ESPN's Defensemen/Goaltender Rankings Did What?

Dimitri Filipovic
September 17 2013 10:59AM


Dan Hamhuis' perpertual sadness is finally starting to make sense.

Putting together a rankings list is a pretty thankless job. It's far from an exact science - it's subjective, for the most part - meaning that everyone will have differing opinions and beliefs as to how the list should look. But that doesn't mean that they aren't fun to do, because they definitely are. They can lead to good discussion and provoke thought that may not have been had otherwise. We know a thing or two about publishing rankings around these parts.

Anyways, in an attempt to get people ready for the looming NHL season, a team of hockey analysts working under the banner of the worldwide leader in sports has been charged with ranking the best players in the league by position. So far their Top 50 defensemen and Top 25 goaltenders have been revealed. There are some things I take issue with on each list, and conveniently enough, they're Canucks-related.

Read on past the jump for the lists.

All I can tell you in terms of methodology is that the "experts" were asked to rank each player on a scale of 1 to 10 based on current quality of play. I have to assume that means that age and contract status weren't taken into consideration, making this a purely results-based vote. Unfortunately the people tasked with submitting their votes weren't revealed, so we can't lambast specific individuals, but instead have to settle for taking issue with the list as a whole..

Here are the Top 50 defensemen:

Ranking Score Players
1 9.33 Zdeno Chara
2 9.29 Ryan Suter
3 9.17 Shea Weber
4 9.08 Duncan Keith
5 8.96 Erik Karlsson
6 8.75 PK Subban
7 8.58 Drew Doughty
8 8.33 Kris Letang
9 8.08 Oliver Ekman-Larsson
10 8 Ryan McDonagh
11 7.83 Alex Pietrangelo
12 7.83 Brent Seabrook
13 7.71 Niklas Kronwall
14 7.5 Dan Boyle
15 7.5 Dan Girardi
16 7.29 Keith Yandle
17 7.08 Brian Campbell
18 7.08 Dion Phaneuf
19 7.08 Kimmo Timonen
20 7 Kevin Shattenkirk
21 6.88 Mike Green
22 6.83 Francois Beauchemin
23 6.83 John Carlson
24 6.83 Andrei Markov
25 6.83 Dennis Seidenberg
26 6.83 Slava Voynov
27 6.79 Kevin Bieksa
28 6.79 Jay Bouwmeester
29 6.79 Dustin Byfuglien
30 6.79 Alex Edler
31 6.75 Dan Hamhuis
32 6.71 Jonas Brodin
33 6.54 Christian Ehrhoff
34 6.54 Jack Johnson
35 6.5 Justin Faulk
36 6.42 Tobias Enstrom
37 6.42 Victor Hedman
38 6.38 Zach Bogosian
39 6.38 Michael Del Zotto
40 6.33 Paul Martin
41 6.33 Justin Schultz
42 6.29 Mark Streit
43 6.21 Alex Goligoski
44 6.17 Lubomir Visnovsky
45 6.04 Matt Carle
46 6.04 Fedor Tyutin
47 6 Cam Fowler
48 6 Sergei Gonchar
49 5.96 James Wisniewski
50 5.92 Jake Muzzin

There are so, so, so many ways to go with this. But considering that this is a Canucks blog, let's focus on Vancouver's blueliners. It's quite possible that the most egregious miscalculation of the bunch was ranking both Kevin Bieksa and Alexander Edler ahead of Dan Hamhuis. Or maybe it was the oversight leaving Jason Garrison entirely off of the list only to include a Jake Muzzin. What? I can't decide which was worse, quite frankly.

It's definitely a little upsetting just how routinely Hamhuis' contributions and abilities as a defender are overlooked, but not at all surprising. His game is subtle and understated, and he rarely ever makes a highlight package. But with a lot of discussion this summer regarding who should make Team Canada for the Sochi games, I've given Hamhuis' place amongst the league's elite some thought, and I've come to the realization that there aren't 15 defensemen I'd take over him for next season.

As for Bieksa's ranking, it's quite possible that none of the people involved in the process actually watched a Canucks game this past season, because he was very subpar for his standards. Garrison, on the other hand, finished tied for 7th in goals scored by a defenseman despite being poorly utilized, and getting off to a slow start. Think about how many v-necks the poor guy will have to buy to take his mind off of missing the cut.

