Understanding Adam Clendening’s values and limitations

adam clendening

Outside of Dan Girardi, there is no one player that divides the Rangers fan base more than Adam Clendening. Opinions on Clendo seem to be at both extremes of the spectrum, with some thinking he should be given regular minutes and is a solid RD, while others think he’s useless. There seems to be very little grey area in this debate, but the grey area is the best area, since that’s where the truth lies.

Before really analyzing Clendo’s strengths and weaknesses, perhaps it’s best to review both sides of the discussion. Those that want him in the lineup regularly see his skating and puck moving abilities and relate that to a big need for the Rangers. Those that believe he is useless see the flaws in his gap control and coverages in the defensive zone. But the question that draws the most discussion is whether or not Clendo is an upgrade on Girardi and/or Kevin Klein.

First things first: Comparing Girardi to Clendo is a pointless exercise. Alain Vigneault is not going to play Clendo over Klein. That’s it. Case closed. Moving on.

Comparing Clendo to Klein, it’s important to understand usage. Clendo starts just 23% of his shifts in the defensive zone, while Klein gets 30% (this amounts to 2-3 extra shifts in the defensive zone for Klein per game). However they both have marginal difference in quality of competition faced in all three measurements of competition faced:

  • CF.QOC: Klein – 49.60, Clendo – 49.19
  • TOI.QOC: Klein – 28.73, Clendo – 29.72
  • xGF.TOC: Klein – 49.29, Clendo – 49.58

So I think we can all agree that the deployment between Klein and Clendo is basically the same. Clendo is certainly a better skater and puck mover than Klein, but Klein has a reputation of being better in the defensive zone. This year he’s been pretty terrible, so let’s say that at his best, he’s on par with Clendo in terms of overall defensive zone play.

If we can agree there –and I think saying he’s been on par with Clendo is being generous– then we can compare their production without any fear of context skewing results.

Clendo Klein
CF% 56.83% 48.88%
CF/60 60.73 56.11
CA/60 46.13 58.68
xGF% 57.70% 49.03%
GF% 60.00% 49.18%

So Clendo, despite being a “defensive liability” and having similar deployment to Klein, outproduces Klein in every single meaningful stat. It’s not even close at this point. Clendo certainly isn’t perfect, but at this point he’s a very big upgrade on Klein, even with the miscues in the defensive zone

The numbers give much more value to Clendo than Klein, and comparing them directly shows that even with same deployment and usage, Clendo is producing much better results. Perhaps the most surprising is that Clendo actually limits shots against at a much better rate than Klein. So if Clendo does Klein’s job better than him, shouldn’t he be playing?

Every little bit of improvement helps the Rangers on the blue line this season. It’s clear Klein can’t cut it anymore. So if Clendo can do the same job defensively while bringing a much needed puck moving skill set to the blue line, what do the Rangers have to lose?

*All stats are at 5v5, courtesy of

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  • Dave, this is an appropriate article but inappropriate sample size. I mean Clendening should have been played earlier in the year on a regular basis to see what he has. In concept, he fits AV’s system to a “T” and yet he doesn’t play him.

    For the millionth time, it’s not about how good or bad Clendening is but how God awful KK and G are. AT LEAST Clendening can skate and move the puck, something neither G nor KK can do, which in itself is a reason to play Adam.

    It’s also about system fit. How’s Grabner doing? Part of that success is system fit as what the Rangers do fits his skillsets.

    No way am I implying that Clendening would be as successful as Grabner but improvement over the crap that’s back there now? Sure. Adam fills a spot, that’s about it, but he’s better than G and KK so you play your best line up, regardless of name on the jersey or cap hit or coach’s faves.

    • That’s the point I was making in the post. The sample size on Clendo is too small, but we have 40 games on Klein already. He’s been awful. Since the small samples on Clendo are good, makes sense to keep playing him to see if it’s real. They can’t do much worse right now.

      • “They can’t do much worse right now.”

        100%. Doing the same thing wrong over and over again is counter productive and harmful.

