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Bottom Six Blunders: NHL GMs Can't Evaluate Bottom Six Talent

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How. How does this keep happening.

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

This article isn't about Semin. I was working on this post before the Semin thing happened. If you think Semin doesn't apply to what I'm about to talk about, then that's fine. There's plenty of players who still do.

We good?

We good.

Remember Campbell and Paille? The consensus was that Paille was a good fourth liner, but Campbell was dragging him down. Fast forward to this summer. Paille struggles with getting a contract, and eventually has to settle for a PTO with an AHL team. And Campbell? The one who was universally thought of as the weakest link on the Bruins fourth line?

1.7 million dollar contract, day one.

So it goes in the NHL.

Here's the even strength stats of a group of NHL players playing NHL games this season. All of them weren't especially easy to acquire. I put their career stats going INTO this season. To be fair, for Clarkson I put his stats from before the contract was signed. All the UFAs were signed either before or on July 1st.

Player Name GP TOI G A FirstA Points Shots ShPct G/60 A/60 FirstA/60 Points/60 Shots/60 CF% FF% CF%relTeam FF%relTeam Acquired Cap hit Age GF60 GA60 GF%
RINALDO, ZAC 223 1727:47:00 6 16 13 22 161 3.73 0.21 0.56 0.45 0.76 5.59 45 44.8 -3.6 -4 Traded for a 4th 850000 25 1.46 2.54 36.5
CAMPBELL, GREGORY 576 6268:37:00 37 84 41 121 613 6.04 0.35 0.8 0.39 1.16 5.87 45.2 45.4 -4.9 -4.5 UFA 1700000 31 1.76 2.1 45.7
GLASS, TANNER 443 3961:53:00 17 38 25 55 316 5.38 0.26 0.58 0.38 0.83 4.79 41.6 42.6 -7.7 -6.9 UFA 1450000 32 1.39 2.18 39
GLENDENING, LUKE 138 1488:03:00 10 12 8 22 129 7.75 0.4 0.48 0.32 0.89 5.2 45.1 45.7 -8.4 -7.5 UFA 575000 26 1.65 1.81 47.7
CLARKSON, DAVID 419 4920:38:00 64 52 31 116 833 7.68 0.78 0.63 0.38 1.41 10.16 51.7 51.7 1.3 1.1 UFA 5250000 31 1.96 2.1 48.4
SCOTT, JOHN 274 1900:20:00 4 5 3 9 100 4 0.13 0.16 0.09 0.28 3.16 46.6 46.7 -2.2 -2.2 UFA 700000 33 1.61 2.24 41.8
SPALING, NICK 379 4623:22:00 41 52 29 93 393 10.43 0.53 0.67 0.38 1.21 5.1 46.7 47.2 -2.8 -2.6 RFA(Neal trade) 2200000 27 1.78 2.28 43.8
COLBORNE, JOE 160 1956:24:00 15 35 20 50 131 11.45 0.46 1.07 0.61 1.53 4.02 44 45 -4.2 -3.7 Traded for a 4th 1275000 25 2.15 2.36 47.6
BOLL, JARED 488 3764:20:00 25 32 19 57 341 7.33 0.4 0.51 0.3 0.91 5.44 46.5 45.8 -2.5 -3.5 UFA 1700000 29 1.55 2.22 41.1
Average 344.4444444444 24.3333333333 36.2222222222 21 60.5555555556 335.2222222222 7.0877777778 0.3911111111 0.6066666667 0.3666666667 0.9977777778 5.4811111111 45.8222222222 46.1 -3.8888888889 -3.7555555556 1744444.44444444 28.7777777778 1.7011111111 2.2033333333 43.5111111111

In case you're curious, the average without Clarkson's contract is 1.3 million a year.

Now, here's players that at least 29 GMs passed on either during or before this season. All were very easy to acquire. Any UFAs were passed on, hard, until the end of the season where they took below market contracts.

