Matt Carle: Why?

The Flyers may very well re-sign Matt Carle, probably at a high cost too, at least $4.25M putting him in the mid 30s of defenseman in terms of salary, if he gets $4.5M, that puts him in the low 20s. That’s top pairing defenseman money. Even if they miraculously do not sign him, someone else will give him a big pay day. Dennis freaking Wideman just got $5.25 a year and everyone that isn’t Wideman, his family, his agent and Jay Feaster agree: that’s insane.

“Sorry Bob.”

With Kimmo Timmonen, Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, Nicklas Grossman and the addition of Luke Schenn, the defense will be fine without Matt Carle. Eric Gustafsson and Marc Andre Bourdon have shown enough to earn the 6th/7th defenseman spot with Andreas Lilja’s cap hit. Yes, you could trade Meszaros and then sign Zach Parise, but that’s mismanagement of cap space. You’d have more by letting Carle walk.

Giving Carle a top 30 contract is foolish, he is not a top pairing defenseman. If you think he is, take a moment and clear your mind. (I’m talking to you Paul Holmgren.) Now that you’ve done that, answer this: What does Matt Carle do to justify being paid like a #2 defenseman? I’ll save you the time thinking of the answer, it is:

Nothing.

He’s not a terrible player, but he’s not a particularly good one either, unless you want to base your whole argument on his 2010-11 season and not his career.

There are plenty of things he doesn’t do well though. He does not make good decisions. He turns the puck over, and at the worst times. He does not play the body, he does not shoot well, he is not a physical player, he does not take a hit, he does not clear the crease, he pinches far too much and gives up odd man rushes against… is that enough?

Even the things he does well, he doesn’t do well enough to earn the paycheck he’s about to get.

Well, you might say, he produces points. Not really. He is a product of his environment, and he’s not even that good of a product.

2009-2010: 35 pts., 36th; ES 21 pts., 39th
2010-2011: 40 pts., 27th; ES 38pts., 1st
2011-2012: 38 pts., T-21st; ES 26 pts., 12th

An offensive defenseman who can only crack 40 points once in three years (twice in six years in his career)? That’s not good enough. (I use only the last three years because he was a full time Flyer during that time period, and only 25 games under John Stevens instead of 89.)

The Flyers do not need him for 5 v 5 offense. Timmonen, Coburn and Meszaros all had 22 points this year, last year Timmonen had 19, Meszaros 26. Sure it’s nice to have his offense and they will likely some drop off if they replace him with nobody, but his contributions are not vital.

Of course, raw point totals only scratch the surface. Advanced stats are a mixed bag for Carle but illustrate that he is product of his environment more than his environment is a product of him.

5 v 5, minimum 60 games played:

2009-10: On Ice +/-: 11th, Off Ice +/-: 136th, Qual. of Comp: 21st, Qual. of Teammates: 14th, Points/60: 73rd, A1/60: 35th, A2/60: 117th

2010-11: On Ice +/-: 7th, Off Ice +/-: 53rd, Qual. of Comp: 101st, Qual. of Teammates: 24th, Points/60: 3rd, A1/60: 2nd, A2/60: 3rd

2011-12: On Ice +/-: 65th; Off Ice +/-: 22nd; Qual. of Comp: 50th, Qual. of Teammates: 58th, Points/60: 11th, A1/60: 16th, A2/60: 6th

First pairing defensemen do not finish 101st in Quality of Competition. You know who does? Dennis Wideman. Have fun with that Calgary.

Look at his On and Off Ice +/- and his Quality of Teammates. This year he played with weaker teammates and the team wasn’t as good with him and was better without him. In other words, he can’t carry a pairing. In his first full season with the team, Carle faced his toughest competition and had his weakest offensive year, which isn’t an earth shattering revelation. In the last two years, as the defense has added talent, his ice time has gotten easier, and as a result his scoring as gone up, as you would expect from any player. His scoring rate ties in closely with his secondary assists. Why did the assists, in particular the secondary assists go up? The Flyers got way better across the board offensively. The Hartnell-Briere-Leino trio gave the Flyers a second scoring line they didn’t have for most of 2009-10, Claude Giroux took a big step in his development raising his point total from 47 to 76 points, Scott Hartnell rebounded from the worst regular season of his career and the addition of Andrej Meszaros gave the team more offense on the blue line as he and Sean O’Donnell replaced a revolving door of Danny Syvret, Ryan Parent, Oscar Bartulis and Lukas Krajicek. Meszaros/O’Donnell: 40 points in 161 games, Revolving Door: 18 points in 149 games. Last off-season they got even deeper. In 2009-10, the Flyers were 22nd in 5 v 5 goals. In 2010-11 they were 2nd, in 2011-12 they were 7th. An increase of 5 v 5 ice time is not a factor, in 2009-10 they were 29th in 5 v 5 TOI, 2010-11 24th, 2011-12 30th.

Considering the major roster turnover the Flyers have had the past three seasons, his linemates have been relatively steady. Giroux and Hartnell in the top 5 every year, Briere in two of the three years. Hartnell-Briere-Leino was atrocious defensively, and Carle spent a lot of time playing with that line. That is not a coincidence.

