Wednesday, 6 July 2016

RFAs, the Series - Episode 10: Martin Marincin

It's been a while since I've done one of these. I've been pretty busy writing things for, who asked me to start contributing over there a while ago midway through this series. I always planned on finishing the series here, and so that's what I'm starting on now.

The last one of these I wrote was on May 24, on the now-traded Scott Harrington.

On Tuesday, it was announced that Martin Marincin would file for arbitration, along with Peter Holland and Frank Corrado. My posts on those two can be found by clicking on their names.

Marincin was a depth defenseman picked up from the Edmonton Oilers for a 4th round pick and Brad Ross (sent over to balance contracts only). He played 65 games last season, scoring 7 points with just one goal.

Martin Marincin gets ready to fire a point shot. Image courtesy of
There was a time before the Matt Martin signing that Martin Marincin was unquestionably the most divisive player in the Leafs' system. Largely a bottom-pairing defenseman, the young and large man showed a balance of promising and worrysome play, to the point where no one (who doesn't pay attention to advanced stats) knew what kind of player he really was.

Just 24 years old going into next season (same age as young stud defenseman Nikita Zaitsev), Marincin is entering the prime years of his career. He possesses a unique skillset where he doesn't use his size for physicality, but for stick reach to break up plays against and maintain plays for.

One of the most touted skills for Marincin is preventing zone entries. Using the data tracked by Evan Baker, shown in this post, Marincin led the Leafs last season with the lowest rate of controlled zone entries allowed.

Another skill I'm impressed by with Marincin, that isn't often discussed, is maintaining the offensive zone. He has posted a very good relative CA60 over the last 3 years (5.4 shot attempts per 60 fewer than his average teammates) despite not being stellar in his own zone. I believe that maintaining the offensive zone has a much stronger correlation to CA60 than actual defensive zone ability, which may be where the stark difference in opinion regarding his abilities comes from. Playing a shift in the offensive zone and then getting off is a much better way to prevent shots against than being a skillful defensive zone player.

Marincin also was a perfect example of how quality of competition can affect players in short samples, and possibly is a case study to show that we don't quite understand enough about how quality of competition affects players. This article from omgitsdomi on Check out this visual from
Martin Marincin overview from
We can see above that when ice time (2nd graph) saw a sharp increase, and he was playing on the top pairing with Morgan Rielly (1st graph), his 5v5 Shot Attempts Against/60 (3rd graph) and Goals/Shot-on-goal (4th graph) went way up, and the opposite was true of his Shot Attempts For and Goals/Shot-on-goal. (If Micah, the creator of, sees this, he will not be happy that I changed Shots to Shot Attempts. But, in the interest of clarity, I proceed).

Additionally, Martin Marincin is one of those curious players who have a significant contrast in xGF% statistics (shot attempts including shot location data) versus Corsi% statistics (just shot attempts). This article from DTMAboutHeart and Asmean shows that xGF% is a stronger predictor than Corsi. Below we see the differences is about a quarter of the positive impact:

CF60 CA60 CF% xGF60 xGA60 xGF%
-0.07 -4.65 2.02 -0.25 -0.3 0.54
All stats from and are 5v5, Score, Zone and Venue adjusted, relative to teammates, and from 2015-16 season

It seems to me that Marincin is better suited for a bottom pairing role in the NHL.

So, what?

It seems like the best idea to contract Marincin as a bottom-four defenseman. His statistical comparables, from Corsica's Similarity Calculator are a rough outlook, comparing him usually to depth-at-best defensemen like Nikita Nikitin (2014-15), Clayton Stoner (2014-15 and 2015-16), Mark Stuart (2012-13) and Brett Lebda (2009-10).

I have a hard time seeing Marincin make any kind of outrageous claim to fortune in his arbitration hearing, and I think he knows that. The Leafs interest in not letting it go to arbitration is they probably want Marincin on a 2 year deal in order to expose him to the expansion draft to Las Vegas. I've kept these things in mind when assessing the possible deals.

