by PuckStopsHere on 09/23/10 at 03:41 AM ET
In my sabermetrics and hockey posts, I have been looking at Tom Awad’s goals versus threshold system, which is an attempt to show the value of a player in one number when compared to that of a replacement level player. The replacement player is assumed to be always available via minor league call-ups, waivers or some other cheap method. I recently listed the worst 20 players in 2009/10 by goals versus threshold.
The worst seven players in this system were all goalies. This is because goaltenders can often have the biggest impact in a game, either positive or negative. A bad goaltender is relatively easy to pick out as he allows more goals than an average one would when facing the same number of shots. A poor position player is harder to find in this system. The system looks for a player who fails to score despite significant ice time. It also looks for a bad defensive player. In the goals versus threshold system, a bad defensive player is a player with a poor +/- rating on a weak defensive team. This is probably not the best way to select a poor defensive player, but this is what the system attempts.
The worst position player in the system last year is James Sheppard of the Minnesota Wild. I think it is instructive to take a look at why he is selected for this dishonor.
In 2009/10, James Sheppard was worth -4.0 goals versus threshold. He did so while playing 64 games as a centre. In that time he scored two goals and four assists. His -14 +/- rating is fourth worth on his Minnesota Wild team. He played about twelve minutes per game, which is significantly less than his three teammates who had worse +/-‘s (Martin Havlat, Marek Zidlicky and Brent Burns).
Offensively, he ranks as the worst player in the entire league. There are a few players who have fewer points who were dressed in most of their team’s games last year. These include Raitis Ivanans, Derek Boogaard and Darcy Hordichuk, who are others who rank near the bottom in goals versus threshold. Sheppard played more minutes than any of them and thus a replacement player would be expected to have scored more points in Sheppard’s ice time.
Defensive ratings in this system are hard. No forward is worse than -0.6 goals versus threshold. Essentially, every player is ranked as being essentially at threshold, unless they are above it. There is nobody found to be well below threshold. This is a sign that something is wrong with the system. Some player in the NHL must be defensively well below a replacement player. After all, players are below threshold in all other aspects of their game.
James Sheppard ranks as a slightly better defensive player than average. He is worth 0.6 goals versus threshold defensively. Sheppard’s Minnesota team had the 21st best goals against, which makes them below average, but not by much. Sheppard played a reasonable amount of minutes and although he has one of the worse +/- ratings on his team, it is not the worst. This makes him marginally above threshold.
Sheppard did not participate in any shootouts, so he gets no score from this.
Essentially, Sheppard is ranked as the worst position player by goals versus threshold because he is the worst offensive player in this system. He rarely scores given his ice time. The few forwards who score less than him have less ice time. The fact that Sheppard is a forward makes him have a worse offensive portion of this system than a defenceman because forwards are expected to score more than defencemen.
It is offense (or rather a lack of it) that makes a position player rank at the bottom of the goals versus threshold list. A player who plays considerable ice time, while not scoring will rank at the bottom in this system. James Sheppard is the player who best fits that description in 2009/10.
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