Reinhart is in.
Fayne is scratched.
Should we be mad, sad, or glad?
I’m going to take a look at both defensemen through the lens of Dangerous Fenwick and see what it tells us.
First, a word on Dangerous Fenwick. This is a shot type and distance adjusted metric, similar to previous work such as Michael Parkatti’s distance-based expected Goals, and current work such as War On Ice’s scoring chances metric and DTMAboutHeart’s expected Goals metric. It takes unblocked shots, and weights them more heavily if they are dangerous, and weights them less heavily if they aren’t. Defensively, one must put up barriers to keep oneself intact. You can read all the gory details of how Dangerous Fenwick is calculated here.
Secondly, I’ve previously done a bit of casual work to confirm what a lot of folks already suspect – our current pantheon of fancystats doesn’t provide us with a good measure for defensemen.
Somewhat to my surprise, though, a specific variant of Dangerous Fenwick – Dangerous Fenwick Against per 60 minutes, or DFA/60 – seems to have some surprising traction in evaluating the defensive abilities of defensemen. Based on the Oilers season so far, it meets the eye test and seems to correlate well with Todd McLellan’s usage of defensemen.
The higher the DFA/60 against, the higher the volume of dangerous unblocked shots are being given up by that defensemen or defense pairing. Guys who push shots to the perimeter will look better by this measure, those who give up the slot easily or fail to clear rebounds will be look worse by this measure.
So – good time to test drive the statistic on Mark Fayne and Griffin Reinhart, right? Like to here it, here it go …
Reinhart is a particularly interesting study, because the ‘eye test’ on him so far is all over the map. We know he’s not a great puck mover, but defensively, some have seen him good … and some have seen him bad. My observation is that most of the time he does seem to have some sort of dampening field around him that prevents the other team from doing its thing.
And the numbers seem to mostly agree. As an individual, here are Reinhart’s DFA/60 for the four games he played:
Apart from that second game, this is a solid performance.
I’ve estimated (until I can actually calculate it) that the “Mendoza line” for DFA/60 is around 40, maybe a bit lower. This is based on the average Fenwick Against looking across the league (which in theory should average out shot type and shot distance).
So if that’s our estimated line in the sand: lower than that and you’re doing well, higher than that and you’re not doing so well.
So three out of four games that Reinhart has played, he’s been effective in terms of keeping unblocked shots down and to the perimeter. Even more to the point: he had Gryba to drag around all four of those games. Their DFA/60 as a pair in those four games was 36.8.
By comparison, Gryba’s DFA/60 with other partners:
- Gryba Klefbom: 39.2 in 2 games
- Gryba Ference: 44.0 in 5 games
- Gryba Davidson: 44.9 in 3 games
In other words, Reinhart does more to turn Eric Gryba into a competent defensemen than anyone else Gryba has paired with – even the usually solid Oscar Klefbom.
Now keep in mind: it’s early in the season, the players have not played against the same opponents, and small samples are made even smaller when you look at them for individual defensemen or defensive pairs.
But promising nonetheless.
I hope this trend keeps up for Griffin Reinhart. Defensively, it suggest that the kid’s going to be a gooder. A real real gooder. And even with Gryba as his partner, his being back in the lineup tonight could be positive news for a struggling defensive corps.
Where does Mark Fayne sit in the overall rankings of Oiler defensemen? Does he deserve to be scratched?
Using individual game-average DFA/60 as the measure, so far this season the ratings look like this (best to worst):
Again, early season, small samples! But it kinda meets the eye test, doesn’t it? Davidson and Nurse were mostly solid the last few games. And a defensive stat that has Gryba & Ference trailing the pack will usually sit well with most.
But wait! Note who is in seventh place on this list!
Now, one thing about the data is that the entire team sh*t the bed in a major way against Dallas. And Fayne and Sekera in particular, who had to face the Benn line all night, were absolutely torched in that game. Both had DFA/60 close to or over 100!
Sometimes data sets have more validity if you remove extreme outliers. In this case, if I remove the heavy influence of that game and look at “performance of defensemen EXCEPT against Dallas”, the list revises itself to this:
Now, you should still take the list from this statistic with a huge grain of salt – BUT, remembering that we’re mostly looking at defensive ability, it does seem to mostly meet the eye test, with Schultz, Gryba, and Ference showing worst.
And it does this cumulatively, and game by game, and [mostly] correlating well with TMc’s TOI.
And yet … notice who is in fifth place. Mark. Fayne.
Now here’s the thing with Mark Fayne. He is a veteran, schooled in a solid defensive system, and supposed to bring defensive ability to the table. We know he can bring little else – doesn’t score, doesn’t move the puck. But he’s supposed to defend. And this metric is indicating quite strongly that he’s not doing a very good job at the one job he has. Cast in this unlikely role, he’s ill-equipped to act.
By that measure, scratching Mark Fayne is not an unreasonable action.
Or is it?
It’s only unreasonable if you are scratching him in favour of Gryba or Ference, who are both flat out terrible.
Gryba, you say? Oops.
So there you have it.
Reinhart in? Good. By this measure, he’s clearly Top 6 material.
Fayne out? Good, because he hasn’t been doing what he needs to do.
Except that Gryba is in. Gryba isn’t Top 6 material, and it’s not close. That’s not good.
The only thing working in Gryba’s favour? Three out his four games with Reinhart were among the best he’s played.
Let’s hope we see that against Philadelphia.