The Rise of the Defensemen

Note: @ BenjaminWendorf did an excellent series of posts on types of defensemen, which gives some context to which are likely to be contributing to offense. You can find the 3-part series here , here , and here .

Justin Bourne’s recent post “Getting pucks through shot-blocking layers becoming coveted skill for NHL D-men” got me thinking about how the role of the defenseman has changed since the 2004-2005 lockout.

We all know the stay-at-home conservative defensemen that patrolled the blue line during the dead puck era. To a certain extent, they still make up  a fair amount of NHL defense corps. However, fast, puck-moving, and offense-oriented defensemen such as Kris Letang, Mike Green, and Erik Karlsson have sprung up since the full-season lockout. Using data from War on Ice , I decided to investigate if these “modern” defensemen have made an impact on the position as a whole.

The series of charts below show that defensemen have increased their share of both shots and goals since 2005-2006.

Goals

Goals

Primary Assists

Primary Assists

High Danger Scoring Chances

HDSC

Shots on Goal

Shots on Goal

Unblocked Shots

Unblocked Shots

Shots

Shots

Forwards are still claiming a preponderance of the offense, but defensemen have been carving out a niche for themselves.

While more investigation is needed, I think it’s clear that defensemen have become more involved offensively in the post-lockout NHL.

Something I noticed that specifically warrants more investigation: while defensemen have increased their share of goals and shots (and unblocked shots) between 3% and 7%, they only increased their share of High Danger Scoring Chances about 2% since 2005-2006. This increase in goals could be explained by an increase in shot volume, not by an increase in the type , distance, or other variables that make up “shot quality”.

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