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:
2008-2009 82GP 23G 35A 58Pts +6 (.71PPG)
2007-2008 82GP 26G 35A 61Pts -9 (.74 PPG)
2008-2009 81GP 28G 31A 59Pts -14 (.73 PPG)
2007-2008 72GP 26G 30A 56Pts +10 (.78 PPG)
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.
2008-2009 On-Ice/Off-Ice +/- (+1.32)
2007-2008 On-Ice/Off-Ice +/- (+0.2)
2008-2009 On-Ice/Off-Ice +/- (-0.46)
2007-2008 On-Ice/Off-Ice +/- (+1.07)
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.