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Does Shea Weber Need Ryan Suter?

The Predators-minus-Weber are a surprising 3-1 this season. Meanwhile, two nights ago, the Predators-sans-Suter lost and dropped to 4-7-1 over the past two years. These results have some fans wondering if Ryan Suter is more valuable than Shea Weber, or more pressingly, if Weber can remain dominant without Suter.

To test these statements, I decided to look a little deeper at each defenseman's numbers without his all-star partner. The popular consensus is that Weber is the dominant member of the pairing, the "1A," so to suggest Suter is more indispensable seems counterintuitive. Weber paces Suter in nearly every traditional stat--goals, assists, plus/minus--and the more esoteric possession ones, like Corsi and Zone Finish%.

Unsurprisingly, the numbers show that, despite the W-L record, Weber played fine without Suter. In fact, Weber has arguably performed better without Suter in the past two season than vice versa. First let's compare Suter's performance in the four games Weber missed to Weber's performance in the Islanders game and Rangers game:

Player Corsi ON Corsi OFF Corsi REL
Suter -11 -5 -6
Suter 5 -1 6
Suter -6 -1 -5
Suter -1 0 -1
Weber 10 -5 15
Weber 5 -5 10

The biggest problem in using team record to evaluate individual performance is obvious--the team's poor play can overwhelm any one player's impact. I'm using Corsi REL to account for this issue. So in this chart you see: shots when the player is on the ice (Corsi ON), shots when the player is off the ice (Corsi OFF), and the individual's performance adjusted for the team's (Corsi REL).

In all but one game, Suter's results look pretty pedestrian--slightly worse than the rest of the team, even. On the New York swing, by contrast, Weber pushed the shots +15, while the rest of the team was -10.

But what about the 10 consecutive games Suter missed last season, in which the Predators went 3-5-2? Granted Weber was -37 in shots for those ten games, but the rest of the team was a brutal -63. The final breakdown looks like this:

Player W-L Partner Corsi ON Corsi REL
Weber 4-7-1 Bouillon -1.8 1.2
Suter 3-1-0 Josi -3.3 -1.5

There are other considerations here, of course. Bouillon is arguably better than Josi. And these numbers only cover 5-on-5 play--which player provides more on special teams is also debatable (although it's hard to argue with the Power Play going 0-16 without Weber). My point, though, was not to argue for one player being more replaceable--the Predators suffer without either. The idea that W-L record proves Suter to be more valuable than Weber, however, is totally unfounded.