Here are the Top 25 goaltenders in the league according to the voters:

Ranking Player
1 Henrik Lundqivst
2 Jonathan Quick
3 Tuukka Rask
4 Sergei Bobrovsky
5 Pekka Rinne
6 Jimmy Howard
7 Craig Anderson
8 Corey Crawford
9 Antti Niemi
10 Cory Schneider
11 Roberto Luongo
12 Carey Price
13 Mike Smith
14 Ryan Miller
15 Braden Holtby
16 Cam Ward
17 James Reimer
18 Martin Brodeur
19 Jonas Hiller
20 Niklas Backstrom
21 Viktor Fasth
22 Kari Lehtonen
23 Jonathan Bernier
24 Ray Emery
25 Jaroslav Halak

If you're discluding factors like age and contract, I don't understand how Roberto Luongo doesn't crack the Top 10. I have him pretty clearly in my Top 5. Amidst the entire crapstorm that has been the past 15 months or so for Luongo, his ability to stop the puck from entering his team's net has become grossly undervalued. I mean, people are seriously publishing things like this without even a hint or irony or sarcasm.

This particular list has "small sample size" written all over it, and I'm sure by this time next year most of the rankers will want to forget the day they ranked Sergei Bobrovsky over Pekka Rinne, or Corey Crawford over Roberto Luongo, or Viktor Fasth over a proven starter like Kari Lehtonen. Or you know, maybe they'll want to put more thought into it.

Anyways, I'm looking forward to the release of the forward rankings. It's not a matter of "if", but more a matter of "how much" Henrik Sedin will be underrated.

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Dimitri Filipovic writes about hockey on the internet, and is the Managing Editor of Canucks Army. You can follow him on Twitter @DimFilipovic, and email him at dimitri.filipovic@gmail.com.
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#1 Jeff
September 17 2013, 11:30AM
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Anything ESPN puts together regarding hockey is obviously not to be taken seriously.

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#2 BrudnySeaby
September 17 2013, 12:17PM
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Dimitri, I agree with you regarding the ranking of the Canucks defensemen. However, regarding Luongo, we have no way of knowing what his performance will be this coming season. Yes, we are all hoping for a bounce back year (to carry the Canucks and make the Olympic team), but the truth is his numbers were down last year and there is no guarantee that after all that happened in the last 2 seasons, he will be great this year.

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#3 NM00
September 17 2013, 12:34PM
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Should Luongo be considered a top 5 or top 10 goalie for the upcoming season?

I suppose it depends on what one values.

Using a modified version of the 50/30/20 method, here is Luongo's expected save percentage for 2013-2014:

09-10 = .913 (0.2) 10-11 = .928 (0.3) 11-12 & 13 = .916 (0.5)

Adding together 2011-2012 with 2013 seemed like the fairest way to go about this.

Anyway, it comes out to a .919 save percentage that matches his career average.

Which, for me, seems pretty fair.

Coincidentally, Luongo put up a .919 save percentage in 2011-2012.

Three goalies put up much better numbers in a small sample of games (Elliott, Schneider & Halak).

Eight additional goalies put up better numbers as legit starters (Smith, Lundqvist, Quick, Rinne, Lehtonen, Kiprusoff, Thomas & Howard).

If Luongo puts up a .919 this year, I suspect around 10 goalies will beat him though I have no idea who those goalies will be.

A .919 save percentage isn't exactly elite anymore.

Aside from Lundqvist & Luongo, we don't have the benefit of long track records with many of the "better" goalies.

Then, of course, there's the playoff record. I suspect Quick beats Luongo by nine spots on ESPN's list largely based on his performance the last two playoffs.

As well as Lou's, shall we say, "episodes".

While I mostly don't agree with this, I am of the opinion that a small premium should be placed on playoff performance or underperformance in regards to Luongo recently.

After all, the goal is to win in the playoffs and having to constantly pull a goalie from playoff starts isn't exactly an endearing quality.

For what it's worth, Luongo has a .904 save percentage since meltdowns became a part of his repertoire starting with game 6 vs Chicago in 2009.

Lou is more of a known commodity than Schneider or Rask, for example.

But I'd take my chances on the elite performances Schneider or Rask may put up as opposed to the above average performance I expect from Lou this year.

