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Most overused defender in the NHL this season?

December 5, 2019, 10:46 AM ET [16 Comments]
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In this edition of the hotstove, we share our thoughts on the most overutilized defensemen in the NHL this season.

Todd Cordell

There are a few really strong candidates. Cody Ceci has played a lot of minutes for the Maple Leafs with some less than desirable results. Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s performance has been a big problem for the Sharks, especially early on. I think Nikita Zaitsev takes the cake, though.

The Senators are controlling just 42.19% of the shot attempts, 41.67% of the scoring chances, and 43.93% of the expected goals (essentially weighted shots) with Zaitsev on the ice at 5v5.

Each number ranks him dead last among Senators defenders. He has a negative goal differential, too, so it’s not like the coaching staff is being blinded by some undeservedly strong results. They are bad across the board and yet Thomas Chabot is the only one averaging more 5v5 ice per game than Zaitsev. The latter’s total is more than three minutes clear of the next closest defenseman, too.

I know D.J. Smith really likes Zaitsev, and the Sens didn’t trade for him to ride the bench for five seasons, but nearly 23 minutes per night is definitely overboard.

James Tanner

The most over used defenseman in the NHL is Cody Ceci. The Leafs acquired him in the summer and could have let him walk, but chose to sign him.

This was curious because they are the NHL's most progressive analytics team and Cody Ceci is one of the worst players in the league, statistically. The thought was that they'd flip him to one of the dumber teams for a pick.

But then, Mike Babcock promised him top four minutes the very next day. Then they followed through and paired him with Morgan Rielly. It seemed like a long con to build his value, but they just kept doing it, and he was awful.

Then the Leafs got a new coach, and finally, last night he only played 43 seconds with Morgan Rielly, having been demoted, thankfully, and about 2 months too late, to the third pairing. The entire thing would make sense on any other team, but it's extremely weird that the Leafs are the ones who've done this because Ceci has been awful - including one recent game were he had the 12th worst game out of any player since 2007 - a list that included 160 000 games. In that game he somehow managed to put up a 1% expected goals rating and an 11% CF, which is close to what I could do if someone let me skate a game on the Leafs.

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