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"Quasi GM"
Moncton, NB • Canada • 36 Years Old • Male

Why Larsson? W-w-why?!

Posted 8:14 AM ET | Comments 4
I'll tell you, and I won't be very popular with this one but I might actually have an idea of what GMs are thinking while a lot of people are stuck in the "stats la-la land" that focuses mostly on a genuinely useless stat (shots on goal).

It's funny that you want a society to get smarter in an abstract sense, but they sink into abstracts (shots on goal) while veering away from more concrete statistics (+/-, goals themselves). You don't want that, though you understand they're trying to predict the future better (and are not yet succeeding). Both the trades yesterday looked lopsided when you factor in fancy stats (and factor out the more fundamental statistics, which are the results), but when you actually watch the games and manage the players, you see something different; that's why you're doing the job you're doing in the first place, and not the people stuck in stats la-la land.

Chiarelli probably didn't read my article from a year and a half ago, (found here: http://my.hockeybuzz.com/...=146200&post_id=16588). The article was wrong about some things and right about others. I'll take responsibility for being wrong, but I'll also take responsibility about being right. The Oilers did tank and the NHL did let them have Connor McDavid. Yet, trading Hall was the first major step this organization has made.

But what I said in the article is specifically this: when you're a team constantly in the basement, your players have almost no value. The only moveable guys in the Oilers organization were guys they shouldn't have moved (McDavid is at full value, so is Puljujarvi and Draisaitl). The guys the Oilers were dangling (Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, Yakupov) are so ridiculously low-value right now (compared to what they can be) that trading them is like throwing away good food. Hall was the one singled out, because he was at .7 to .9 of his value (70-90%) because his career statistics have been impressive despite his character being called to question a little. He is one of the best and most consistent wingers in the league despite being in a place where other talent seems to be hitting a wall. He's a cactus plant, so to speak... even thriving in Oil land where other potential stars are struggling after a few years.

I listened to TSN radio in response to the Hall-Larsson deal. The hosts were going on and on about advanced statistics, about how better defensemen could have been had (Hamonic, -5, Faulk, -22 despite both being more offensive and both playing for better teams... clearly neither can handle first line minutes). But you don't need advanced statistics when the basic ones tell you the whole story.

So Hall is a premier left winger, but he's still not at full value. His team's conditions were this: they were appalling, even with so much star talent on their team, they were still abysmal. Cam Talbot, who had wonderful stats in New York behind real defensemen like McDonaugh, could not save the Oil. It wasn't Talbot! It wasn't Scrivens! It wasn't Fasth (maybe a little)! Goaltenders that went there went essentially to developmental hell. Harsh assessment, but true.

Larsson played 22 minutes+ a night and ended up a +15 despite his team's lousy offensive production, despite playing against the league's best players, and in a system that completely changed overnight (because of Hynes being drastically different from Oates and Stevens). He played on a the worst team offensively (being 30th in offense doesn't get you any of the best forwards of the draft, though), but a team that was 8th in defense, largely because of him, because of Greene, and because of Schneider. The other d-men have all had subpar years that were saved by Schneider.

Complaints against Larsson unfounded:

1. Andy Greene/Cory Schneider did it.
I understand the apprehension. The Oilers picked up Mark Fayne and it turns out that Fayne wasn't as good as they thought he was because his stats were bolstered playing with Andy Greene. Fair assessment! I won't sugar coat it: I though Mark Fayne was a 3-4 rook (stay-at-home) that the Oilers thought was going to be better so they paid him 4M a year (about what Josi is being paid right now... hurts don't it?). He suffered in Edmonton just like everyone else. Truth is, the guy played well in a system (NJ) and the Oil don't have the same system and he didn't play well "despite".

However, Larsson had +8 on Andy Greene. Who did it? Was it Greene this year or Larsson? They were a tandem, yes, but statistically, Larsson had the better performance. And the system was drastically changed (new GM, head coach), so Larsson also gets credit for adapting to another system quickly, which he'll do with Edmonton.

2. They could have gotten better than Larsson.
I'll use the Oiler hosts examples (neither of whom were available, but if Hall was dangled!): Hamonic and Faulk. Hamonic has similar offense to Larsson, is older, and was a -5 playing first pair playing on a team with a lot more offense (45 more goals than the Devils). So, what I wanted to do was fish throughout the internet for a stat that might tell the story I'm going to tell with this choice and with Faulk, who has impressive offensive statistics, but is still a -22, which means he's about as good as Karlsson is defensively (I mean, that's what the Oilers need, isn't it?).