Ideal: 2 years at $1.5M AAV

This gets the Leafs exactly what they need: a cheap, good, bottom-pairing defender with some league value that could get selected in expansion. They would have to settle this deal prior to arbitration.

Realistic: 2 years at $2.2M AAV

This is the case where Dubas and the analytics-friendly front office value him a little higher, and are willing to overpay to get him on the 2 year deal they're likely searching for here.

Pessimistic: 1 year at $1.7M AAV

The absolute worst case here is that the Leafs let it go to arbitration, and his hearing is reasonable for both sides. This is what I could see it settling out to, but there's a pretty wide range of $1.6M to $2M where I could see the arbitration landing at. With only 7 points, at 23 years of age, and Corsi stats likely not applicable in the hearing (it would take the length of the hearing to explain their significance to the arbitrators), it's probably closer to the lower end of the range I suggested.


Overall, the Leafs are not in any kind of pickle despite Marincin opting for arbitration. They will almost assuredly settle before the hearing to a deal that suits their interests, as Marincin has next to no leverage. 

The only name left in this series now is Josh Leivo, so stay tuned for that, the final episode. 

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

RFAs, the Series - Episode 9: Scott Harrington

As the series starts drawing to a close, we are looking today at young stay-at-home defenseman Scott Harrington.

Cheese! Image courtesy of
I usually don't like using the term "stay-at-home" much anymore, as it's gained a fair amount of stigma within the online hockey community. It often becomes a staple descriptor of defensemen who are remnants of the days when the Broad Street Bullies could literally bully their way to championships. In this day and age, it takes a lot of different skills to win championships than it did in those days.

But I think the term applies aptly to Harrington. When you watch Scott Harrington, you come away almost every time having not noticed him do much of anything. In the case of offense, this is a bad thing. But in the case of defense, it's very good. Once again, not a new idea, but if you're not noticing a defenseman in their own zone, that's a good thing.

When Scott Harrington plays, you often aren't sure what exactly he has contributed. In his 15 game sample from the 2015-16 season (just enough to be predictive):
  • Score, Venue and Zone Adjusted (SVZA) CF% is 49.71%
  • SVZA rel xGF% is -0.16
  • SVZA GF% is 50.25%
Admittedly, those numbers are cherry picked to show just how average he is, The rest of his numbers aren't going to stand out in any fashion either, and altogether it does back our impressions up. 

So, what?

So we have an unimpressive stay-at-home defenseman who only played 15 games. Harrington falls into the glutton of young, fringe-capable NHL defensemen like Corrado, Carrick, Percy, and Loov. Harrington is probably the most defensively capable of the bunch, but he lacks any offensive success at the NHL level.

As unexciting as it is, you pretty much have to bring him back. Being average at his age is actually pretty impressive, in a relative sense. As I've suggested in previous posts, it'll come down to a training camp battle for who gets the roster spot. The loser goes on waivers and could end up with a shot in a market like Chicago, Boston, or LA, where they could use cheap, young D-men.

For contract numbers, there's really only one way to go, and that's with a one year one-way contract. But at what cost? His three top comparables on Corsica's similarity calculator are 2008-09 Sheldon Brookbank, 2010-11 Mark Fraser, and 2014-15 Paul Postma. The next contracts for those players were at AAVs of $750k, $550k, and $887.5k. This gives us a pretty good range to work with.

Ideal: 1 year contract at $600k

This would be a nice, cheap contract. Harrington made the team out of camp but quickly lost his job when everyone got healthy. He then suffered an injury that costed him the rest of the season. This deal says "prove you can make the team again and then we'll reward you." He might go for it.

Realistic: 1 year at $750k

The Sheldon Brookbank special. This is a bit more expensive than the ideal case, as usual, but still very affordable for a bottom pairing defenseman. He'll certainly fit under the salary cap here for the Leafs, should he make the team.

Pessimistic: 1 year at $875k

Now it's more the Postma special. This is a little expensive for a player who only played 15 NHL games. Postma had played 42 games, so the Jets had a better idea of what Postma was. But, if Harrington is as decent as Postma, he deserves a decent contract like Postma's. 


