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TimeJun 25, 2016

Masters of Defense - Maximizing by Minimizing

Photo: Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire

“Oh that’s gonna be hard to make up for!” We’ve all seen them, those defensive mistakes that can have a big influence on winning or losing. It may be a missed back-check assignment, blown coverage in the defensive zone, a lost 1v1 battle or a simple failure to close a passing lane. Small or big, these defensive lapses are either quickly forgotten or serve as a turning point in the game. Whether the result is a goal against or just a hiccup, the frequency and magnitude of these plays define each player and the cumulative totals define a team’s defensive proficiency.

If a team is great at making positive defensive plays, and has great goaltending, they will be more equipped to clean up defensive mistakes. The alternative is to reduce the frequency and severity of defensive mistakes, since a few big mistakes can be as damaging as many small ones. Assembling a group of players that have low negative defense scores as part of their player profile provides the foundation but having a strong team system and getting buy-in from players is also important.

These are the results for the 2015/16 season:

The Winner!

#1. Anaheim - The Ducks occupy the #1 spot for lowest Negative Defense (NegDef) in the 2015/16 season. After a slow start the Ducks turned to defense to rescue a sagging offense. The strategy worked resulting in a great turnaround and an 11 spot rise in NegDef team rankings from the 14/15 season.

Rounding out the top 5 ranking teams with lowest NegDef :

#2. Florida, #3. Nashville, #4. New Jersey, #5. San Jose.

Greatest Improvement from 14/15 to 15/16 season:

#1. New Jersey(4th) and San Jose(5th) tied for most improved at minimizing defensive miscues. Both of these teams changed coaching staffs which likely played a role in their improvement. San Jose in particular is notable. In 13/14 they rated 3rd among 30 teams, then dropped to 19th in the 14/15 season. With a renewed commitment to defensive details and new system, they returned to a top 5 league ranking.

#2. Buffalo Under Bylsma and an overhauled line-up, the Sabres came all the way from last in 14/15 to 18th in 15/16. By taking a closer look at the changes in players from this season to last, and their respective player profiles, we can achieve an understanding of how much improvement was due to the players and how much was due to the great job of the new coaching staff and system.

#3. Dallas - Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks…...or an offensive team defensive responsibility? After a disappointing 14/15, the Stars jumped 11 ranking spots, from 23rd to 12th in 15/16...still a ways from the top 5 but the combination of minimizing def miscues along with a potent offense made for a very strong 15/16 regular season.

Note: TPI NegDef team results are the sum of individual player’s, play-by-play scores on a game to game basis.



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