In my opinion, considering Lou a second tier goalie seems reasonable.

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#4 Cory Schneider
September 17 2013, 12:46PM
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What, you guys aret fans of Dan "A-turnover-waiting-to-happen" Hamhuis?

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#5 5thlinewinger
September 17 2013, 12:57PM
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Cory Schneider wrote:

What, you guys aret fans of Dan "A-turnover-waiting-to-happen" Hamhuis?

Do you even watch the games? He is by far the most consistent defenseman on the Canucks. I know you are in the eastern conference now Cory, but you should have seen a couple of them from the ice or the bench last year.

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#6 JCDavies
September 17 2013, 01:16PM
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@NM00

For what its worth, if you use even-strength save percentage instead, you can remove some unnecessary noise from your numbers.

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#7 5minutesinthebox
September 17 2013, 01:30PM
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@NM00

There are several goalies above Luongo who shouldnt be on that list, including: - Rinne (hasnt taken his team anywhere and had a marginal year at best last season)and is a semi by product of a tight defensive team - Bobrovsky - 1 good season, and a shortened one at that. - Crawford is only above him because of 1 great Cup run. - Howard is more a product of a great team defence - Niemi

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#8 NM00
September 17 2013, 01:35PM
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@JCDavies

Personally, I don't think it's as simple as just using even strength save percentage.

While it may be more consistent year to year, I'm not convinced that every goalie is equal at other game states.

Just like I'm not convinced that FIP or xFIP is the best measure for pitcher performance.

One anecdotal example would be Lou vs Schneider.

With the same defence in front of him, Schneider outperformed Lou at non-even strength game states.

It may very well have been (mostly) luck.

But Schneider's baseline at non-even strength may also be higher than Lou's.

From a technical standpoint, this would not be surprising due to Schneider's superior athleticism.

In my opinion, the best way for assessing performance would be to use as many metrics as possible (even strength, 4 on 5, 3 on 5 etc) as well as the eye test.

Using a single metric is never good enough.

Though that's not really what I am getting at above.

In terms of what I value, Lou is an above average goalie with blowup tendancies.

For me, that's a second tier goalie.

For others, that may be a first tier goalie.

For some, that's a goalie they don't want to touch with a ten foot pole.

To each his or her own.

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#9 NM00
September 17 2013, 01:43PM
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@5minutesinthebox

I diverged off the list quite a bit and don't disagree with any of your assessments.

I surely wouldn't have Bobrosvky at #4, for example.

I didn't make this clear, but I also don't give Quick a boost because of his playoff performance.

However, I do put Lou a notch down because of his tendency to self-destruct.

I'd hold the same opinion for a top pitcher with command issues that can occasionally blow up.

For me, an ace isn't someone that blows up semi-regularly and relies on his bullpen to bail him out.

That's more of a #2, in my opinion, even if the cumulative stats suggest he's more of a #1.

It's the same reason I think there is a legitimate argument that Lou shouldn't be the starter in Sochi.

I think it's logical to prefer a goalie with a slightly lower true talent level that hasn't demonstrated the ability to meltdown.

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#10 Rob
September 17 2013, 03:06PM
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NM00 wrote:

Personally, I don't think it's as simple as just using even strength save percentage.

While it may be more consistent year to year, I'm not convinced that every goalie is equal at other game states.

Just like I'm not convinced that FIP or xFIP is the best measure for pitcher performance.

One anecdotal example would be Lou vs Schneider.

With the same defence in front of him, Schneider outperformed Lou at non-even strength game states.

It may very well have been (mostly) luck.

But Schneider's baseline at non-even strength may also be higher than Lou's.

From a technical standpoint, this would not be surprising due to Schneider's superior athleticism.

In my opinion, the best way for assessing performance would be to use as many metrics as possible (even strength, 4 on 5, 3 on 5 etc) as well as the eye test.

Using a single metric is never good enough.

Though that's not really what I am getting at above.

In terms of what I value, Lou is an above average goalie with blowup tendancies.

For me, that's a second tier goalie.

For others, that may be a first tier goalie.

For some, that's a goalie they don't want to touch with a ten foot pole.

To each his or her own.

Nobody's saying that all goalies are equivalent when shorthanded. The point is that ES and SH goaltending are probably two different skillsets, and 1 year, or even 3 years worth of SH data for a goalie is more noise than signal.

