Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thrashers Should Claim Schneider

It is being reported by multiple sources that Anaheim Ducks are waiving defensemen Mathieu Schneider. The Atlanta Thrashers have the 3rd waiver position courtesy of finishing 28th in a 30 team league last season.

Essentially the Thrashers can add an old but high quality defensemen with a one year contract for nothing other than his roughly $6 million salary. In my opinion this is a no brainer--you claim him--in fact I would have offered a low draft pick for him before the Ducks dropped him to waivers.

The downsides:
  1. Schneider is old and will not be around when the Thrashers become a Cup contender.
  2. Schneider might not be happy to come to a non-contender.
  3. His skills may be eroding with age.
  4. If claimed from waivers the Thrashers are not permitted to trade him at the deadline.
The upside:
  1. The Thrashers must add salary because Bogosian will not hit all his bonus clauses and therefore the Thrashers will finish below the salary floor by the end of the season.
  2. Schneider could serve as an elite level mentor the Thrashers young defensemen like Enstrom and Bogosian.
  3. Schneider is not Alexei Zhitnik. Mathieu Schneider is an elite level player even at his age.
  4. Schneider is BETTER at playing the point than anyone in Thrashers history including Ilya Kovlachuk. Schneider is a better offensive defensemen and ANYONE in Thrashers entire history.
I can't stress this last point enough. Below I have created a table that shows the power play effectiveness of players who have served or could serve on the Thrashers power play unit over the last two years.

Defensemen only play about 15-25% of their ice time on the power play, so a couple of fortunate bounces or unfortunate bounces loom much larger. Therefore, PP scoring rates can jump around a fair amount. Schneider has consistently ranked among the elite in PP scoring with last season being his worst year in quite a while. But here's the kicker, even in his "bad" season on the power play last year, Schneider was better than Enstrom and Kovalchk who manned the points all of last year for the Thrashers PP unit. In his "bad" year Schneider ranked 75% among all NHL defensemen in PP scoring while Enstrom ranked 71% and Kovalchuk ranked just 66%.

Both Kovalchuk and Enstrom rack up points because they get tons of ice time--neither are elite in their use of that ice time. Mathieu Schneider is elite in how he uses his PP ice time. How elite is he? Here are his percentile rankings among all NHL defensemen the last seven seasons: 87%, 93%, 94%, 90%, 92%, 95%, 75%. That is very impressive. Most seasons Schneider has been in very top 10% of all NHL defensemen on the Power Play.

PP Effectiveness (PP Scoring per 60 minutes)
Rate/%/Season/Player
5.14 95% 2006-07 Schneider
4.62 90% 2006-07 Hainsey
3.95 82% 2007-08 Hainsey
3.54 75% 2007-08 Schneider
3.32 71% 2007-08 Enstrom
3.98 66% 2007-08 Kovalchuk
2.64 55% 2006-07 Zhitnik
3.54 53% 2006-07 Kovalchuk
1.90 47% 2007-08 Zhitnik
1.79 40% 2006-07 Havelid
0.00 20% 2007-08 Havelid

Because PP scoring rates are less consistent due to small sample size issues, another way to compare Schneider's offensive prowess is to look at Even Strength scoring compared to recent or current Thrashers defensemen. Below is the ES point scoring per 60 minutes of ice time for the last two seasons.

Again we see that Schneider is head and shoulders above players who have put on a Thrashers uniform. The only season comparable to Schneider's is the one Zhitnik put up the year the Thrashers acquired him. Zhitnik had a solid 2006-07 where he ranked 85% among all NHL defensemen in ES scoring only to see him absolutely collapse in 2007-08 where he fell to the bottom 8% of the league.

Is there a risk that Schneider could also see a collapse? Yes, of course there is. But Schneider's skills can be had for almost nothing. The Thrashers moved Coburn to get Zhitnik--a gamble that failed badly as they had to buy out the final year of his contract. In this case the Thrashers can have Schneider for nothing other than his salary and he is an UFA next season. Is that a reasonable risk to take? Yes, in my view.

ES Scoring per 60 minutes
Rate/%/Season/Player
1.22 96% 2007-08 Schneider
1.06 85% 2006-07 Zhitnik
1.07 76% 2006-07 Schneider
0.59 42% 2007-08 Havelid
0.56 37% 2007-08 Enstrom
0.54 26% 2006-07 Havelid
0.53 56% 2006-07 Hainsey
0.37 66% 2007-08 Hainsey
0.28 08% 2007-08 Zhitnik

Click over to Battle of California for more blow by blow details of today's developments and plus a hilarious cartoon of Mathieu Schneider as Super Man. It seems that the Kings might pass on him which means that the crazy Lightning ownership are on deck.

19 Comments:

  • Yeah, as to the Anaheim PP last year it was a little awkward transitioning from super-rover Scott Niedermayer to steady-shooting Mathieu Schneider, so I think it took a bit for that to work itself out.