Undoubtedly, the Leafs should be able to retain Harrington at a reasonable price. Whether he makes the team or not is an entirely different discussion. We'll have to, once again, wait and see.

Be sure to check out the last episode on Peter Holland, and stay tuned for next time where we'll talk about Martin Marincin.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

RFAs, the Series - Episode 8: Peter Holland

Welcome to Episode 8 of my series on all of the Maple Leafs' RFAs.

We're getting pretty near the end! Only 4 names left. Unfortunately we missed out on Morgan Rielly, but that's okay. 

Today's episode is going to discuss young centerman Peter Holland.
Peter Holland during warmups. Image courtesy of

Holland had a very chaotic season in terms of role. He started the season out-of-favour with Mike Babcock, but earned his way back into the regular line-up. Where in the line up he played fluctuated constantly, between 4th line winger, 2nd line center, and everything in between. 

During this time, Holland put up a pretty respectable 27 points in 65 games. Additionally, his possession impact (in terms of Rel. xGF%) was very impressive, as shown in the distribution graph below.
Graph from

Holland is one interesting example where xGF% and Corsi don't line up. Below is the same graph but using Rel. Corsi% instead.

You'll see he's very slightly above average in this stat. Whereas, for Rel xGF%, he's near the top quality portions of the graph.

Since the stats are very similar, we can isolate that the difference between the two stats is where Holland is really good. Below is an image from the introductory post on xGF% from (which I consider a must-read) that details the variables added into the xGF model that don't exist in the Corsi model.

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 8.36.28 PM
Image courtesy of
So, some combination of these is where Holland excels relative to the rest of the league. His actual shot generation/prevention is pretty average, but the quality of those shots is significantly advantageous.

So, what?

Holland is in a weird place with this organization where he's young, but he's been given opportunity to succeed enough that he maybe should have established himself more concretely by now.

With an influx of young talent coming in, the Leafs have to make a tough decision. By my estimates, anywhere from 10-12 jobs on this forward core are already taken by prospects who are ready and signed veterans. 

So, where does this leave Holland?

In my opinion, it leaves him on the trade block. There's many organizations who would have a spot for a cheap, young, productive forward like him. 

There's still a chance the Leafs sign him, but as much as I like Holland, I believe the roster spot would be better served on a prospect who is done cooking in the AHL like Connor Brown, Byron Froese, or Kasperi Kapanen.

I'm going to suggest some possible trades, as opposed to my usual routine of suggesting possible contracts. Just keep in mind that these are suggestions, and aren't the product of actual negotiations with hockey teams. It's incredibly difficult to simulate that environment in my mind, to produce a reasonable trade, but I'm going to try anyway.

Ideal: Peter Holland + Frank Corrado to the Detroit Red Wings for Pavel Datsyuk, 16th overall pick, Tyler Bertuzzi

This is obviously a very complicated trade. Toronto absorbs the last year of Datsyuk's contract, for when he leaves for Russia and Detroit is left on the hook on the cap for his $7.5M cap hit. They also get the young centerman we've been discussing, along with a young right-handed defenseman they've been needing to balance their roster. 

In return, the Leafs would get a middle 1st round draft pick, and a good young forward prospect. 

This is a great rebuild move for the Leafs, and a great retool move for the Red Wings.

Realistic: Peter Holland to the Vancouver Canucks for 3rd round picks in 2017 and 2018

This trade replaces the 3rd round picks the Leafs will lose as compensation for hiring Mike Babcock and Lou Lamiorello. It gives the Canucks the young center they need to shore up their depth for when the Sedins move on some time in the future. A pretty simple and not that exciting trade, but one that makes sense for both teams.

Pessimistic: Peter Holland to the Chicago Blackhawks for a 4th round pick in 2016, 3rd round pick in 2017

Just slightly worse than the Vancouver trade, but almost the same idea. Chicago is a team that really needs good depth players that come cheap, and Peter Holland fits that bill. It would allow them to trade someone like Anisimov to relieve their cap woes. For the Leafs, once again it replaces a pick lost to compensation, as well as adding another pick to their long list of 2016 draft picks.


