Hockey TacticsPlayers

Getting the most out of Kevin Shattenkirk

Depending on which sites you read, Kevin Shattenkirk is either amazing at defense or a defensive liability. Fancy stat folks obviously love possession stats and have countered the beat writers’ narrative that Shattenkirk is all O and no D. The eternal fight continues…YAWN.

What’s important though is not what the pundits say about his d-zone coverage, but whether or not he wears summer threads (preferably hopsack over cotton) that are body conscious.

Apologies, I forgot this is Blue Seat Blogs, not Gentlemen’s Quarterly. Got my blogging journalistic responsibilities mixed up.

Let’s get one thing straight. Come next June, when we’re having a toast to Kevin Shattenkirk, we’re likely not clinking glasses and saying ‘cin cin’, ‘erin go bragh’, or ‘L’chaim’ if all he did was play good defense. No, a successful 2017-18 likely means he put up 10+ goals, 45+ points, more than half of which hopefully come from the power play. It also means he contributed at the same rate or better during the post-season.

If that’s what success looks like for Shattenkirk, what we’ll need to pay attention to over the course of the season is how AV gets him there.

Ultimately, it starts with the defensive zone system.

Man-on-Man Coverage

The above image you should be familiar with. It’s an illustration of man coverage, which is the backbone of AV’s man/overload defensive zone system. This is important because we have sucked at executing it essentially since AV got here in 2013. With a retooled defense, hopefully he can get Shattenkirk and DeAngelo singing off of the same song sheet as the rest of the defense.

Whether or not either will fit this system remains to be seen, as neither of them have played it before. St. Louis and Phoenix both play zone. So, there’s that.

The second key component to Shattenkirk’s success will be how he’s deployed.

Let’s face it. Shatty hasn’t been a 40+ point, 54% Corsi defensemen by adversity. His previous coaches deployed him in the offensive zone close to 60% of the time. That has to continue in order for him to be effective.

Early buzz is that AV will pair Shattenkirk with Ryan McDonagh, which is fine. However, McDonagh has seen his offensive zone starts decrease under AV, as he’s assumed more defensive responsibilities. That’s not a role best suited for Shattenkirk.

Finally, last but not least, the most important variable to not only a star player’s production but his happiness, is icetime. 

It goes without saying, but icetime is king. Shattenkirk has consistently played around 20 mins a game, with limited TOI while short-handed, likely due his limited ability on the defensive side of the puck. Again, very different from McDonagh.

Overall, Shattenkirk is a great signing by Gorton. Anytime you can get a right-handed, puck-moving defensemen is a-ok in my book. The contract itself? Wizardry. Hopefully, AV knows how to get the best out of him.

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  • Great as usual Suit.

    Quite simply, if McD played the way he played with G on his right side then just think what he will do with an elite defenseman as his partner.

    McD unleashed.

  • Shatty is there to be a puck moving RHD who can provide offense first, and then some defense. Let’s not forget this. He is not, and will never be all world on the defensive side. I don’t expect him to be out there in short handed situations.

    His PPQB skills are something we need. Let not try to change his game too much.

  • I am looking for him to make other players better as well….

    You forgot Saluti!



  • Suit

    A silk tie for this article my man!!!!

    “Hopefully, AV knows how to get the best out of him??? ”

    Now there is the problem, will he match Mac Truck with Kevin?

    Will he give the guy time to learn his system before he starts jerking him around, we all know that’s in his DNA!

    Like Sal above said, “His PPQB skills are something we need. Let not try to change his game too much”.

    I have a sneaky feeling that the answers will all be NO, the guy just can’t not tinker to a fault. This from a guy who went into the PO’s still fu*king around with the lines, I have no faith in his style.

    The season will come soon enough, and time will tell if AV can leave well enough alone!!!!!!!!!

  • So Shatty needs to be deployed more in the offensive zone to take maximize his skills. Mcdonagh is hands down the best defender on this team and the guy you want out there shutting down the other teams top players. So you put them together and which side gives? Do you then have Mac start 60% of draws in the Offensive zone and therefore pull him off of some of his shutdown minutes? Or do you make Shatty play a little more in his own zone?

