Ranking the NHL's Least Valuable Players

Yesterday, I took a statistical approach to determining the NHL's MVP for this season, and I don't think I raised too many eyebrows by touting Alex Ovechkin for a repeat as Hart Trophy winner (although perhaps you might be surprised at my #2). Having gone through that exercise, there's another, perhaps more interesting and debatable question that arises from the assembled data:

Who is this season's Least Valuable Player?

First, of course, the caveat - any player who makes it onto the ice for even one NHL game is an insanely skilled, gifted athlete who will always have my respect, as a "never was" pond-hockey kid and beer leaguer.

That said, just as some players drive positive results for their teams, there are those whose very presence on the ice is a harbinger of doom. I suspect most hockey fans could rattle off a lengthy such list without the benefit of statistics.

The following, then, are those players who have had the worst overall performance in the NHL this season, relative to their teammates. In 5-on-5, power play, and penalty killing work they've been on the ice for more Goals Against, and fewer Goals For, compared to how their team does when they are on the bench. All data originates from Behind the Net. Before you yell at the screen about Scott Niedermayer's presence on this list, consider that perhaps his time as an elite NHL blueliner is over.

2009-10 NHL LVP Candidates
 Player  Pos  Team 5-on-5 Impact PP Impact PK Impact Penalty +/- Impact Total
 Brad Stuart  D  DET -16.5 -8.4 -18.1 1.1 -41.9
 Nate Thompson  C  NYI/T.B -17.6 -0.2 -18.6 -0.3 -36.7
 Braydon Coburn  D  PHI -10.5 -13.5 -10.5 -1.5 -36.0
 Richard Park  C  NYI -13.3 -0.1 -21.6 0.2 -34.9
 Jack Johnson  D  L.A -27.7 -6.0 -0.2 -0.8 -34.6
 Steve Staios  D  EDM/CGY -21.8 -1.5 -6.2 -2.0 -31.5
 Kevin Bieksa  D  VAN -11.0 -7.7 -11.8 -0.6 -31.0
 Brendan Witt  D  NYI -19.0 -0.2 -11.1 -0.6 -30.9
 Kevin Klein  D  NSH -21.7 -2.4 -6.4 0.0 -30.4
 Scott Niedermayer  D  ANA -21.8 2.9 -10.4 -1.1 -30.3
 Rod Brind'Amour  C  CAR -23.4 -4.1 -2.9 0.3 -30.1
 Lauri Korpikoski  LW  PHX -16.9 -1.0 -11.5 -0.5 -29.9
 Todd Marchant  C  ANA -17.4 -0.6 -9.8 -0.2 -27.9
 Ryan O'Reilly  C  COL -8.1 -3.1 -16.8 0.6 -27.4
 Ruslan Fedotenko  LW  PIT -26.2 -1.4 -0.2 0.6 -27.3

I've narrowed the selection here to  players with at least 40 games played, and at least 5 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time per game, for practical purposes. Players with less ice time simply don't have the opportunity to drive as many Goals For & Against in the wrong direction.

Brad Stuart

#23 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings



Nov 06, 1979

2009 - Brad Stuart 69 2 13 15 -14 16 1 0 0 0 131 1.5

Perhaps he suffered the dual burden of Nicklas Kronwall's lengthy absence, along with comparison (in part) to one of hockey's all-time greats. Just as yesterday I cited Nicklas Lidstrom's stellar PK work, Stuart has been at the opposite end of that scale.

Nate Thompson

#44 / Center / Tampa Bay Lightning



Oct 05, 1984

2009 - Nate Thompson 58 2 6 8 -16 50 0 0 0 0 81 2.5

A two-team boat anchor dragging both the Islanders and Lightning out of playoff contention this year, Thompson is #2 on our list of disastrous penalty killers, which you'll find below.

Braydon Coburn

#5 / Defenseman / Philadelphia Flyers



Feb 27, 1985

2009 - Braydon Coburn 68 5 13 18 -6 48 1 0 0 0 110 4.5

Part of what drags Coburn down is a direct comparison to Matt Carle and Chris Pronger, who ranked highly on yesterday's MVP list, but his power play work has been a train wreck. During his 2+ minutes of 5-on-4 ice time per game, the Flyers score 4.7 goals per 60 minutes, a rate which would rank 29th as a team. When he's on the bench during a Philadelphia PP, they score more than twice as often.

The 5 Least Valuable Players in 5-on-5 Play

  1. Jack Johnson, Los Angeles (-27.7)
  2. Ruslan Fedotenko, Pittsburgh (-26.3)
  3. Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina (-23.4)
  4. Cody McLeod, Colorado (-22.7)
  5. Patrick O'Sullivan, Edmonton (-22.6)

The 5 Least Valuable Players on the Power Play (5-on-4)

  1. Tom Gilbert, Edmonton (-18.8)
  2. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh (-15.1)
  3. Scott Gomez, Montreal (-15.0)
  4. Braydon Coburn, Philadelphia (-13.5)
  5. Derick Brassard, Columbus (-13.4)

The 5 Least Valuable Penalty Killers (4-on-5)

  1. Richard Park, New York Islanders (-21.6)
  2. Nate Thompson, NY Islanders/Tampa Bay (-18.6)
  3. Brad Stuart, Detroit (-18.1)
  4. Ryan O'Reilly, Colorado (-16.8)
  5. Ryan Callahan, New York Rangers (-14.5)

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