by PuckStopsHere on 06/17/14 at 05:27 PM ET
I posted the top 20 players in 2013/14 by adjusted +/- and Matt Niskanen of the Pittsburgh Penguins leads the bunch. Niskanen is an interesting player. At the beginning of the 2013/14 season, I would have told you he was a solid but unspectacular defenceman. He hadn't exceeded 21 points in a season in the last four years. He was a solid part of a depth defensive pairing. The Pittsburgh Penguins certainly didn't expect him to become their defensive leader.
In 2013/14 he had the best year of his career. He scored 46 points and was a +33. He led the Penguins defence in ice time over the season. Now that he is an unrestricted free agent, the question is what should we expect into the future? Was this a fluke year or is it repeatable?
One big hint is his 1031 PDO. This places Niskanen in the top 30 in the NHL. Since a PDO largely measures luck (it is shooting percentage plus saves percentage when a player in on the ice), a high value indicates that a player was lucky to do as well as he did and that luck likely won't last. Usually adjusted +/- leaders have league leading PDO values - which is one reason that Corsi is more valuable to rate puck possession.
I think it is clear that Niskanen had a very good season in 2013/14. At age 27, he should be in his prime and is expected to have the best years of his career. The fact that there had been no other season approaching his level in 13/14 and that would have been expected before he turned 27 if he was to be a star player is problematic. It shows that he probably is not going to reproduce his season. The high PDO value in that season suggests that he was lucky to do as well as he did last year. It isn't a smart move for a team to sign Niskanen expecting he can repeat what he did last year. If they are looking for a top second pairing defenceman they probably won't be disappointed. If they are looking for a frontline number one defenceman he will likely disappoint. As an unrestricted free agent in a relatively poor field of free agents, he will be paid as a first line defenceman. That will likely be a bad move. His 2013/14 season was very good, but it looks unrepeatable and it looks like it took a lot of luck to occur at all.
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