Saturday, February 19, 2011

Erik Johnson Packs His Bags

Normally I only cover Oilers stuff, but this Erik Johnson/McClement vs. Stewart/Shattenkirk trade is not only a blockbuster, but one that seems to be fairly unbalanced after I dive into the numbers below. Here's the whole deal:

To The Colorado Avalanche

To The St. Louis Blues
The conditions are in regards to the St. Louis draft position this year. If they finish bottom 10 in the league, both picks are in 2012, simple as that. At first squint the deal may look to be fairly balanced, depending on your outlook. On one hand you have what seems to be the best player in the deal heading to the Avs, and the old adage is that whoever gets the best player wins the trade. On the other hand, you might know that Stewart has been something of a revelation in his first 100 games or so, and Shattenkirk is piling up points. I think either team could make a strong case for one side to be getting the better of the deal, but after I examine the numbers after the hop, I don't really think that is the case.

Considering it's two forwards and two Dmen changing hands, and I think its VERY clear that Stewart has far more value than McClement, to demonstrate that The Avs won the trade, we'd need to see a clear win for Erik Johnson. This year, surprinsingly to some, I don't think Erik Johnson even matches Shattenkirk. Lets take a look at these two, head to head. For all the charts, I filtered by defencemen who played at least 20 games and who play at least 10 mins/game at 5v5, and 1 min/game for PK and PP.

Defensive Numbers 5v5

Name TOI/60 GAON/60Rank+-/60RankOzone%QcompRank Sv%
JOHNSON 16.39 2.927th -0.68 5th 56.10.018 3rd 898
SHATTENKIRK 15.85 3.04 6th -0.33 6th 59.8 -0.036 7th 894

In this set of statistics indicating mostly defensive abilities, we see that they are very evenly matched except that Johnson is playing tougher competition. Both guys have below average Sv% against league averages, but not compared to teammates. In other words, their 5v5 goaltending has been lousy this year, and it has hurt their underlying defensive numbers.

Also interesting is the sheltered zone starts that EJ has been receiving. My mental impression was always that he was a bonafide #1 D, but the coach certainly hasn't thought so this year. Brewer (48.1), Polak (43.6), and Jackman (48.7) have been given the lion's share of the defensive faceoffs.

Edge: Johnson

Defensive Numbers 4v5


Shattenkirk doesn't PK at all (averages about 17 seconds of PK time per game), whereas Johnson is a close third for ice time amongst STL Dmen, Brewer and Pietrangelo taking the lead and also having the lowest GAON/60. All in all, it looks like EJ is a solid PKer.

Edge: Johnson

Offensive Numbers 5v5

NameG/60G/60 RankA1/60A1/60 RankA2/60A2/60 RankP/60P/60 Rank Sh%
JOHNSON 0.145th 0.14 5th 0.414th 0.68 4th 7.53
SHATTENKIRK 0.41 1st 0.49 2nd 0.33 4th 1.23 2nd 9.16

Clearly, Shattenkirk is performing at a far superior level in terms of even strength offence. Considering almost half of EJ's points are coming off of second assists nothing really looks good at all about his numbers. His pts/60 is about the same as Roman Polak, a guy with 42 points in 203 NHL games. Shattenkirk, on the other hand, is racking up plenty of primary offence. He's a sliver behind John Michael-Liles in pts/60, otherwise he looks like a real offensive driver. Of course this all has to be tempered by competition and zone starts.

Edge: Shattenkirk

Offensive Numbers 5v4

NameTOI/60G/60G/60 RankA1/60A1/60 RankA2/60A2/60 RankP/60P/60 Rank Sh%
JOHNSON 2.410.462nd 0.92 3rd 0.463rd 1.84 4th 12.63
SHATTENKIRK 2.97 0.88 1st 2.19 1st 0.44 3rd 3.51 2nd 13.59

Shattenkirk, by these numbers, looks to be a top PP QB, right up there with Michael-Liles (he has the top pts/60 at 3.85, almost entirely second assists). He's almost doubling EJ's offensive performance on the PP, and Johnson's numbers are right in line with what you see for second PP unit Dmen.

Edge: Shattenkirk

Corsi Numbers 5v5

Name Corsi Rel QoC Rank Corsi Rel QoT Rank Corsi On Corsi Off Corsi Rel Rank
JOHNSON 0.239 6th 1.155 2nd 2.44 7.05 -4.6 7th
SHATTENKIRK -0.128 6th 0.008 4th -1.23 -7.22 6.0 2nd

Now I think most advanced stats guys prefer Corsi Rel QoC versus Qualcomp since one is based on shooting stats (Corsi) versus +/-ON (Qualcomp), and shooting events happen a lot more often and are more reliable statistically. In this case we see that Johnson is facing bottom tier competition amongst the STL D core. This really surprised me, as I always had the impression he was their tough minutes guy and tough zone start guy. It surprised me enough that I took a look at last year, and it turns out he was 5th on the team for Corsi Rel QoC and had a mammoth 60% zone start. Shattenkirk seems to be doing fine in comparison, driving outshooting from the backend nicely while facing off against lower opposition.

Edge: Shattenkirk


This isn't a video game review, so I will say two things: numbers don't paint the whole picture, and I do not view either player with any frequency, so everything I conclude is based on the numbers and numbers only.

Both have been sheltered, with Shattenkirk getting a little bit of extra breast milk in comparison. The fact that EJ is a solid PKer clearly puts him in a different category as an all around defender. Where the picture for EJ starts becoming murky is when you question his overall contribution in terms of offence versus defence. He has some of the worst defensive numbers on his team, right in line with Shattenkirk's place amongst the Av's D core, yet for a guy with supposedly oodles of offensive ability, Johnson is bricking in the offensive zone.

Considering no one sober would trade McClement for Stewart straight up, I have to wonder at a trade like this. In case you really want some Chris Stewart numbers to prove this, well, he's 15th in the league amongst forwards for pts/60 5v5. His 2.68 nestles him amongst Zetterberg, Kopitar, Carter, Semin, Bergeron, and the like. Bonus stat: Hemsky is 5th by this metric.

So in recap, I think today the Blues considerably improved their team, especially considering Pietrangelo was absolutely crushing Johnson's numbers. The Pietrangelo effect is something I would consider a driving force in St. Louis making this trade. So unless EJ rebounds in a big way on the worse defensive squad in the Avs, it looks like the clear winner is St Louis.

Still, Erik Johnson is young, and he certainly has the tools to get back into the #1 spot, and I think it's likely the Avs will give him every opportunity.


  1. Interesting post. I suspect I have a higher opinion of Jay McClement than you do. No point comparing him with Stewart the way you did the defenders, the two forwards are Very different players, but McClement has always impressed as a real sound 3C and those guys are golden. Plus COL got the first rounder, eh, so they unquestionably won that part of the trade.

    Still, one of the more interesting swaps in quite some time.

  2. Jay McClement has long been a microstats beauty, and there's probably no question he is a bit undervalued. I will say that he has a low ceiling, and while he's an admirable checker, I just don't think he contributes that much to outscoring. More of a treading-water-in-a-tough-place guy.

    As far as the swap, considering the Avs are lousy defensively, you gotta wonder if Johnson's struggles with higher caliber opposition is really the answer to the Avs defensive problems.