    I'd totally keep Schneider if the money worked, though. Unfortunately, Schneider's guilty of something we all can relate to: he's not Scott Niedermayer, and he's not Chris Pronger.

    By Blogger Earl Sleek, at 7:44 PM  

  • "Thrashers Should Claim Schneider"

    Total agreement with this blog post.

    Especially with the cap space available and since it's only a one year deal.

    But you already said that. :p

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:48 PM  

  • You forgot a downside - acquiring Schneider moves someone down the depth chart on D - so far down in fact that they won't be here at all. So unless Don can move either Klee or Exelby, it will most likely signify either Valabik or Bogosian won't be here. Bogosian could get sent back to the Petes under that scenario - Schneider's contract would keep us above the floor. But that move doesn't really help Bogo, especially since one of the advantages to Schneider would be as a mentor. It wouldn't really help Valabik to get sent down to Chicago either - he needs NHL seasoning.

    I'd be ok with it, but only if Don can get either X or Klee out of the way so this does not compromise the development of either of our young defensemen.

    By Anonymous Sara, at 7:50 PM  

  • Mr. Sleek: nice of you to check in. Personally I suspect the King will claim him in which case this debate becomes a moot point.

    Sara: Adding Schneider either sends Valabik to the AHL (baring an camp injury) or a trade for Exelby (I'm OK with that--his passing skills are substandard for the NHL).

    Personally I'm OK with Valabik going back to the AHL for part of the season. His upside is a physical 3rd pairing guy, we're not costing ourselves all that much by making him wait a year. He's not a potential difference maker IMO.

    By Blogger The Falconer, at 8:21 PM  

  • Actually, the Kings have shown their hand, and according to their MSM guy, they're going to pass.

    Opportunity still knocks.

    By Blogger Earl Sleek, at 8:29 PM  

  • How long until we know? I mean, how much time to the teams ahead of us get to claim him?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:39 PM  

  • Deadline for wavier claim is 9 a.m. Friday I believe. I think the Ducks can still trade him if someone makes an attractive offer.

    By Blogger The Falconer, at 9:14 PM  

  • I think they need to put you in charge of trades for Atlanta.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:32 PM  

  • Valabiks’ “development” is a problem in exchange for Schneider in the ATL at this point??? (Like he’s going to be a top defenseman. *yawn*)

    WOW, things are worse than I thought they were with this team…

    Would ATL really rather have Valabik than Schneier playing the blueline?

    No wonder ATL is a laughing stock, which sucks because I'm from ATL!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:04 PM  

  • I wouldn't mind us getting rid of Exelby, and putting Valabik in the AHL for one more year. According to spectorshockey.net, the Kings want to pass on Schneider for a more defensive defenseman, but then there is Tampa Bay, who needs defenseman badly, and this might be what they are looking for. So, if Tampa Bay decides to go for him, then we are screwed out of this one.

    I think this would be a good move as it gives Bogosian time to develop with some mentoring. I hate it for Valabik because you know that Bogosian will get the play time over him, and Valabik needs to refine his game a bit more. I wish they both could be up here, but the only way that would happen is if someone plays badly or someone gets injured on defense. Or, they could get rid of both Klee and Exelby which I hate to say, may not be a bad idea. I like how Klee is gritty, but he is just not really fast. He is a little slow to the puck, but his outlet passing is pretty good from what I saw last season. But we do need a defenseman who is a little more effective, and we would get that with Schneider.

    Thanks for the breakdown on him, Falconer. I didn't realize how good Schneider was until now. I know he is older, but his stats are really good! Our defense could stand to take some pointers from him. If we did acquire him, I guess he would be on the PP unit. Would you pair him with Hainsey, Havelid, Bogosian, or Enstrom. I would think Hainsey for effectiveness of offense or Enstrom. Or, Bogosian for mentoring. Not sure I would have him with Havelid. That would be interesting to see who Schneider would be paired with. I hope we get him, but I just can't see Tampa Bay passing on him. I hope they do, and we get him. That would be a nice surprise!!!

    By Anonymous Steve, at 6:50 AM  

  • Amen, the Falconer.

    Hainsey-Schneider
    Enstrom-Havelid
    Bogosian-X/Klee/Valabik

    Do it.

    By Blogger Mortimer Peacock, at 9:59 AM  

  • No one has picked up Matthieu Schneider of the Anaheim Ducks off of waivers or else the deal has not been announced. But, here is a possibility:

    If Schneider cleared waivers and was assigned to the American Hockey League, an NHL team could claim him on re-entry waivers, paying only half of his salary -- or $2.81 million. The Ducks would be responsible for the other half of the salary.

    This was posted on www.sportsnet.ca under story about the Senators might go for him. They have $3.2 mill available under the cap, and they are looking for a defenseman. God, ASG needs to make a move on this guy!

    By Anonymous Steve, at 12:12 PM  

  • As much as I hate the idea of paying $6M for a 39-year-old player, I'd still like this move. He'll be overpaid by 40-50% for this season, but his contribution to the team would still be more beneficial than will Valabik's of Klee's. Pushing someone down off the roster because you have a better option is never a bad thing.

