Ian White - A Closer Look at EV

The Flames may or may not have much in the way of roster movement this summer, but one player that a decision needs to be made about is Ian White. The rearguard is a RFA on July 1st, and recent reports suggest a potential payday in the 3 million-plus range. The Commissioner's press conference Friday afternoon did bring the welcome news that the cap is likely to increase by about 2 million for next year, but the Flames are still in a precarious cap position, so "value for money" should be the watchwords when making a judgement on any potential contract for the Steinbach, MB. native. 

Now I know that the entire concept of "value for money" seems like it's lost on the Flames, but let's suspend our disbelief, at least for the purposes of this exercise, and have a look at Ian White's underlying numbers at EV with the Flames. As usual when we review these sorts of numbers, the data comes from Vic Ferrari's timeonice.com and Behind the Net.

 

White walked directly into the fire on arrival in Calgary, working with Robyn Regehr on the top pairing. The two of them faced the other team's best on the majority of nights, with an occasional assist from Bouwmeester and Staios.

 

First, White's overall EV possession numbers while playing for Calgary:

 

Shots F/A Shots % Misses F/A Fenwick % Blocks F/A Corsi %
224/207 .520 73/92 .498 93/101 .494

 

Those are pretty meh, to be honest, and the team's percentages during that period were decent (.517/.518/.523 for Shots/Fenwick/Corsi). That noted, given the level of competition he was facing, it could have been worse, and it should also be noted that he played a fair bit behind Iginla/Stajan. Those two got whipped pretty badly in terms of EV possession, so backing them up would sewer anyone's numbers. 

 

Since score effect is something that we pay attention to around these parts, White's EV numbers when the game was tied:

 

Shots F/A Shots % Misses F/A Fenwick % Blocks F/A Corsi%
69/60 .535 20/41 .468 31/34 .471

 

The Shots number is good, obviously, but unless Ian White has the voodoo ability to make people miss the net, I'd be a bit concerned about the other numbers. Again, it should be noted that he spent more time behind the, er , dynamic duo of Iginla and Stajan than any other forwards. When the score was tied and Iginla was on the ice with White, the percentages were .468/.372/.414. Those aren't good. Very, very bad, in fact. Jarome had that effect on people this year, and as I noted when I looked at Jay Bouwmeester early in the season, there's only so much any defenceman can do to affect possession when the forwards in front of them are struggling. I'm largely inclined to give White a pass based on that factor alone.

 

This next bit is an area I didn't want to revisit, but seems mandatory under the circumstances of White's arrival. One of the common refrains after the trade that brought White to Calgary was that, if nothing else, Regehr played much better hockey once he was away from Phaneuf. I was never really completely sold on that notion, so I thought I'd have a gander at Reggie's Shots/Fenwick/Corsi percentages, with Dion and then with White:

 

With Dion overall: .463/.471/.503

With Dion tied: .513/.513/.525

With White overall: .532/.505/.503

With White tied: .523/.459/.476

 

Those are some pretty odd looking numbers, and my suspicion is that the Flames really sat back with the lead during Phaneuf's time in Calgary. No matter, the possession numbers don't really suggest that Reggie was dramatically better once he shed Phaneuf. He didn't suddenly turn into Steve Staios either, so the results should likely be declared as mixed. If the stories suggesting some unrest around the team are grounded in fact, then the move can be defended on that basis, but I've spent exactly zero seconds in the Flames' dressing room, so I can only go on what happened on-ice. As I said, based on that information alone, ascribing some sort of superior effort on Regehr's part to the addition of White is stretching things a touch. If you want to make the relative value for money argument, that's another matter, and a defensible one, IMO.

I don't want this to turn into a White-Dion thing, but I will add one piece of information in White's favour. When Phaneuf was with the Flames, the team's ZoneStart was 50.3%. Dion's was 53.7%, which was easier than any of Bouwmeester, Regehr or Giordano. During White's time in Calgary, the team ZS was 55.4%, but his personal number was 53.4%, second toughest for the D and just 3 D zone faceoffs behind Regehr, so any BS about soft minutes for White during his stay in Cowtown is just that. When you have a tougher go than Jay Bouwmeester in that regard, you aren't shirking. 

 

So, returning to the matter at hand, how did White manage an acceptable +/- number given those underwhelming possession figures? Our old friends the percentages made a timely appearance, wouldn't you know? White was +22/-17 in terms of EV goals during his time with the Flames, largely due to the team shooting 9.8% when he was on-ice. White shot 10.3% himself, and both of those numbers are higher than what might be considered normal.  His overall PDO (on-ice SH% and SV %) was 101.6. Again, that's a bit high and might be tough to sustain, although not impossible.

The number that really jumped out at me was White's PDO when the score was tied. During his time with the Flames, the SV% when he was on-ice in that scenario was .950 and the SH% was 11.6, for a PDO of 106.6. When he and Regehr were both on-ice with the score tied, the numbers were .941 and 8.9, for a PDO of 103. If you wondered why there was a sense that White and Regehr were doing well, I might suggest that it may well be because the bounces were going their way. Luck's a nice thing to have, but I wouldn't want to rely on it as a foundation for team-building.

 

So, with all that, what do we have here? Being completely candid, I had the feeling that White was playing a level of competition that was a bit too high for him, and the underlying numbers do seem to hint that may be so, even accepting the fact that the forwards in front of him left a lot to be desired. In a perfect world, Ian White would make a very nice second pairing D-man, with considerable PP time and the odd PK shift making up his icetime. That sort of player is pretty useful, and Ian White likely fits that mold quite nicely, but is that worth 3-3.5 million? Given his offensive production, it's likely close, but I just can't shake the feeling that a 3.5 million a year deal would be paying right at the top of the market. Maybe I'm undervaluing him, but if Steve Staios disappeared, slotting Ian White into that 2.5-2.75 million pay range just feels like it fits a bit better. It wouldn't set an outlandish precedent for Giordano's looming UFA year, either, and that has to be a consideration for the team in any dealings with White. Of course, with Sarich and Staios currently on the books, Ian White could be an ex-Flame by early July. That would be a shame. I might not be comfortable with him in the top pairing, but he's better value now and for the future than either of those two gents by a considerable margin.

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