Mar 24, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossmann (8) gets looked over after taking a puck to the head while on the bench with defenseman Braydon Coburn (5) and defenseman Pavel Kubina (13) looking on against the Montreal Canadiens during the 3rd period at the Wells Fargo Center. The Philadelphia Flyers beat the Montreal Canadiens, 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Szagola-US PRESSWIRE
As the trade deadline approached the consensus around these parts was that the Stars should be sellers. The degree of the selling was the only thing up for debate. The Stars were as close to finishing in the lottery as they were to a playoff spot. Nicklas Grossmann, Steve Ott, Sheldon Souray, and Adam Burish all appeared to be on the way out. Grossmann was the first to go February 16th in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Since the trade the Stars have gone 12-5-2 which included a four game winning streak heading into the trade deadline. No one else was moved and with six games remaining the Stars sit with a realistic chance of winning the Pacific Division. The Grossmann trade isn't the sole reason for the improvement, but I think it does play a part in the uptick. The Stars as a team are a much more successful club.
The Stars Fenwick percentage (shot differential in close games at even strength) has gone up significantly since the trade. They've gone from middle of the pack (.494 would currently be Colorado's 17th in the league) to well above average (.515 is about what Vancouver hums along at in 9th). This isn't all Grossmann, but he was struggling pretty mightily. His trade forced the Stars to make further lineup changes which appear to have worked to make the Stars better. Addition by subtraction, if you will. After the jump we'll take a look at those changes, and see how well Grossmann is playing in Philly.
As I mentioned before the jump, the trade forced the Stars to make some lineup changes. The trade allowed Philip Larsen to play on a nightly basis. His skating ability and possession skills are an ideal fit for what the Stars are trying to do. Grossmann isn't particularly proficient in either skill. The trade also took away from the Stars depth so when injuries struck they were forced to play Mark Fistric and Adam Pardy more often. Fistric, playing regularly when healthy, has had to take on a more significant defensive role which has been hit or miss. I talked about Pardy's significant uptick here. How have the regular defensemen looked statistically since the trade? These next two charts are the differences between the 54 game period with Grossmann and the 22 game period since the trade.
Goal%: Goal Differential (GF/GF+GA); Fenwick%: Shot Differential at Even Strength in Close Games
SV%: Save Percentage On Ice S%: Shooting Percentage On Ice
|FISTRIC||-10.89||- 0.031||- 0.011||- 0.3|
|LARSEN||- 2.33||0.001||0.006||- 1.9|
You'll notice that every defenseman across the board has seen improvement except Mark Fistric. As he's seen tougher competition he's, predictably, given up more opportunities. Everyone else is either holding steady (Larsen) or has improved dramatically (Stephane Robidas, Alex Goligoski, Trevor Daley, and Pardy). Pardy is playing with more confidence, and most of his rise has more to do with how poor he was playing earlier in the year than anything. The other three though are the Stars top three defenders. And, they can all skate. The blueline has been more active of late. With Grossmann that wouldn't have been as possible. We've seen how asking players like Grossmann and Fistric to join the rush consistently has worked for three years now.
P: Period; SFf: Scoring Chances For; SCa: Scoring Chances Against; EVf: Even Strength Chances For;
EVa: Even Strength Chances Against; SHf: Shorthanded Chances For; SHa: Shorthanded Chances Against
These differences can be seen at the team level too. Above is the chart normally on the game by game scoring chance reports that tracks chances by period and situation. What I did was create one of these for the stretch of time before the Grossmann trade, and one for after. I then took the game by game rates (Stat/GP) for each category. The above chart is the difference between the two charts' game by game rates.
I didn't include the powerplay since he wasn't a regular member of the powerplay.
Across the board the Stars defense has gotten worse. At even strength they're giving up three more chances per game. On the penalty kill they're giving up a full extra scoring chance per game. But, the offense has gotten significantly better since the deal. They're generating 5.5 more scoring chances per game. So, net, they're +2 scoring chances total per game since the deal.
The question that comes up is what is more important, offense or defense? It's easier to stop a goal from occurring than it is to score a goal. On average 91% of the shots taken will be saved. So while it's unsettling that the Stars defense has gotten so generous since the trade they're still going in the right direction as a team. No one asks how the games are won. They ask how many are won. The Stars are generating more offense than they're allowing since the trade for myriad reasons. That's a success.
One final thing I wanted to look up was how well Grossmann has played for the Flyers. At least half of the Stars fanbase was more than willing to see him shipped out the door whether the Stars were in the thick of a playoff race or not. I was concerned that the penalty killing would get worse, but the changes Paul Jerrard has instituted have kept the penalty killing from being a liability in the wake of the trade of their most talented penalty killing blueliner. Without further adieu here is what Grossmann has done this season both pre and post trade:
The goal percentage is entirely attributable to the drop in save percentage when he's on the ice, but despite going to a team with a higher Fenwick% Grossman has stayed relatively the same since the trade. The Flyers, and the national hockey media immediately after the trade, praised the deal as very helpful to the Flyers Stanley Cup push. They picked up a defensive defenseman that they desperately needed, and they did so at a minimal cost. They've gotten exactly what they paid for, but they paid for something Grossmann hasn't been for a while. He was a useful bottom pairing defenseman in his final year with the Stars, and he's been a useful bottom pairing defenseman for the Flyers. The Stars have both Fistric and Pardy filling that role capably since the deal so Grossmann was expendable. The club as a whole has been streaking upwards since the deal so they should be very satisfied with the results of the move..