    By Anonymous Jarndyce, at 12:16 PM  

  • I don't know how much salary Anaheim is looking to dump by waiving Schneider, but if we want to grab him and not risk Tampa getting him, why not offer up Klee or Ex in trade? Then you get to have the elite mentor and the youngsters together, assuming the Ducks take the trade bait.

    By Anonymous TheDowman, at 3:42 PM  

  • Falconer - the problem re: Valabik though, IMO, is this. Coburn didn't look all that great either when he wasn't seeing much ice time in the NHL. We all know how that turned out. At some point, this organization HAS to commit to its young players. And we cannot just look at each issue as a microcosm - it has to be an overall total commitment. But as long as the team goes out and picks up older players when we technically have a younger player that could fill the same role (maybe not quite as well immediately but eventually), the team is doomed to continual mediocrity at best. While Valabik might not ever be as good as Schneider (though Bogosian may well be), it still stunts his development. We may not be prepping for a play-off run this year, but if we want to get there within a couple of seasons max, these kids have to get some experience under their belts.

    Just focusing on the big picture here. :)

    By Anonymous Sara, at 7:46 PM  

  • Sara: I hear you. I suppose it all depends on what you think of Valabik's upside is.

    Full disclosure: While I have defended the Thrashers overall drafting many times in the past, I have never been a big fan of the Valabik selection. I watched him play an OHL game and I was very unhappy when they picked him up in Carolina that year.

    It's not that I hate him (he seems like a very decent person) I just don't think was worth spending a top 10 pick on. To me Valabik is another Vishnevski type only with more fighting. His skating is such that he will probably never become a top 4 D man. Therefore, my expectations are pretty low regarding the player he will become--hopefully I'm wrong.

    The other option is trading away Klee if you acquire Schneider. Both Klee and Schneider have just one year left on their deal and at 1.5 million Klee is affordable for another club looking for some depth at D.

    By Blogger The Falconer, at 11:02 PM  

  • Falconer, I agree Valabik does not appear to have the skill set to be a top-4 (at least on a championship-calibre team). Frankly, most of our prospects project to be 3rd or 4th line guys. However we should still be utilizing them, especially considering they will be cheaper than more established players. Money saved on the bottom is more money to spend at the top.

    Additionally, by bringing these players in and giving them a real opportunity, it's a chance to see where they might fit into the club. If DW is expecting Valabik to be a top-4 guy, the sooner he perhaps realizes he won't be is that much sooner he can make plans to draft another d-man that will be top-4 quality. While some assessment can be made based on their play in minors and camps, the best way to truly know is to get them ice time in the NHL and see what they do with it.

    That's my biggest thing for this season and I'm disappointed we aren't going to have many young forwards coming up this season. I feel the team needs to get a real assessment of what talent we have in our system and figure out where the remaining holes are. We'll still get some of that - see if Christensen or perhaps Little can click with Kovy and fill that top spot or provide more secondary scoring. See who thrives under Anderson and who won't and then go from there.

    By Anonymous Sara, at 7:50 AM  

  • Sara,
    I somewhat agree with you about Valabik, but I would sacrifice Klee, who is younger, 31, less expensive, and we are getting a defenseman who can both do well on the PP and PK, and be a mentor to our younger players. Send Exelby down to the AHL like Krog was done. Schneider may or may not be a part of our future, but then again, you guys may be too shortsighted; case in point, Gary Roberts. Roberts is 42, and can still contribute. Maybe Schneider's years are numbered, but he may have more in the tank than we think. I know his numbers for points were nothing great- 12 goals, 27 A, but he has a plus 22 rating, and Falconer, as you said, he is great on the PP, and on the PK. When you have a defenceman who is head and shoulders better than all of our defenseman, even Enstrom and Havelid, I would think, what are wer arguing about? I say we go for him!

    Spectorshockey.net was talking about the ongoing possibility of trading one of their young defenseman, either Meech, Lilja, Lebda, Quincey. They just signed Lebda, Quincey, and Lilja this summer. He still thinks it is Meech who will be dealt. They just signed McCarty, and they are defense heavy. God, what a curse (LOL)! They say a trade may take place before the regular season opener- October 9th. I hate this waiting crap! I wish we would make a decision about whether we would get a forward or d-man. I prefer a defenceman too, but God let's get it over with!!

    By Anonymous Steve, at 10:35 AM  

  • Forget claiming Schneider, if I'm the Thrashers I trade for him. The Ducks obviously are willing to let him go for nothing so logically they'd accept a pittance, like a 7th round draft pick him right? If that's the case it frees Atlanta up to deal him at the trade deadline when his salary cap hit is lower. Given that it isn't unreasonable to think the Thrashers could get a third round pick for him in February, wouldn't it be worth the money to essentially turn a 7th rounder into a third rounder?

    By Blogger DMG, at 1:07 PM  

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