Welcome to this week’s edition of Holding Court, a column where both sides of a fantasy hockey debate are argued just like in a courtroom, complete with a final verdict.  Then you, the DobberHockey readers, can comment on whether justice was properly served!  You can also leave ideas in the comments section for other debates to be settled right here in future editions of the column.


Will Shea Weber’s overall stats be negatively affected by Ryan Suter’s departure from Nashville?


Ever since Ryan Suter decided to leave Nashville to sign with Minnesota, much of the focus has been on how his departure would affect Pekka Rinne, what with half of Nashville’s top defensive pairing – one of the best in the league in recent years – now gone.  People wondered whether Rinne could remain arguably one of the NHL’s top five netminders in wins, and if his stats like GAA or SV% would suffer.  What’s interesting is that largely lost in all the Rinne discussion was what the impact would be on Suter’s longtime defensive partner, Shea Weber.

Yes – Past examples and data point to bad numbers for Weber, especially with less talented players taking Suter’s place


Let’s get one thing out of the way from the start.  Shea Weber is a great defenseman, and even with the departure of Ryan Suter he’ll still remain a player that any fantasy hockey GM will want to own in one year and keeper leagues that include defensemen.  But he’s also not superhuman, and the loss of Suter will no doubt hurt Weber’s stats.  Here’s why….


People might not realize just how good the tandem of Weber and Suter was last season.  Keep in mind there were only 19 defenseman in the entire NHL who had 40+ points in 2011-12, and no other NHL team had two representatives in the top ten in defensemen points like Nashville did with Weber (tied for 6th) and Suter (tied for 10th).  Even beyond points, Weber (+21) and Suter (+15) combined for an impressive +36, and Suter’s reliable blue line presence also allowed Weber to give his owners great peripheral stats, including over 300 combined hits and blocked shots.  But now that Suter has left Nashville, Weber’s stats definitely will take a hit, quite possibly a BIG hit.  For proof, we can look at what happened when other tandems of 40+ point, +10 or better defensemen were split up.  Each of the following two examples - one involving Weber himself! – clearly shows how the departure of a 40+ point, +10 or better defenseman has horrible effects on the stats of the other 40+ point, +10 or better defenseman who remains with a team:


2005-06 Ottawa – Wade Redden (65 games, 50 points, +35) and Zdeno Chara (71 games,43 points, +17)


[Chara leaves Ottawa in the offseason]


2006-07 Ottawa – Wade Redden (64 games, 36 points, +1), a drop of 14 points and a staggering -34 change in +/-


2006-07 Nashville - Shea Weber (79 games, 40 points, +13) and Kimmo Timonen (80 games, 55 points, +20)


[Timonen leaves Nashville in the offseason]


2007-08 Nashville - Shea Weber (54 games, 20 points, -6), down 11 points from the previous season (20 points in 54 games projects to 29 points in 79 games) and a huge -19 drop in +/-


These numbers are jaw-dropping on their own, but the truth is that things might actually be worse for Weber than what happened with these other situations, and that is due to how ill-prepared the Predators are to replace Suter with their other defensemen.  Looking at what figures to be the Predators defense next season, you have three highly-touted but still very young and inexperienced d-men in Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Jonathon Blum (140 total NHL regular season games between them, compared to Suter’s 542), two aging veterans in Hal Gill and Scott Hannan (neither one has ever reached 25 points in an NHL season), and a capable but unremarkable player in Kevin Klein.  Suter averaged over 26 minutes per game last season (5th in the entire NHL), but none of these other six defensemen even averaged 20 minutes per game.  Suter was +15; these other six combined to be a collective -19.  Suter had 25 power play points (3rd among all NHL defensemen; Weber had 22 (tied for 6th), with many coming on plays where Suter also factored into the scoring) in over 3:40 of power play time per game, and all six of these other Nashville defensemen combined for a total of nine power play points, with none of the six averaging even half as much power play time per game.


It’s clear that no one is going to come close to giving Nashville – and Shea Weber – anything like what Ryan Suter provided in terms of stability and output.  What’s more, at least Ottawa in 2006-07 had guys like Joe Corvo, Chris Phillips, Andrej Meszaros and Anton Volchenkov to help replace the departed Zdeno Chara and Nashville in 2007-08 had Ryan Suter (oh the irony), Marek Zidlicky and Dan Hamhuis to replace the departed Kimmo Timonen.  Seeing this, and knowing the lack of support Weber will receive from his Nashville defense teammates, the only possible conclusion to draw is that his stats will decline as well, perhaps even worse than what happened in these previous two examples.


But wait – I’ve saved the best (or if you’re a Weber owner, the worst) for last.  The easiest way to figure out how Shea Weber will likely perform without Ryan Suter is to look to Weber’s stats in games where Suter didn’t play.  It turns out Suter has been an extremely durable player throughout his career, but in 2010-11 he missed a nine game span in October/November.  And in those nine games, Weber had only 3 points and a put up a terrible +/- of -8 (Rinne also played uncharacteristically poorly, giving up five goals in one of the games and four goals in three of the other games).  So if you’re a Weber owner reading this (and everything above), you should be very, very concerned about how his stats will look when faced with the reality of no Suter for an entire season.