To conclude this post, I'll restate that my trade proposals are mostly guesses, and guidelines for the idea that the potential trades. When these things get hammered out in negotiations, a lot of variables and biases and interests are introduced. This kind of environment is very difficult to simulate.

Still, though, I think we have some good proposals for the Leafs to move Holland. It will be very interesting to see if this is, in fact, the path they choose to follow.

Be sure to check out the last episode on Connor Carrick, and stay tuned for the next post on Scott Harrington.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

RFAs, the Series - Episode 7: Connor Carrick

Continuing on from the last episode on Garret Sparks, today we're going to discuss recently acquired defenseman, Connor Carrick.

Connor Carrick celebrates with Brooks Laich after scoring his first goal as a Maple Leaf. Image courtesy of
When the Toronto Marlies closed out their series on Thursday night, the show was stolen by this very individual. Carrick posted a 5 point night, including a hat trick, to send the Marlies past the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. His point presence was spectacular, with constant control of the puck and creative escape moves. Not to mention his shot was always placed in difficult areas for the goalie. Short side shoulder, between the glove and the pad, far-side corners, etc. 

The Maple Leafs acquired this new defensive prospect in a trade with the Washington Capitals for Daniel Winnik. The Leafs got Carrick and a draft pick in return.

His season stats were split between four teams:

  • 26 points in 47 games with the Hershey Bears
  • 0 points in 3 games with the Washington Capitals
  • 4 points in 16 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 10 points in 8 games with the Toronto Marlies (including playoffs so far)
For his advanced numbers, this pie chart should show a pretty clear picture of where Carrick stood relative to the league: 

Radar graph of Connor Carrick's percentiles
How this graph works, if you're unsure, is the thick grey circle is league average. If the blue part is bigger for a particular stat, that's a good thing. You'll notice, then, that his possession stats (Rel xGF% and Rel CF% particularly) were very good, while his production stats (P60 and GF%) were very disappointing. This isn't unparalleled for a defenseman still making his way in the NHL by any means.

Carrick is undersized by typical NHL standards, at just 5'10". But, his play style doesn't reflect what you might expect of a small player.  Small defensemen don't make it to the big time without developing the physical tools necessary to succeed despite their stature, and Connor has certainly done that. He is tough, he can hit to separate player from puck, and his strength carrying the puck is at least average.

Where his game needs the most work is the mental side of things. The biggest weakness area exposed in Carrick during his NHL with the Leafs was mistimed pinching. At the AHL level he can get away with more risks because the game is slow enough that he can catch up on a mistake. However, at the NHL level, when you take even a step or a reach towards a pinch when you shouldn't, the opponent can be behind you with the puck before you can say "breakaway". 

So, what?

This contract breakdown will compare significantly to the one I did for Frank Corrado, as the two players are in very similar places in their careers despite Carrick being 2 years the younger.

Both players will be in a short, cheap contract situation. Carrick has the benefit, though, of not being waiver-eligible. So, the strategy I mention in the Corrado post for spending more than he's worth doesn't apply.

Ideal: 1 year, two-way contract worth $750k

Pretty straightforward here, a cheap deal for a young defenseman that failed to produce significantly and only played 19 NHL games the previous year. The two-way component just saves the Leafs some money if Carrick were playing in the AHL.

Realistic: 1 year, one-way contract worth $700k

Once again, this is straightforward. Carrick takes a slight discount here at the NHL level to give himself financial security. Since it's a one-way deal, he'd still make $700k if he were sent down to the minors.

Pessimistic: 1 year, one-way contract worth $900k

This one is probably a bit of a stretch, but you never know. In this case, Carrick's pedigree as a prospect would give him some bargaining weight and force the Leafs to put a bigger price tag on him. This would take a really solid job by his agent, but not out of the realm of possibilities.


In the end, we have a pretty basic evaluation of Carrick. His immediate future is unquestionably with the Maple Leafs. Where he slots into the roster next season will have to be decided in training camp.

Be sure to keep your eye out for Episode 8, where we'll talk Peter Holland.