    • Today’s interview with Staal–

      I feel good. Over the last bunch of days I have been feeling a lot better and skating a lot harder and definitely going in the right direction, feeling pretty good.”
      Are you still in the protocol, “it’s day by day but we have been pushing harder as the week has gone on and it’s gone well. Waiting to see how we react and then keep on going. Had a good skate today again and hopefully will respond well again and keep on pushing.”
      On skating, “A bunch of times on my own, actually got to shoot on a goalie today which was nice. Going in the right direction.”
      On the steps he is taking, “with this type of thing it can be frustrating and any step forward in the way that you are feeling and the closer you can to get back on the ice with the team the better you are going to feel and it’s going in that direction.”
      On not rushing back, “it’s hard. Having been through it before you learn your lessons in treating it the right way and it’s the type of injury where you can’t put a timetable on it but it’s starting to feel pretty good and we are going in the right direction.”
      On his past experience with concussions, “as far as talking with the training staff and doctors and how I feel and then you make a game plan going forward. It’s not something you can project and you go at it day by day and when you are ready to go, you go.”
      Pierre McGuire said on the Rangers Blue Line Podcast on Monday that he visited with Staal on Sunday and Staal said that he feels he is “starting to make some significant inroads in terms of getting better. That would be huge for them defensively.”

      While concussions are obviously unpredictable, the mere fact he was allowed to be interviewed suggests he’s more likely to be playing soon (maybe after the All-Star Break?) then go in LTIR. If they were even thinking LTIR, he wouldn’t be skating and they certainly wouldn’t allow him to be talking to the press.

        • 90% of these words are attributable to Staal himself and Pierre McGuire. On NHL Network Radio this morning, Steve Zipay confirmed that Staal was cleared for full contact and barring no setbacks, should be able to play next week.

          Obviously, concussions are tricky things and things can change quickly, but I find it bizarre that you simply dismiss a narrative even though their are strong facts that don’t support your position. (Sounds like a Sean Spicer press conference!)

          There is nothing, I repeat, NOTHING, that at the moment supports the idea that Staal is headed for LTIR. But if you have legit sources on this that says otherwise, please do share.

  • We expend soooo much energy on this blog/comment section talking about the 7th defenseman or the 12th forward.

    #4 is serviceable, and I think his play has been fine.

    I would have rather seen a little more information this morning on what an injury to Hayes might mean. Considering HIS absence would be a lot more damaging than whether #4 or #8 was 6 or 7 on the depth chart.

    BTW, our goalie had a SHUTOUT yesterday.

    • You say that the 4th line or 6th defenseman doesn’t matter. But it does.

      What hampered us so much last year up front? The inability to roll 4 EFFECTIVE NHL caliber lines. We won’t say what one person sunk that line pretty much single handedly.

      Again, teams need a 6 man unit on the ice. Six capable effective players at all times, therefore every starting position and who plays them matters.

      • Where exactly did I say it didn’t matter? I said Hayes abscence would be a lot more damaging than whether #4 or # 8 played.

        • Hayes abscense will be more important only if we can’t keep pucks out of our net. We have the ability to lose an offensive weapon. Offense is the problem.

    • I’m much more in your camp Al then John’s. You can make the case for Clendeining, just like you can make the case for McIlrath and against Glass last year. In the end, those on the margins players are not going to make much if any difference. You win because your best players play like stars.

  • Dave, to add to and expand on your stats:

    Clendening 77/21.13
    Klein 328/29.38

    Clendening 2.79/2.15
    Klein 2.59/2.69

    He’s made a strong case. Again he’s not the second coming of the greatest defenseman. But he’s an improvement

    • John-

      I will be the first to concede that you and Dave no ten times more about advanced stats than I do. I do wonder though whether you are looking at the whole story though.

      This excerpt from an article in Fulltilt NYR a few days ago on Clendening–

      “Here’s another thing the stat lovers choose to ignore because the numbers don’t fit their overall view of Clendening.

      Lowest starts in the DZ of all NYR defenseman (23.3%)
      Lowest TOI.QoC of all NYR defenseman (28:41)
      Lowest SV% of all NYR defenseman (89.19%)

      Without going into a big explanation of fancy stats, the three points above can be broken down as follows:

      The coaching staff doesn’t trust him in the defensive zone
      The coaching staff matches him up against the opposition’s weakest players
      When he’s on the ice, our goalies seem to have a harder time stopping the puck”.

