The Return of Steve "no offense" McCarthy

In the "News of the Weird" column the Thrashers re-acquired former Thrashers Steve McCarthy for...well pretty much nothing (aka Future Considerations). When last seen in a Thrashers uniform McCarthy was sporting a very ugly -23. The Thrashers were not good defensively and he was part of the problem. But the really strange thing about this supposed "offensive defenseman" is that the Thrashers essentially never scored when he was on the ice during his final season.

Was Steve McCarthy the unluckiest defenseman in hockey in 2007-08?

When McCarthy first arrived in Atlanta in a trade deadline deal he had quite a few points and seem to perk up the offense. Thrashers GM Don Waddell was obviously excited about a guy he watched have a memorable game in juniors. In his 2nd season he put up some points and finished with a +4 rating. His 3rd year with Atlanta the offense pulled a David Copperfield. According to the game logs for the 2007-2008 Steve McCarthy was on the ice for just 4 ES Goals For and 20 ES Goals Against--such a split is almost unheard of. Furthermore, 3 of those 4 ESGF came in a single contest versus Tampa Bay. Essentially the Thrashers simply didn't score when McCarthy was on the ice.

Was it all his fault? A 4/20 split in GF/GA is so extreme that I think you have to assume that McCarthy had some bad luck and it wasn't all his fault. He was also playing with Exelby much of the time at ES. But you can't put it all on Exelby because he went 23/31 in the ES GF/GA department. He also got some time with Alexi Zhitnik, but you can't blame Zhitnik for "no-offense" McCarthy because AZ was on the ice for 24 ES GF.

As a stats guy I'm left with two possible explanations. Steve McCarthy is either an offensive black hole from whence the puck never escapes, or out of the 180 regular defenseman in the NHL he was simply that guy who kept getting terribly unlucky rolls of the dice. I suspect that the truth is somewhere in between.

So what does mean for the Thrashers depth chart?

On the one hand, the Thrashers acquired a depth defenseman for essentially nothing. Anaheim lacks an AHL affiliate and McCarthy has a two way contract and is now a Chicago Wolf. This certainly must qualify as a "low risk" move with some potential upside. On the other hand, my biggest reservation is that I don't want to see Steve McCarthy block one of our talented young defensive prospects. If there is an injury, I'd like to see Kulda, Lewis or Postma get a call up before McCarthy. In terms of ice time in Chicago I want to see Kulda, Lewis and Postma all receive top 4 minutes ahead of Steve McCarthy.

If Mark Popovic makes the cut and ends up on the NHL roster, that means that one out of the Valabik, Oystrick, Salmela grouping is headed back to Chicago. I don't want to see Paul Postma getting 3rd pairing minutes in the minors because Steve McCarthy was added to the organizational depth chart. There is a point at which too much depth can potentially harm your prospects development. Steve McCarthy is a nice spare part, but he shouldn't block a prospect who has more potential.

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