Who Were The Best Shot Blockers In The NHL In 2011-12?

Updated: January 10, 2018 at 7:14 pm by Derek Zona

 Photo by Saruwine, via Wikimedia Commons, commons license.

If blocked shots are your thing, and going by the number of readers and analysts who use them to judge defensemen, there are a ton, you’re probably used to hearing how essential shot-blocking is to sucessful NHL teams. You’ve also probably looked at shot block totals, or listened to an analyst discuss shot block totals and laud the players with the most blocks. The danger of using raw blocked shot totals as a measurement of effectiveness is that the players who see the most icetime and/or allow the most shot opportunities are natually going to block the most shots. 

Noted tactics writer Dawgbone has written about what happens when blockers get in the way, and the results haven’t always been pretty. Sunny Mehta showed a small team skill in shot blocking and Desjardins showed an even smaller individual skill in the same. While shot blocking is a skill, or an art, for a very small segment of the NHL player population, talking heads espouse it as yet another magical part of the game, dictated by hard work and grit. In reality, a large quantity of blocked shots simply means the team, or player, is being dominated and forced to spend their time in their own end blocking rubber rather than possessing the puck and forcing the other team to block shots.

Earlier this season, I was in the midst of a discussion with the incomparable George Ays who turned me on to the idea of re-measuring shot blocking with context.  Ays re-created a formula used by Desjardins (we think) to determine which players were blocking the most shots, and which players were giving up a bunch of shots and blocking some.

In the tables below, I’ve listed the ESBS Ratio (% of even strength shot attempts blocked by an individual player) of all NHL players, as I’m calling it until someone comes up with a better name. One caveat to these numbers – I’m using total even strength blocks, not away even strength blocks, which may leave a heavy tinge of scorer bias, especially for any Rangers.  Since they block the preponderance of shots, let’s start with the defensemen first:

Greg Zanon BOS 0.1455
Brett Clark T.B 0.1405
Keaton Ellerby FLA 0.1351
Josh Gorges MTL 0.1321
Anton Volchenkov N.J 0.1291
Steve Staois NYI 0.1286
Nate Prosser MIN 0.1272
Andy Greene N.J 0.1246
Colin White S.J 0.1234
Mark Stuart WPG 0.1228
Marc-Andre Bourdon PHI 0.1224
Roman Hamrlik WSH 0.1218
Ron Hainsey WPG 0.1216
Zbynek Michalek PIT 0.1189
Mike Komisarek TOR 0.1185
Ladislav Smid EDM 0.1184
Niklas Kronwall DET 0.1182
Niklas Hjalmarsson CHI 0.1167
Douglas Murray S.J 0.1161
Stu Bickel NYR 0.1159
Andy Sutton EDM 0.1150
Bryan Allen CAR 0.1148
Mark Fistric DAL 0.1138
Roman Josi NSH 0.1123
Andrew MacDonald NYI 0.1112
Kris Russell STL 0.1108
Raphael Diaz MTL 0.1108
Kevin Klein NSH 0.1101

Names like Schenn and Orpik drop off the list, while the very underrated Roman Josi and Andy Greene appear.  Does this alter the way we should view blocked shots?  Should it?

Though they block far fewer shots, it’s interesting to see the forwards list:

David Steckel TOR 0.0708
Darroll Powe MIN 0.0707
Nick Bonino ANA 0.0678
Tim Connolly TOR 0.0659
Mike Fisher NSH 0.0638
Logan Couture S.J 0.0638
Andrew Miller DET 0.0631
Michal Handzus S.J 0.0626
Patrice Bergeron BOS 0.0622
R.J. Umberger CBJ 0.0612
Daymond Langkow PHX 0.0611
Matt Hendricks WSH 0.0597
Marc-Andre Gragnani VAN 0.0595
Ryan Callahan NYR 0.0595
Patrick Kaleta BUF 0.0591
Ruslan Fedotenko NYR 0.0574
Ryan Getzlaf ANA 0.0574
Vernon Fiddler DAL 0.0567
Matt Duchene COL 0.0565
Brooks Laich WSH 0.0561
Boyd Gordon PHX 0.0560
Brandon Sutter CAR 0.0560
David Backes STL 0.0555
Erik Condra OTT 0.0552
Brian Boyle NYR 0.0551
Brandon Prust NYR 0.0551

I expect to see defense-first and defense-only forwards like David Steckel, but Daymond Langkow, Logan Couture and Tim Connolly are a bit of a shock.

Which names stick out?  Is Brandon Sutter, Carolina’s mule and should-be Selke finalist, a surprise?  Does his presence on the list alongside Patrice Bergeron change his place on the Selke list?  What about Ryan Getzlaf, a power play specialist most known for passing to Corey Perry?