When the Rangers acquired Raphael Diaz for a 5th round pick, it was pegged as a depth move made by a team that needed a #7 defenseman pretty badly. We made the same assessment, but said not to sleep on that deal. Diaz was a solid contributor for Montreal and Vancouver, perhaps more-so than his numbers would indicate. The Rangers sorely needed an injury replacement, and the acquisition couldn’t have come at a better time.
It was three weeks following his acquisition that John Moore went down with an apparent concussion. When he was ready to return, Ryan McDonagh went down with a shoulder injury. Diaz has been in the lineup for nine straight games, notching a goal and an assist in the process. But it’s what he’s done away from the puck that has kept the blue line steady while their best defensemen has been sidelined.
While we are victims of small sample size (nine games is isn’t enough of a barometer to measure true effect), Diaz has proven to be a solid driver of puck possession for the Rangers, both in raw Corsi-For (55.2%) and in relative Corsi-For (+1.4%). That’s good for third among Ranger defensemen.
He’s been a bit sheltered, with 75% of his shifts start in the offensive zone against the 6th best quality of competition among defensemen. But the counter argument here is that he’s not playing with the best the Rangers have to offer (5th best quality of teammates while on the ice, among defensemen).
Diaz has benefited from a high on-ice shooting percentage (10.2%) and a very high on-ice save percentage (95.2%) for a whopping 105.4 PDO. For those unfamiliar with PDO, it basically measures puck-luck, and adds shooting percentage to save percentage. The average PDO is about 100, and anything above that means the player is benefiting from the team shooting well –or getting better than expected goaltending– while he is on the ice.
Since his PDO is so high, we should expect the team to score a bit less and the goaltending to drop off a bit while he is on the ice. However, his numbers for the year are still below average (98.2 PDO). Perhaps these nine games have been regression to the mean for his season. It’s a bit of a gray area. I’m mostly thinking out loud at this point. So let’s get back on point.
Regardless of his PDO and his eventual regression, Diaz has been a welcome addition to the blue line. He’s been a positive on the offensive side of things, and has been far from the tire fire that Justin Falk would have been in the defensive end. Sometimes the smallest pickups are the ones that make a world of difference. Think about this: Where would the Rangers be, if Falk was playing instead of Diaz?