Today we dive into the underlying numbers behind two of the quietly elite defensemen in the league, Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin
The Minnesota Wild have two analytical monsters, Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin. Both are elite defensemen who are underrated and don’t get the recognition they deserve league-wide due to the lack of offensive numbers, compared to the likes of John Carlson, Roman Josi, and Alex Pietrangelo.
When looking at their game analytically, it is impossible not to appreciate and discover how elite they are, the absence of one would disrupt the Wild defensive core to an extent one could not imagine.
When using analytics to gauge the overall value, and not just offensive production which is so heavily weighed in the NHL today, it is not a stretch to say Jared Spurgeon is a top 10 defenseman and Jonas Brodin is among the best -if not the best- when it comes to the defensive aspect of the game.
Let’s Dive In.
When looking at the analytics behind Jared Spurgeon’s game, it is no question why he owns the “complete game” tag as he is dominant and effective on both ends of the ice, despite being a smaller defenseman.
During Training Camp, the Wild locked up their elite defenseman to a seven-year, and just over $53 million extension that will start during the 2020-2021 season. Spurgeon now has the largest cap hit in Minnesota Wild history.
With the analytics field growing in hockey, Spurgeon is starting to get the recognition that he and others like him in the NHL have been unable to receive to this point due to offense production being valued higher than any other aspect by the NHL. Spurgeon had 12 goals and 20 assists this season, so in terms of points, Spurgeon’s 0.516 points per game percentage ranked 36th among all NHL defenseman which isn’t necessarily elite worthy production.
For a visualization:
Spurgeon has been consistently dominant over the years but the 2019-2020 regular season was a career year for him. Spurgeon’s 4.15 Corsi For/60min (CF/60) ranked 11th among defenseman and his -2.58 Corsi Against/60min (CA/60) ranked 30th among defenseman. Spurgeon’s -0.185 Expected Goals Against/60min (xGA/60) ranked 7th among defensemen. This isn’t surprising because Spurgeon’s effective defensive positioning allows him to limit and control shots and chances effectively while positively creating chances and shots on the other end of the ice.
Spurgeon ranked 1st among all defensemen in Expected Goals Above Replacement (xGAR) meanwhile ranking 11th in Goals Above Replacement (GAR). For note, xGAR essentially measures the expected number of goals more or less above replacement-level that the player should contribute, based on their on-ice actions. In comparison, where xGAR represents the performance of a player, GAR represents the results of that performance.
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Spurgeon had a 4.8 Standing Points Above Replacement (SPAR) this season as well, so essentially, the Wild without Spurgeon would be sitting at roughly 72 points rather than the 77 they finished at.
GAR, which takes into account all aspects of the game, displays that Spurgeon is essentially positively impacting all aspects of the game and is very good at creating offensive chances. Spurgeon also ranks 19th in Even Strength Defense, Adjusted Plus-Minus (EVD), and 5th in Power Play Opportunities (PPO) among defensemen.
Overall, Jared Spurgeon carries immense value with his dominant and effective play on both ends of the ice. His new seven-year contract is a great deal and keeps the Wild’s defensive core intact. Spurgeon is the Wild’s best defenseman and the Wild would have never got a return anywhere close to his value, definitely a wise choice to keep him.
There is an argument that Jonas Brodin is the best defenseman in the NHL when it comes to the defensive aspect of the game. Brodin is known for his consistent and reliable defensive-minded style, meanwhile being an amazing skater who can virtually get himself out of any situation due to his unbelievable footwork.
Brodin’s defense is unbelievable and any team would love to acquire Brodin. Like Spurgeon, the absence of Brodin would be detrimental to the Wild’s top four and would leave a big enough hole, that in my opinion can not be replaced from within. Brodin’s defense, skating, and footwork are next to none, which is why he brings immense value.
When Brodin’s current contract comes to an end, I think a good contract could look something like six or seven years at somewhere around 6-6.5 million AAV.
For a visualization:
In terms of points, Brodin has a career-high of 28 points. While Brodin does not bring a ton of value offensively, his defensive impact makes him extremely valuable. There is nobody as effective as Brodin defensively, he is a defensive specialist who is effective at limiting and controlling offensive chances.
Brodin ranks 14th in GAR among defenseman and has a SPAR of 4. GAR which takes into account offense and defense which makes this quite shocking as Brodin provides little to no value offensively (in point production) yet still ranked 14th among all defenseman in the NHL. The Wild without Brodin would be sitting at 73 points instead of 77.
Brodin also ranks 2nd in DEF and EVD among all defensemen. Brodin ranks 3rd in xGA/60 and 1st in CA/60 among all defensemen in the NHL. Brodin is a shut-down defenseman who consistently can effectively limit and control offensive chances, shots, and goals. It is rare to find someone as solid and consistent defensively as Brodin.
Overall, both Spurgeon and Brodin are essential, both are elite defenseman who are critical to the Wild’s defense, the absence of one would be detrimental.