and some current
Toronto Maple Leafs hockey operations guys withstanding, I think a lot of people that pay attention to the sport nowadays know the kind of clarity a lot of the newer statistics can bring when it comes to player or team evaluations.
For as outrageously bad the Chris Phillips extension was, one of the cool things about the Ottawa Senators last year -- I concede there aren't many choices -- was watching a pair of guys who the numbers love come in and perform incredibly well. A lot of smart people (like here
, for one example), well before Ottawa stole him from free agency, suggested that MacArthur was woefully devalued by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the final year of his deal. Consequently, many people thought he would be a bargain -- his underlying numbers suggestive of a strong hockey player, his counting numbers very much ready to regress in a positive fashion.
The other guy I think this qualifies for was Ales Hemsky, who the Ottawa Senators acquired at the trade deadline. Just days before the deal, I wrote a weekend piece at the Ottawa Citizen
that put together the argument in support of acquiring the Czech winger. Most of the same data points for MacArthur held true for Hemsky here. His possession numbers were sterling, despite slowed counting number production, and it seemed more likely than not he was being buried in the quality of teammate department. Or, just playing in Edmonton.
Hemsky's acquisition came as a bit of a surprise. All of the talk, if you recall, was about getting Chris Stewart out of St. Louis. Bruce Garrioch
wrote about it. That didn't change any after St. Louis sent him to Buffalo, either. Garrioch
wrote again on February 28th that he was a target; Jeremy White
talked about a deal as well.
More recently, Tim Murray not only confirmed
that the two sides had discussions, but that some
trade was still in the chamber
It's not really hard to figure out they're talking about Chris Stewart here, especially in light of Bryan Murray's comments about the team's need to add a power forward. For whatever reason, that seems to be the only thing the team's interested in acquiring this summer.
I don't have any objection to Ottawa looking for a power forward per se, but I do have an objection to calling Chris Stewart that. Further, I think Stewart is the polar opposite of what Ottawa did with respect to MacArthur and Hemsky earlier. Here is a guy who the underlying numbers absolutely despise. Kind of like, uh, Colin Greening!
The basics: Chris Stewart has 115-points since 2010; a 0.53 PPG average. Even if you are just judging the merit of a potential deal on point-production, you have to sit and wonder why this team's going to move futures for an OK scorer on an expiring deal.
Let's dive into some of the less talked about numbers for a bit more transparency into the player. One of my favorite things to first glance at is the player's Relative Corsi% -- or, an easy measurement of how well (or how poorly) a player drove possession relative to his team. Here, 0.00% would be an average possession-driving player for his respective team.
Pretty telling, I'd suggest. If Chris Stewart were accomplishing the things a quality power forward does, it would show up in the shot share. I've heard the argument that what this team needs is a bigger, tougher forward. And so I ask the following: If Chris Stewart is the answer, why are his five-man units territorially dominated?
I mentioned Colin Greening earlier -- the guy that just about everyone is ready to bury on the depth chart and/or have submitted through the CapGeek compliance buyout section. He's not a very good player, despite having a lot of tools in the tool box. It has to be frustrating for Bryan Murray, who bet big on him.
Anyways, general consensus is that he's somewhere between average and terrible, depending on who you poll.
Here's another fun graph: Individual shot volume, which I think is also extremely important. Stewart's in there, and I've provided Greening's numbers for comparison.
If you can find delineation in there, you have better eyes than I do.
Last thing: Is it possible that, for three years now, Chris Stewart's been dragged down by the guys on the ice? After all, we know how important driving possession is, yet we know that there are mitigating factors that can bring a guy up or down. Quality of teammate matters. It's why Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar are absolutely terrifying. Perhaps a more Ottawa-relevant example would be that of ... Colin Greening. He picked up a multi-year deal after mostly riding the coattails of a white-hot Jason Spezza through the 2011-2012 season.
Well, here are his most common linemates over the years. Generally, the thing you don't want to see here is the "Player" -- in this case Stewart -- seeing his numbers tail off, while the teammate's numbers skyrocket away.
Of course, that's mostly all you see in this little graph. Stewart's a possession drag on most of the guys he plays with. The only one who makes Stewart look not horrible here is Scott Hannan, who is one of those guys you can't believe made it so long in the National Hockey League. The Patrik Berglund one -- his most common linemate of all -- is probably the most damning.
So, we have a player that doesn't drive possession, doesn't shoot in volume, and looks to have been a drag on territorial play. His counting numbers aren't impressive. He's twenty-seven years old at the start of next season, and is much more likely than not to have already hit his ceiling. And his contract is expiring. And Ottawa's going to have to trade for him. And that's going to cost prospect(s).
Barring some fleecing of a deal where Ottawa, I don't see how this ends well for Bryan Murray. Chris Stewart is not a great hockey player, he isn't going to fix what's wrong with this team, and it's inexcusable in this new era of widely-available data to pull the trigger on a guy who is just littered with red flags.