Advanced Stats: Halpern a solid value signing

For Ranger fans looking for excitement this offseason it’s been a relative bore through the first three weeks of the summer. No big trade for Nash, Yandle or Ryan; no splashy free agent signings. In fact, another high-profile Ranger target, Shea Weber, passed on the Blue Shirts reportedly in favor of signing a huge offer sheet with the rival Flyers. While that hurts in and of itself, Weber’s rejection might also increase pressure on Slats to make a big move to add a scorer sooner rather than later.

Regardless of what may or may not happen in the weeks to come as it pertains to Nash, Ryan, etc., Slats has not sat on his hands this summer. He hasn’t made any headline moves but has made several additions to improve depth in the organization. Perhaps the most important of those depth additions was the recent signing of UFA center Jeff Halpern.

While the Rangers finished in the middle of the pack in faceoff percentage last season winning exactly 50% of their draws, it seemed as if the inability to win key faceoffs hurt the team at critical times. The club’s PP was subpar and losing the faceoff in the offensive zone immediately following a penalty call against the opponent was at least one factor why. Too often they would lose the draw allowing the opponent an easy clear thus killing off roughly the first quarter of the man-advantage opportunity.

Enter Halpern who has won at least 51.8% of his draws in each season post-lockout. Granted, Halpern wasn’t signed to play on the PP but his ability to win faceoffs will help in other areas. The veteran center more or less will be expected to fill a fourth line role effectively replacing the recently departed John Mitchell. It’s expected a fourth-line center is solid in the faceoff circle and that he will be responsible defensively. How well can Halpern be expected to perform in that role? Let’s compare his numbers to those of other fourth-line-type centers signed to new deals this summer to find out. First, let’s take a look at the other players in this comparison.

Zenon Konopka – When it looked like the Rangers would lose Prust many fans pushed for the team to add Konopka. He hurt the Rangers in their first-round series with his exceptional ability to win draws and is a pretty rough and tough customer to boot. He signed a two-year deal worth $1.85 million with the Wild.

Jake Dowell – Dowell ironically also signed as a free agent with Minnesota earning a $700,000, one-year contract with the Wild. He averaged just 7:37 of ice time per game last year with Dallas; an average befitting a fourth-liner.

Jay McClement – An argument could be made that McClement is more of a 3rd line player given his previous production and responsibilities. Still, after agreeing to sign with Toronto it remains to be seen where he’ll slot in the Leafs lineup. He has excelled in the faceoff circle in his career and generally sees a fair amount of ice time SH. He is probably more of a third-liner but we’ll include him anyhow. McClement is slated to earn $1.5 million per in each of the next two seasons.

John Mitchell – The aforementioned Mitchell parlayed a steady 63 game run with the Rangers into a multi-year contract with the Avalanche where it is expected he will replace our previous entry, Jay McClement. Mitchell stands to make a healthy $1.1 million per season from his new employer.

Since we’ve mentioned contract terms, Halpern’s one-year contract with the Rangers will earn the veteran pivot just $700,000 this season.

Since the player’s skill in the faceoff circle is paramount we’ll examine the track records of each player over the past three seasons. (Note: Jake Dowell played in just three games during the 2009-2010 season so his stats for that season will be omitted).

Season

FOW

FOL

FO%

Halpern

2011-2012

365

260

58.4%

 

2010-2011

338

256

56.9%

 

2009-2010

294

276

51.6%

Average:

997

792

55.7%

Konopka

2011-2012

232

162

58.9%

 

2010-2011

620

455

57.7%

 

2009-2010

288

174

62.3%

Average:

1140

791

59.0%

Dowell

2011-2012

94

103

47.7%

 

2010-2011

319

333

48.9%

Average:

413

436

48.6%

McClement

2011-2012

448

425

51.3%

 

2010-2011

595

557

51.6%

 

2009-2010

701

711

49.6%

Average:

1744

1693

50.7%

Mitchell

2011-2012

103

96

51.8%

 

2010-2011

83

66

55.7%

 

2009-2010

244

233

51.2%

Average:

430

395

52.1%

 

Konopka is far and away the top faceoff guy in this study. Only McClement has both taken and won more draws but his success rate pales in comparison to that of Konopka’s. Halpern comes in solidly in second place with a 55.7% winning percentage.  Dowell is the only contender to lose more draws than he won.

Fourth-line players are fourth-line players for a reason; they usually aren’t good enough to play a top-nine role regularly even if they do bring certain useful skills to the table. Consequently, opposing coaches will try to matchup their scoring lines against the fourth-line as often as possible. This generally will lead to fourth-liners playing not only with below-average teammates but against better opponents. That fact can also impact other metrics such as Relative Corsi so we shouldn’t expect particularly sterling results there.

Season

Rel. Corsi

QoC

QoT

QoT-QoC

ZS

ZF

ZF-ZS

Halpern

2011-2012

2.90

-0.029

-0.011

-0.018

39.2

42.0

2.8

 

2010-2011

-12.60

0.049

-0.114

0.163

43.3

44.4

1.1

 

2009-2010

-2.70

0.043

-0.009

0.052

43.1

44.5

1.4

Average:

-4.13

0.021

-0.045

0.066

41.9

43.6

1.8

Konopka

2011-2012

-14.40

-0.072

-0.100

0.028

48.9

45.8

-3.1

 

2010-2011

-23.50

-0.065

-0.240

0.175

30.2

43.8

13.6

 

2009-2010

-7.20

-0.032

-0.311

0.279

29.0

45.8

16.8

Average:

-15.03

-0.056

-0.217

0.161

36.0

45.1

9.1

Dowell

2011-2012

13.90

-0.146

-0.270

0.124

48.5

53.3

4.8

 

2010-2011

-4.40

-0.063

-0.109

0.046

42.7

48.3

5.6

Average:

