Nashville Predators fans are known for bringing the noise with a variety of traditions and chants that the crowd engages in on a nightly basis, but head coach Barry Trotz may not like the latest one being proposed; "Split 2-8".
The defense pairing of Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Klein has been a lightning rod of criticism all season, due to perceived under-performance from those two as a group; while they each may be fine defensemen, as a pairing they often leave Predators fans doing the "facepalm". Just check the #split28 hashtag on Twitter for a sampling of the conversation.
But is that pairing really so bad, or is this a case of fans picking on these guys unjustly? After all, even stars like Shea Weber and Ryan Suter mess up on occasion.
Follow after the jump for a breakdown of how the various defense pairs have really fared this season...
The table below shows, for selected defense pairings, the following Even Strength data from TimeOnIce.com:
- Games Played
- Goals For when they've been on the ice
- Goals Against when they've been on the ice
- Totals Shots For when they've been on the ice (Shots + Missed Shots + Blocked Shots)
- Total Shots Against when they've been on the ice
- Corsi (.500 means Total Shots For = Total Shots Against, better than .500 is good, etc.)
- The Save Percentage for Nashville when that defense pair is on the ice. This is meant to express the quality of the shots they are giving up.
|Defense Pairs (Even Strength)||GP||GF||GA||Tot SF||Tot SA||Corsi||On-Ice Sv %|
|Ryan Suter / Shea Weber||60||39||34||900||796||.531||.927|
|Dan Hamhuis / Kevin Klein||57||23||32||524||532||.496||.881|
|Francis Bouillon / Cody Franson||38||11||5||211||190||.526||.954|
|Francis Bouillon / Alexander Sulzer||17||4||5||140||134||.511||.934|
|Francis Bouillon / Shea Weber||28||1||1||39||53||.424||.958|
|Dan Hamhuis / Shea Weber||33||3||3||44||34||.564||.850|
|Ryan Suter / Kevin Klein||27||3||1||28||41||.406||.952|
There are two big items that jump out at me here. First (obvious since I've shaded it) is the fact that when Hamhuis and Klein are out there together, shots go in the net at a much greater pace than with the other main defense pairs. While it's possible that this is just a matter of dumb luck, it's pretty hard to make that argument when you've seen as many gaffes as Hamhuis and Klein have committed this season. The fact that their Corsi number is under .500 doesn't bother me much, because they do generally face elite talent from the other team, and the rating is not too bad there. But that .881 Save Percentage is a real groaner. The bottom line is that Hamhuis/Klein give up nasty scoring chances and it continues to burn the Preds on a regular basis (I even split their performance down into various segments, and this trend has continued all year).
As a point of reference, the team's overall Save Percentage at Even Strength is .921.
The second remarkable aspect of all this is how stubborn these pairings have been; Suter & Weber play together, Hamhuis & Klein play together, and Bouillon babysits. We really don't see much variation from that scheme.
There's been an idea I've tossed out several times this season, and based on what we saw at the Olympics, I'm inclined to press it even further. Might the Predators be better served by breaking up Ryan Suter & Shea Weber, going with Hamhuis/Weber and Suter/Klein, for instance? That way, instead of having your two star defensemen on the ice together for 20 minutes a game, you can have at least one of them out there for 40.
With Denis Grebeshkov in the mix, there are a variety of options available now, one of which might involve bumping Klein back down to a 3rd pairing for the time being. No matter what, I think it's clear that "Split 2-8" would be a good move right now.
Note: Due to small sample size, I wouldn't read too much into the Corsi and On-Ice Sv % numbers on those last 3 lines in the table.