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My kingdom for a defenseman, part 3: Bringing back John-Micheal Liles

Hey, I know that guy!

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

After a small break due to Overwatch important life business, we return to this series.

The story thus far:

Part 1 - Intro

Part 2 - Lovejoy & Schlemko

In part 1, I identified 3 clues that can lead to a good UFA signing. They are:

1. We want a guy who's underrated, so his market value will likely be below his actual to-the-team value

2. We want a guy who's not that old on a relatively short contract

3. We want a guy who's playing style hopefully won't cause him to burn out quickly after starting his deal

These aren't requirements. They're more like helpful hints. None are necessarily deal makers, and the absence of one is not necessarily a deal breaker.

With that out of the way, let's start looking at a guy.


Number dump:

Hero chart

How to read the gosh darn thing:

Warrior chart:

Other key stats:

Hey, I know him!

Of the Bruins' two trade deadline acquisitions, John-Micheal Liles was both the cheaper and the more appreciated of the two. While the Bruins didn't do too well while he was here, but that was despite, not because of, Liles' contributions. On the Bruins, he played mostly top pairing to top 4 minutes. When paired with Chara, he did a good job of taking the pressure off of him in the neutral zone. He also spent time with Krug and that pairing's transition game was deadly.

But before we jump into a cost/benefit analysis, let's just first answer one question:

What kind of a defenseman is John-Micheal Liles, anyways?

Well, his usage for the Hurricanes would suggest he's more of an offensive defenseman. He was used more when the 'Canes were trailing than when they were leading. He was played against relatively even competition, but he was given more offensive zone starts than defensive zone starts.

But the thing is, that was dumb. The 'Canes used Liles in a way that was entirely opposite to his actual strengths.

Liles is what stats guys like to call a "low event" player. He had a slightly positive impact on possession and expected goals, which is fine and dandy. But his biggest contribution when on the ice was to make sure that stuff, well, didn't happen. While Liles was on the ice, the Canes (and later on the Bruins) had a much harder time generating offense. But, the other team had an even bigger problem generating offense. The net effect is that, overall, less goals happened for both teams.

The problem is, if you've got a player like that, they're best used as a DEFENSIVE defenseman, not an offensive one. If deployed in the way that the Hurricanes deployed Liles, a low event player will actually hurt your team. Think about it this way: low event players essentially shave time off clock for you. Your goal in hockey is to make more good things happen for your team than bad things. Time is required for things to happen. A low event player can make it so that, say, Alex Ovechkin needs to take ten minutes to score the same amount of goals that he'd normally score in 5. Because goals are things. And Liles slows things down. You follow?

So, your best bet is to deploy Liles in situations where your opponent scoring a goal is more likely than you scoring one. Against their top line, in your own zone, with your own bad players, etc. But, that's the exact OPPOSITE of what the Canes did with him. They played him against weak competition, in the other teams zone, and with their best players. Those are times when you want things to happen. And Liles makes things not happen. You can probably imagine why this became a problem.

Now, it's not exactly that simple. See, back in the day, Liles was the exact opposite kind of player he is now. He was a high event, speedy undersized offensive defenseman. That's likely what the Canes, and the rest of the league, thought he was, even thought as he aged his playing style changed dramatically. The Bruins seemed to realize this, as he was given a much more shutdown role when he came to the Bs.

This explains why the Bruins snagged a top-4 D at the deadline for mere pocket change. The Canes likely didn't know, or didn't understand, what they had. And judging by the apparent market for Liles, a lot of other teams didn't know either. That's what you call being "underrated". And, that's what usually leads to a good UFA deal.

Only problem is, he's well, well past his prime. It's actually rather exceptional that he's still playing at his age. Personally, I'd have no problem signing him to a sub 2 mil contract if the Bruins get outbid on July 1st for the more attractive UFA D options. If he makes it past the early FA frenzy, and there's a real good chance he might, he could be a killer steal late in the summer on a PTO like Schlemko and Stempniak were this year.

But what do you think?