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#11 NM00
September 17 2013, 03:31PM
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@Rob

I don't disagree with your main point.

But the same argument occurs when using either FIP and RA9, among other metrics, as a measure of pitcher value.

Some prefer more data. Some prefer less.

That's a small part of my original post, though.

And in case it wasn't clear by using 50/30/20, I really only wanted something quick and dirty.

I didn't bother factoring in Luongo being mentally checked out from Vancouver, either.

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#12 5minutesinthebox
September 17 2013, 05:06PM
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@NM00

While I agree with you on Luongos melt downs, those few do not take away from a career where his stats put him up there with some of the best to ever play.

While I am not a huge Luongo fan, (yes I was on team Cory), I wont deny his accomplishments, even with his meltdowns. And to be fair those have come against some pretty damn good teams. And I have always been of the mind set, especially with the Canucks, that when one wheel goes, the whole car crashes.

If you look at some of the other recent 'greats' you will see the same thing.

Quick for example, was great this past playoffs, until they met Hawks, at which point he had three games out of the five that would be considered a complete letdown if not a meltdown, and at the worst possible time.

Rask during the first round was bailed out by the team in front of him (and TO's implosion) in game 7.

Even when you look at Tim Thomas stats from their cup run. He was good against Mont, great against a depleted Philly team, and nearly blew it completely against the Bolts where he had 4 games where he allowed 4 or more goals.

There is a long list of great goalies having bad games at the most inopportune time. We are stuck with Lu, for bad or worse (is that right?) so Im hoping he can overcome those demons....and if not....Im really into Lack :)

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#13 Zomg
September 17 2013, 05:57PM
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I immediately call for the resignation of any participant in the ESPN rankings. I'm registering my no-confidence vote.

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#14 NM00
September 17 2013, 06:32PM
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@5minutesinthebox

Luongo is my favourite Canuck of all time.

But that doesn't mean I'm going to turn a blind eye to his warts.

I don't deny his accomplishments at all.

He has had a hall of fame career.

Whether or not he gets into the hall of fame is another story...

But his most valuable days are likely behind him.

It's a different save percentage era and I'd be surprised if Luongo is going to ever play 70+ games again and carry strong play into the playoffs like he did in 2006-2007.

As for the meltdowns, everyone values those differently.

In my opinion, it's extremely difficult to manage a goalie that is prone to the yips.

And I feel it undercuts his overall value to a franchise.

Not everyone agrees of course.

As I said above, some consider Luongo a top tier goalie and others don't want to touch him because of the meltdowns.

Also, I think there's a pretty big difference between Luongo and Thomas' 2011 playoffs.

1. Thomas beat Lou by 26 points of save percentage.

2. Thomas still made a fair amount of saves in those 4+ goal games against Tbay.

3. Thomas played every minute of that postseason for the Bruins whereas Luongo deservedly was hooked in four games and should have been hooked in a fifth.

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#15 JFR
September 17 2013, 06:48PM
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The facts are that the only thing that matters with ranking defense men are how many points they score. The geniuses that make these lists only can be concerned with the top scoring guys, which explains why Mike Green is up there and it took Kessler scoring 41 goals in order to win the Selky. Canucks have the best D top to bottom and what should concern fans more is Luoo at 11. Torts defensive style should bring his GAA back down where it was a few years back.

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#16 JFR
September 17 2013, 07:34PM
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JFR wrote:

The facts are that the only thing that matters with ranking defense men are how many points they score. The geniuses that make these lists only can be concerned with the top scoring guys, which explains why Mike Green is up there and it took Kessler scoring 41 goals in order to win the Selky. Canucks have the best D top to bottom and what should concern fans more is Luoo at 11. Torts defensive style should bring his GAA back down where it was a few years back.

Meant Selke.... Stupid spell correct

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#17 Canucks92
September 17 2013, 08:50PM
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Truly embarrassing rankings by ESPN. Tough to read.

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#18 JCDavies
September 17 2013, 09:43PM
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@NM00

It shouldn't seem like I prefer less data or smaller sample sizes. That is not what I was suggesting.

