These two defenders will be forever linked in my mind as they were traded for each other in February. For some inexplicable reason, the Predators also sent a sixth-round pick in the 2022 draft to the Anaheim Ducks in the deal. The immediate reaction to the deal is best summarized by Kate in this article.
Disclaimer: I am aware that both of these gentlemen are third-pairing defenders. I am aware of what that means from a hockey standpoint. I am also acutely aware of what can reasonably be expected from a third-pairing defender. My analyses and grading is based on their comparison to other third-pairing defenders. I will also let it be known that I am a champion of the third-pairing defenders, in general. They fill a necessary and vital role and should not be expected to defend or produce offense on the levels of their first- and second-pairing peers. In spite of all this, my views remain.
The season began with high hopes that Matt Irwin wouldn’t make the team out of training camp and would be replaced by one of the many suitable, quality defenders from the team’s organizational depth with the Milwaukee Admirals. However, it was not to be.
Irwin suited up in gold once more and occupied a spot on the roster, and sometimes the ice, as a third pairing defender. In February, no one is really sure why, David Poile made the call to send Matt Irwin and a late-round pick to Anaheim in exchange for Korbinian Holzer. Much to the chagrin of the staff here at On The Forecheck, Holzer suited up for the Predators as a third-pairing defender.
Somehow, there are a few (and I mean that in the truest sense of the word) defenders in the NHL who were worse than Matt Irwin and Korbinian Holzer, and they were not on the Predators. That’s the good news. The other good news is that Matt Irwin is out of the organization and Korbinian Holzer will not return to the team, per David Poile in an interview on September 29, 2020.
That’s literally all “The Good”; I’m sorry.
I could post videos here, but do you really want to watch them? Probably not. Pretend there was an 80s movie that focused on hockey and “saving the rec center.” Imagine that at some point, there’s a montage of two red-headed adult men (one is German) playing hockey, but instead of it being an inspirational montage, it’s actually a video meant to depress the viewer and make them question the choices they’ve made in their life. And then they end up losing the rec center.
I think I can sum most of this up using the following charts:
Bright red with single digits is not a measure of success here.
Notice that many of these numbers are also red. As a reminder, red doesn’t mean good. Yes, there are a few green boxes, but don’t get too excited.
Just for the sake of comparison, notice how some more of these numbers are framed in lighter shades of red and some highlights in green? Again, Yannick Weber is a third-pairing defender on the Predators and he is clearly far better than these two. Take a look at Dan Hamhuis:
Again, we aren’t talking top pairings here, but even within the Predators’ own locker room, better options were available.
Of course, what about around the league? Surely there were many other players on other teams who are just as bad, right?
Take a look at this chart:
You see that chart? Do you know what it is? It’s the BOTTOM 30 defenders in the entire NHL. Now, before I tell you to disregard the lowest-rated defender in the league (that’s another article for another time), let me say that you’ll notice that Matt Irwin is 14th on the list, or the 16th-worst defender in the NHL. Could it get worse? Well, when the Predators traded for Holzer, they were actually getting a WORSE defender in the 6th-worst defender in the NHL, Korbinian Holzer. Realistically, the only winner in this trade was Anaheim, because they got a late-round pick. It’s best not to spend too much time pondering this trade. This paragraph already wastes too much space on it.
Also, disregard the lowest-rated defender on the list.
February 24th, 2020 - Matt Irwin is traded to the Anaheim Ducks.
February 24th, 2020 - Korbinian Holzer is traded to the Nashville Predators
September 29th, 2020:
Frankly, the fact that we don’t have to look ahead to a future that involves either player being on the team is a positive thing. The team did, however, debut a new player, much in the same vein as Holzer and Irwin, during the return-to-play training camp:
The same level of play with none of the cost.
Overall Grade: F+
Even compared to other third-pairing defenders, these guys were bad by all metrics. I only put the plus in there because neither one of them actually caused serious damage to anyone on the ice or scored an own goal.
Do you agree with Shaun’s grade?
This poll is closed
Yes - these dudes were not good at hockey
No - these are third-pairing defenders and you can’t expect them to be Roman Josi
Feel free to add your comments!