Do “Defensive Defensemen” Exist? … Part 2: Shooting & Offense Contributions

The above GIF is a fitting bridge from Part 1 (the “Hypothesis,” viewable here) to Part 2, as it demonstrates the distinct differences between the defense groups I’ve thus identified and are studying in isolation of one another. To recap, they are:

  • “Offensive defensemen” – defensemen with 3+ min PPTOI/G and less than 1 min SHTOI/G
  • “Balanced defensemen” – defensemen with 2.5+ min PPTOI/G and 2.5+ min SHTOI/G
  • “Defensive defensemen” – defensemen with 3+ min SHTOI/G and less than 1 min PPTOI/G
  • “Replacement defensemen” – defensemen with less than 1 min PPTOI/G and less than 1 min SHTOI/G

Just looking at the GIF, you probably have some questions about hard data of those shots and their location. I expanded on that to include a comparison of the percentage of shots each group took inside 30 feet, as well as their shooting percentage and percentage of their team’s even-strength assists in games the player participated (%TESA).

Note: Both the charts I wanted to use on here were supposed to be interactive, but they got kinda buggy when I tried that. So, here’s the hard data:

Player Sh% <30ft Sh Pct %TESA
Offensive D 0.048 0.129 0.063
Defensive D 0.040 0.090 0.045
Balanced D 0.042 0.115 0.059
Replacement D 0.043 0.113 0.035

Now, before you call out the %TESA measure, it’s worth noting that the even-strength time per game for offensive, defensive, and balanced defensemen were closely in-line with one another (17.42, 17.22, and 17.78, respectively; replacement defense were at 13.99). Thus, when you compared their even-strength assists per 60 minutes, you ended up with:

Player ESA/60 ESSh/60
Offensive D 0.723 4.15
Defensive D 0.524 2.89
Balanced D 0.684 3.86
Replacement D 0.516 3.44

I threw in even-strength shots for good measure as well. Clearly, the combination of greater offensive zone involvement and greater offensive zone ability (probably not mutually exclusive things) brings a better offensive return and not just with regards to shooting. Up to this point, you could have said that, hypothetically, these defensive defensemen simply weren’t shooting but influencing offense by making key passes…but if that was really the case, that should bring them closer that this to the balanced group in assist measures.

I have to say, incidentally, that balanced defensemen are no slouches in offensive contribution, though there’s certainly a distinction between they and their offensive counterparts. As for replacement defensemen, it’s also clear that they skew slightly offensive. With all the above taken into account, the idea that defensive defensemen are not as involved as their offensive and balanced counterparts is all but confirmed. So, reaching back to the previous part, and including this, the defensive zone isn’t a major distinction for a defensive defensemen vis-a-vis their counterparts, and the offensive zone is only distinct in that the defensive defensemen is less involved in it. So it still certainly appears that defensive defensemen are not demonstrating much value to this point.

One last thing to look at in Part 2 is, maybe, there are some distinctions in regards to shooting for offensive defensemen and blocking shots for defensive defensemen.

Note: Hard data: 

Player Exp MF/CF MF/CF On MF/CF Off Exp BF/CA BF/CA On BF/CA Off Exp 5v5% 5v5%
Offensive D 0.218 0.220 0.221 0.261 0.257 0.268 0.323 0.352
Defensive D 0.218 0.221 0.218 0.261 0.271 0.260 0.323 0.352
Balanced D 0.218 0.220 0.218 0.261 0.253 0.257 0.323 0.363
Replacement D 0.218 0.214 0.218 0.261 0.260 0.259 0.323 0.289

The horizontal bars signify the averages across the defense population (2008-09 through 2012-13, 20+ GP). Offensive defensemen don’t really demonstrate any distinct ability to avoid misses any more than any other group. Blocking shots, though, is a different story; at even-strength, defensive defensemen definitely block a greater proportion of Corsi-Against events than average or any group counterparts, as well as their own teammates. Presumably, that could help offset possession deficiency, or more-frequent deployment in the defensive zone. Though most of the hypothesis still remains intact, that defensive defensemen aren’t demonstrating much if any tangible value or even definition, in the end of this Part 2 we’ve started to see glimmer of distinction and contribution. In Part 3 (viewable here), we’ll move onto the the final measures of possession data.

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