A Note on Terminology, Ice Time and Production

The TSN Panel just had a conversation about Matt Beleskey and the kind of production a team can expect from him as a sought-after UFA this summer. Beleskey has been put into the same conversation as David Clarkson in 2013 as a player who will likely be overpaid due to a season in which he scored 22 goals on 15.2% shooting and had a playoffs that raised his profile even more with 0.5 goals per game on 17.8% shooting.

Ferraro made the point that Beleskey will only be a worthwhile signing if he is played in a top line role, with guys like Perry and Getzlaf, and McGuire added that he believes in such a situation the power winger could put up as many as 25 goals. But I think this type of discussion is missing the point. The goal for a general manager, after all, is to maximize team wins and thus team goals (both for and against but in this case we’ll focus on goals for).

Sure, if you put Beleskey in a first line role and give him 18 minutes per game (he averaged 14:29 this year), he’s more likely to put up 20 goals on say 180 shots, which is an 11.1 shooting percentage, something that would seem a lot more “sustainable”. But at what cost?

It makes sense to want to play a net-rushing garbage-goal winger with skilled players to maximize his skill set, but you can’t base your team structure around making a UFA deal you offered look like it paid off. If you find yourself in a position where you HAVE to play a guy in a top line role to make a deal seem worthwhile, you aren’t doing things for the right reasons.

You want to sign players who can play up and down the lineup and have an impact. When you paint yourself into a corner with a guy like Beleskey, you’re likely to be burned. They will inevitably have some regression, they will be bumped down the lineup, and before you know it they will be seen as a bust. Justin Williams, for example, could play on a third line and still have success. So could Joel Ward. So could Michael Frolik. I’m not saying those guys won’t be overpaid today, but at least they would be less likely to end up needing buy-outs in two years.

This is why statistics like points/60 minutes are so much more valuable than just points. As the NBA has begun to figure out, efficiency is crucial. Players are put in vastly different roles, and the ability to produce in the role you’re assigned and within your ice time is more important than simply the ability to produce overall. So obviously overall team goals are what is important, but on a player level you have to maximize goals/minute rather than just goals. The important thing with Beleskey isn’t to maximize his goals in your new system, it’s to maximize his efficiency, and his signing should be judged on his efficiency rather than his absolute output in the future.

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