[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This was written for The Broad Street Bully, a blog and podcast my friend Drew and I started based off of our mutual interest in the Philadelphia Flyers. See it on http://broadstreetbully.net. This was also posted on http://wildfireradiosports.com in the current way it’s posted here.]
As another Flyers season draws to a close, the fans are faced with an early offseason. Fan anger for missing the playoffs has been spread around the lineup and ranges from everything including sub par goalie play, a coach that juggles the lineup a little too frequently, and an anemic offense that can’t produce consistently when it matters most. But one of the biggest sources of anger was the consistent use of Andrew MacDonald as a top defenseman.
This got me thinking.
Hakstol, when asked at the season ticket holder town hall meeting, famously said that Andrew MacDonald is a top pair defenseman in today’s NHL. And, honestly, what else did you expect him to say? If he throws MacDonald under the bus halfway through the season, it would probably destroy any confidence he has. It would’ve also destroyed any trade value MacDonald had at the trade deadline. It would also destroy any future trade value. The Flyers would’ve been worse for wear and Hakstol would’ve taken heat from the team for throwing a player in the line of fire. No, Hakstol took the smart approach and said that MacDonald didn’t stink. Instead, he took the diplomatic approach and praised MacDonald’s play while also strestsing that he was a top pair defenseman.
But how do Hakstol’s claims match up to MacDonald’s output this season? With the 2016-2017 season drawing to a close, I went to TSN.ca and used their useful stat tracking tools to find the top five defenseman in a given category and then how MacDonald compares to their stats. I also took the liberty to provide the Flyers leaders in each category. I purposely left out Corsi because 1) I don’t understand how it works and 2) Corsi consistently says MacDonald is a trash fire that consists of used baby diapers and old car tires.
All stats are only current as of writing this on April 03, 2017 before any games were played.
Without further delay:
NHL Blocked Shots Leaders
- 201 Erik Karlsson
- 196 Kris Russell
- 189 Ian Cole
- 184 Cole de Haan
- 181 Niklas Hjalmarsson
Andrew MacDonald has 148 blocked shots, which is good for second on the Flyers. Provorov leads the team with 161. For a guy whose M.O. is blocking shots it makes sense that he’s second on the team and Provorov, who has been his primary defensive partner all season, is first. MacDonald is considerably behind the top five in the league though. And, if you’re considering him an important, veteran, top pairing defenseman, it looks like he’s letting a lot more shots get through then he should.
NHL Time on Ice Leaders
- 2131:5 minutes Ryan Suter
- 2123:48 minutes Drew Doughty
- 2118:42 minutes Dustin Byfuglien
- 2027:19 minutes Duncan Keith
- 2015:2 minutes Erik Karlsson
Andrew MacDonald has played 1408:51 minutes, which is good for third on the Flyers. Provorov leads the team with 1733:39 minutes played. What this shows me is that Andrew MacDonald is getting outplayed by a 19 year old in his first year at the NHL level. Also, that rookie is out playing him with no AHL experience because he wasn’t even old enough to play in the AHL. Gostisbehere, who has sat out games this season due to questionable defensive play, sits in second with 1425:5 minutes.
NHL Average Time on Ice Leaders
- 27:31 minutes Dustin Byfuglien
- 27:14 minutes Drew Doughty
- 26:59 minutes Ryan Suter
- 26:43 minutes Rasmus Ristolanien
- 26:52 minutes Erik Karlsson
Andrew MacDonald comes in second on the Flyers with 20:8 minutes of ice time per game. The Flyers leader is Ivan Provorov, with an average of 21:57. Compared to the rest of the NHL, the Flyers appear to rely on all of their defenseman and aren’t focusing on their “top pair” to log a majority of the minutes. Then again, the quality gap between a Dustin Byfuglien or a Drew Doughty and Andrew MacDonald is certainly a large one. It’s hard to argue that Provorov should play more minutes because he is only 19, has no prior NHL experience, and Hakstol spent this season talking about slowly phasing Provorov into the lineup and getting him used to the speed and tempo of an NHL game.
NHL Shorthanded Time on Ice Leaders
- 274:23 minutes Zdeno Chara
- 256:8 minutes Mark Giordano
- 255:22 Derek Engelland
- 253:45 Ben Lovejoy
- 247:55 Karl Alzner
Andrew MacDonald is a prototypical defensive defenseman. His offense is considerably weaker than Stephen Hawking’s legs. To compare him to the rest of the league, MacDonald clocks in with 196:28 minutes of shorthanded time. The Flyers team leader is Provorov, who has logged 222:24 minutes.