Player Name GP TOI G A FirstA Points Shots ShPct G/60 A/60 FirstA/60 Points/60 Shots/60 CF% FF% CF%relTeam FF%relTeam Acquired Cap hit Age GF60 GA60 GF%
BERGENHEIM, SEAN 460 5434:17:00 71 67 39 138 957 7.42 0.78 0.74 0.43 1.52 10.57 52.9 53.2 3.8 4 Not in NHL 650000 31 2.12 2.46 46.3
STEMPNIAK, LEE 569 7215:27:00 91 111 60 202 981 9.28 0.76 0.92 0.5 1.68 8.16 50.2 49.5 0.8 -0.1 PTO 850000 32 2.32 2.33 49.9
TLUSTY, JIRI 416 4973:04:00 65 69 35 134 568 11.44 0.78 0.83 0.42 1.62 6.85 49.9 49.5 -0.6 -0.7 UFA 800000 27 2.45 2.45 50
BOYES, BRAD 598 7834:37:00 103 130 75 233 955 10.79 0.79 1 0.57 1.78 7.31 50.9 51.1 0.9 0.9 PTO 750000 33 2.57 2.37 52
BISSONNETTE, PAUL 201 1051:45:00 7 15 7 22 100 7 0.4 0.86 0.4 1.26 5.7 51.3 51.2 1.9 2.1 AHL 650000 30 2.11 1.71 55.2
ARCOBELLO, MARK 119 1482:03:00 16 21 11 37 165 9.7 0.65 0.85 0.45 1.5 6.68 50.9 50.1 2.7 2 Waivers 1100000 27 1.94 2.43 44.4
FLEISCHMANN, TOMAS 536 6681:19:00 81 109 80 190 821 9.87 0.73 0.98 0.72 1.71 7.37 51.3 50.9 0.1 -0.2 PTO 750000 31 2.55 2.63 49.2
SANTORELLI, MIKE 336 4098:47:00 40 47 27 87 516 7.75 0.59 0.69 0.4 1.27 7.55 49.6 49.3 -0.2 -0.4 UFA 875000 29 1.96 2.5 43.9
SEMIN, ALEXANDER 72 926:02:00 7 12 7 19 95 7.37 0.45 0.78 0.45 1.23 6.16 55.8 54.7 3.4 2.7 Waivers 1100000 31 2.33 2.46 48.6
ERAT, MARTIN 550 7283:04:00 73 142 80 215 688 10.61 0.6 1.17 0.66 1.77 5.67 51.3 51.1 2.2 1.9 Not in NHL 650000 34 2.39 2.39 50
Average 385.7 55.4 72.3 42.1 127.7 584.6 9.123 0.653 0.882 0.5 1.534 7.202 51.41 51.06 1.5 1.22 817500 30.5 2.274 2.373 48.95

Now, the average player from the top chart is a bit younger than the one from the bottom chart, mostly because it's hard to acquire young players on RFAs. If I were to include bottom six defensive forwards that were RFAs, oh boy, it just wouldn't be fair. Also, we're talking about guys where their value comes from their PK, possession, and defensive skills. Those skills usually peak later, in a forwards late 20s normally.

Also, note the goals based stats. GF60, GA60, and GF% take multiple, multiple seasons to get a sample size worth paying attention to. Anyone with under 3000 minutes probably doesn't have a big enough sample size for those stats to be predictive.

Now, why does this happen? Don't teams love all their "defensively responsible" bottom sixers? The guys on the top group seem like they're much bigger liabilities than the guys in the bottom group. The top guys are slightly better in GA60, but again, that's a goal based stat, and could easily be due to something like goal tending. The big difference is the bottom group guys seem to spend a WHOLE lot more time in the offensive zone, which is the best way to play defense. The top group guys seem to just go out there, get scored on... and not do much else.

I don't know why GMs will pursue and over pay the top group and ignore the bottom group. But I have a few guesses.

Part of it is I think teams don't understand the value of physical players. Physicality wins board battles so you can get the puck! Physicality lets you make hits that create turn overs so you can get the puck! Physicality lets you protect the puck better so you can keep the puck! But the common denominator is the puck. Physicality itself doesn't have much intrinsic value. Players like Bissonnette and Shawn Thornton seem to get that, while the Rinaldo's and Bolls of the world seem like they don't. If all you're looking for is physicality, then you won't see the difference in their games until you look at the stats.

Faceoff ability is another thing that I think GMs over value. Sure, faceoffs are important. But it seems like how good a player plays after the faceoff determines success more than what happens at at the dot. Some GMs seem like they haven't clued into this yet.

What do you think?