Thursday, August 07, 2008

Dion Phaneuf or Jay Bouwmeester

I've made it no secret that I am a Jay Bouwmeester fan. Way back in the early 2000s I had a fantasy trade made in my head for him: Jarome Iginla for Jay Bouwmeester and Roberto Luongo. Think the proposition was inane?

Remember this was when Bouwmeester was closer to 18 years old and Roberto was about 20. Iginla had just scored 52 goals and a gold medal in the Olympics. Eventually Luongo (probably the more valuable piece) went for Bertuzzi, and not even a Bertuzzi in his prime. Jay Bouwmeester will be gone next year; he's obviously unhappy in Florida.

Not sure if that trade would have really benefited the Flames. Iginla is still probably worth more than both of them - if he's not the best he's damn close. (Feel free to debate both these points).

Anyway, the point of all this background is that the other day MG brought up the possibility of Sutter going after Bouwmeester. He meets all of Sutter's criteria (from Alberta) except one (not old). In the comments section I brought up my personal bias that if I had to make the choice I would probably take Bouwmeester. MG argued that although Bouwmeester may be the better player, Phaneuf had the higher ceiling.

I decided to dig a little deeper to compare the numbers between these two defenceman. First, the counting numbers:

On first glance they look pretty close, but obviously Jay has played a couple of extra seasons, so we can take a look at counting numbers based on games played. As is plainly obvious, Dion outshines Jay at just about every opportunity. GPG, APG, PPG, SPG, +/-.

We can probably explain some of the difference thusly: Jay Bouwmeester plays on a terrible team, Dion Phaneuf plays on a pretty good team (that is admittedly going downhill.) How much does this affect account for the difference in counting numbers? Hard to say.

Now let's take a look at the Desjardins numbers. I went back to 06-07, Phaneuf's second year and Bouwmeester's third.

06-07 Behind the net numbers

One of the first things that jumps out at me is what a good comp these two make. Look at their even strength ice time totals; about 17 minutes a night each. We can also see that Phaneuf clearly played with better teammates - not surprising, Florida simply didn't have the players Calgary did. Bouwmeester also faced stiffer competition, if only just.

Also take a quick look at each players contribution to team point production. Bouwmeester actually had twice the +/-ON that Phaneuf did - and while the team had a better +/- when Phaneuf took a seat on the bench, Florida imploded when Bouwmeester wasn't on the ice. Bouwmeester actually had the second best ON +/- on the team (players with more than 10 games), next only to Jokinen. Bouwmeester had the team's best OFF+/-, meaning the team had the biggest drop in efficiency when he left the ice.

Phaneuf was 12th on the Flames in ON+/-. This is both due to the fact he had better teammates, but I would also bet it's simply because he's less effective at EV.

Now, Dion does obviously have a few positives. To start, the Flames drew more penalties when Dion was on the ice than Florida did when Bouwmeester was on(151 to 95) but they also took more (149 to 135).

Moving on to the 07-08 season we can see a couple changes. Bouwmeester has an extra minute and a half at EV, and while Phaneuf's competition and teammates have stayed about equal, Bouwmeester has begun to face much better opposition.

07-08 Behind the net numbers

The scoring breakdown begins to separate the two here as well. Phaneuf is putting pucks in the net at about twice the rate of Bouwmeester. They both make first assists at about the same rate (Phaneuf slight edge) but Phaneuf makes second assists at about twice the rate of Bouwmeester. Dion also holds an edge in GFON, and to my surprise, GAON.

I think in cases like this it's important to compare within the team rather than between teams, and in that regard Bouwmeester is ranked 4th in GFON, behind Horton, Booth and Weiss while he's ranked 6th in GAON. To note, his ranking between the two stats is 10th on his team, but on closer inspection he's playing significantly better competition than anyone ranked about him. He's number 1 on the team in terms of competition.

Phaneuf is ranked number 5 for GFON on the Flames, impressive considering the players ahead of him (Iginla, Langkow, Tanguay, Huselius). He is however ranked 17th in GAON, not so impressive. He's 8th on the team overall in the combined GF/GAON+/-. Phaneuf ranks 7 on the team in quality of competition.

What's the conclusion?

No idea really. They're obviously both great players and it's obvious Dion is scoring at a higher rate but it's hard to say whether that's purely due to his teammates or his skill. The Desjardins stats on these guys are also definitely affected by their coaches personal preferences and styles. It looks like Martin leaned heavily on Bouwmeester at even strength more so to shutdown thereby giving the skilled offensive guys the lesser competition to go against while Phaneuf is out there in a power vs power to try run and gun it out.

Personally, I think it's reasonable and even likely to suggest Phaneuf has a higher ceiling of offensive ability but in practice it looks like Bouwmeester has just been shouldered with a lot more defensive responsibility on a much weaker team. It would be interesting to see him on a line with Iginla and Langkow and until he gets those line mates I'm not willing to draw a line in the sand.


Kent W. said...

It's a tough comp isn't it?

Bouwmeester is a bit older, has played on a worse team, but has also played in a much shittier division. Last season, he played in front of decidedly superior goaltending than Phaneuf, but, again, with crappier people surrounding him.

Im a big Bouwmeester fan too. I think he could well develop into one of those elite guys that does what Regehr does for us currently...but also chips in 40 or so points every season. He's just about there now.

Dion...well, he's offensively elite already. If he adds the other dimension, he's worthy of the Norris talk. If not, he might become another "Jovo" type player (sans injuries). Only time will tell which way he goes.

therealdeal said...

To be fair, his division did produce 2 Stanley Cup champions in a row, and I really think the last couple years the NW division has gotten worse not better.

I personally feel that Bouwmeester is already in the top group defensively but Dion is not, while Dion is the opposite.

We will probably be able to make a better comp when Bouwmeester is signed by a WC team next year ;)

Matt said...

great post. i like how you weren't suckered into coming to a conclusion when looking at a defenseman who plays the toughest competition in the worst defensive division in hockey and a defenseman who plays second pairing minutes and puts up big numbers. They seem to be very different players.

therealdeal said...

Hey thanks Matt. The lack of conclusion felt like a cop out at the end, I went through all the numbers and in the end just threw my hands in the air in confusion.

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