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Posts tagged: Jeff Woywitka

A Look At The Defense’s Quality Of Competition

When the Rangers lost Marc Staal and Mike Sauer, they lost more than two of their top four defensemen. They lost two of their most physical defensemen and two guys that have been relied upon for many games to neutralize the opposition’s top lines. They are out, and others are looked at to fill those gaping holes on defense. Although it is very tough to quantify how the Rangers will look when Staal and Sauer come back, we can look at who the workhorses are, and who is lining up against top quality –or bottom of the barrel– opponents.

Let’s state the obvious: Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh are the workhorses, and they are facing off against the opposition’s top lines night in and night out. They will be doing so for the foreseeable future too, as there does not appear to be any timetable for Staal and Sauer’s return. Using the eye test, it’s easy to say that Michael Del Zotto has been one of the Rangers better defenders as well, and to an extent he has been. But that’s why we have stats like QUALCOMP that measure the quality of competition that each player is facing.

A brief description of QUALCOMP, it is a positive or negative number, and the higher it is, the better competition a player is facing. Let’s look at the table below through the Rangers first three games:

Player GP QUALCOMP
Ryan McDonagh

3

0.635

Dan Girardi

3

0.475

Tim Erixon

3

0.144

Steve Eminger

3

-0.104

Jeff Woywitka

1

-0.494

Michael Del Zotto

3

-1.115

To sum up the table, the players facing the top quality competition are the ones you’d expect in McDonagh and Girardi. After that, it’s interesting to see that Tim Erixon is the player that coach John Tortorella seems to rely on the most when it comes to difficult opponents. The fact that they are the only three with positive QUALCOMP shows how much trust the coach has in them, and how his trust wavers with some of his other options.

Yes, Michael Del Zotto has been pretty good on defense this year, but he is way at the bottom of the QUALCOMP rankings. In fact, Del Zotto is at the very bottom in QUALCOMP for the entire league (excluding Sauer, who is injured). This is, of course, a very small sample size (just three games), and these numbers are likely to change dramatically as there is more of a regression to the mean (or progression to the mean for those slow out of the gate).

While those numbers themselves may change dramatically, the place where each defenseman resides on the list is likely to remain unchanged. It is widely known that with Staal and Sauer out, McDonagh and Girardi will be the top dogs on the blue line. What is troubling is that the Rangers have one defenseman that they are “breaking in” (Del Zotto), and another veteran –one that they relied on heavily last year– that are in the negatives with their QUALCOMP.

We do fall victim to small sample sizes here, as Jeff Woywitka has only played one game, and Steve Eminger took about 10-15 games last year to hit his stride and become that reliable defenseman that helped the Rangers through their injuries last season.  That said, trends will likely continue though, so expect to see Del Zotto facing off against lesser quality opponents, and expect the bulk of the heavy duty work to go to McDonagh and Girardi.

The positive to take out of this is that Tim Erixon has been facing some decent competition, better than both Eminger and Woywitka. He has been up to the task thus far. Although the number may change, he will still be considered to be a “second pairing” guy when it comes to the quality he is facing.

Rangers Claim Defenseman Jeff Woywitka Off Waivers

The New York Rangers, desperate for defensive help after putting Marc Staal on IR, claimed defenseman Jeff Woywitka off waivers from the Montreal Canadiens. Woywitka, 28, played 63 games with the Dallas Stars last season, putting up 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in those 63 games and a +5 rating.  Woywitka then signed as a UFA with the Montreal Canadiens over the summer to a one-year, $650,000 contract.  The Rangers will assume full responsibility for the contract, and will have a $650,000 cap hit for Woywitka.

Looking deeper into Woywitka’s stats, he had a 1.9 GVT last season (.63 PVT). There are no GVT numbers available for Stu Bickel or Brendan Bell (did not play in the NHL last year), but we can look at Steve Eminger’s numbers (0.5 GVT, .17 PVT).  Based on GVT/PVT only, Woywitka is worth about half a point more in the standings than Eminger.  But, it’s not all about GVT/PVT.  We can look at other stats, like QUALCOMP and Offensize Zone Starts, to better quantify what Woywitka brings.

Woywitka’s QUALCOMP of -.078 suggests that he was not exactly facing the opposition’s top players while he was on the ice, which may have led to an inflated +/- rating.  His 54.3% offensive zone starts, when coupled with his less than impressive QUALCOMP, shows that Woywitka was the beneficiary of favorable matchups and situations.  He started over half of his shifts in the offensive zone, which put less pressure on him from a defensive standpoint.  His Corsi numbers look even less appealing, meaning opponents are taking a fair number of shots (either on goal, missed, or blocked) while he is on the ice.

Putting all that together, you have a player who was starting in the offensive zone and against weaker players.  Despite the weaker competition, they still managed to direct a fair numer of shots towards the net while Woywitka was on the ice, suggesting that Dallas didn’t have control of the puck often while Woywitka was on.  However, he did improve upon his 2009-2010 season, for what it’s worth.

That said, comparing those numbers to Eminger’s (-.073 QUALCOMP, 51.9% offensize zone starts, slightly better Corsi), it appears that there is no significant difference between Eminger and Woywitka.  Claiming Woywitka was a move made by the Rangers to address the fact that Bickel and/or Bell might not have been ready for the NHL, but were being kept on the roster because of Marc Staal’s injury.  In Woywitka, they get someone with NHL experience who can be interchangeably used with Eminger.

With the move, the Rangers will need to send at least one player to the AHL.  They may wind up sending both Bickel and Bell to the AHL, but no official announcement has been made.

Looking for that power forward

Scott Burnside of ESPN ran a piece yesterday discussing what he terms “this year’s most tradable players,” a fan friendly list of a players likely to be moved in the weeks leading up to the deadline. There’s sexy names up and down the list, but for the most part the players either don’t fit any of the Blueshirts’ needs (Manny Fernandez, Vesa Toskala, The Bulinwall) or are just flat out unattainable because of talent/cap reasons (Jay Bouwmeester, Ilya Kovalchuk, Vinny Lecavalier, Marian Gaborik, Jason Spezza), except for one guy: Keith Tkachuk.

It seems like there’s a Tkachuk-to-the-Rangers rumor every year, and just like every other year the soon to be 37 year old would fill two needs: a top six forward and a guy that’ll park himself in front of the net with a man advantage. Tkachuk’s not Nik Antropov huge, but he does offer some size (listed at 6’2″, 231 lbs) and there’s a darn good chance he’ll be re-energized by joining a playoff team after making the postseason just once in the past four seasons (’06-’07 with Atlanta). He’s still got a nose for the net, potting fifteen goals this year (including the first goal in Sunday’s All Star Game) despite minimal help from his Blues teammates, and his ten power play goals (sixth most in the league) would far and away lead the club.

Now, how does the money work? Tkachuk’s making $4.5M this year and has a $4M cap number according to NHL Numbers, and is due to hit the free agent market following the season. That $4M cap hit is a bit of an eyesore but it’s certainly doable. Perhaps the deal could be expanded to included a physical (and cap friendly) defensman like Jeff Woywitka or Roman Polak, both of whom will be restricted free agents after the season. Adding that extra player would make giving up multiple young players/picks for Tkachuk much easier to swallow.

Bill Guerin’s name has been connected to the Rangers in the past few weeks, but Tkachuk is almost the exact same player production wise (15 G, 16 A vs 14 G, 18 A) except sixteen months younger and with a more favorable contract. Hopefully we hear some more about this in the coming weeks.