Having wrapped up a two-year, $5 million contract to provide veteran stability and leadership to Nashville's otherwise baby-faced defense corps, Greg de Vries faces free agency this summer. What does the future hold for this 36 year-old stay-at-home blueliner with championship experience?
|2008 - Greg de Vries||71||1||4||5||-15||65||0||0||0||0||38||2.6|
Greg de Vries
Those overall totals certainly paint a grim picture; team-low offensive results, with poor defensive numbers as well. Both the Shots For/Against and Goals For/Against were pretty ugly. If we use one of the scripts available from Vic Ferrari, however, we see an interesting split over the course of the campaign.
Early in the season, de Vries worked the 2nd pairing with Dan Hamhuis, to pretty much disastrous results. Over the first 21 games, he was on the ice for 21 Goals Against, and his +/- at even strength was -12:
|Greg de Vries||21||9||21||-12||-86|
|de Vries/Hamhuis pair||20||6||12||-6||-39|
Once switched over to working alongside (mostly) Kevin Klein on the 3rd pair, however, things settled down a bit. In the final 3/4's of the season, he was on the ice for 22 Goals Against (in more than twice as many games), while his +/- at EV was a respectable -2.
|Greg de Vries||50||20||22||-2||-51|
|de Vries/Klein pair||45||14||14||0||-26|
Certainly his role was reduced somewhat due to this move, but it appears to have been a successful transition.
*slight mismatch between the Time on Ice and Behind the Net data, ToI looks at all even strength play, BtN is for 5-on-5.
At 6 seconds per game of PP duty, this isn't a relevant factor for de Vries.
While Hamhuis and Zanon carried the bulk of the PK work this season at nearly 4 minutes apiece per game, de Vries saw regular duty there with 1:53 of penalty killing per contest. On a per-minute basis, his defensive results here were among the best in the league. If you screen for all defenseman with 40+ Games Played and at least 1:00 of 4-on-5 ice time per game, de Vries' Goals Against/60 Minutes of 2.78 is the 6th-best figure in the NHL. His Corsi rating (Totals Shots For/Against) in that situation was actually the very best in the NHL, at -50.5 (remember, it's PK work, so you're going to get outshot by a ton).
Some of those results are obviously driven by overall solid PK work by the Predators, but there's little evidence that de Vries was just riding teammates' coattails here.
While de Vries appears to still have significant value as a 3rd-pair even strength defender and PK man, it's often difficult for a player to accept a lesser role (and salary) while remaining with the same team. In a blog this afternoon, John Glennon of the Tennessean had a quote from de Vries that sounds pretty fatalistic about his time here in Nashville:
``I’ve talked with management and my type of role here was as an older defenseman, to come in and help the young guys along. They’ve got a good core of `D’ now with Hammer, Webs and Suter that have really matured, so they may not need a guy like myself.’’
One factor that might work in favor of retention is the apparent respect that he's earned from his peers. Take for example, the November 17 game against San Jose. With Wade Belak out of the lineup, de Vries stepped up not once, but twice, to battle Sharks enforcer Jody Shelley. During the first scrap, de Vries actually held his own against one of the NHL's heavyweights:
A couple months later, when Jason Arnott was getting honored in a pre-game ceremony for passing the 1,000 games-played mark, it was de Vries who skated out to center ice to make a presentation to the team captain, despite being scratched that evening. Most players, when scratched, pretty much stay out of the way, but de Vries showed his younger teammates what being a professional is all about.
Besides the character and maturity that de Vries brings to the team, he can still be effective as a stay-at-home depth defender. Within that narrow role, he should make a fine addition to just about any NHL team this fall.