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#19 5minutesinhebox
September 18 2013, 01:17AM
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@NM00

1. Thomas allowed 4 + goals against on an average of 27 saves in his losses to the Bolts, and the Bruins managed to win a game where he let in 5 goals. The Bruins were extremely lucky to make in to the finals.

2. Prior to the Stanley Cup final Thomas and Luongos stats were almost identical.

3. Thomas could have easily been hooked in at least 3 games during that run.

Im not undermining what Thomas did in the Finals. It was probably the greatest performance I have seen from a goaltender, but Thomas' run to the finals was not anymore spectacular that Luongos, and had several speed bumps that nearly cost Bruins even making it there.

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#20 JDM
September 18 2013, 09:56AM
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So does the fact that all of the comment section is arguing and debating the merits of Luongo and whether he's still top-5 mean that everyone's on the same page about their defensemen's rankings being completely out in left field?

Yeah?

Okay good, just wanted to make sure.

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#21 NM00
September 18 2013, 10:42AM
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@JCDavies

I take your point.

I mean, if you look up FIP and RA9, for example, in the Fangraphs glossary you'll see the advantages/disadvantages of each as well as some of the other metrics used to measure performance.

But with Luongo specifically, I don't think it's particularly controversial to expect he play around his career average.

With Cory, though, I think it's perfectly reasonable to want more data to get a sense of his true baseline at non-even strength.

At the same time, as far as one's power rankings go, the benefit of a large sample size isn't always there.

In my opinion, the goalie environment is changing and probably will continue to change at a fairly rapid clip and peak performance can be fleeting.

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#22 NM00
September 18 2013, 10:58AM
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@5minutesinhebox

Which 3 games are you suggesting Thomas could have been hooked and at what point in the game would each hook have occurred?

Both the Canucks and Bruins needed game 7 OT victories to get past the first round.

Luck always has been and always will be a big part of winning a tournament like the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In regards to Luongo specifically, the point on the hooks is that it's extremely difficult to manage a guy that gets rattled and blows up like that.

I'd say the same thing with Fleury though he is nowhere near as good as Luongo.

Let me put it this way.

In the game after a meltdown or multiple meltdowns, would you ever consider starting the backup goalie instead of Luongo?

I know I would.

And it goes against my belief that game to game momentum isn't a thing and the #1 job of a goaltender is stop as many pucks as possible.

If I don't trust my ace goaltender to start a playoff game, is he really an ace?

There's a perfectly good counterpoint, though.

Many of these meltdowns have occurred when the game was already starting to get out of hand.

Hence, win probability may not be affected much.

It didn't really matter that Luongo gave up 8 goals vs Boston in game 3, did it?

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#23 5minutesinthebox
September 18 2013, 01:40PM
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@NM00

And Boston needed 2 of those games 7's to make it to the finals. My point is the only point that Thomas was better than Luongo during the Cup run was in the 4 losses during the finals. And Boston was simply the better team, Thomas was not going to be beat. It didnt matter how many goals Luongo let in if we werent scoring.

AV put his trust in Luongo after his meltdowns and went back to him. Game 7 against the Hawks he was spectacular. If you look at the clinching games of the first 3 series he posted .964sv% 1.3gaa while facing an average of 42 shots

But your right, many of Luongos collapses came when the game was already on the way out of being within reach. Would I consider going to my backup? Of course I would, if Schnieder was my backup.

After watching Luongo the last 2 seasons it seems like he has grown, he seems calmer over all and less rattled in the cage.

Maybe Im just being hopeful (mostly because Schnieder being traded was really hard for me) but Im also an optimist. Either way we are stuck with him.....

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#24 NM00
September 18 2013, 02:23PM
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@5minutesinthebox

He was hooked many times in 2011-2012 and should have been hooked in 2 of his starts this past season.

Do you really think at age 34 he's going to do a better job of managing the meltdowns?

He may very well continue to play at an elite level most of the time.

But I'd be pretty surprised if the meltdowns aren't here to stay.

As such, the Canucks need a proactive coach (please no more asking Luongo whether or not he wants to stay after letting in 5+ goals) and a capable backup.

Which is why, for me, he's a second tier goaltender.

Ace goaltenders don't need to be handled with kid gloves, in my opinion.

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#25 Reuben
September 18 2013, 07:42PM
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These are for the most part very talented players, but this feels more like a name brand or 'cool factor' ranking than a true ranking of talent level.

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