      There was a similar point made about McIlrath last year. So are you sure we are really seeing the whole picture. I doubt seriously that every NHL coach and GM is wrong about McIlrath and that five other organizations are wrong about Clendening, who, I believe, would likely go unclaimed if he too were waived.

      • Fair points Eddie, which Dave has captured a number of times when discussing Clendening.

        Regarding DZ starts and TOI.QoC- obviously he is being sheltered which does two things. Shows us that the staff doesn’t trust him and shows that the staff is trying to put him in a position to succeed.

        Regarding your last paragraph, Girardi and Stralman are 2 other examples of defensemen who went by 30 other GMs until they established themselves in the league. The lack of a track record doesn’t mean a player lacks the capacity to create one.

        • I completely agree with you Hatrick. That’s more than fair. But my point is that TODAY, McIlrath remains at best a borderline NHL player that certainly didn’t warrant the thousands of words that were dedicated to debating if he should play or not. I feel the same way about Clendening.

          Obviously, any player can flip the narrative. Sometimes it’s maturity. Sometimes it’s a change of scenery. Sometimes it’s just the natural progression of learning the position, and as we know playing defense in the NHL has a very steep learning curve.

          I contend that Girardi and Stralman rewrote the narrative more so than GMs were wrong when they were drafted (or not drafted). But that’s just my humble opinion.

      • A few things:

        I covered the QOC piece already. Klein and Clendo are comparable. It’s why I didn’t bother comparing Clendo to Girardi. Different deployment.

        DZ piece was covered as well. That amounts to 1-3 extra DZ shifts per game. It’s marginal at best.

        SV% – small sample size. Clendo only started playing regularly recently, and that’s been during Hank’s bad run.

        • It’s always AV’s fault. Just like it was the fault of the other five organizations he was in. Just like McIlrath falling short was on AV, Gallant and now Rowe. Can’t possibly be the player maybe isn’t as good as we thought.

          Just wondering, should Coach Babs be taken to the woodshed for not bringing out the best in Grabner and yet AV was able to? I can only imagine what would have been said out here if this had happened in reverse. AV would have been skewered!

          Maybe Clendening and McIlrath will find it one day and become serviceable NHL players. Or maybe next year both will be in the Swiss League. No one knows. But today, they are marginal NHL players that are hardly worth debating about.

          • No, the player only goes on the ice when the coach wants him. So when you compare zone starts and lack thereof, it’s the coach’s decision that makes the comparison incomplete.

  • It’s been really hard watching some of the turnovers and mishaps of the defense.
    McD is great to watch, he has really gotten back into his ways this season. BS is fun to watch and keeps showing really good skills, nice young talent. NH has been giving some solid efforts, I like that he is a little gritty. I could see AC playing third line minutes and PP minutes too. I think he can be a usable asset.

    KK & DG are issues. Man some of they plays are just bad.

    anyway, if we can get some defense, we could be a contender!


  • AV is such a mixed bag when it comes to putting players in position to succeed. For every Pouliot there is a Clendening. For every Grabner, a McIlrath.

        • It might have a bit to do with talent as well as the pairings. Let’s not forget that Pouliot and Grabner are talented players in their own right, being paired with some talent. Clendening and McIlrath are no where near the talent level of the aforementioned players, and also are being paired with lesser talented players.

      • Not sure you can really make that case based on McIlrath (waived, no one wanted him, now barely an NHL player and evaluated as such by three different NHL coaches and all 30 NHL GMs) and Clendening (sixth organization in 2 1/2 NHL seasons). Real hard claim to make I’d say.

        • Again. Name one adequate NHL defenseman that our coach has developed in any of his coaching spots. In all of his coaching stops he’s played diminishing veteran defenseman over younger defenseman. Tanev is a trade target people asked about for this year. He did not develop until after AV left.

          This isn’t a Dylan MacLirth, Adam Clendening isolated issue. He is an excellent coach at developing forwards. This is a long term every coaching stop same issue.

          • Bieksa and Edler are two mid round draft picks that became fine NHL’ers under AV.

            You seem to be knocking AV for his front office’s inability to provide him with decent young defensive prospects.

