Raphael Diaz filling in nicely as injury replacement

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)
Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

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?


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  • Great point of where would we be without him, instead of Falk!

    He has been a blessing, mobil defensman, who doesn’t put himself in situations where he could be in trouble. I don’t understand why both Montreal, and Vancouver gave up on the kid?????

    • Diaz is the type of guy that isn’t flashy and is under the radar. He, Stralman, and Tom Gilbert in Florida are all cut in the same mold.

  • Lets give Slats some credit on this one. He saw the need, and picked up something more than a stop-gap player, for a rather fair price. This may clog the blueline opportunities next fall.

    • I’m glad to hear Sather finally get some props for his decision making. He’s rebuilt this team on the fly since the 04′ lockout without any top 5 draft picks. I don’t think Dolan wanted to let the bottom fall out for a full rebuild. Sather worked around that and did a wonderful job.
      Diaz has been a welcome addition especially to the PP. Tho they haven’t been great the last 10-15 games. They have moved the puck well and gained momentum from it. Diaz has also been good in his own end. He’s physical for a puck moving defenseman. Funny how he has DZ’s #4. I wonder who is the 7th Defenseman when Mac returns. Any thoughts? Is it Moore sitting or does Diaz go back? Moore is an amazing skater and with Klein on the 3rd pair we have a perfect L/R mix the throughout the back end.

      • I think Diaz becomes the 7th defenseman. You never know though, AV could mix and match in the playoffs based on matchups.

      • What makes you think these are Sather’s decisions. He’s got Gordie Clarke & Jeff Gorten to tell him what to do.

  • This need is an illustration and condemnation of the state of the talent development in the organization. Keep giving up those draft choices Slats!

    • Uh…what? How in the world did you come to that conclusion? They made a trade for depth. You can’t have a roster of 23 home grown guys, that’s not how this league, or any league for that matter, works.

  • Next year he should be in the top 6 but there is a dilemma. McIlrath should be in the line up too. McIlrath now needs to play and learn at the NHL level. Staal is the perfect partner for both. John Moore has a perfect fit in Klein. We do have a number 1 team in McD and Girardi that are in the top 3 in the league as a tandem.
    So who plays top 6 minutes next year, McIlrath or Diaz?

    • Competition for places is excellent for the team. If players like JT and McIlrath have to compete for ice time rather than have it handed to them it will hasten their development.

      You want your young players to force their way into the lineup not handed a spot like Kreider was the past two offseasons. Notice that Kreider didn’t blossom until he was cut from the team last October and had to fight his way back into the lineup.

      This is a great problem to have, if McIlrath or Allen plays so well that you have to play them then a Diaz type moves to the fringe and the team only gets deeper.

    • McIlrath isn’t ready now. You can’t hand him a spot. Based on what I’ve seen, Allen is more ready than McIlrath. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since McIlrath missed a year with a dislocated knee cap. It’s going to take longer to develop him.

      In a perfect world, the top six stay, Diaz is the 7th, and you have Allen/McIlrath pressuring the vets.

      But, Stralman’s demands throw a wrench in all this. Diaz can be a decent replacement for Stralman, but the team would then need a #7 defenseman (don’t want to have a kid sit in the press box).

  • I agree that the shooting percentage is mostly luck and there is some luck in the 95.2% save percentage, but it’s not all luck. A goaltender doesn’t just let in one of every 10-11 shots; he lets in a much higher percentage of strong shots and a much lower percentage of average shots. A defenseman has a big influence on the number of strong shots – defensive misplays lead to strong shots and great coverage on 2 on 1’s, 3 on 2’s etc. reduce them.

    • Considering who the Rangers have in net, I’d expect that on-ice SH% to drop to roughly 7%, and the on-ice SV% to drop to 93%. That’s a 5% drop, puts him at a 100 PDO.

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