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The Trevor Daley Question: How the Dallas Stars Defenseman Compares to His Teammates

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In order to discuss how the Stars might handle veteran defenseman Trevor Daley this offseason, we first take a look at his possession metrics as compared to his teammates.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

I've written about Trevor Daley in a negative light more times than I would care to think about this season. I have no inherent dislike for Daley, and I'm not a fan of kicking people when they're down. The last time I specifically wrote about him was when he was a minus-5 against the St. Louis Blues.

It's impossible to ignore what has been going on though. Our ol buddy Mike Heika says the Dallas Stars are taking notice of the problems:

The wrath of the fans right now is on Trevor Daley, who was minus-177 last season. That was worst on the Stars — and next closest was Travis Moen at minus-36. So how can Daley's shot differential be that much worse than his teammates? It's a question the Stars are asking themselves right now.

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The Stars are hoping they can tweak his game, find any holes, and patch them. But they also could look to trade him.

Wrath sounds so menacing, but I guess that is more or less what it is. Daley's reputation as a quality defenseman is taking a beating, and honestly it's with good reason. The results from the 2015 season don't match the results of a good defenseman. People can be jerks and that can can overshadow the message, which does happen from time to time with Daley. The message a growing number of fans are trying to convey is that these results are a problem that needs fixing.

The Daley problem is a vexing one. I discussed why here:

A perfectly natural instinct would be to ignore the data, but the decision makers within the Stars really shouldn't. It's natural because Daley does look the part. He looks like he plays defense well. He can skate. He has 16 goals. He's physical. He just looks like an NHL defenseman. There is a lot to be said for that, but not enough to invalidate such substantial data.

What Heika is saying is that the Stars realize you can't just ignore the data. The question now is how does this get fixed? That's a question I'm going to attempt to address over the course of three articles over the next few days.

First, we need to identify what the problems actually were. Heika discussed the SAT issue - SAT is the acronym NHL.com uses for Corsi.

Daley got buried in Corsi, and much more so than his teammates. On April 21st I wrote a post showing where Stars defenseman ranked in dCorsi across the league. dCorsi was created to show how much better or worse a player performed compared to how they would be expected to perform given the minutes they played. This was Daley's season in a nutshell:

At the other end of the spectrum is Trevor Daley. His negative impact through dCorsi was equal to the positive impact of both Demers and Jordie combined. This data goes back to the 2006 season. Daley put up the worst dCorsi of any defenseman in the entire available data set. The only two players who were John Madden and Jay Pandolfo of the 2007 Devils.

War-On-Ice now makes high quality scoring chances a sort-able category in their statistics search. Check out where Daley ranks among Stars defensemen:

Dsc2

iHSC is how many high quality chances the player attempted. The rate stats are how many were attempted with the player on the ice. Daley did individually attempt a lot of high quality chances, but Alex Goligoski and John Klingberg both attempted more chances than he did. Six defensemen were on the ice for more chances per 60 minutes, and every regular member of the group was better defensively. The top six were all among the top 60 defensemen in the NHL in net chances for. So, while Daley individually attempted a fair amount of chances, at what cost did he take those?

Using the always useful Super Shot Search we can look at this another way. If we look at the Stars defensemen in terms of shots allowed from within ten feet, one of the big problems becomes obvious.

HSCD2

What I did was project out how many shots you could expect to be taken against each defender over an 82-game span; Jamie Oleksiak and Daley lead the way. Shots from this prime area go in way more often than shots from other areas. On average about 25 percent of these shots find the back of the net across the league. The final column is the one that highlights where the Stars can make up some ground defensively.

Over an 82 game season the difference between Daley and Jason Demers and Jordie Benn is hard to ignore. The difference is, potentially, 12-15 goals. A win in the NHL is worth roughly three goals. The difference between Demers/Benn and Daley then is approximately four to five wins. That's eight to ten points if the Stars were able to replace Daley with someone of their caliber.

Both Benn and Demers were very good last season, among the best in the league. Expecting the Stars to replace Daley with someone of that caliber seems optimistic until you see where Jyrki Jokipakka sits on the list. He is on par defensively with Benn. Benn is clearly more proficient offensively, but Jokipakka quietly began figuring things out as the season progressed. We could go more into Jokipakka, but the point here is Daley. The importance of Jokipakka is that there is no reasonable case to be made based on the 2015 season that Daley should be a top six defenseman for the Stars.

One thing that needs to be pointed out is that this is less than a full season of data on Jokipakka with a rotating cast of defensive partners and in fairly sheltered minutes. We don't have a lot of history to go on with him, but those results do generally match up with the eye test. Therefore we could argue a top six consisting of Demers, Benn, Goligoski, Klingberg, Nemeth, and Jokipakka would be much stronger defensively than any group with Daley on the ice.

The Stars need to be better at shot suppression overall, but the type of game they are built to play is going to allow shots. As long as they are doing more good than bad they should be fine. However, they have to be better in their own end, and a big part of that is protecting the area in front of their net. This data suggests Daley (and Oleksiak) were far and away the worst among the Stars at doing that. The other six were, overall, a pretty solid group even though they did give up the occasional chance against.

I imagine you could do this with every player in the league, but this is a side by side comparison of Daley's five best and five worst games from the past season. Relative (Rel) stats compare a percentage stat for a given player to the percentage of the rest of the team. HSCF is the same as it was above. SCF, CF, FF, and SF are Scoring Chances, Corsi, Fenwick, and Shots. Essentially, positive is good and negative is bad.

At his best, Daley drove games for the Stars. At his worst, he was an anchor.

BvW

What stands out about this to me is that when Daley was at his best the Stars kept him far away from the net (ZSO% is offensive zone start percentage), and his even strength time on ice was significantly limited. In his five best games Daley averaged 12 minutes. In the bad, a full six more minutes.

You may be asking, "Shouldn't every player allow less shots when away from their net?" Well, of course.

MoarDaley

Daley is no special snowflake in this regard. However, there are players who demonstrate the ability to make a positive impact despite playing in their own zone. Daley didn't.

This meshes with what we saw above. The difference from 2014 to 2015 for Daley in high quality scoring chances is significant. In 2014 we're looking at Daley being on the ice for 1.12 more of these chances per 60 minutes than he allowed. Dropping by 2.5 of those chances per 60 minutes almost negates the full positive impact of the addition of John Klingberg.

So why did those numbers change so significantly? That's something I'll look at in the next part of this series with some video breakdown.