Aaron Rome, a lesson in shot suppression

Go this way Aaron Rome, and suppress our opponents shot totals!
Photo Credit: Nam Y. Huh/AP Photo

Last night Aaron Rome made his return to the Vancouver Canucks lineup playing, according to timeonice.com, 11.6 minutes of even strength time against primarily Chicago’s depth players: Marcus Kruger, Dan Carcillo and Viktor Stalberg. It wasn’t anything extremely fancy, and he didn’t play a lot of situational minutes, but he got himself back into the lineup. Despite giving up 10 shots including three in the three shifts he played against Patrick Kane, Rome is ready to do what he does best when he’s in the lineup: shot suppression.

A season ago, I think Alain Vigneault confused a big number of Canuck fans by sitting Keith Ballard in favour of the less impressive, less talented Rome. Let’s jump into my time machine, use the shrink-ray, and top it off with a quick stint in the telepod (don’t forget to bring a small fly in with you!). Now that we’ve morphed into itty-bitty mosquitos and are back in the Spring of 2011, let’s fly into the Canucks boardroom, so we can be a fly on the wall, privy to an in-house discussion about defensive personnel:

“What do we like about Ballard’s play this year?”

“He’s been shaky past centre. He’s having trouble generating anything going forward.”

“True, he’s had trouble adjusting. How is he defensively?”

“Not good. He’s a one-way, high-event player when he’s on his game. This year it doesn’t look like he is.”

“What about the other guy, Rome?”

“His outlets are terrible. He has no offensive instincts. He has limited mobility and size in the defensive zone. He can’t move anything…”

“But what does he do?”

“What does he do?”

“He prevents shots.”

The prevented shot is not a recorded statistic, because there is nothing to record. You cannot go through a game and tick through the number of times that a player objectively prevented a shot. The closest thing we can do is look through and see what the opposition managed to do against a team when a player was on the ice. Thanks to BehindTheNet.ca, we have that luxury.

Here are the number of goals, saved shots, missed shots and blocked shots every regular Canuck defenseman was on the ice for last season:

NAME Goals Saves Misses Blocks Totals
Bieksa 1.7 27.1 11.2 12.9 52.9
Rome 2.0 27.9 10.3 14.3 54.5
Hamhuis 1.9 25.9 11.5 15.3 54.6
Alberts 2.3 27.6 10.5 15.1 55.5
Ehrhoff 2.1 26.5 10.7 16.4 55.7
Ballard 1.6 29.4 10.7 14.2 55.9
Edler 2.0 28.6 11.1 15.0 56.7

It’s so unspectacular, but while Rome and Ballard both had rough seasons offensively last year, Rome is the superior defensive player. Per 60 minutes, he allowed 1.4 fewer Corsi events (goals, saves, misses and blocks) against. When Vigneault looked for a depth defenseman to play no more than about 12 minutes a game at even strength, given you aren’t getting anything in 12 minutes, you at least want to suppress the scoreboard.

Now, Ballard was theoretically on the ice for fewer goals against, but we recognize the sort of “fluke” value to a goal. Rome, Ballard, Daniel and Henrik Sedin and David Booth were on the ice for that Michael Frolik goal that snuck through Roberto Luongo’s everything to go in the net. Traditional +/- finds fault against the defenders for that, but the Corsi stat has less noise. Certainly, not every shot is alike, but players that have good Corsi numbers tend to have good scoring chance numbers as well.

Rome had a rough start to the season, but he’s proven to be a defenseman who can step in in moderately-tough minutes and shut the opposition down. He isn’t at all flashy, but if he were that bad of a defenseman, the opposition would record more shots when he’s out on the ice.