    This is exactly what I was worried about when signing the guy!

    Either way it sounds like a prime example of “this coach is a moron” in the making because he’s going to have to make a decision if he keeps these guys together all season!

    • This is exactly what I’ve been thinking. The hyenas are already circling, laying the groundwork for a narrative in which AV is to blame if Shattenkirk doesn’t excel.

      If he pairs with McDonagh, he’s going to see more defensive zone shifts and his production might slip. People will blame AV for not deploying Shattenkirk in a manner befitting his offensive talent.

      If, however, Smith pairs with McDonagh, and Shattenkirk slides in alongside Skjei for more O-zone starts, then he’s going to see a bit less TOI. People will complain that he’s not getting top minutes and was brought here to pair with McDonagh.

      If AV tries to play around with these combinations to find the best balance, people will complain that AV can’t stop tinkering and isn’t allowing Shattenkirk time to stabilize and find his game.

      And if AV pairs up McDonagh with Shattenkirk but starts giving them more sheltered O-Zone starts, our overall defense is likely to take a hit, and people will blame AV’s system or start complaining that our best defender –McDonagh– is being misused.

      There is literally no scenario in which a vocal contingent of fans aren’t going to crucify AV over defensive pairings this year.

      Brace for impact.

      The only way AV gets a pass is if Shattenkirk steps up and manages to excel at what he’s done best over his career while still absorbing D-zone starts with McDonagh as his partner. This is entirely possible, as that’s going to be a great pairing, but it’s going to rely on what Shattenkirk is capable of, not how he’s specifically utilized.

      • Yep….you nailed it exactly. Fortunately, AV and Gorton couldn’t care less what the blogosphere thinks. There is nothing wrong with tinkering. Every coach does it. It’s only a cardinal sin when AV does it!

        I expect a lot of tinkering with lines and pairings this season. Perhaps more this year then we have ever seen. New personnel pretty much guarantees it.

        • The coaching staff really has no choice but to mix and match all season if we want optimal pairings on the ice for certain situations. There’s no way around it in order to maximize the unique talents on the blueline.

          i.e. we’ll see plenty of Shattenkirk and Smith swapping between the first and second pairings based on situations (ozone vs. dzone draws).

  • Shatty is definitely going to help the power play that was horrible you put him on the first pair with RyanMac and then have Brady and Brendan on the second pair or vice versa

  • I hope the Ruff hire gives him the autonomy to handle the defense in his way and removes AV’s potential meddling. I’m assuming Beuk’s presence did not impress AV, hence he possibly took a more active role in the defense. Just guessing.

  • Pumped big time for the season!!!! Not only is Shatty a huge upgrade from Girardi, but Smith and Sjkel are huge upgrades from last years 2nd pairing.
    Hoping/expecting kredier , hayes, miller become more consistent and vesey, zib and buch to have breakout years……nash, grabner, zucc to be themselves……only roadblocks to final are pitts and AV!

  • I’m not sure I agree with the statement that he needs to have OZ starts to be successful. He was behind Alex Pietrangelo in STL, which is fair. I don’t think his short stint in WSH is fair evaluation. Too small a sample.

    Shatty is going to get a shot to see what he can do on the top pair. There’s a chance he does just fine. Let’s also remember he’s never had a partner like McDonagh before. QoT matters too.

    • Dave,

      I agree. Too many are still fixated on the premise of a “shutdown” defender, from the bygone days. “Shutdown” defenders are now those that can’t skate and move the puck as well in the “modern” game, they bleed shots against.

      The best way to defend in this style of NHL is to have defenseman who can move the puck rapidly and effectively up the ice out of the zone, and then can keep the puck in the offensive zone. If you’re forcing the other goalie to keep covering the puck, or the other team to ice the puck (like they’ve done against us the past 3 years) that is going to lead increased offensive zone starts.

      • Its funny but with all these modern analytics it still comes down to which team has the better players……..
        I like stats but they serve to tell me what I can plainly see…..crosby, kopitar, eichel, mcdavid, ovechkin, burns, towes..etc are what it takes to win….
        I have not yet seen a team without great players win because they have a great strategy based on analytics !!!!!