4.75

-0.105

-0.190

0.085

45.6

50.8

5.2

McClement

2011-2012

-11.20

0.101

-0.132

0.233

34.3

47.5

13.2

 

2010-2011

-12.00

0.016

-0.178

0.194

39.1

47.9

8.8

 

2009-2010

-14.50

0.062

0.054

0.008

41.2

49.4

8.2

Average:

-12.57

0.060

-0.085

0.145

38.2

48.3

10.1

Mitchell

2011-2012

11.10

-0.080

-0.002

-0.078

45.7

50.1

4.4

 

2010-2011

-7.00

-0.049

-0.136

0.087

57.5

53.0

-4.5

 

2009-2010

0.90

-0.003

-0.037

0.034

52.9

54.0

1.1

Average:

1.67

-0.044

-0.058

0.014

52.0

52.4

0.3

 

I’ve added a couple of columns to the grid in addition to the normal metrics. I did this to quantify the differences between QoC and QoT and the variance in Zone Starts. A negative result in the QoT-QoC column signifies the player played with a stronger quality of teammates than he did opponents. A positive figure in the ZF-ZS category demonstrates the player was able to help flip ice position in the favor of his club.

Only Jake Dowell and John Mitchell has posted a positive Rel. Corsi averages over the last few seasons. Of course Mitchell probably benefitted from playing with a better quality of teammates last season which he took advantage of by posting a solid 11.10 Rel. Corsi rating. Halpern was the only other player besides Mitchell and Dowell to post a positive Rel. Corsi rating in any of the seasons under consideration and that was a modest 2.9 recorded last season. Konopka has been flat out awful the last three seasons seeing an average of 15 more shots directed at his net per 60 minutes than shots taken for.

Mitchell and Dowell have each started a majority of their shifts in the offensive zone which gives them an advantage over the others. McClement and Konopka both have done a great job of improving their teams’ ice position during their shifts. Halpern only modestly turned the ice position in his team’s favor with a differential of 1.8.

Now we’ll compare how each player performed according to Hockey Prospectus’ GVT metric.

Season

GVT

GVT/Gm

Halpern

2011-2012

2.5

0.036

 

2010-2011

6.3

0.088

 

2009-2010

1.1

0.015

Average:

9.9

0.047

Konopka

2011-2012

-0.7

-0.013

 

2010-2011

-0.5

-0.006

 

2009-2010

-2

-0.027

Average:

-3.2

-0.015

Dowell

2011-2012

0

0.000

 

2010-2011

3.4

0.043

Average:

3.4

0.026

McClement

2011-2012

1.8

0.023

 

2010-2011

0.5

0.006

 

2009-2010

4

0.049

Average:

6.3

0.026

Mitchell

2011-2012

1.5

0.024

 

2010-2011

-0.1

-0.004

 

2009-2010

2.7

0.045

Average:

4.1

0.028

 

GVT favors Halpern over the competitors by 40% on a per game basis over his closes competitor the last three seasons. If we utilize the 3-1-1 rule, which means for every three goals either scored or prevented, at least in terms of GVT, results in one standings point. We’ve also concluded in a past post that the average team pays approximately $1.03 million for each standings point. Using that we can determine how valuable Halpern and his competitors would be given their previous performance and based on playing a full 82-game schedule.

Season

GVT

GVT/Gm

PVT

Value($)

Halpern

2011-2012

2.5

0.036

1.0

$1,020,048.3

 

2010-2011

6.3

0.088

2.4

$2,463,416.7

 

2009-2010

1.1

0.015

0.4

$436,178.4

Average:

9.9

0.047

1.3

$1,314,707.5

Konopka

2011-2012

-0.7

-0.013

-0.3

-$358,315.2

 

2010-2011

-0.5

-0.006

-0.2

-$171,666.7

 

2009-2010

-2

-0.027

-0.7

-$760,900.9

Average:

-3.2

-0.015

-0.4

-$426,970.0

Dowell

2011-2012

0

0.000

0.0

$0.0

 

2010-2011

3.4

0.043

1.2

$1,211,662.4

Average:

3.4

0.026

0.7

$730,697.2

McClement

2011-2012

1.8

0.023

0.6

$633,450.0

 

2010-2011

0.5

0.006

0.2

$175,958.3

 

2009-2010

4

0.049

1.3

$1,373,333.3

Average:

6.3

0.026

0.7

$732,917.4

Mitchell

2011-2012

1.5

0.024

0.7

$670,317.5

 

2010-2011

-0.1

-0.004

-0.1

-$122,405.8

 

2009-2010

2.7

0.045

1.2

$1,266,900.0

Average:

4.1

0.028

0.8

$790,607.3

 

Basically, when we weigh the GVT contributions of the players in this study and assign and using $1.03 million per standings-point-versus-threshold (PVT) we find Halpern is the only player that has outperformed his 2012 salary on average over the last three seasons. In fact, Halpern has been worth on average nearly double what he is due to earn this season. Of course it’s entirely possible he won’t perform up to his average this next season but it appears the Rangers got a bargain in Halpern relative to past production.

The addition of Halpern isn’t going to guarantee the Rangers a playoff spot in 2013 nor will it by itself propel the team further in the postseason. However Sather addressed a team weakness, faceoffs, by adding an effective player and did so by paying less than other options on the market. The stats bear out that Halpern is certainly on par with, if not better, than the players we’ve compared him to.

If we take a more simplistic approach, Halpern has been a better player than the man he replaces, John Mitchell. It makes more sense if you’re going to use free agency to fill this spot to do so with a player like Halpern over Mitchell or other options available. Halpern comes on a one-year deal for a salary just more than half of his actual average value over the past three seasons. From a value perspective Halpern is easily the better value.