WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 20: Roman Josi #59 of the Nashville Predators advances the puck up the ice against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on December 20, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
One of the most satisfying developments of this Nashville Predators season has been the play of rookie defenseman Roman Josi, the Swiss rearguard who has grown into a 2nd-pairing role at even strength alongside Kevin Klein, and a prominent spot on the power play. He represents the latest in a long line of Predators blueliners who have taken the road through Milwaukee on his way to Nashville, having spent all of last season with the Admirals getting used to the North American rink dimensions and style of play.
|2011 - Roman Josi||29||2||7||9||-7||10||1||0||0||39||5.1|
Recall, however, that Jonathon Blum had Preds fans similarly excited last spring, as he immediately stepped into a prominent role in the latter portion of the regular season and playoffs. This season, however, something appeared to be different, and after racking up a -14 Plus/Minus over 33 games, Blum was dispatched to Milwaukee, where he has toiled ever since.
The natural question, then, is whether such a fate might await Josi - how does his rookie campaign compare to Blum's, and what does this portend for his (and Blum's) future?
Looking at 5-on-5 is perhaps our best comparison between Blum & Josi, since each of them has spent most of their time playing the left side alongside Kevin Klein taking on relatively tough duty (at least that was the case for Blum last season, not so much this year):
|Season||Player||GP||TOI/60||PTS/60||NetZS||Adj Corsi/60||AdjRel/60||Team Shoot %||Save %||PDO||GFON/60||GAON/60||+/-/60|
Both players worked around 15 minutes of 5-on-5 per game, with Blum chipping in more offensively. The Adjusted Corsi numbers take those Zone Starts into consideration, and here both players show up as being pretty significantly underwater, spending more time chasing opponents in the defensive end rather than pushing the play up-ice. Interestingly, the "AdjRel" column (which shows the difference between that individual's numbers, and how the team performs when he's on the bench) shows that at least Blum wasn't much worse than the Preds overall this season.
Blum's strong showing in 2010-11 was driven in very large part by a fortunate PDO of 1068 (read here for more on PDO and what it means), mostly due to that 13.92% shooting percentage by the Predators during his ice time. In a nutshell, PDO represents the sum of your team's shooting percentage while you're on the ice, and the save percentage. 1000 is the average here, and implication is that the vast majority of players have little or no individual impact on those results. Basically, it's a "luck indicator". Values over 1000 show a player who is getting the bounces, while sub-1000 levels indicate a guy who is perhaps getting a bum rap and is likely to rebound.
The hockey gods smiled upon Blum last season, and struck him down this time around, as is their wont. When it comes to guiding the flow of play, Josi & Blum's results have been almost identical so far. But with Blum, the relative change in fortune has made it look like he took a gigantic step backwards.
With Josi, I think we can say that he's still a work in progress here, and if the Predators are indeed planning on assembling a real contender this season, he should probably take a step back to the 3rd pair. Fill in your own trade speculation on what kind of reliable 2nd-pair blueliner David Poile might be able to scrounge up...
Power Play (5-on-4)
This is where there has been a very clear difference in production, with Josi jumping right into the mix as a contributor on the power play. Blum hasn't been able to put much together, even if you look at his total 56 games of NHL experience across both seasons.
The implications going forward would seem to be that Josi needs to remain in his power play role (Hillen & Bouillon are poor options there), but needs to take a step back down the ladder in even strength work for the stretch run and playoffs. Blum's value on the trade market may decline as that heady 2010-2011 campaign recedes further into memory, as he boasts the bottom Plus/Minus on the Admirals so far, too.
It also appears that his power play prowess should keep Josi at the NHL level long enough to continue his maturation and develop into the defender we all hope to see.