Special report: On the importance of Jeremy Dehner
Over the past two weeks, we’ve made a lot of stink about the effect Jeremy Dehner’s absence has had on the team and gotten more than a few scolding e-mails about it. The general consensus among these e-mailers was three-fold:
- That Lowell would lose these games regardless of Dehner’s involvement.
- That no one player can make or break a team.
- That we are a couple of morons who don’t understand hockey.
While the first part is debatable, we feel that the other two are flat-out wrong (the third one being most obviously insane talk). But just to show you we care about you, our dear readers, decided to state why we hold this belief.
To that end we did some stat-hunting and the results were not pretty for those that would ever dare doubt us. Let’s look upon Lowell’s lot, ye mighty, and despair.
(Warning!: lots of numbers and decimals follow…)
First we will look at his contribution on offense. He’s currently sixth on the team in scoring with five goals and 17 points from 25 games, and is a plus-16. That’s very good, certainly, especially when you consider that eight of his points have come on the power play. But his contribution goes well beyond those stats.
Our contention is and has always been that every good rush starts with Dehner lugging the puck and for the most part that’s proven true. The offense just seems to work better when he’s on the ice. How many goals per game does Lowell score with Dehner on the ice this season? Why, it’s 3.24. And without Dehner it is, of course, just 1.25. So that’s a loss of 1.99 goals per game right there, though we understand an argument about sample size and all that, so we’ll give you a better argument.
Lowell has scored 81 goals this year in the 25 games in which Dehner has appeared. Dehner has been on the ice for 39 of them*. That’s 48.2 percent. That transcends coincidence.
*For two goals this season, Lowell’s plus-minus stats were not kept at least according to the Hockey East website. There was a goal for in the 2-2 draw at UNH and a goal against in the 2-1 loss to Northeastern in the Dartmouth tournament. We will, for the sake of argument, assume that Dehner was not on the ice for either of those goals, as this effectively cancels them both out. Maybe you can provide us with conclusive info one way or the other and we can update the stats contained herein accordingly.
But obviously Dehner’s first job is defense, so how does he compare with the rest of the team defensively? Well, again, to make the simplest argument, Lowell has allowed 60 goals in Dehner’s 25 games and eight in the three for which he’s been absent. The difference in that GAA: it gives Lowell’s opponents 0.27 goals against per game. You can see how the swing is now getting egregious. But again, let’s go more in-depth.
Yes, Lowell allowed 60 goals in 25 games with Dehner, but how many, given the amount of ice time he plays, were actually scored while he was on the ice? The astounding answer: 16. That means that Dehner was only on the ice for 26.7 percent of the goals scored against Lowell in games in which he appeared.
And you might think that he’s one of only six defensemen in the lineup at a given time, and that therefore he should share some of the goals-against burden which, if every defenseman got about the same ice time and allowed goals at the same rate, would be in the neighborhood of 17 percent. But of course, that’s not the way it works.
Dehner, we’d estimate, plays a little less than half of every game for Lowell, on average. Sometimes more, sometimes penalty minutes affect his time on ice, etc. But let’s say Dehner’s average ice time per night is around 27 minutes per night, not an unreasonable number. So let’s look at the numbers above, which state that Lowell scores 48.2 percent of its goals and allows 26.7 percent of its goals against when he is on the ice, and put those into context.
Having 27 minutes of ice time a night means that you are on the ice for an even 45 percent of the game. Again, that’s on average. That means in the remaining 33 minutes (or 55 percent of the game), the River Hawks score 51.8 percent and allow 73.3 percent of their goals. The numbers are starting to look very good for Dehner.
Hockey stat nerds like us see the newish way to judge all players on a similar level somewhat equitably is to extrapolate their time on ice out to 60 minutes. This is so that fourth liners who get eight minutes a games can be compared more fairly to top-line guys that get 22 minutes. So let’s look at Dehner’s TOI/60 stats and see where that gets us.
Dehner has, once again, been on the ice for 39 of Lowell’s 81 goals over 25 games. But let’s say he gets 27 minutes a night, so that’s 675 minutes in 25 games (or, to kind of get the feel for how many games that is, it’s 11.25 60-minute segments). The amount goals for per minute for which he’s on the ice, therefore is .058. His goals for while on ice per 60 minutes is 3.47, which is pretty good but not a gigantic improvement over Lowell’s normal output of 3.24.
But where it gets really scary is when you look at the defense. Again, in the 675 minutes over 25 games for which he’s been on the ice, opponents have scored just 16 goals. And to put that into context, that is, once again, 16 goals in 11.25 games’ worth of ice time. That means his goals allowed per minute of TOI is .024, or 1.42 per 60 minutes.
Now, as a basis of simple comparison, let’s do Maury Edwards’ numbers real quick, assuming a TOI/gm of 20 minutes even in his 28 games. (Incidentally, if you somehow have Lowell’s official TOI numbers, we’d love to see some.) He has been on the ice for 30 of Lowell’s 85 goals (35.3 percent), but 32 of Lowell’s 68 goals allowed (47.1). Given his 20 minutes of ice time per night, that’s .054 goals per minute he’s on the ice, or 3.21 goals for per 60 minutes. But it’s also .057 goals allowed per minute, or 3.43 goals allowed per 60 minutes. Therefore we can see that Dehner is a significantly more valuable player, both offensively and defensively, than Edwards has been this year.
And the larger point here is that yes, we were right, Dehner is incredibly valuable to the team to the point that he does so well at both ends of the ice that Lowell scores at a slightly better pace than average and its opponents basically stop scoring at all. If all those who e-mailed us admonitions for our stance could send us back some sincere apologies, we would greatly appreciate it.