We all know Larsson played first pairing, but if you take a look here (http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/ratings.php); in pull downs, report on ice goal stats, filter to all defenseman, and filter to at least 200 minutes played, then click "GA60" stat to sort them (goals scored against them for every 60 minutes they played): you'll see that Larsson is the third best defenseman on this list behind guys who either didn't play a full season or didn't play first pairing or both (though were impressive nonetheless).

Hamonic, on this list, is ranked 171... not even top 60! Faulk, 228! (Karlsson is 221st, which is why he didn't win the Norris Trophy with an 82 point season; Doughty was 14th, which is why he did!)

You see, Oilers radio hosts, these were NOT better options defensively! They are players in over their heads. No, Oilers fans, defensemen are NOT forwards who line up at the blue line during a face off.

Essentially, what I'm saying is that they just picked up the guy who has the best defensive defenseman performance in the league this year... who's 23 years old.

Will it change next year? Of course it will, he won't be playing with Greene anymore and he won't be playing in front of Schneider anymore, but he is a very smart player (his main asset) so he'll adapt quickly and help them in ways they've never seen before. He was a first pairing defenseman in a men's league (SEL) BEFORE he came to the NHL and he took that team to the finals.

3. He was demoted to the AHL just two years ago

Wrong again! He was "sent" there, but not "demoted". He was sent there because he was being outperformed defensively, so they wanted him to play more minutes. He was an NHL caliber defenseman but Pete Deboer had guys he could more rely on. Growing pains. Deboer held him highly accountable and though he might say he hates Deboer now, he is now an accountable player, which is something that Oil defense might not be familiar with.

We know, as Devils fans, because many of us are huge fans of his game. Yes, he represented a lot of hope for us since he was a 4th overall pick, but ask most Devils fans and they have mixed reactions about this trade. He was hard to let go because we've watched him develop and we watched him blossom into the stalwart he's become.

4. His offense lacks: he'll never be a "#1 defenseman"

Was his offense impressive this year? No... he's not going to score 20 goals for you in a season. I don't even look at defenseman assists that much, because that's highly dependent on how many players you play with that can score goals.

But here are some exclamation points.

One, he never plays the power play. It's not that he's not good at the power play, it's that he already plays a lot of minutes to begin with and NJ didn't want to overplay him. He plays PK, and if you're playing both PK and PP, you're going to be gassed. Yet, CAN he play PP? Of course he can! This is a "hidden" part of his game... something NJ hasn't tried to tap since his first season in the league. He can be weaned in on second unit.

Two, last year when Oates and Stevens were at the helm, he scored something like 24 points in the last forty-some games. He is an excellent passer and has good vision and is pretty slick with the puck sometimes; he simply wasn't used that way this year, which is why he (and every other D on the Devils) had really poor offensive stats. The system he played in suppressed his offense.

If the Oilers tapped into his offensive potential, he'll get at least 35 points, but could go as high as the early 50s. The Devils just wanted him to play defensive hockey instead, and he was insanely good at that.

So in conclusion.

Chiarelli lost the trade: he was SUPPOSED to lose the trade. It looks really bad now...

... but from a Devils fan, we're really sad to see him go. Wait half a season... you'll fall in love with him just like many of us did in NJ. It was just a necessary trade both teams had to make. The reason why MacT never made a deal is because MacT knew the truth: most of his players were part of a "losing culture" and did not have the value he hoped they would have.

I GUARANTEE you that the Oilers will be pushing for the playoffs next year right until the end.

The only other guy I'd move is Yakupov, because I doubt his value is going to get much better. I'd hold on to Eberle and RNH and let their value swell a little bit in this new environment before moving them (if at all).
Filed Under:   Hall   Bettman   Edmonton   Devils   Chiarelli   Larsson   Oilers  
July 1, 2016 12:36 PM ET | Delete
Great post!
July 17, 2016 11:41 AM ET | Delete
Good read
August 26, 2016 1:34 PM ET | Delete
HALL-LARSSON
September 1, 2016 6:18 PM ET | Delete
Good trade for both. win-win.
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