Is Christian Folin Playing Worse Than Nate Prosser?


On Thursday the Minnesota Wild reassigned defenseman Christian Folin to the Iowa Wild. Folin has been scratched for six straight games and with an apparent trust in Matt Dumba developing, Folin doesn’t look to have any other way to get playing time other than to head to the AHL.

Lots of folks don’t understand the decision to continue to play Nate Prosser over Folin. There’s certainly an argument to be made in Folin’s favor. He posts a P/60 of .7 to Prosser’s .5, which isn’t insignificant, though Folin’s stat is posted with 29 games, opposed to Prosser’s 44.

Folin has done that with a -1.8% ZSO%Rel. He’s able to eat some bad zone starts, but the team does have Prosser eating a ton of bad zone starts. Prosser is at -14.8% ZSO%Rel, tied with Marco Scandella for the worst starts among team defenseman.

That discrepancy makes it tough to just use their raw CF%Rel as a metric of the impact they’re having on the ice. Folin sits at a -1.4% CF%Rel and Prosser at a -7.8%. Usage-Adjusted Corsi can be useful here. Folin’s minutes don’t meet the minimum threshold to appear at Own the Puck, but thanks to Domenic Galamini at OtP I have the numbers through his small sample size.

Folin’s 51.4% CF% drops a bit in his Usage-Adjusted numbers to 49.8%. Prosser sits at 45.2% CF% unadjusted and 43.5% in Usage-Adjusted. Again, Folin looks a little better despite the tough zone starts Prosser is handed.

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We can also use their dCorsi to get a better sense of the comparison. (Full explanation from Steve Burtch at that link on dCorsi, but the half sentence version is that it reveals the difference between a player’s Expected Corsi and Observed Corsi.)

Folin’s dCorsi is 10.59 and Prosser’s is -27.81. That’s a pretty big gulf and the Expected Corsi for Prosser based on his minutes and usage isn’t very high. His Expected Corsi For per 60 minutes (ECF60) is 46.67 (a number he’s getting slightly better than) and his Expected Corsi Against per 60 minutes (ECA60) is 53.19 (his numbers are far worse).

The only real argument we can make right here for Prosser being a better fit (based on an admittedly small sample size for Folin) is the penalty kill. I talked a bit about the problem the Wild face on the kill with Matt Cooke, Jason Zucker, and Ryan Carter all out of the lineup for an extended period. Prosser is averaging 1.9 minutes per game on the kill, fourth highest among Wild defensemen. Folin is averaging just .4 minutes. Only Dumba averages fewer minutes.

If we look at the Goals Against per 60 minutes of penalty kill time (GA60) we see that Folin has the worst GA60 of all Wild d-men at 9.7, though that’s a little inflated by the very small number of minutes he’s playing. Prosser is at 4.2. That’s a better number than the Wild are getting from Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, and Jared Spurgeon. (Both Brodin and Spurgeon log more minutes on the kill than Prosser. Suter is tied with Prosser at 1.9.)

Prosser doesn’t have gaudy numbers on the kill by any stretch (Scandella’s GA60 on the kill is 2.2), but there does seem to be some reason to trust him with those minutes. If you have a defenseman outside of the top six who can eat up some minutes on the penalty kill effectively you could take some of the playing time burden off your top players (great in theory, though we know Yeo will still play Suter for 30 minutes a game anyway) and you can take a little burden off the forwards, who don’t need to overcompensate. The team may want to ease some of the burden from Koivu’s minutes and they’re calling up forwards with an eye on PK specialists. With those concerns and a strong top 4, it makes some sense to keep an eye on how you can help yourself with defensemen who are solid on the kill.

It’s not the most compelling of arguments for Prosser over Folin, but the Wild’s penalty kill has been an under-discussed part of their recent success. The last time Wild allowed a power play goal was January 20. With a number of players out, the team does need to keep an eye on the penalty kill and make sure that it continues to be a reliable part of the system. Nonetheless, Folin’s performance overall has been superior to Prosser by a fair amount, so it’s tough to see him scratched for six staright and not getting the time he needs to develop and help the team.

Unless otherwise noted, stats via War on Ice.