An interesting comp

If there are two things I have learned on the Oilogosphere, they are that 1) Kevin Lowe screwed up by trading Chris Pronger for magic beans, and 2) Kevin Lowe screwed up by signing Sheldon Souray as an unrestricted free agent a year later.

After a little more horse-trading the magic beans roughly translate into Ladi Smid, Riley Nash, and Jordan Eberle with a dash of Erik Cole. Meanwhile the cost of obtaining Souray was zero assets, just a contract. A hefty one, but we got to keep our beans.

But let’s forget those peripheral advantages of the deals -- not to mention the fact that Sheldon Souray wants to play in Edmonton and Chris Pronger doesn't -- and simply focus on the two principals. Oilers signed Pronger to a 5-year, $31 MM contract extension in 2005, and Souray to a 5-year, $27 MM UFA deal in 2007. Both were entering their 31-year-old season. Market forces aside, that’s similar enough money that shouldn’t it be reasonable to expect similar performance? But, but, but, the experts scoffed, Sheldon Souray isn’t half the player Chris Pronger is.

After an injury plagued 2007-08 that did nothing to quiet the critics, Souray has jumped out of the gate in ’08-09 with a solid stretch of hockey. Pronger, meanwhile, has rebounded somewhat from a subpar and suspension-spoiled season with what seems to be typically solid play. So for the first time since the deals, we can actually make an on-ice comparison. At the quarter-pole it’s an exceedingly interesting one:

CFP **** Vitals ***** SS
34 ****** Age ******* 32
6’6 **** Height **** 6’4
213 **** Weight **** 233

Souray is two years younger, but with a more extensive injury history. Both are large men.

CFP * Boxcar stats ** SS
22 ******* GP ******* 19
4 ******** G ********* 7
10 ******* A ********* 8
14 ******* P ******** 15
+2 ****** +/- ******* +2
32 ****** PiM ******* 30

Pronger has played all 22 Ducks games, Souray 18.5 of the Oilers 20, but their boxcar numbers are very similar. Pronger is more of a playmaker, Souray a finisher, both as advertised.

CFP * Scoring splits* SS
3-3-6 **** ESP *** 2-5-7
1-6-7 **** PPP *** 4-3-7
0-1-1 **** SHP *** 1-0-1

Virtually identical production in all three situations. Souray’s threat as a goal scorer on the PP is borne out here.

CFP **** Icetime **** SS
25:58 ** TOI/G *** 24:54
17:17 * ES TOI/G * 16:13
4:01 ** SH TOI/G ** 3:55
4:40 ** PP TOI/G ** 4:45

Virtually identical on both special teams. Pronger plays 1 minute a game more at evens. Historically Pronger has played much more than Souray, but after peaking at 30:14 a game in 1999-2000 he has gradually scaled back to 26:00 in 2007-08. Souray meanwhile has seen his ice time gradually rise from ~20:00 when he first came to Montreal to 23:11 his last year there and 24:21 his abbreviated first year here. The gap continues to narrow this early season.

CFP ***** RTSS ****** SS
61 ***** Shots ****** 63
6.6% **** Sh% **** 11.1%
31 ****** MsS ******* 31
25 ****** Hits ****** 17
33 ****** BkS ******* 14
10 ****** GvA ******** 9
14 ****** TkA ******* 11

Shots and missed shots a dead heat. Souray with the higher Sh%, of course. Pronger leads in “defensive points” (hits + shot blocks), but has played 13 home games to Souray’s 5 in front of a friendly local counter; still, the edge has to go to Pronger in measurable defensive contribution. Both have very similar GvA/TkA stats.

CFP *BehindtheNet.ca* SS
-0.03 * QualComp * -0.01
-0.03 * QualTeam * +0.32
+2.18 * GF ON/60 * +2.33
-1.84 * GA ON/60 * -2.12
+9.90 * PP +-/60 * +8.95
-8.73 * PK +-/60 * -8.13

Again, very little to choose here with the obvious exception of QualTeam. I have to say of all the New Statistics that is the one that is giving me the most trouble this early season with its rapid fluctuations. So much so that I queried Gabe Desjardins a while back; he responded: “qualcomp is a lot bigger at the beginning of the year due to huge variations in performance that narrow quite quickly as the year goes on”. However, it must be pointed out that Souray has played most of the season with Lubo Visnovsky, while according to BtN, Pronger played the first month with the likes of Nathan McIver and Bret Hedican. I haven't been following the Ducks, but Carlyle's tendencies have been to run Pronger and Niedermayer both at right defence at evens so that at a given time one of them is likely on the ice. MacT runs his bench differently, but has switched up pairings in the last week or so.

Both players have excellent results on the PP, not so great on the PK, but the difference between the two is positive in both cases; their combined effect on special teams is roughly +1/60.

CFP * Timeonice.com * SS
+8 **** Shots +- **** -8
+2 *** Fenwick +- *** +2
+15 *** Corsi +- *** +16
6.7% *** Sh% ON *** 7.8%
.929 *** Sv% ON *** .932
-25 *** ZoneShift ** +12

These are all team results with that player on the ice. There’s damn little to choose, Oilers have a better Sh% with Souray on the ice, but Souray seems to be a better shooter than Pronger, so maybe that is to be expected. The ZoneShift is a term
recently coined by Vic Ferrari, and refers to the location of faceoffs starting and during a players’ shift vs. those at the end of the shift. In Souray’s case he starts slightly more plays in his own zone and ends slightly more in the offensive zone, a pretty good indicator that play is flowing at least somewhat in Oilers’ favour when he is out there. Pronger starts way more often in the offensive zone for some reason, and ends his shift there considerably less often, suggesting a flow of play against the Ducks.