        • If that’s all it takes, please explain why Sidney Crosby and Evengi Malkin have not won the Stanley Cup every year, why Ovechkin as never advanced past the second round, why Brent Burns just played in his first Stanley Cup finals 2 years ago, why Getzlaf and Perry can barely win a game 7, shall we go on? Why wasn’t it Gretzky vs Lemieux every year in the Finals?

          Analytics tell you how a player is performing, what their strengths are and where they’re struggling. It’s up to the coaching staff to devise a strategy based upon that data that amplifies the teams collective strengths and hides their collective weakness. Analytics has shown that if you gather enough players who can drive possession into the others team zone and keep them there, you have a BETTER chance of success than if you defend all the time.

          • Because there are too many variables, especially in hockey, to guarantee anything. The Caps should have won at least once–that to me is blatant underachievement that should cost the coach (who has NEVER advanced past the second round in his career) his job.

            But all one has to do is look at the history of SC Champions, especially recent champions, to see that high end talent is generally ESSENTIAL to success. Teams that win Cups usually have at least 2 of the following ingredients– 1-2 future HOF talent (beyond the goalie), one legit top end 1C, a Norris caliber defenseman, a top quality goaltender and/or defenisve depth.

            The Rangers have no future HOFers other than Hank. They haven’t had a legit top tier 1C in years. McDonagh hasn’t really been in the Norris discussion since 2014–he’s very good but not a difference maker player. Hank basically put this good but not great team on his back and made them contenders in 2012, 2014 and 2015. The last two years, as the defense eroded, his play slipped a bit. He isn’t the same shutdown guy he once was game in and game out, but he’s still more than capable. And before the retool this summer, our defensive depth and effectiveness has slipped greatly.

            I do agree that driving possession overcomes many other things, and Shatty should help us there. But we need significant step up performances from Kreider, Miller, Hayes and Zib, and continued improvement from Vesey and Buch if we are going to have any chance here.

            Talent matters John. Sure, you can have miraculous runs by teams. The NY Giants did it in 2007 and shocked the world. The Miracle Mets of 1969 and the Jets of 1968. There is always that hope when a good team comes together in a magical way and beats a great team. But those are outlier examples. You usually need greatness, and there is little in the way of true greatness on this roster–at least to this point.

            Joe Maddon ended the Cubs Curse last year. Why? Because yes, he’s a great manager. But mostly, because he had great players that performed at a high level–especially when it mattered most. Joe Maddon is still the manager. And it’s largely the same team. So why are they a sub-.500 team? Did the manager get dumb all of a sudden? Or is it that the players are not performing, similar to how Miller/Hayes/Kreider/Stepan failed to show up from mid-February on? Ultimately, isn’t that on the players much more than on the coach/manager?

          • Sorry Eddie, but that second paragraph…

            Not for anything, but, were you to add 8-10 points at most to Stepan’s totals (IE, pretend he had two wingers that potted each an extra 4-5 goals over a year), the metrics relative to guys like Kopitar and Bergeron become… almost indistinguishable.

            Furthermore, McD was/is close enough to ‘Norris caliber’ that such a parameter was also met. Hell, some models even claim he’s the league’s best overall (defensive & offensive impacts combined), even if it’s by a hair.

            Lastly, St. Louis is a HoFer who was still playing well in 2014. We had the talent.

            But there are, however, a few things the other recent championship teams didn’t have…

            – A guy who is statistically the worst RHD (nevermind #1 RHD) in the league!

            – A coach who throws his enforcer / bottom pairing out in a playoff game with 3 minutes left!

            – A coach who doesn’t bench players who ‘sit back on a lead’ (assuming of course that it’s not his idea)

            In other words, I think this team was ‘talented enough’ to win. And while I don’t mean to imply this was solely on AV, some of his decisions have opened him to these criticisms.

            We had enough talented players to compete that year in the finals…

            … we just preferred to get a lead, sit back, and lose…. every. damned. game. (Except 3).