No – Weber still has Rinne, and those past examples can be countered



We all know it will be very difficult for Nashville to replace what Ryan Suter gave the team, and of course Shea Weber (as well as Pekka Rinne) would prefer if Suter was still there.  But we also can’t lose focus of both reality and what we’re debating here – this is about statistics, and with the combination of Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne remaining in Nashville there's no reason to worry that Weber’s stats will suffer in the wake of Suter’s departure.


Let’s first look at the two examples cited above, as both can be easily discredited.  First, in the case of Wade Redden, it wasn’t just Zdeno Chara that left Ottawa after 2005-06, it was also some guy by the name of Dominik Hasek, so of course Redden’s stats suffered, as would Weber’s if Rinne was leaving too.  But we all know that Rinne’s staying in Nashville, so the Redden example isn’t analogous to what’s happening here.  And if you look at Shea Weber in 2007-08, he was dealing with a series of injuries all season, including a dislocated kneecap that caused him to miss six weeks and then a leg injury which caused him to miss 11 games.  Also, let’s not forget that he was still only 22 years old at the time.  Weber is now more mature and is 100% healthy, making him far more equipped to deal with Suter’s departure now than he was with Timonen’s in 2007-08.


What’s also interesting is there are an equal number of instances from the same time frame where a 40+ point, +10 or better defenseman left a team and the 40+ point defenseman who remained behind did no worse despite the departure! 


Take a look:


2005-06 Los Angeles – Lubimor Visnovsky (80 games, 67 points, +7 and; Joe Corvo (81 games, 40 points , +16)


[Corvo leaves LA in the offseason]


2006-07 Los Angeles – Lubimor Visnovsky (69 games, 58 points, +1), projecting to an identical 67 point pace over 80 games and only off by 6 in +/-


2006-07 Detroit - Nicklas Lidstrom (80 games, 62 points, +40) and Mathieu Schneider (68 games, 52 points, +12)


[Schneider leaves Detroit in the offseason]


2007-08 Detroit – Nicklas Lidstrom (76 games, 70 points, +40), a jump of 8 points despite 4 fewer games, and an unchanged +/-


In each of these cases, the stats for the 40+ point defenseman who remained with the team were virtually unchanged despite the fact that a defenseman - like Suter - who was at or above 40 points and at or above +10 left the team.  The point is that you cannot automatically assume that Weber’s stats will get worse simply because Suter has left.  Great defensemen like Weber find a way to stay great – it’s that simple.  And for all the talk above about how bad the remaining Nashville defense looks on paper, if you recall LA’s defensemen in 2007-08, it was Visnovsky, Rob Blake, and pretty much no one else of note.  Plus, who’s to say that having less skilled defensemen surrounding Weber will automatically mean that Weber’s stats will take a hit?  After all, if there’s less talent around him, then it stands to reason that Weber will have to carry the offensive load even more, which in turn should translate into more points for someone as talented as he is.


And we also cannot forget the presence of Pekka Rinne, who is a world-class goalie in his own right.  Rinne’s presence in the Nashville net will certainly help Weber’s stats remain great, just as Weber’s presence will help solidify Rinne’s stats.  Looking at an isolated nine game stretch in 2010-11 when Suter didn't play in order to forecast doom for Weber and Rinne is not persuasive, as in that case Suter’s absence was unplanned.  What’s different now is Weber and Rinne (and their teammates) have known for many months that Suter will not be returning to the team, so this time they’ll all be well prepared to adjust without a negative effect on their stats. Weber


Another important point that’s not even touched on above is Weber’s signing of the offer sheet from Philadelphia and Nashville’s decision to match.  Weber has now seen how important he is to the Predators, and knows that he’ll be expected to perform at the level of the $110 million, 14 year deal he signed (including the $68 million signing bonus).  Weber fully realizes that he’ll be expected to justify that deal, and if anything ownership and fans in Nashville will expect his stats to get even better.  And as a multiple time first team all-star and Norris Trophy finalist, I think we can all count on Weber – and his stats – to rise to the occasion.


The Final Verdict


This is a very tough call.  The two examples provided by each side were useful, but they essentially cancel each other out.  And although Weber’s poor performance when Suter missed nine games in 2010-11 is quite remarkable, you cannot put too much weight in data that covers such a short stretch of time.  While there's no question that - on paper - Nashville has no one who seems prepared to step into Ryan Suter’s role, the steadying presence of Pekka Rinne cannot be discounted.  In the end, it stands to reason that Weber’s points and peripherals (like hits and blocked shots) might actually be just as likely to go up as they are to go down, as Weber leans more on his own his talents to replace the void left by Suter’s departure.  But it’s hard not to see Weber taking at least some kind of a hit in +/-, so if your league has +/- as a category then you should take that into account.  So the final verdict is that Weber’s overall stats likely will not be negatively affected much, if at all, although watch out for a drop in +/-.