CFP *Contract status* SS
$6.25 MM Cap Hit $5.4 MM
1.75 Seasons to run 3.75

Oh yeah, the bottom line: Souray has a somewhat lower cap hit, and is locked up for two years longer than Pronger, which is either good or bad depending on your opinion of Souray. My own opinion is that Pronger is the better player, but parsing all the above, statistically there’s been precious little to choose between the two in the first quarter.

I will follow this comp with some interest as the season proceeds. It’s early days for many of these types of stats, but so far it’s tough to argue there’s much to choose between the old 44 and the new one. If Visnovsky is out a while that could change things, although Souray has been playing with Gilbert of late anyway, with no apparent drop-off in his effectiveness.

While I had higher expectations of Sheldon than many, I am still pleasantly surprised by how solidly he has contributed to this point. This favourable comparison to one of the elite defenders in the game only reinforces that.


dstaples said...

Bruce, you heretical bastard. Any more wise guy stuff like this post and you will be drummed right out of the Oilnoscenti faction.

Next thing you will be arguing that Ladi Smid, if handled right, is going to be a damn good defenceman one day, and will give the Oil not bad value on the Pronger deal all on his own.

Bryanbryoil said...

SUPERB post Bruce, I was thinking of making a similar post actually, but it wasn't going to be nearly as detailed as this masterpiece of a post.

It will be interesting to see if Souray's game is peaking at the moment (like Pronger's seemed to have at 31) or if he has it in him to get even better and peak at 32-33? He has been much more involved in rushing the puck this season, and he has been much better in his breakout passes as well.

I was one of the rare birds that really liked the Souray signing. The key with Souray is health, if he can give us 65healthy games a year, he lives up to his contract and then some.

DeBakey said...

Ladi Smid, if handled right, is going to be a damn good defenceman one day, and will give the Oil not bad value on the Pronger deal all on his own.

There is a concept called Time-Value.
The Pronger trade fails there methinks

I've always thought a comp for Smid is Al Hamilton. A big, mobile guy who's good at lots of things, but not outstanding at any.

As for Souray,
we all know much of the negative reaction stemmed from viewing his signing through the haze of the Smyth non-signing.

Ribs said...

Awesome stuff, Bruce. I can't wait to see how they add up further into the season.

B.C.B. said...

Well done. I am shocked to see their numbers so close, what a little respectable research will find.

I think both CFP and Souray are relied on heavily by their coaches for PK and that is why their PK numbers suffer. (I have only watch a couple ANA games, so I could be wrong.)
But would Souray's PK numbers be so bad, if he didn't have to face the #1 PP unit, and is often the last man to change on the fly, also if he didn't have to play the entire 5 on 3. This say nothing of the terrible Oiler PK in general, if it was better his numbers would be to.

Bruce said...

But would Souray's PK numbers be so bad, if he didn't have to face the #1 PP unit, and is often the last man to change on the fly, also if he didn't have to play the entire 5 on 3. This say nothing of the terrible Oiler PK in general, if it was better his numbers would be to.

B.C.B.: BtN PK stats are just for 4-on-5. However, your last comment is right on the mark. Of the 10 Oilers skaters with 5+ GP who average at least 1:00 per game on the PK, Souray's GA/60 rate is actually third best, and isn't that a sorry state of affairs. The Oilers PK is allowing 2 goals per 60 more with Souray off the ice than on. He's got the third best Corsi number on the PK, faces the third toughest QualComp, and is dead last in the group for QualTeam. Take all that with a grain of salt this early in the season, but it's fair to conclude that Souray isn't the biggest problem we got on the PK.

(Our two veteran goaltenders both having a SH Sv% < .860 and ranking outside the top 50 in the league in this respect might be more effect than cause, but it sure isn't helping.)

Mr. dB: Right you are about Time-Value. The Oilers were always going to lose on the Pronger trade in that respect. There have been and will continue to be development costs for Smid, Nash, and Eberle; only Smid can be expected to make any sort of contribution before Pronger's contract expires. That said, that contract is a "diminishing asset", with Pronger destined to be UFA in the summer of 2010.

dstaples said...

Yes, Mr. DeBakey, Time-Value is important. In Edmonton, it's also important to develop young players here in their early 20s, so they come to know and like the city, maybe marry a local girl, and are willing to sign a contract (and not get a huge over-pay), that will take them up to age 30.

So prospects like Smid aren't locked into a city forever like they were in the old days. But there's still benefit in getting them young, and having time to convince them to stay at a decent salary, a la Hemsky.

oilerdago said...

dstaples - maybe Ladi would prefer to stay as a LW and take a long-term discount to do so?

Bruce, top notch stuff on Souray. I would also think he's providing that important intangible - veteran leadership in the locker room that does not show up in a stats analysis.

Bruce said...

OD (and yeah, I like you better as an acronym!), I meant to say something about that. Souray is one of those proverbial guys you'd want in your bunker, barking orders. There's a calm strength about him that I've particuarly noticed the few times I have seen him play live. If I were just a cold-hearted statistician I probably shouldn't put any stock in such impressions, but Do.

I also don't mind the fact that he's a local product who used to cheer for the Oilers and really wants to play for them, even though the fact that he wants to play here seems to somehow reduce his stature in certain quarters. But I find it a hell of a lot easier to root for Sheldon Souray than Chris F. Pronger, and I put stock in that too.