Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Ducks' Super Line

While perusing, sometimes I come across what I like to call "super lines." They are groups of 3-5 players who play together extremely often, and, like with defense partners who almost always play together, these players are extremely effective together, but it's difficult to ascertain who is driving the play and who is just along for the ride (if anyone). The Bruins had Krejci-Horton-Lucic and Bergeron-Recchi-Marchand. The Canucks had Sedin-Sedin-Burrows (the latter of whom can certainly carry his weight in his own end). The Red Wings used to have Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom-Lidstrom-Rafalski. The Capitals often have Ovechkin-Backstrom-Semin-Green. The Maple Leafs have Kulemin-MacArthur-Grabovski.The most prominent example I've ever seen, though, is on this season's Anaheim Ducks: Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry-Visnovsky-Lydman.

Making this "super line" realization relevant were Visnovsky's and Perry's candidacies for major awards. Just like with the 07-08 Red Wings (Lidstrom taking the Norris, Datsyuk winning the Selke and Byng, Zetterberg 3rd in the Selke voting and the Conn Smythe), it's tough to know who's really pulling the weight when the players in question play so much together. Over the years, we've found out that all three of those Red Wings are the top two-way talents at their respective positions. With the Ducks, though, the situation is a bit different. Visnovsky has the reputation of a Mike Green, but without the generational offensive talent. Meanwhile, Perry has a reputation of a Matt Cooke, but with all-star ability at both ends of the ice, just not superstar ability. "Breakout seasons" at Perry's (nearly 27) and especially Visnovsky's age (nearly 35) suggest that luck was a huge factor. Looking at how they needed the other members of their "super line," I think that's the right conclusion for Perry, but maybe not for Visnovsky.


Perry's numbers take a huge hit without Bobby Ryan and/or Ryan Getzlaf. While Getzlaf was injured, Perry would have otherwise received similar support from his defense (mainly Visnovsky-Lydman). I think Ryan and Getzlaf drag Perry around to an extent, which is what their relative Corsi ratings suggest as well. lists Cam Fowler as #4, Hockey-Reference as #54, so I ended up just listing the player number there. Perry takes a significant hit without Visnovsky or Lydman. Is that the effect of not being able to carry his own weight, or having pretty incompetent support from his blueline? I suspect that it's a bit of both. The defining thought for me is that perhaps Perry, with the support of Ryan and Getzlaf, should have been able to "tilt the ice" with those depth D more than he did.

Yeah, the Ducks were much better with Hiller hurt.


RPG + Visnovsky was the only combination to go above 50% Corsi.

The impression I get is that either RPG was remarkably defense-independent--which I don't believe given the above--or that Visnovsky filled his niche perfectly and was one of the top defensemen in the league last season. Hell, he made Cam Fowler look good.

There is another side to this equation: shouldn't a Norris-caliber defenseman, a solid 2nd pairing D, a Hart Trophy candidate, a top-10 C, and a top-10 LW be able to muster more than ~50% Corsi? Yeah, probably. I don't believe Randy Carlyle's system is all to blame, though it appears he didn't do a very good job, even if he did have a pretty bad lineup. After all, his system (yeah, with two first-ballot HOF defensemen) did win the Stanley Cup. But it does certainly look like Visnovsky (and Perry) are all so far above their teammates only because their teammates are worse than Edmonton to begin with. Then again, that reasoning paints a pretty poor picture of Ryan Getzlaf as well, one which I don't believe.

It's pretty clear to me Perry had some ridiculous luck, and he should be back to the 30-45-75 guy he is next season. In order to be consistent, though, I feel like I have to side with the "Visnovsky was a legit Norris contender" camp. He may not have been before, and may not be next year, but for one year, he was tremendous for the Ducks. That being said, I did pick Perry for Hart and will stick with it, since I believe in the Hart race production is paramount while for the Norris effectiveness (i.e. controlling the play) is.

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