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Thrashers Should Claim Schneider

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It is being reported by multiple sources that Anaheim Ducks are waiving defensemen Mathieu Schneider. The Atlanta Thrashers have the 3rd waiver position courtesy of finishing 28th in a 30 team league last season.

Essentially the Thrashers can add an old but high quality defensemen with a one year contract for nothing other than his roughly $6 million salary. In my opinion this is a no brainer--you claim him--in fact I would have offered a low draft pick for him before the Ducks dropped him to waivers.

The downsides:
  1. Schneider is old and will not be around when the Thrashers become a Cup contender.
  2. Schneider might not be happy to come to a non-contender.
  3. His skills may be eroding with age.
  4. If claimed from waivers the Thrashers are not permitted to trade him at the deadline.
The upside:
  1. The Thrashers must add salary because Bogosian will not hit all his bonus clauses and therefore the Thrashers will finish below the salary floor by the end of the season.
  2. Schneider could serve as an elite level mentor the Thrashers young defensemen like Enstrom and Bogosian.
  3. Schneider is not Alexei Zhitnik. Mathieu Schneider is an elite level player even at his age.
  4. Schneider is BETTER at playing the point than anyone in Thrashers history including Ilya Kovlachuk. Schneider is a better offensive defensemen and ANYONE in Thrashers entire history.
I can't stress this last point enough. Below I have created a table that shows the power play effectiveness of players who have served or could serve on the Thrashers power play unit over the last two years.

Defensemen only play about 15-25% of their ice time on the power play, so a couple of fortunate bounces or unfortunate bounces loom much larger. Therefore, PP scoring rates can jump around a fair amount. Schneider has consistently ranked among the elite in PP scoring with last season being his worst year in quite a while. But here's the kicker, even in his "bad" season on the power play last year, Schneider was better than Enstrom and Kovalchk who manned the points all of last year for the Thrashers PP unit. In his "bad" year Schneider ranked 75% among all NHL defensemen in PP scoring while Enstrom ranked 71% and Kovalchuk ranked just 66%.

Both Kovalchuk and Enstrom rack up points because they get tons of ice time--neither are elite in their use of that ice time. Mathieu Schneider is elite in how he uses his PP ice time. How elite is he? Here are his percentile rankings among all NHL defensemen the last seven seasons: 87%, 93%, 94%, 90%, 92%, 95%, 75%. That is very impressive. Most seasons Schneider has been in very top 10% of all NHL defensemen on the Power Play.

PP Effectiveness (PP Scoring per 60 minutes)
5.14 95% 2006-07 Schneider
4.62 90% 2006-07 Hainsey
3.95 82% 2007-08 Hainsey
3.54 75% 2007-08 Schneider
3.32 71% 2007-08 Enstrom
3.98 66% 2007-08 Kovalchuk
2.64 55% 2006-07 Zhitnik
3.54 53% 2006-07 Kovalchuk
1.90 47% 2007-08 Zhitnik
1.79 40% 2006-07 Havelid
0.00 20% 2007-08 Havelid

Because PP scoring rates are less consistent due to small sample size issues, another way to compare Schneider's offensive prowess is to look at Even Strength scoring compared to recent or current Thrashers defensemen. Below is the ES point scoring per 60 minutes of ice time for the last two seasons.

Again we see that Schneider is head and shoulders above players who have put on a Thrashers uniform. The only season comparable to Schneider's is the one Zhitnik put up the year the Thrashers acquired him. Zhitnik had a solid 2006-07 where he ranked 85% among all NHL defensemen in ES scoring only to see him absolutely collapse in 2007-08 where he fell to the bottom 8% of the league.

Is there a risk that Schneider could also see a collapse? Yes, of course there is. But Schneider's skills can be had for almost nothing. The Thrashers moved Coburn to get Zhitnik--a gamble that failed badly as they had to buy out the final year of his contract. In this case the Thrashers can have Schneider for nothing other than his salary and he is an UFA next season. Is that a reasonable risk to take? Yes, in my view.

ES Scoring per 60 minutes
1.22 96% 2007-08 Schneider
1.06 85% 2006-07 Zhitnik
1.07 76% 2006-07 Schneider
0.59 42% 2007-08 Havelid
0.56 37% 2007-08 Enstrom
0.54 26% 2006-07 Havelid
0.53 56% 2006-07 Hainsey
0.37 66% 2007-08 Hainsey
0.28 08% 2007-08 Zhitnik

Click over to Battle of California for more blow by blow details of today's developments and plus a hilarious cartoon of Mathieu Schneider as Super Man. It seems that the Kings might pass on him which means that the crazy Lightning ownership are on deck.