I'm going to give a little background here, but if you're just interested in the art contest, skip toward the bottom of the article.
I've spent much of this year defending Zach Bogosian against many attacks that he's terrible and deserves to be demoted to the AHL. This isn't because I thought he is particularly great this year - he's played pretty poorly, in fact - but because he's still young, needs time to mature, and has been playing against the opposition's top lines.
As a person who thinks that stats can help illustrate certain points, I've provided some data points that I feel help make that case. Many of you - well, actually most of you - seem to disagree. That's fine. Honestly, that's what makes this blog fun for me.
Today, I found out that stats guru Hawerchuk (from the fabulous Behind the Net blog here on SB Nation and creator of behindthenet.ca, the best stats site you'll find online) wrote a post about our very own Dustin Byfuglien. The post mostly made the point that, hey, he really shouldn't be a candidate for the Norris trophy. I agree: I think Dustin's been very good, arguably our best defenseman (with Toby Enstrom being the other candidate), and deserving of his selection as an All Star. The Norris? No. Not yet, at least.
What bothered me was Hawerchuk's methodology. He threw together some stats and tables showing Byfuglien versus comparable defensemen (with salaries on average 21% higher than Byfuglien... except he used the wrong salary: if you use $3.0M rather than the $3.5M he lists, it's actually 41% higher). The issue? The metric by which he judged them was Corsi. Period. (A well-manipulated Corsi taking into account a few variables, but still Corsi.) It was like he was saying, "Well, if you ignore that he's the leading scorer among this group, he doesn't help his team direct a bunch of shots toward the net!"
Well, that's nice, bu that's also ignoring some important data. I call this the "If my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle" method.
Really, though, none of this bothered me that much. Then I read this:
Hell, Buf isn't even the best defenseman on his own team (Bogosian.)
That sound you hear is every Thrashers fan roaring in laughter. Not a single person here would agree with that statement. It's not because Atlanta fans are stupid, and it's not because we don't understand statistics. Bogosian just isn't the best defenseman on the team. Period. It's clear. Painfully obvious. How could a guy so smart be so clearly wrong about something so obvious?
Okay, deep breath: I went to the comments to make a few points. (I accidentally replied to the wrong thread, a stupid mistake, yes.) Hawerchuk had made the point that Bogosian/Oduya played against the toughest competition and started in the defensive zone the most, that must make them the top pairing. That's not true, I said! Coach just chooses to start our top pairing in the offensive zone because the Enstrom/Byfuglien pairing scores so much more than the other pairings. Because of that, the 2nd pairing of Bogosian/Oduya picks up more defensive zone starts than they might otherwise play.
Said another way, the offensive capabilities of one pairing seem to inflate the defensive capabilities of another pairing. It's not that Oduya/Bogosian is that good, it's just that they pick up those defensive zone starts. This, I think, was giving a bit of extra information about why his stats were wrong. At least that's what I was trying to do quickly (as I was working at the time.)
After a few personal insults (which don't bother me all that much) in another post, I again responded with a few stats. Byfuglien is best among Thrashers defensemen (per unit ES ice time) in goals, 2nd assists, points, and +/-. That's quite a lot there. He's 3rd best in GAON (goals allowed while on ice), so it's not like he's a huge defensive liability either.
I received a warning that I'd be banned if I continued to comment like this.
Many of you have read this story and the comments and recognize that it's patently ridiculous. Sadly, Hawerchuk is rather dismissive of Atlanta as a team (Favorite Team: Winnipeg Jets. No surprise.) He did, however, include this great nugget:
Bogosian is 20 years old and he plays top competition in his own zone. That’s incredibly rare, and it’s what good defensemen do. They don’t get sheltered.
If ESPN thinks Dustin Byfuglien is a Norris candidate and Hawerchuk thinks Bogosian is a better defenseman than Byfuglien, doesn't that mean that Zach Bogosian is also a Norris trophy candidate? I think it does. Which brings us to...
Zach Bogosian for the Norris Art Contest
We've clearly got a star on our hands and we should promote him! Here's how:
- Create a Bogosian for Norris image, banner, video, whatever! It should point out some of Zach's strong stats for this season. If you'd like to include quotes and data from Behind the Net or Hawerchuk, it is encouraged! The more juxtaposition, the better!
- Post your submissions in this story's comments. If you have any troubles, you can email me. Click the little envelope next to my name at the bottom of this page.
- The BWA staff will pick some favorites and create a new post with them. We'll put up a poll in which all of you can vote for a winner.
- The winner gets two lower bowl tickets to a Thrashers game (courtesy... well, me!)