Breaking down P.K. Subban vs. Shea Weber

On June 29th, 2016, the hockey world exploded. Taylor Hall was traded for Adam Larsson, Steven Stamkos re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning and P.K. Subban was traded for Shea Weber, all within 24 minutes of each other.

After my piece comparing Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly a buddy of mine, who is a Canadiens fan, requested a similar piece comparing P.K. Subban and Shea Weber. Now, I’m not sure why you’d want to go through that as a Habs fan, but here we are. I know there are many important factors that determine a player’s value, such as age and contract, but for this piece I am solely going to look at the statistics.

Individual offensive production

First, we’re going to compare the two defensemen’s production over the course of the past three seasons, 2013-2016. I narrowed the list down to defencemen who have played +3000 5v5 minutes in that time frame, an average of 1000 minutes a season. Here are their numbers over that time and where they rank on this list:

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You’ll notice some things on this chart that you may have expected. Most importantly, Subban has produced points at a higher rate than Weber at 5v5 over the last three seasons. You’ll also notice Weber scores goals at a higher rate, which is to be expected for a guy who shoots +100 MPH. Subban ranks third in assists per hour, which is also no surprise for one of the premier puck moving defencemen in the league. The shot attempts also tell a predictable story. Weber shoots the puck more and has less of his shots blocked than Subban. Remember that corsi is any shot attempt on goal, including blocked shots, and fenwick is shot attempts not including blocked shots. This means that 36.6% of Subban’s shot attempts are blocked, while only 28.6% of Weber’s shot attempts are blocked. Once again, this was probably a predictable outcome due to Weber’s absolute cannon of a slap shot. I’d rather not get in the way of that shot either.

Since there has been talk of Weber’s regression, let’s compare each players’s offensive output in the 2015/16 season to their career highs. Again, I narrowed the list down to defencemen who played +1000 5v5 minutes last season and this time there were 124 defencemen on the list.

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Things that stand out on these two charts:

  1. Weber had a career year in 2008/09. This was before he put the puck through the net at the Vancouver Olympics. Barack Obama came into office in the middle of this season. What I’m saying is this was a long time ago.
  2. For someone who is widely thought of as having a “down year” last season, Subban managed to produce at a pretty high rate.
  3. Subban shot the puck a lot more when he first entered the league.
  4. Suban’s production has been at it’s peak over the last couple years. Weber’s … not quite.

Long story short: Subban is the better offensive player these days.

Shot differentials

Next we’ll take a look at how each player affects his team’s performance while on the ice using corsi numbers relative to their teammates. For the first chart, we’ll once again use the list of the 124 defencemen who’ve played +3000 minutes over the last three seasons to see where Subban and Weber rank.

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Once again, the results weigh quite heavily in Subban’s favour. Over the last three seasons, the Canadiens have taken 3.8% more shot attempts with P.K. on the ice than with him off of it. Over that same period of time the Predators have taken -.06% less shot attempts with Weber on the ice than with him off. The CA/60RelTm stat is my favourite when comparing these two. Subban is often referred to by hockey “traditionalists” as a defensive liability, while Weber is renowned for being “hard to play against.” As it turns out, his team gets pummelled with shot attempts against with him on the ice, he ranks 109th out of 124 in this department, while the Canadiens improve significantly in that department with Subban on the ice. Who knew? Well I’d argue virtually everybody with a basic understanding of hockey analytics knew. Marc Bergevin is not one of these people. While both players have a positive affect on their team’s shot attempts for, Subban takes the cake again by a significant margin, ranking sixth among NHL defencemen over the last three years.

Once again, I’ll take these numbers and limit them to just the 2015/16 NHL season to compare them against each player’s career best seasons.

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Both players absolutely bled shot attempts last season and, per usual, peppered the opposing team with shot attempts. Subban definitely had a down season ranking 38th in CF%RelTM where he usually ranks in the top ten. The difference is Weber has been putting up similar numbers for a few seasons now, while Subban has been a top ten CF%RelTM player in five of his seven NHL seasons. Subban posted his best CF%RelTM in ’14-15, so I think it’s safe to assume he’ll have a bounce back season with the Predators. For whatever reason he was not good at keeping the puck away from his net in ’15/16, but Weber was even worse. Again.

Weber’s numbers are pretty alarming. He’s been in a steady decline for several years, but good on Marc Bergevin. Trade an elite defenceman in the middle of his prime for a defenceman six or seven years past his. Bold move. My favourite part is that the Canadiens fired their head analytics man, Matt Pfeffer, after he begged them not to go through with this trade. A similar thing happened in Edmonton with the Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson trade, but that’s a story for another day.

In conclusion:

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*all stats courtesy of stats.hockeyanalysis.com and corsica.hockey

 

 

 

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