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Missing Andy Sutton?

How much has the absence of Andy Sutton affected the team? Is it Sutton's absence that produced the team's defensive woes?

Well I have a partial answer to the question. (If you don't care about how I got the numbers skip to the next paragraph.) As I noted in my previous post about the team's recent slump a big part of the problem was an increase the number of even strength goals against. So I then decided to look at who was on the ice for the December even strength goals against. Of course, some defensemen play a lot more than others so I took the each defenseman's even strength minutes in December and divided it by the number of ES goals allowed in the month. This gives a measure of even strength effectiveness. The more minutes between goals allowed the more effective you are in the month.

OK here is your list of Thrasher defensemen from most effective to least effective in the month of December

Even Strength Minutes between Goals Allowed
29.5 Steve McCarthy
20.5 Nick Havelid
19.8 Shane Hnidy
18.1 Braydon Coburn
14.3 Greg de Vries
11.6 Vitali Vishnevsky

Looking at this list I think Coach Hartley ought to give Steve McCarthy more minutes. He has been twice as effective at even strength as de Vries and Vishnevsky in December. Now I suspect that McCarthy is being sheltered a bit and they are not playing him against the opposition's top lines but his play lately suggests they ought to give him an opportunity to prove himself against better opponents.

The other thing that stands out is the Havelid, Hnidy and Coburn have all been equally effective. Since Havelid is almost always paired with Hnidy I'm not surprised that their numbers are similiar. Havelid has remained the Thrashers top defensemen even after switching sides to accomodate his new partner Hnidy.

I have to give a tip of the hat to Coburn. Frankly he looked bad when I watched him in the minors but he has played very adequately so far since his call up. I really hope it continues and he turns into an asset for the team in the long run. In fact, Coburn's strong play makes it very possible Don Waddell could deal one of the soon-to-be-free agent defensemen (Sutton, De Vries, Vishnevski) for a center.

So, my partial answer is the Thrahsers recent defensive woes were more about a sharp decline in offense and a problems in the De Vries-Vishnevsky pairing rather than Sutton's unique contributions to the offense and the defense.