          • Bieska was before AV. And I’ll give you Alex Edler. So 1 defenseman in how many years???

          • Bieksa played a 3rd pair role for 39 games before AV showed up.

            AV’s first year in Vancouver, a 25 year old Bieksa is playing over 24 minutes a night and posted a 42 point season.

            I think AV had a lot to do with Bieksa’s development.

        • At minimum, there is strong evidence that his penchant to adjust when certain players are struggling is lacking.

      • Going back to Stralman, a major miss in losing him, Boyle after that, and now G, Staal, and KK.

        Wonder where their issues are?

        • That was cap related. Not relevant to the debate as I see it. And while AV had input, these were front office calls.

      • I don’t know Dave, there’s an old expression about chicken salad and chicken uhhh … waste, that comes to mind here.

        Instead of assuming AV can’t evaluate defensemen, why not assume that AV has been given a long line of not very good borderline NHL Ds that weren’t even good enough to coach up to an NHL standard?

        Conor Allen? Out of the league.
        Dylan McIlrath? Looking like a future KHL special, they do love their fighting in that league.
        Adam Clendening? 7th D with serious flaws
        John Moore? Skill and skating ability, but simply couldn’t cut out the mental lapses, a poor man’s Yandle

        On the flip side, Skjei has actual talent and skill and is rounding into a fine NHL caliber D.

        Defense is a position where the coach needs to have the utmost confidence in a player. That’s why even the most successful coaches stick with older Ds for too long, look at Coach Q still playing Rozi all these years. Unlike a 4th line forward that can be hidden over the course of a game, a 6th D is one injury or one game misconduct away from being thrust into playing a third of any given game.

  • Let’s put some of that aside for a second and look at something else:

    Age 32, salary: $2.9m

    Age 24, salary: $600k

    Even if their stats were the exact same wouldn’t you want to focus more on Clendening because of his price and that he’s on the right side of 30?

    • That play was indeed terrible. Clendening committed the cardinal NHL sin, he stopped skating. If he kept his legs moving, he either would have gotten away from Hyman or he would have drawn a penalty on the overaggressive Leafs player.

      If Clendening never does that again, then I could happily blame it on his inexperience and assume he’s improving. This is how young players evolve into reliable NHL’ers. I wouldn’t bury him indefinitely for that one mistake. AV didn’t and likely used that miscue as a teachable moment.

      • You are right. It’s just a hard play to watch. It’s just the worst one of our defensemen has looked since Tarasenko did that move on McIlrath a few years back.

        • Have you seen our defense since that play? The Girardi-to-Ovechkin assist?

          If you’re willing to go a bit further, Girardi on the Game 1 OT winner in the finals was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen

          • I have. Those Girardi “assists” are bad, but they’re not a young player, who’s bodies haven’t betrayed them yet, getting absolutely dominated in both skill and physicality. The Clendening play gave me secondhand embarrassment.

  • Looking into it, that excerpt in right in only one sense. Pure save %, yes he’s the lowest, by a slim margin. However, when you adjust and use Fenwick, all unblocked shots he’s not the worst. That distinction belongs to Klein and Girardi.

    In Corsi Sv%, Fenwick Sv%, GA60, xGA60, Adjusted Fenwick Sv% Clendening is far surpassing Klein.

    For two, again this argument about his moving is so old and half truths. Chicago fleeced Vancouver (such “great” talent evaluators) who then got robbed by Pitt moving him for Sutter. Pitt moved him for hags, he never played for Anaheim as they had no roster spots so they HAD to waive him to get him to minors where Edmonton claimed him.

    Chicago- good talent evaluators drafted him #36 overall.
    Pitt- decent talent evaluators wanted him and Benino and he played well for them.
    Anaheim- good defensive evaluators wanted him and tried to hide him in minors but lost the gamble.

    You have to give to get. He’s been valued around the league

  • Clendo is a young player who needs more playing time to improve. He has some skill with the puck and a decent shot, and can skate fairly well. He needs to get stronger on the puck and take the body more in the defensive zone. Those two things can be taught, while the skating and puck moving and shooting take more natural ability. Overall, I see no downside to rotating him in with Klein and Staal even when Staal returns, unless the Rangers find someone better at the trading deadline.

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