MONTREAL - APRIL 19:  Mike Green #52 of the Washington Capitals skates with the puck in the Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Montreal Canadiens during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bell Centre on April 19, 2010 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

I’m always a little bit astonished at how much some people dislike Mike Green, the NHL’s premiere offensive defenceman.  There was backlash last season when he showed up as a Norris finalist, there was backlash at the backlash when he missed the Canadian Olympic team, and now there’s some more backlash because he’s a Norris finalist again over guys like Chris Pronger, Nicklas Lidstrom and Shea Weber.

 

There’s a school of thought out there that suggests if a defenceman isn’t blocking shots (although Green has 105) and throwing hits (Green is credited with 133) and taking the puck away from the opposition (Green’s 44 takeaways led the Washington blue-line) he’s not doing his job.  It’s a school of thought that values the traditional, Murray Baron-esque mold of defenceman over a guy who cheats for offence.

 

Personally, I don’t understand it, but maybe that’s because of how I view the game.  The most important attribute in a hockey player is the ability to outscore the opposition.  That’s it.  Stylistically, it doesn’t matter if a team wins 6-5, 3-2, or 1-0; the only thing that matters is the one goal lead.

 

Now, if Green’s penchant for offence was leading to losses, I’d be right on board with the ‘he can’t play defence/he’s a liability’ crowd.  And based on how he helps the Capitals out-score their opposition, I think he deserves to be a finalist.  Not the winner (Duncan Keith’s incredible even-strength performance sells me), but a finalist.

Comments (5)

  1. I know you’re a stats guy, but to say that Green does the “important things” as well as Doughty or Keith is ludicrous. He can’t stop players driving to the net, he’s mediocre at best at man-to-man coverage, he makes too many defensive lapses that result in chances for the other team.

    And the stats don’t work in his favour, either – he rarely, if ever, plays against the opponents’ top lines (Doughty’s strength of opposition was five times higher than Green’s; Keith’s was *sixteen times* higher – he was three times higher than Doughty!), which is why his defensive lapses aren’t as noticeable. If he wasn’t out there against lines which weren’t mainly trying to shut down the Caps, he’d be far more exposed, as he has been in two consecutive playoffs now. He allows nearly half a goal more per game than Doughty (1.95 to 2.36) in spite of the weaker competition.

    If he was up against guys that scored 20-30 points, then, sure, you could argue he’s a better all-around player (which, if memory serves, is what the award is designed to promote) because the large increase in offence cancels out the lack of defensive game. If he was up against a pair of guys who were similarly shielded from playing against top players, there’d be an argument. But Doughty and Keith both had excellent offensive numbers while actually being competent at playing defence against the best players in the league.

    I don’t know if Lidstrom or Pronger deserve it more than Green, since they both had mediocre starts to the season and I believe in rewarding consistency. Personally, I’d have Weber in there as the third, Green in fifth behind Lidstrom (who, even with a mediocre season, is still so good that he gets fourth).

    Oh, and the Caps play in what is by far the worse conference. Not Green’s fault, but you have to hold that against him as well.

  2. Stephen: Lots of good points there, and I appreciate you coming out to make those comments.

    I agree that Green has some serious defensive deficincies; that’s why I rank him third (behind Green, Doughty but ahead of Pronger, Lidstrom) but he was also on the ice for more even-strength goals for than any other player in the NHL this season. Some of that’s the Washington forward corps, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that Green’s the best offensive defenceman in the game.

  3. I believe even Gabe has said that comparing QualComp and QualTeam across teams is a fool’s errand: compare rankings within teams, but not the raw numbers, since they’re affected by what teams they play, etc. The numbers still don’t look good for him (4th QC, 1st QT), but hey, that’s the coach using him to the best of his abilities: 2nd-pairing defensive assignments, top-pairing offensive assignments.

    I think of Mike Green as the modern-day Paul Coffey. His D isn’t the greatest, but his scoring prowess is so good he still helps the team win more than most guys. Coffey won the Norris three times: 1985, 1986, and 1995. His first Norris was in his fifth season; Green is in his fourth (full) season.

  4. JW: You did a piece on Spacek earlier in the year that was bang on regarding how that player’s offense suffered based on a change in icetime.

    I think you’d find that context of icetime contributes heavily to Green’s performance. Nothing against the guy, he clearly has skill and probably helps his team win, but not nearly as much as the offensive numbers imply. And I think you’d find that there are probably more deserving nominees (rhymes-with-Widstrom).

  5. Green deserves to be a Norris finalist, but Doughty or Keith deserve the award over him. He is a great defenseman but I am very happy he didn’t go to the Olympics. He is having problems with the Canadians undersized forwards and doesn’t even play their first line much.

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