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Oceanside, CA • United States • 33 Years Old • Male
Now that it is official and Zherdev will not be a Ranger in 2009-2010, I thought it would be a good time to analyze and compare the changes that Glen Sather has implemented to the Rangers’ wings. My hope is this comparison will help in determining whether it was wise for GM Glen Sather to walk away from Zherdev’s arbitration award and allow Antropov to walk in favor of signing UFA Ales Kotalik. For the purpose of this exercise I have omitted Marian Gaborik and Scott Gomez from this comparison since the subtraction of Gomez led directly to the addition of Gaborik. My feeling is that adding Kotalik more or less replaces the losses of Antropov and Zherdev; at least in Glen Sather’s mind. Not only will I do a statistical comparison using the more traditional stats like Goals, Assists and +/- Rating, I will also utilize one of the “advanced statistics” that I discussed previously in my statistical analysis blog; specifically On Ice/Off Ice +/-.

First let’s look at the last two years worth of the traditional stats (Games Played, Goals, Assists, Points, +/- Rating and Points Per Game) for each player:

Nik Zherdev
2008-2009 82GP 23G 35A 58Pts +6 (.71PPG)
2007-2008 82GP 26G 35A 61Pts -9 (.74 PPG)

Nik Antropov
2008-2009 81GP 28G 31A 59Pts -14 (.73 PPG)
2007-2008 72GP 26G 30A 56Pts +10 (.78 PPG)

Ales Kotalik
2008-2009 75GP 20G 23A 43Pts -5 (.57 PPG)
2007-2009 79GP 23G 20A 43Pts -5 (.54 PPG)

A quick look at these numbers shows that in addition to being slightly more durable (Antropov and Zherdev combined to average 79.25 GP each per season while Kotalik averaged 77 GP per season) the Niks are more prolific offensively combining to average .74 PPG compared to only .56 PPG for Kotalik. The PPG differential would result in a nearly 15 point difference over the course of an 82 game schedule.

Additionally, I looked at Ales Kotalik’s best statistical season (2005-2006) to compare with the last two seasons of Nik Zherdev and Nik Antropov. In 2005-2006, Kotalik recoded a line of 25G-37A-62Pts (.76 PPG) and was a -3 in 82 games with the Buffalo Sabres. Basically Kotalik’s best is pretty much the same as Zherdev’s and Antropov’s averages over the last two seasons. Factor in the differences in age (Zherdev – 24, Antropov – 28, Kotalik – 30) and the contract terms and salary (Kotalik – 3 years, $9 million versus 1 year, $3.9 million had Sather accepted the award for Zherdev, and Antropov - 4 years, $16 million) and it seems as if Zherdev was clearly the better value between the three. I think that it is also fair to say that Antropov is worth what he got from Atlanta when you compare him to Ales Kotlaik’s numbers and what the Rangers decided to pay him.

Traditional statistics certainly do not support Sather’s decision to sign Kotalik while allowing both Nik Zherdev and Nik Antropov to leave via free agency. Of course what would the purpose be in developing “advanced statistics” if everyone believed that the traditional statistics accurately reflected a player’s true on-ice value? Now I’ll do a similar exercise using the “advanced statistic” referred to as “On-Ice/Off-Ice +/- Rating”. But first a quick refresher on what that is exactly.

We should all know what the traditional +/- rating is so I will not bore anyone with a definition of that. Where the On-Ice/Off-Ice +/- (OIOI +/-) differs from the traditional +/- is that the OIOI +/- factors in the quality of a player’s team. Simply put, you compare an individual player’s +/- with that of the rest of his team combined. For example; if a player is a +5 in the traditional sense and the rest of his team is a combined -3 then the player’s OIOI +/- is +8. For purposes of this comparison I will use figures that compare a player’s +/- per 60 minutes of ice time.

Nik Zherdev
2008-2009 On-Ice/Off-Ice +/- (+1.32)
2007-2008 On-Ice/Off-Ice +/- (+0.2)

Nik Antropov
2008-2009 On-Ice/Off-Ice +/- (-0.46)
2007-2008 On-Ice/Off-Ice +/- (+1.07)

Ales Kotalik
2008-2009 On-Ice/Off-Ice +/- (-0.04)
2007-2008 On-Ice/Off-Ice +/- (-0.19)

What does this tell us exactly? Well, it means that Zherdev was on the ice for an average of 1.32 goals/60 minutes of ice time more than what he was on the ice when goals were scored against. That figure placed him 9th among players who played at least 75 games last season. Kotalik placed 140th and Antropov an even worse 200th out of players who skated in at least 75 contests last season.

Ironically, perennial Norris Trophy candidates Zdeno Chara (-0.44) and Chris Pronger (-0.37) both finished lower than Kotalik and just better than Antropov last season. Nonetheless, even comparing Zherdev, Antropov and Kotalik using an “advanced statistic”, Zherdev comes out well above Kotalik. Somewhat surprisingly, unlike what the comparison using traditional stats showed, Kotalik finished well above Antropov using the advanced statistical comparison.