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Comments (8)add comment

Millhouse said:

... I would like to see a Holding Court on Rinne. Yes Rinne is good, but how is the loss of Suter going to impact Rinne. Plus Rinne just had a career year which I see him having difficulty repeating. There are a slew of rookies, but they take time to get use to the NHL play
November 10, 2012
Votes: +0

Sovereign said:

Nobody on NSH has to be Suter, they just have to be good enough.

I don't disagree, that any of NSH remaining D are not comparable to Suter as a complete package. But in individual roles, they may suffice.

But I share the reservations you do. Which is why I was hesitant to make offers. I think that the void will be filled either as the season progresses, or via trade and NSH 15M in cap space.

November 10, 2012
Votes: +0

pull the goalie said:

pull the goalie
... Another side of this issue is how Suter will be without Weber. There isn't a Dman in MN that will compared to Weber.
November 09, 2012
Votes: +0

angus said:

... I'm higher on Roman Josi than most - but even if Josi excels right out of the gate, he isn't Suter.

The big question for me - can Nashville's other defensemen fill the void? Weber has played tough minutes forever, and he is obviously great at it. The Preds depth d-men all struggled last year in terms of puck possession metrics.
November 09, 2012
Votes: +0

Sovereign said:

I almost coulve wrote this article.... last night! I was debating offers in two salary (actual salary) cap leagues last night.
With out doing historical examples on other teams I just relied on my experience. I gamed out a number of scenarios and guesses.
Most importantly, not replacing Suter but his Role. As stated Suter's steadier defensive pressence allowed more room for Weber to be offensive.
Suter did it all himself because he was that high of a calibre.
This year they dont have that. BUT, they do have a rangy big D man in Gill to handle lots of even strngth minutes and provide the defense needed.
On the PP Josi, Ellis or Blum can provide some respectable support there. So while they do not have a comparable replacement player. They do possess comparable Role-Players.
That is also without the assumption that anyone of those guys takes the next step either.

Ultimately, I did not make any offers, because there was nothing in my case that I could put together for the respective Weber owners that would not be so transparently one-sided enough to make me eat the 14M he will be getting next year. And similarly high salary beyond.
November 09, 2012
Votes: +0

Ryan Ma said:

... Another solid article Rick,

My initial thoughts were exactly what Pengwin stated, that Rinne might have been over-emphasized in your argument. Besides +/-, Rinne probably won't affect Weber's fantasy value all that much...

I guess this is the season where we'll answer the chicken or the egg question. Was it Suter that made Weber so good, or was it all Weber?

With that said, the replacements I don't think will be all that different Suter (stats-wise at least). I wrote about it back in January and there was another one that compared the stats of Josi and Suter (which I can't find at the moment...)

One thing that might affect Weber is because he has spent so much time along with Suter that they've developed some great chemistry together, so they know where each other were on the ice and know when to pinch and when to cover... With someone new, (Josi, Ellis, Ekholm) coming in they might need half a season to really understand each other, which might hamper Weber's production.

Another thing with Weber and Suter, those were two quality defenders which made it harder for opposition teams to defend. Now with only Weber, if I were an opposition coach, I'd just key in on Weber and take my chances on Josi, Ellis or Ekholm beating me. If they're not up to the task, I win... if they beat me then adjust next game.

For me the scenario that I would take is to take the cautious approach of the worst case scenario, which is to assume a regression, because of all of the changes. If that doesn't occur well no harm no foul... I'd kick myself if I went into the season expecting him to continue status quo then have him bite me in the butt with a run-of-the-mill season.

League settings will play a role as well. If you're using peripheral stats with hits, BS, PIM and SOG, Weber is still one of the most productive "across-the-board" producers even if he isn't going to produce top-10 numbers for points, the peripheral stats will still be worth it.

If you're looking at a straight points league, then I might drop Weber a few notches down as the "unknown" factor isn't worth the risk.
November 09, 2012
Votes: +0

Pengwin7 said:

Rinne? If the article is about Weber... I'm not sure why Rinne is mentioned so often. Other than +/-... what impact does Rinne have on Weber's statistics?

And I think losing one's defensive partner is a substantial impact.
Not just Ryan Suter's quality, but years of chemistry.
Have ANY two defensemen played as many minutes together as Weber/Suter in the last two years?

As for the Weber contract situation... I think you are spinning it wrong. You say that now that he has his big pay, he'll step up to play up to it. I disagree. If anything it will be too much pressure. Also, let's remember that Weber CHOSE to sign with Philadelphia. The passionate fans in Nashville won't forget this... and if Weber stumbles or grumbles, the boos may come.

On top of everything, Nashville simply won't be as good a team as the past. Last year was probably their best chance to go deep in the playoffs. How long can this team play above their talent-level? Eventually, these things come crashing down to reality. We've got to note that it's not just an impact on Weber... but the whole team realizes that Weber tried to sign with Philadelphia. The whole team is aware that Suter left for Minnesota. Can this team keep up the "We can do it" attitude that they've had?

I think everybody is impressed with how well Nashville has maintained such a competitive team. I think it crashes a bit this year. Weber... Rinne... stats are comin' down.
November 09, 2012
Votes: +0
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