean is the most telling stat of all, which has been ignored to this point.  It is Erik Gudbranson’s PDO, the sum of the opposition’s shooting percentage and your goalie’s save percentage while you’re on the ice.  It is driven mostly by luck (since scoring a goal is very often luck coupled with talent) and the stat shows that Gudbranson really had no luck last year.  His PDO last year was 970, a very low number.  It shows that his goalie didn’t save as many shots as the average suggested he should have, and that unfortunately means a poor plus/minus for Gudbranson.  However, he inventors of the statistic are quick to say the stat should almost always return to the mean (1000) in the long run, so that bodes well for Gudbranson having a strong season next year.

But don’t forget how much Gudbranson was sheltered in the few months of the season, and how much he has improved over that time.  Coach Kevin Dineen saw it, and it was telling by Gudbranson’s ice time in the postseason.  It got a big jump, from 13:25 to 14:59, even as guys like Brian Campbell sucked up 30 minutes of ice time.  Even more telling than solely ice time is the confidence Dineen had in Gudbranson against the Devils: Gudbranson started his shifts in the defensive zone about 59.8 percent of the time, proving Dineen had faith in Gudbranson’s defensive ability.  Certainly by the end of the season, Guds was no longer being sheltered – he was being thrown right in the thick of it.

So if you only look at a few statistics, Gudbranson might have had a disappointing year.  But as the season progressed and Gudbranson began taking on new roles, he made some great improvements, both on the ice and the stat sheet.

But more than anything I like it when the hockey people like what they see from a guy.  Dale Tallon had this to say about Gudbranson at the end of the playoffs last year:

“We saw this young guy develop into a man right before our eyes.  He got better and better, and am so glad we kept him through World Juniors [in December].  He had a great finish to the year.  I thought in the playoffs he didn’t take a back seat to anyone.”

With Kevin Dineen and Dale Tallon both firmly in support of Erik Gudbranson, certainly next year we will see him develop into a great defenseman on the NHL level.

Thanks for reading!  Be sure to comment!

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Topics: Corsi, Dale Tallon, Erik Gudbranson, Kevin Dineen

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  • Alex Calloway

    “Erik Gudbranson‘s rookie season was considered a success by many: he managed to hold on to a roster spot for most of the year, he showed glimpses of his fantastic potential on defense, he was fine in the offensive zone, and he turned into one of the best fighters in the NHL. For a 19 to 20-year old, his performance was right about where most people would’ve liked it.”

    Teenage defensemen in the NHL (Post-Lockout):
    Tyler Myers: 82GP, 11G, 37A, 48PTS, +13
    Cam Fowler: 76GP, 10G, 30A, 40PTS, -25
    Michael Del Zotto: 80GP, 9G, 28A, 37PTS, -20
    Erik Johnson: 69GP, 5G, 25A, 33PTS, -9
    Drew Doughty: 81GP, 6G, 21A, 27PTS, -17
    Erik Karlsson: 60GP, 5G, 21A, 26PTS, -5
    Marc-Edouard Vlasic: 81GP, 3G, 23A, 26PTS, 13
    Zach Bogosian: 81GP, 10G, 13A, 23PTS, -18
    Justin Faulk: 66GP, 8G, 14A, 22PTS, -16
    Victor Hedman: 74GP, 4G, 16A, 20PTS, -3
    Adam Larsson: 65GP, 2G, 16A, 18PTS, -7
    Dmitri Kulikov: 68GP, 3G, 13A, 16PTS, -5
    Luke Schenn: 70GP, 2G, 12A, -12
    Oliver Ekman-Larsson: 48GP, 1G, 10A, 11PTS, 3

    Gudbranson played more games than seven of those guys, and was drafted higher than three of them (Bogosian was drafted third overall).

    “Relative to his teammates and quality of his competition, Gudbranson gave up a little less than a shot (-.991) more per 60 minutes than his team took while he was on the ice. Not great, but for a rookie that’s not all that bad either.”

    Corsi Rel QoC
    Myers: 0.790
    Fowler: 0.220
    Del Zotto: -0.582
    Johnson: -0.533
    Doughty: 0.955
    Karlsson: -0.179
    Bogosian: 0.048 (Rookie season), 0.290 (as 19yr old)
    Faulk: 0.567
    Hedman: 0.375
    Larsson: 0.034
    Kulikov: -0.626
    Schenn: 0.664
    Ekman-Larsson: -0.992
    Gudbranson: -0.991

    The only player Gudbranson did better was Ekman-Larsson, who averaged 15:02 (including speical teams) a night to Gudbranson’s 14:11 in less games. And I don’t know about you, but having a Corsi Rel QoC lower than Michael Del Zotto is pretty scary.

    “And considering he started with faceoffs in the offensive zone about half of the time (51.1%), that isn’t all that bad either.”

    Actually it is pretty bad when a player starts more of his shifts in the offensive zone and still has a Corsi Rel QoC near -1.

    “It is driven mostly by luck (since scoring a goal is very often luck coupled with talent) and the stat shows that Gudbranson really had no luck last year. His PDO last year was 970, a very low number. It shows that his goalie didn’t save as many shots as the average suggested he should have, and that unfortunately means a poor plus/minus for Gudbranson. However, he inventors of the statistic are quick to say the stat should almost always return to the mean (1000) in the long run, so that bodes well for Gudbranson having a strong season next year.”

    Nice, I’ll give you this one. While is PDO was at 970, signaling he had bad luck last season, it doesn’t mean it’s going to reach 1000 in the next season. Since Gudbranson is a rookie (and I do agree he got better, but he still had a bad season), it’s expected he would get better as the years went on. But don’t expect his PDO to reach 1000 next season, or even when his ELC is up. It generally does take a few seasons.

    “But don’t forget how much Gudbranson was sheltered in the few months of the season, and how much he has improved over that time. Coach Kevin Dineen saw it, and it was telling by Gudbranson’s ice time in the postseason. ”

    The Panthers lost Jason Garrison in the playoffs, and used eight defensemen in their series against the Devils. Yes his Corsi Rel QoC was 0.296 in the playoffs at even strength, and his 4 on 5 was Corsi Rel QoC 54.620. Unless you believe he became a penalty killing machine over the night, the playoff numbers don’t hold up to his regular season numbers.

    “With Kevin Dineen and Dale Tallon both firmly in support of Erik Gudbranson, certainly next year we will see him develop into a great defenseman on the NHL level.”

    History tells otherwise. He finished the season with a -0.7 GVT, and is projected to finish with a 1.1 GVT. Is that great?