What have we learned here? MacDonald is allegedly a top defenseman that isn’t on the ice enough to be anywhere close to the league leaders in time on ice, average time on ice, and shorthanded time on ice.
- 144 giveaways in 1965:21 minutes played Brent Burns
- 104 giveaways in 2015:2 minutes played Erik Karlsson
- 96 giveaways in 1676:24 minutes played Jeff Petry
- 94 giveaways in 1801:40 minutes played John Klingberg
- 88 giveaways in 1631:21 minutes played Andrej Sekera
Andy MacDonald ranks third on the Flyers with 48 giveaways in 1408:51 total minutes played. In an interesting turn of events, MacDonald does not have the most giveaways on the Flyers this season. That honor goes to Provorov, who has 80. If you’ve watched any amount of Flyers games this season, 48 giveaways seems kind of low for a guy whose name and “turnover” have become synonyms. I’m operating under the assumption that the giveaways category is scored like the hits category in that it’s different at every rink depending on who is tracking the stats. Although, considering MacDonald has been in the league for this many years and he’s third on the team behind 19 year old rookie Ivan Provorov and sophomore slumping Shayne Gostisbehere doesn’t say much about the puck control for a guy considered an “important veteran”.
NHL Turnover Differential Leaders
- +28 in 1829:7 minutes played Jacob Slavin
- +22 in 1945:20 minutes played Alex Pietrangelo
- +18 in 1645:22 minutes played Brent Pesce
- +9 in 1641:57 minutes played Justin Faulk
- +5 in 1096:34 minutes played Trevor Daley
MacDonald ranks third worst on the Flyers with a -41 turnover differential, which is the difference between giveaways and takeaways. Provorov has the worst differential with -58 and Gostisbehere comes in second here again with a -49. It makes sense that the two players with more giveaways would rank above MacDonald in turnover differential. What doesn’t make sense is why MacDonald is only marginally better than two defensemen that have three years of combined NHL experience.
NHL +/- Leaders
- +34 Ryan Suter
- +32 Brooks Orpik
- +31 Jared Spurgeon
- +31 Dimitry Orlov
- +30 David Savard
Plus/minus is a ridiculous stat that I don’t put much stock in but I included it because it was easy enough. Considering all the top plus/minus leaders for defensemen are playing on playoff bound teams that racked up a ton of wins, and, by proxy, scored a bunch of goals, I wasn’t expecting much out of any of the Flyers defenseman. Considering the teams goal differential was a negative for a lot of the year, the rankings of this stat seem kind of meaningless. But, MacDonald ranks fourth on the Flyers with a -7. The worst rating is held by Gostisbehere at -20 and MacDonald’s most frequent partner, Provorov, sits at -10.
NHL Points Leaders
- 73 Brent Burns
- 68 Erik Karlsson
- 67 Victor Hedman
- 54 Kevin Shattenkirk
- 51 Dustin Byfuglien/Duncan Keith
MacDonald is commonly categorized a defensive defensemen. It makes sense that he’s currently fifth on the team with only 16 points. Gostisbehere leads Flyers defensemen in this category with 38. Provorov is second with 28, Gudas is third with 23, and Michael Del Zotto is fourth with 17. Played game totals for each defensemen shake out to 79 for Provorov, 73 for Gostisbehere, 70 for MacDonald, 67 for Gudas, and 48 for Michael Del Zotto. If Del Zotto could’ve played with any sort of consistency and not hurt himself, he probably would’ve had a good chance at being the team leader.
After looking at all these stats, it’s readily apparent that MacDonald is not a top NHL defenseman, stat wise. But, he’s also not the worst defenseman on the Flyers roster, stat wise. However, based off of NHL experience and his current $5 million a year salary, he should probably be doing a lot better then he is. With MacDonald only getting older and slower, it’s hard to imagine his stats will look better next season. I think the smartest thing Hextall can do is probably drop him back down the AHL like last season and let him and TJ Brennan take the Phantoms all the way to Calder Cup. MacDonald might not have the best looking NHL stats but he could probably be an AHL superstar while also nicely replacing Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, or both in the Phantom’s defense corps.
Three other things to point out
1. Based off of MacDonald’s stats, if I’m Ghost’s agent, I’m going to point out how much more MacDonald makes to have worse stats. He’s basically going to make Toews and Kane money.
2. Gudas was right in the middle of the pack for all of the categories for the Flyers defenders. That’s not bad considering what people were, or weren’t, expecting from him. He certainly wasn’t the worst defenseman to play.
3. Meanwhile, how excited is everyone for Provorov? If he only gets stronger from here then he’s eventually going to blow everyone’s minds out of their butts.
Stats pulled from http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/statistics