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:
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:
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?