On his blog yesterday David Staples comes to the defense of Matt Greene. And Ladislav Smid. Staples made some good points and I have to say that as a fan there’s nothing I’d like more than for these two defenders to be able to take on more of the tough EV and PK minutes in the future.
Let’s start by having a look at where they are now in terms of NHL experience. Matt Greene has now played in 146 regular season NHL games, or approximately two full seasons. His plus minus season over season has improved markedly (-22 to -2) and although much of that would be a team improvement there’s little doubt he’s a better player than he was during the SC run in 2006 or the 06-07 regular season.
Ladislav Smid has played in 137 regular season NHL games, a similar number to Greene. Smid’s plus minus season over season (-16 to -14) does not show the improvement we see in Greene and at first blush might indicate that Smid is not moving forward as a player.
Let’s run some of the Gabriel Deskardins EV numbers. I dislike comparing his “toughness of competition” rankings from team to team but it is a nice line in the sand for the depth chart the coach is using against the better opponents. Here are the latest Desjardins’ #’s on quality of competition:
- Steve Staios .05
- Tom Gilbert .04
- Ladislav Smid .03
- Joni Pitkanen .01
- Denis Grebeshkov -.04
- Matt Greene -.10
Basically that tells us that Smid (over the entire season) has been playing against tougher competition, and that MacT is making a concerted effort to keep Greene away from the best players in the NHL. Can we agree this would not be a random number? I think we can. Smid by the way is -1 since the beginning of February and looks to have traded spots with Grebeshkov to my eye.
Next we look at quality of linemates, guys on the ice when Greene and Smid are playing compared to the other defenders:
- Tom Gilbert .03
- Denis Grebeshkov .03
- Matt Greene E
- Joni Pitkanen -.04
- Steve Staios -.11
- Ladislav Smid -.12
Again I think these numbers would be different in the last month or so, but it gives an indication about what the coach is thinking. MacT was getting Gilbert and Grebeshkov out there to do damage at EVs, and Staios plus his partner were fighting an uphill battle with their group. Fair?
So with this in mind I think we can safely say that Smid’s plus minus number isn’t as bad compared to Greene’s when placed in context. Greene has had almost ideal circumstances in which to compile his -2 and Smid’s -14 is an indicator that he has been over his head for much of the year. No sin there, he’s still young and learning.
Finally, let’s run the age of each defenseman and their contract situation 08-09 forward:
- Sheldon Souray (31) 6.25M, 5.5M, 4.5M, 4.5M UFA 2012
- Steve Staios (34) 2.9M, 2.8M, 2.2M, UFA 2011
- Joni Pitkanen (24) RFA 2008
- Tom Gilbert (24) RFA 2008
- Denis Grebeshkov RFA 2008
- Matt Greene (24) 1.25M RFA 2009
- Ladislav Smid (21) .952M, RFA 2009
Let’s take this one summer at a time:
- Summer 2008: Much of this summer will be spent figuring out what to do with the three restricted free agents. If the Oiler can get all three under contract the blueline looks much better moving forward, if they must trade someone because of dollars then a veteran blueliner in return would be vital. Let’s say they sign all three this summer to 3-year contracts, taking up a huge chunk of money for those three seasons.
- Summer 2009: Matt Greene will be 26, one year from complete free agency, Ladislav Smid will be 23, several years away from the same negotiating position.
I had a discussion the other day in a thread below with David Staples. I feel that the Oilers will have to make a decision on one of the blueliners sooner than later due to:
- Peckham, Chorney and others continuing to develop.
- Matt Greene’s free agency coming so quickly relative to his established level of ability.
- The money problems caused by Souray’s contract.
The players being passed by others are the ones in danger. As of now, that is Matt Greene and Ladislav Smid. This summer may see the trading of one of the 2008 rfa’s to ease the numbers on the blueline but I’m convinced that will not improve the team. If the Oilers need to get relief in terms of roster spot, it’s Greene or Smid. If the Oilers need relief in terms of dollars, it’s Pitkanen.
The Oilers may not deal one of these defensemen this summer, but it’s coming and by summer 2009 something’s gotta give. Unless Matt Greene is willing to sign a long term “Marc-Andre Bergeron” contract that gives the Oilers his skill set for less than 100 cents on the dollar in exchange for long term stability (such as it was for Bergeron) then it would be my guess the one dimensional defensemen are in some danger moving forward.