A Closer Look at Rob Scuderi, Defenseman Under Fire
Is Scuderi being utilized optimally since coming back to LA at the deadline? Should there be any concern over the amount of minutes the veteran defenseman is receiving?
Let's just jump right into it. At 37-years-old, Rob Scuderi is long past his prime. He was mostly a serviceable defenseman when he left in 2013 but unfortunately, the clock has not been kind to him.
Scuderi has failed the eye test since his arrival , but for some reason has gained (or re-gained) the trust of Head Coach Darryl Sutter. Is this faith warranted and is there a gap between what we see and what the underlying numbers suggest?
In short, no, that faith should not be warranted. Let's look to see if there is a gap.
In 22 games with the Los Angeles Kings, Scuderi gives up the most high danger scoring chances against per 60 (according to War on Ice); only the departed Christian Ehrhoff gave up more. For reference, Jake Muzzin is second on the team behind Scuderi, but buoys that with his excellent offensive prowess. The same cannot be said for Scuderi, who, again, is a team worst.
Through 21 regular season games, he has managed to post positive (at least 50% or better) corsi numbers 11 times. For comparison, in 43 games with LA, Luke Schenn was negative 22 times while averaging fewer minutes. And offensive zone specialist Jamie McBain had positive corsi in 32 of the 44 games he dressed for. In an interesting twist, McBain also has a better high danger scoring differential than either Schenn or Scuderi.
When Scuderi joined the team, Sutter deployed him in interesting ways - high even strength minutes, lots of penalty kill time and saw a lot of time beside Drew Doughty, who usually plays against the opposition's best players. The good news is, with a few exceptions, Sutter seems to have realized what he has in Scuderi and has scaled back the veteran defenseman's heavy workload.
Even with that in mind, it almost seems as if McBain should have been drawing into the lineup over Scuderi or Schenn.
Sheng Peng noticed during the Washington game that Capitals forwards seemed to be targeting Scuderi in particular. While sitting at Staples Center on Thursday night, I started to wonder if the Sharks were attempting to exploit Scuderi in a similar way. Surprisingly, the answer seems to be both yes and no. While tracking the game, it became quite apparent that San Jose's offense mostly came from pushing the puck up the right side of the ice. They also appeared quite content to simply dump the puck into the offensive zone and use their speed to beat the Kings to loose pucks.
In the first period, San Jose managed 27 zone entries against LA. Only six of those entries were targeting Scuderi specifically. That's less than a quarter of all successful moments the Sharks gained the offensive zone blue line. As the game wore on, it seemed that the Sharks were targeting Muzzin and Doughty more than they were anyone else. This could be due to the minutes both saw in the absence of Alec Martinez; or it could be due to the home team's increasing sloppiness as the night progressed and the visitors were simply happy to take advantage of the free space they were being given.
With or Without You: Impact on Teammates
Nitpicking games on a corsi-by-corsi basis can be misleading, especially if it factors into a decision of whom to play and whom to sit. Taking a look at the three bubble defensemen's With or Without You charts may help paint a clearer picture, even in such small sample sizes. (In the relative scheme of things, 44 games isn't much).
Up first is Jamie McBain.
McBain's impact on the lineup appears pretty minimal. He only seems to be a drag on the very worst players while Brayden McNabb isn't good enough to anchor his own pairing and mitigate any negative effects McBain might have. Then again, 29 minutes is a very small amount of time spent together and it could just be randomness.
Now let's take a look at Luke Schenn.
As with McBain, we run into sample size issues with certain players. However, he has had a slightly greater impact on his teammates than the former Carolina Hurricane. It's still not to the point where he's significantly dragging them down since most of the Kings players are good possession players, but he does have a noticeable effect.
Last up is Scuderi.
This does not look good. In the smallest sample, Scuderi has affected his teammates the most. Almost universally, Kings players are better off without Scuderi than with him. Much of this could be just random noise, but thus far, the results don't look promising.
As with anything, it's important not to rely on just one thing. While the stats may say one player is worse than the others, the eye test suggests that there serious drawbacks to having any one of Scuderi, McBain or Schenn in the lineup. McBain seems to struggle in his own zone more than either Schenn or Scuderi - but then neither one of the latter two veterans have the speed, offensive skill or even defensive skill to offset their terribleness. Scuderi often struggles with pace while Schenn seems to be slow to make decisions. Sutter seems to trust Schenn and Scuderi with PK time while McBain gets PP minutes.
Given the injury to Martinez, McBain will likely draw into the lineup for his first NHL playoff game. However, it might be wise to sit either Scuderi or Schenn in favor of the recently recalled Kevin Gravel. Sure he's a rookie, but he has a lot of promising talent and doesn't seem hesitant to make a decision, which is an aspect of his game that could really help the Kings moving forward.
It's a game of "pick your poison" so to speak with Schenn, Scuderi and Gravel. Martinez has been killing it in tough zone starts against some of the best players in the NHL so far this season. Combined with the absence of Matt Greene (who is a generally decent corsi player and plays the position of "stay-at-home defenseman" fairly well), it will be a big hole to fill. Who do you pick? The old, slow guy who simply cannot keep up anymore; the younger, slow guy who lacks decision making skills; or the youngest (of the three), most promising player who, admittedly, still has a few things to clean up in his game (and lacks the physical strength to hang with most of the big boys in the league)?
If Martinez is out, what should the defense look like?
|Sit Scuderi, Schenn; play Gravel, McBain||72|
|Sit Scuderi, McBain; play Gravel, Schenn||29|
|Sit Scuderi, Gravel; play McBain, Schenn||63|
|Sit McBain, Gravel; play Scuderi, Schenn||15|
|Sit McBain, Schenn; play Schenn, Gravel||3|
|Sit Gravel, Schenn: play Scuderi, McBain||15|