For part 4 of my Tampa Bay Lightning individual player evaluations, we move to the backend to examine the Norris-winning defender Victor Hedman.
Victor Hedman played just 70 games last season for the Lightning, recording 12 goals (0.17 goals per game) and 42 assists (0.6 assists per game) for a total of 54 points (0.77 points per game). Hedman averaged 22:46 time on ice, and had a 51.9 Corsi-For%. He started 51.9% of his shifts in the offensive zone last season. He held a takeaway to giveaway ratio of 32 to 50, which is a -18 differential. Hedman also notched a PDO of 1.026, which means he was getting quite a few good bounces his way. When he was on the ice, Tampa Bay had an expected goals for of 57.3 and an expected goals against of 53.3, which is a +4 differential.
Looking at the basic stats, Hedman didn’t really have a stellar year. Granted, point totals isn’t exactly what you look for in a blue-liner, his totals are a bit down compared to recent years, specifically the last two seasons. He wasn’t smart with the puck, with more giveaways than takeaways, and not exactly the best when you look at expected goals and expected goals against. Here’s my spider web based on Hedman’s performance last season.
Offensively, Hedman was golden, looking great in terms of his shooting, as seen above. He also looked good when getting the puck into the offensive zone, and breaking out of the defensive zone. But where he really seemingly struggled last season, was in the defensive end, breaking up the oppositions entry attempts. First, let’s take a deeper dive into his breakout tendencies using CJ Turtoro’s Exits per 60 minutes visual.
Hedman was the 5th ranked player on the Lightning when it came to breaking out. For a defenseman, it’s better to see a higher rate of exit passes, which is exactly what you get with Hedman. He very rarely attempts carrying it out himself. If the passing option is not there, he tends to just clear or dump the puck out and force the opposition to regroup in the neutral zone. He did ice the puck a few times, but not often enough to be a problem. But what is extremely concerning is the fails per 60 minutes (fails/60) section of the graph. He fails to get it out a LOT, almost as much as he successfully passes the puck up and out for a teammate. That is not a good sign at all. But is Hedman’s ability to enter the offensive zone better? Let’s find out using CJ Turtoro’s Entries per 60 minutes visual.
The rankings were a bit messed up, but Hedman ranks 15th on the team when it comes to entering the offensive zone. For me, I don’t expect defenseman to lead the rush at all, and it’s evident on this visual, as the majority of the players ranked around Hedman are all defenseman. Regardless, let’s break it down. Ultimately, I want my defenseman to be able to pass it ahead to enter the zone or to gain the red line (aka center ice) and dump it in deep. In Hedman’s case, he never really makes an entry pass, and carries it in himself. However, he mostly just dumps it in, but he never really finds himself in an entry situation, so I don’t worry much at all. So long as he doesn’t make mistakes (which he doesn’t), I’m fine with what he has here. So, how about his defensive abilities? Is he really as bad as the initial visual portrays at breaking up opponents on the rush? Let’s look at Sean Tierney’s “controlling the blueline” visual.
Upon looking at this visual, Hedman does a good job of generating breakouts (Y-axis represents possession exit %). However, he does not breakup the oppositions entries. Basically, the opposition either constantly dumps it in, or Hedman simply backs in and takes away shooting lanes with his big frame, and forces players to the outside. Again, he does not break up plays on the rush, but he still does a nice job getting the puck up and out of the zone, which is still good.
The Lightning’s number one defenseman continued his dominance in the offensive zone, following up a Norris Trophy win the the year prior. Despite putting up less points, Hedman still had a very strong and consistent season. He is good at moving the puck up ice, despite all the fails/turnovers that he faced. A lot goes into defending the rush, and if an opponent is constantly dumping it in when you’re on the ice, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to break it up. But the fact that he still has a great Possession Exit% in that last visual tells me that, despite the low breakup numbers, he is still a reliable two-way guy. Next player evaluation will be on Ryan McDonagh!
All Stats via hockey-reference, The Spider Charts used Data from CJ Turtoro, created by Kyle Pereira, Entry/Exit Charts via CJ Turtoro, Defensive zone chart via Sean Tierney.
Feature Image courtesy of Nikos Michals