          • Spot on agree with everything – except the Dan Girardi reference you so eloquently shielded by leaving his name out 🙂 Obviously Steve Yzerman disagrees with you on that one.

          • Well, Yzerman also signed Callahan….

            Even good GM’s get it wrong sometimes.

            Girardi was a black hole on defense, and the change to Shatty is going to make a tremendous difference this year.

          • 3E,
            Spot on comments…….completely agree with every point you made!
            I would guess that the crosbys , towes, ovechkins probably have high ‘driving possession’ numbers…. etc .
            To answer John B ‘s question the reason crosby and malkin dont win every year is because other teams have towes and kane and hossa and keith….high end talent as well!
            John B….I agree AV…not a good coach especially in playoffs , but you cant be serious saying that stepan is 8-10 points ‘as good as kopitar and bergeron’…?unless I misunderstood your point….Had we had kopiat and the kings stepan we win the cup that year without a doubt!

          • Well, Rich, I don’t like to link articles from other blogs, but there’s a good piece explaining why that is true on another blog, if you’re willing to search.

            Basically, as I’ve shown before, while he was on the ice, the Rangers scored 60% of the goals at 5v5 play.

            Those are elite figures.

            Given that those figures are elite, were he to have another 8-10 points, aside from the fact he sucks at faceoffs & hits nothing, per fancy stats (HERO charts etc), well, as I’ve said…. he’d be indistinguishable from aforementioned ‘#1 Centers’.

            Like I’ve said, I have a bad feeling that unless Andersson comes flying out of the gate or barring some crazy trade for a 1C….

            well…. we’re gonna miss Daisy…. not for his offense, but because he was capable of shutting down other team’s top players.

            We don’t have a replacement for that……

            Hell, the only other center we had that even played D got drafted by Vegas….

          • Agree with Rich on the Crosby, etc comments.

            Very much agree with Dog though on Stepan. As it stands now, we are pretty weak at center, and if this is not sufficiently addressed, we will have trouble making the playoffs, let alone legitimately contend.

            But, I am optimistic because there is still plenty of time to get this fixed.

            Obviously, Shatty is a huge upgrade over Girardi. But I don’t consider Girardi a black hole. And apparently, there is evidence to suggest much of the league doesn’t either (I know it was just one team that signed him, but they did it Day 1 of FA for significant dollars. They must have believed that there was significant interest in the supposed “black hole”.

            Maybe every GM is dead wrong here, but I doubt it. The reality is, right or wrong, NHL execs see Girardi as a very viable NHL defenseman. They see Clendo as a 7D. They see McIlrath as a borderline AHL/NHL guy. There’s really no doubt about that.

    • Amen Dave, I can see it now, Mcd making some awesome move at the blue line – getting the puck crossed to Shatty moving down the opposite side boards, maybe a sick pass, or a shot…

      ACTION BABY!!!


  • The best Defense is a good offense.I think Shattenkirk and Mc D will compliment each other well. Some of our past defensive problems have been(after losing the face offs) clearing the Zone. I think these 2 will improve that problem. Smith is our best defensive defender and should be deployed as such in big moments. Each defender we have has a unique skill set. That is one of the things that makes our D so good. How they are deployed will determine how effective they will be. Limited deployment of Staal and Holden(assuming he/they are not traded) will be critical. Also, a bit disappointed Scott Arniel is still here. Not a fan and I have to wonder if getting rid of him may be the best way to fix special teams in general. These is a good problem to have…

  • blues played man last year until Yeo took over. Shatty is great on the right. he was sometimes asked to play the left for st Louis. obviously clearing the puck out of your zone is tougher on your off hand

  • Shatty and DeAngelo are both guys that will move the puck and jump into the play. It is no accident that the Rangers wanted both of them. That is how you defend in today’s NHL. You do it by getting the puck outta there and into the other team’s zone. The Rangers were notorious for getting trapped in their own end at times. These two will help alleviate that.

  • I expect Shatter to spark the sagging Ranger PP. However I do not foresee him as the savior who will lead New York in capturing Lords Stanley Cup
    Further, I will not demonize Shattenkirker about his defensive shortcomings everytime Leaky lets in a softy.

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