The Canadiens surprised a lot of people yesterday morning, placing defenseman Mark Barberio on waivers. The 26-year-old left handed defenseman put up a line of 2-8-10 in 30 games last season with the Habs, which falls just a bit short of a 30 point season over 82 games. But in the AHL he regular puts up 60 points per season. He appears to be the classic tweener, someone who excels in the AHL, but not in the NHL.
The scouting report on Barberio is what every team hopes to have on the blue line. He is a good skater, has great vision, makes a good first pass, and qualifies as the “new NHL puck mover” that teams are gravitating towards. On paper, he looks like a guy that should be given a shot, especially on a team that is woefully thin –even if the Rangers front office refuses to admit– on defense after Ryan McDonagh.
In Montreal, where Barberio put up some solid numbers (more on that below). There’s more to hockey than numbers though. As explained above, Barberio has a solid skill set that would do well in Alain Vigneault’s complicated overload/man hybrid defensive zone scheme. But the best part here is that Michel Therrien deploys the exact same system in Montreal. From the 1-2-2 forecheck, to the hybrid defensive zone scheme, to the hybrid aggressive penalty kill, Therrien and Vigneault are eerily similar coaches.
Getting to those numbers, and comparing him first to Marc Staal we see a huge difference in effectiveness. Staal had a woeful season last year, but he still managed to put up halfway decent suppression numbers. Barberio beats him across the board on every single stat, though. Scoring, driving shots, suppressing shots. Everything. In theory, with increased ice time, Barberio would be a major upgrade over Staal.
Here’s how he compares to the newly acquired Nick Holden. They actually are pretty comparable offensively. But Barberio still takes the cake defensively. Barberio should actually slide into any team’s top-four defensemen and be just fine.
Just a note: Brady Skjei hasn’t had enough time in the NHL for any stat to bring any real value. I’m omitting him from this analysis.
Here’s how all three compare to each other (click on the image to enlarge). Staal is the blue line, Holden the red line, and Barberio the green line. I used relative CF% on the chart to account for different teams and systems. We see that over the past two seasons, Barberio has been a net positive for the most part. He has peaks and valleys like any player, but only once did his valley fall below one of Staal’s peaks.
Usage will certainly play a role here, as Barberio had the more favorable deployment over both Holden and Staal. Barberio is the only one of the trio to receive > 50% offensive zone starts while facing the weakest competition. He routinely had the weakest teammates on the ice with him, though. We can infer that based on the usage, Barberio was used in sheltered(ish) third pairing role.
One last visual, showing how Barberio impacted his teammates in Montreal. The ideal chart is all the blue (Barberio’s performance without a specific teammate) and purple (Barberio with that teammate) in the upper right hand portion of the chart. For the most part, that’s what you see here. A player like Barberio won’t have the perfect effect on his teammates, but we see overall positive trends here.
So in Barberio we have a player:
- With the proper tools and skills to succeed
- Has succeeded in a very similar system
- Has great numbers, close to top pair comparables
- Positively affects his teammates on the ice
- Is better (on paper) than all non-McDonagh LD’s currently on the Rangers
This is almost too perfect for the Rangers. There’s no saying Barberio will succeed in New York. But he’s the type of player you want to take a flier on when he hits waivers. If there’s one guy –one realistic guy– that hits waivers this preseason that the Rangers should claim, it’s him. They won’t claim him (likely). But they should.