The Debate Continues: Who Is The Thrashers' Best Defenseman

Most of us who watch the team, regardless of if it's through a haze of tears and whiskey or not, would say that Tobias Enstrom is our best defenseman. He gets PP and PK time, is a lock for assists leader, has made his partner Dustin Byfuglien a better player, and quarterbacks the powerplay. Without him, the team looks neutered - or at least more so than they did with him during the slump.

Pundits, however, who go by the stats sheet and hyperbole, lean towards Byfuglien. Just look at any column, like this one from ESPN.com, and it is all-Buff, all the time. Sopel, while sloppy recently, is a shot blocker and is still a +7, and Bogosian and Oduya, well, they're working on it. In theory.

I'm not the statistician around here - that's Tim & The Falconer. Math makes my head hurt. While I've taken a few stats classes in the past, I know enough about them to apply them to accuracy and trends in psychological studies, and that's it. I teach psychology, so my perspective usually isn't from the cold, hard facts, but rather from human interaction and whatnot.

Ahh, soft sciences.

Behind the Net, the SB Nation hockey stat geek blog that I occasionally read but seldom grasp, was irritated by that ESPN article hyping Buff for Norris, and decided to break down the Thrashers' top six by stats to see if Chicago really did make a huge mistake in their trade of Byfuglien. He concludes no - which I'm sure that some of you might disagree with. In conclusion, Hawerchuk writes:

The answer is pretty simple: Dustin Byfuglien is tied for the league lead in PP points by a defenseman, and he leads the league in goals by a defenseman.  If that's all we look at, then he's a Norris candidate and an All-Star.  In reality, he's nowhere near that class - off the top of my head, in the East alone, Zdeno Chara, Tyler Myers and Kris Letang are all demonstrably better players in virtually every category, and at least another two dozen D would be better if we looked closely at their numbers.  Hell, Buff isn't even the best defenseman on his own team...

Who does he consider the best on ATL? The answer after the jump.

Name Age GP TOI/60 QoC Ozone% Corsi Salary Events F Events A
Bogosian 20 43 17.49 1 43.5 -15.5 0.9 48.1 63.6
Oduya 29 54 17.13 2 41.6 -16.3 3.5 46.7 63.0
Byfuglien 25 54 18.31 3 52.8 1.7 3.0 59.6 58.0
Enstrom 26 50 17.89 4 54.3 -1.4 3.5 59.1 60.4
Hainsey 29 54 14.21 5 47.1 -13.4 5.0 48.5 61.9
Sopel 34 53 12.90 6 48.3 -14.4 2.0 48.5 62.9

 

The conclusion? Based on quality of competition and the percent of time relied on in the defensive zone after defensive zone draws versus the offensive zone, the answer's Bogosian and Oduya. While playing more in the defensive zone would naturally lead to them being on the ice more when goals are scored, my argument would be that wouldn't it be a more accurate representation of their inability to clear the puck and fully defend?

I'll tap-out to Tim to further break these things down, though if I'm reading it right Byfuglien and Enstrom have significantly less shots directed at their own net while on ice than anyone else on the team; the pairing of Bogosian and Oduya have the most. While part of that has to do with the O-Zone% of the pair, that's not excusing the disparity of the events for and events against.

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