In conclusion, it certainly would appear that Zherdev was a better value than either Antropov or Kotalik. Even when you factor in that Kotalik would have made $900,000 less in 2009-2010 than Zherdev, when you consider the 2 extra years on Kotalik’s deal, the age difference and the evidence that points to Zherdev having more offensive ability than Kotalik, signing Zherdev would have been the smarter move; both for this year and in coming years.
Filed Under:   Zherdev   Kotalik   Antropov   Sather   Rangers  
August 5, 2009 1:18 AM ET | Delete
couldnt agree more
August 5, 2009 1:18 AM ET | Delete
Message Posted
August 5, 2009 6:07 AM ET | Delete
I just wanted to add that there is one "stat" that all 3 players are about on par for - it's the "attaining your potential" stat. None of them have lived up to their potential. But that just makes your comments on age even more telling. At least Zherdev has more time to get to his potential. If the others haven't achieved it yet then they most likely never will.
August 5, 2009 8:23 AM ET | Delete
August 5, 2009 9:49 AM ET | Delete
I hate when people believe that "stats" are what create winning hockey teams.
August 5, 2009 10:50 AM ET | Delete
I agree . Stats are not why Kotalik was brought in. He's good at the PT on the PP , he is good in shootouts and oh yea he played with the Captain of the freaking Team on a President Winning Sabres squad
August 5, 2009 11:18 AM ET | Delete
Jimbo-I never said stats are the only thing that create winning hockey teams. If you read my previous post on statistical analysis then you will see that I believe it is harder for analysts to rely on stats in hockey than for baseball. However, can you argue with the opinion that the stats reinforce? Zherdev @ $3.9 million > than Kotalik @ 3 years $9 million?
August 5, 2009 11:22 AM ET | Delete
Vitto- I personally don't put much merit into Kotalik's PP performance unless his addition creates more and better opportunities for teammates on the PP. A goal, whether scored SH, on the PP, or at even strength is still just a goal. Believe it or not, Kotalik's best season wasn't the year they won the President's trophy; it was the year before.
August 5, 2009 11:28 AM ET | Delete
Besides Jimbo, I am looking at these advanced statistics as a matter of interest. i am curious to see what some of these stats say. Like when I pointed out that Chara and Pronger both finished below Kotalik; trust me when I say I would rather have either Pronger or Chara over Kotalik, Antropov or Zherdev any day of the week.
August 5, 2009 2:09 PM ET | Delete
GK once again this is a nice blog! Well, the thing that keeps glaring at me, is not a statistic-not a promise or a chance, its seems to me that Sather had made his mind up long ago regarding Zherdev. Or, that Torts had made Sathers mind up long ago. I dont wont to defend Zherdev, but am I the only person who remembers Zherdev being demoted to the third line?
August 5, 2009 2:12 PM ET | Delete
How does a team, of which I might add was lacking so horribly with offense, demote their BEST threat to the third line and be successful? That is exactly what Torts did from the get go. Dont get me wrong, I prefer the dump and chase style, in your face hockey. In theory, I suppose from a statistical approach...Zherdevs stats became preserved and seemed better because he was a Top Line player playing against other teams 3rd line players! Now I dont know what to think.
August 5, 2009 2:17 PM ET | Delete
August 5, 2009 2:20 PM ET | Delete
The team lacked intensity and a identity last season. Too small to cycle down low, too small up the middle ( center men ), to wimpy on Defense, couldnt carry the puck over the blueline and control it for a shot, no power play, The King was relied upon all too often. With Torts, most if not all of those areas will be addressed! Can we get JD to replace Sather??????? PLEASE!!!!
August 5, 2009 2:31 PM ET | Delete
I hate to sound like a pessimist, but geez, with all the upgrades from the better teams in the East, we are gonna get run over like a freight train unless we had some spine to our DEFENSE! Every team that was in playoffs last season ( except Devils ) has improved....although we have improved Offensively ( on paper of course ) we are in serious trouble on the Blue line!!!!! Sorry HANK!
August 5, 2009 3:41 PM ET | Delete
It is very risky to have to depend on 2 or 3 rookies making your team on the blue line. Sauer, Potter and Gilroy all have a decent chance while Del Zotto and Sangs and maybe another wild card could crack the lineup too. Rozsi and Redden are both soft and didn't do nearly a good enough job of moving the puck. I think in the long run we'll be a better team with Torts at the helm.
August 5, 2009 3:42 PM ET | Delete
We may have a season or three of semi-transition before our young stud players like Grachev, Anisimov, Kreider and Werek along with our D make and contribute at this level.
August 5, 2009 6:02 PM ET | Delete
I agree, it will be at least another season for Grachev, at least 2 to 3 for McDonagh, Williams, Werek, Krieder ( I thk will finish his college first unless he wins a championship in junior year or prior ), Sang's, Del Zotto will be one more year as well....altho I hear Del Zotto could actually crack it this year.
August 5, 2009 6:36 PM ET | Delete
That's why Sather confuses me. The way he handles FA by signing big name, expensive FA's every year says WIN NOW. His drafting and development are more build for the future. I don't think we'll be good enough to win until our young guys step in but he's tied our hands with the cap by signing Gaborik and Redden and the like. Curious.
August 5, 2009 7:26 PM ET | Delete
Wow, great article, good job.Hopefully Burke reads this as well.
August 5, 2009 7:50 PM ET | Delete
Thank you Keon.
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