The Advanced-Stats Case for and Against Edmonton Oilers Defenceman Kris Russell

December 21st, 2016 by Jonathan Willis Leave a reply »

Kris Russell is a player who draws a lot of criticism from people steeped in hockey analytics. Even an analytics-based approach to the game, though, recognizes that he does some things well. Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan seems to have identified what those things are.

The problem is that the things Russell does well are generally not appreciated. At the same time, many of the arguments raised in his defence are specious.

Take, for example, Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli. Chiarelli has repeatedly argued that Russell is an exceptional transition defenceman, even telling Sportsnet’s Mark Spector that he makes more passes leading to zone entries than almost anyone else.

“He was second in the league behind only Niklas Kronwall last year,” claimed Chiarelli, “ahead of players like Duncan Keith, Kris Letang, Cam Fowler, Ryan Suter, Mark Giordano, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Erik Karlsson."

An internal metric that says Kronwall and Russell are the two best puck-moving defenceman in the league is obviously ridiculous. There isn’t a stats geek or an old-school hock ...

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