2009-10: Pronger, Richards, Carter, Giroux, Hartnell, Gagne, Carcillo, Briere, JVR, Laperriere
2010-11: Pronger, Hartnell, Briere, Leino, Giroux, Carter, Meszaros, Richards, JVR, Nodl
2011-12: Bourdon, Hartnell, Simmonds, Giroux, Briere, Read, Talbot, Jagr, Voracek, Couturier

His opponents have not remained steady. Players who show up twice are in bold, players who show up thrice are in bold and italics.

2009-10: Brandon Dubinsky, Dan Girardi, Marian Gaborik, Marc Staal, Eric Christensen, Zdeno Chara, Andy Greene, Travis Zajac, Michael Del Zotto, Michael Rosival

2010-11: Ilya Kovalchuk, Henrik Tallinder, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Andy Greene, Travis Zajac, Paul Martin, Anton Volchenkov, Kris Letang, Michael Sauer

2011-12: Mark Streit, Andrew MacDonald, Ryan McDonagh, Pierre Parentau, Dan Girardi, Brooks Orpik, Travis Hamonic, Ryan Callahan, Josh Bailey, John Tavares

That’s a really unimpressive list of opponents last year. From regular shifts against some of the best goal scorers in the division in Marian Gaborik and Ilya Kovalchuk to… P.A. Parenteau.

The BSH link makes the point that Carle ends more shifts in the offensive zone than he starts. This is true only for the one year they looked at.

2009-10: Starts 49.5, Ends 49.2, Net -0.3
2010-11: Starts 47.8, Ends 50.4, Net +2.6
2011-12: Starts 49.4, Ends 48.8, Net -0.6

How about Matt Carle on the power play? No.

2009-10: 14 PP points, T-38th
2010-11: 2 PP points, T-101st
2011-12: 12 PP points, T-28th

While Carle doesn’t produce on the PP, he is a key cog, as the Flyers PP has ranked 3rd, 19th and 6th. So when the PP struggles, you can in fact blame Matt Carle!

There are a few things favorable to him.

He does block a lot of shots, if you trust the NHL’s Real Time Stats:

2009-10: 137, T-30th
2010-11: 157, 17th
2011-12: 164, 15th

Corsi, again 5 v 5 minimum 60 games played:

2009-10: 35th
2010-11: 32nd
2011-12: 46th

Corsi Relative to Quality of Competition:

2009-10: 47th
2010-11: 56th
2011-12: 71st

His Corsi numbers are inline with his shot totals, which makes sense since Corsi is based on shots:

2009-10: 38th
2010-11: 51st
2011-12: 41st

Generating shots will help your Corsi, but that’s only so useful when you can’t shoot. Here are his rankings among defensemen in shooting percentage since joining the Flyers:

2008-09: 5.9%, T-38th (season total, 5.6% with the Flyers)*
2009-10: 4.4%, T-58th
2010-11: 0.9%, 94th (last among qualifiers)
2011-12: 3.0%, T-81st

*I included in this listing his partial year with the Flyers. 12 games with Tampa Bay isn’t going to dramatically effect his ability to shoot the puck into the back of the net.

Again, right in that 30-60 range. Yes, shooting percentage can and does fluctuate, but like anything else there are players who are consistently good at it. These players have during that time frame, finished in the top 30 (among qualifiers) at least twice:

Mike Green (3 times), Anton Babchuk, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Zach Bogosian, Lubomir Visnovski (3 times), Shea Weber (4 times), Nicklas Lidstrom (3 times), John-Michael Liles (3 times), Dennis Wideman!!! (3 times), Dan Boyle, Andrei Markov, Kris Letang, Alexander Elder, Chris Phillips (3 times), Trevor Daley, Joe Corvo, Brian Campbell, Jordon Leopold (3 times), Drew Doughty (3 times), Tyler Myers (3 times), Mark Giordano, Eric Brewer, Alex Goligoski (3 times), Sergei Gonchar, Christian Erhoff, Sami Salo, Jack Johnson, Tobias Enstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Jamie McBain, Erik Karlsson, Alex Pietrangelo, James Wisniewski and Dustin Byfuglien when he was still a defenseman. 34 players ranging from elite to okay to Dennis Wideman are consistently better shooters than Carle. He once again falls into a 2nd pairing ranking.

There is one other category he is consistently really good at: giveaways.

2009-10: 64, 17th
2010-11: 59, 22nd
2011-12: 55, 25th

Carle is a solid player at even strength, he creates offense for his teammates and he blocks shots. But that’s all he really has going for him. He’s not a PP QB or a choice penalty killer, so his special teams contributions are limited. He is a fine on your second pairing at even strength and on your second PP unit, but someone is going to pay him like a top 60 defenseman. (But not the Flames, they’ve got Dennis Wideman.) Any argument that he is that good is foolish and a team would be a fool to sign him at the money he is going to get.

Unless you’re not the Flyers. Then by all means sign him.

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