In the Lighthouse Hockey comments on my last post (Crossposted at this blog as well), one commenter objected, arguing that Colin McDonald is a superior player to Bailey who simply hasn’t gotten the opportunities Bailey has. I’d like to go into this comparison a bit more in depth than I did in the comments, where I misremembered and made an incorrect reference to how Bailey played with Reasoner (I was thinking of Grabner).
What do we know about Colin McDonald?
Above are Colin McDonald’s statistics as gathered through behindthenet.ca, stats.hockeyanalysis.com and my own neutral zone tracking. What you see is a player who probably doesn’t drive possession, or makes his teammates slightly worse when he’s on the ice at pushing the puck forward – you can’t see it in these statistics, but if you use his two-year WOWYs at Hockey Analysis (See HERE), you find teammates have been on average 0.94 percentage points worse with him on the ice than off the ice. McDonald has absolutely played with brutal linemates last year – Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas are unequivocally not very good at all and has at best played with decent linemates (Grabner, Aucoin). That said, the WOWYs suggest that while he’s not as bad as his relative corsi would suggest last year (-7), he’s not good at driving play forward.
This shouldn’t be a surprise really – as I’ve noted before int he neutral zone #s (see the right side of the above #s), McDonald is a guy who makes a LOT of his line’s zone entries, whether he’s with the 3rd or 4th line (those 30.4 and 30.6% rates are amongst the highest on the entire TEAM), but he dumps the puck like crazy. Some of that is his line position – while on the 4th line this year his dump rate was an abysmal 28% – but even on a more skill oriented line on the lockout year, his carry in % was a pretty bad for a forward 40%. A guy who takes so many entries and dumps so damn often will have a hard time driving play unless he’s particularly good in other areas, and it doesn’t seem like CMac is one of those guys. He also doesn’t deny opponents the ability to carry-in, even when playing with better players at that skill as he did during the lockout year.
As for scoring, CMac doesn’t really do that much either. Again some of that may be linemates (Matt Martin is the worst shooter on the team, and that’s CMac’s most common linemate), and it’s not like the point totals are horrible, but his #s the last two years come in at a point per minute rate (min 1250 minutes) that puts him 168th out of 221 qualifying forwards.
One thing Cmac does well is he draws penalties and doesn’t take that many. That’s a useful skill – last year he basically netted the Isles 2 goals through a +12 penalty differential (1 goal last year). This is an underrated skill yes, but 2 goals isn’t exactly huge/
So what we have here is a guy who slightly hurts possession, who doesn’t score very much and can draw penalties. That’s not a great player, although it’s not the worst guy to have on 4th line – course you don’t want him to be on a line where he’s the best player, which was the case on last year’s 4th line!
Okay so what about Bailey?
Josh Bailey isn’t a huge possession driver either, although he’s more positive than CMac. Some of this may be linemates, but again if you use a two-year WOWY (see HERE) and average it out you wind up Bailey’s teammates being 2.84% better with bailey on the ice than without in corsi. This is probably being generous to Bailey’s effects – adding a third year will put him a little worse, but you clearly see a small positive effect over the years. Bailey’s zone starts are similar to Cmac’s so that isn’t the difference either.
Bailey is also a better scorer, being 110th in EV points per minute over the last 2 years. He also is okay in the neutral zone at carrying it in, and at denying opponents from doing the same (although Nielsen deserves much of that credit). He’s not a GOOD scorer, but he’s okay, and he’s probably going to shoot at a higher % next year, since this year’s shooting % was almost certainly a fluke. That said, he doesn’t shoot enough – the lockout year was the first time he had a decent shooting rate, and he stepped back to his career average this year. The one thing Bailey isn’t is a drawer of penalties, he’s -1 over the last two years (net effect is basically null).
So again, these #s don’t suggest Josh Bailey is a great player. But he’s almost certainly a decent one who you would be thrilled with at third line wing, which is now what he is if we consider Frans 3C due to Grabovski. And the chemistry with Frans has worked the last two years.
In short, CMac and Bailey aren’t really comparable at all, except as wings on this team. CMac’s certainly proven himself to be an okay 4th liner, but this team has SO many forwards that he shouldn’t be guaranteed a spot – except over Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas. Alas, those guys will probably get the spot over him.