The chart above really tells the story with Nick Leddy. That’s a WOWY chart – with or without you – showing how each players’ possession #s (corsi) are affected by playing with Leddy on the ice. And as should be immediately apparent: EVERYONE is MASSIVELY improved by playing with Leddy. This pattern holds true whether or not Johnny Boychuk is on leddy’s right side, although Boychuk has been the best D Partner for Leddy this year. The end result is that whatever metric you choose: whether it be simple possession metrics such as corsi or fenwick, or context-adjusted regression based measures such as Steve Burtch’s dCorsi or Domenic Galamini’s usage-adjusted corsi, Leddy has been the best Isles’ D man at driving play and one of the best in the ENTIRE NHL.
And Nick Leddy is only TWENTY THREE. He’s younger than fellow “kids” Anders Lee and Matt Donovan and the same age as Brock Nelson and Calvin de Haan. Hockey players tend to peak earlier than most people think, around age 25, and Leddy ISN’T EVEN THERE YET. It’s possible he could get even better. And if he doesn’t, well, this is a pretty amazing place he’s at already.
Leddy is an RFA after this year, coming off his second contract already somehow – victim of the Hawks being cheap and going for a bridge contract instead of a long term one after his ELC. So he’s going to get paid and paid long term. Fortunately, RFAs don’t get offer sheets, so the odds of the Isles’ losing him is null. The only hope here is that the contract is for a long time – 7 years or the max 8 would be fitting for him – you hang on to elite D-Men, and Leddy has been one this year.
*For More info about why Leddy is great, check out my 34 game neutral zone data recap at Lighthouse Hockey HERE: http://www.lighthousehockey.com/2014/12/26/7449417/new-york-islanders-neutral-zone-analysis-2014-34-games .You’ll note Leddy is the Isles’ best neutral zone D Man, an elite puck-carrier through the neutral zone and excellent at defending entries as well.
It’s a bit harder to statistically evaluate Johnny Boychuk than Leddy – Leddy has played a good number of games without Boychuk as his D-partner due to injury, so we have a way of seeing how well Leddy has played without Boychuk’s assistance. The reverse is not true: Boychuk has played 558 minutes at 5-on-5 this year, and only 59 of them have been without Leddy alongside him (10.5%) – so pay no attention to Boychuk’s poor #s without Leddy on the chart above, they’re a pretty small sample. So while we know Leddy is still clearly the Isles best D man without Boychuk (excluding Boychuk himself), we can’t tell how much of Boychuk’s also excellent possession numbers are just the benefit of playing on Leddy’s right side. He certainly LOOKS good, but statistically it’s hard to tell.
Individually, Boychuk’s offensive output really isn’t that spectacular, despite his hot start – so basically when we said that the Isles weren’t getting a great offensive D man in Boychuk, that appears to be true. Boychuk is 3rd amongst the D in points per 60 at 5-on-5, and his power play #s aren’t really that spectacular honestly (and the on-ice #s on the PP basically have him equivalent to Leddy and Lubo in that regard). That said, Leddy does have his best numbers with Boychuk than without and Boychuk certainly isn’t harming that pair.
And Boychuk, unlike Leddy, isnt young. He’s 31 years old, well past his prime at this point and only getting further away. He’s unlikely to develop much further and is likely to decline over the next few years.
So where do you go from here with Boychuk? The Isles have expressed interest in an extension naturally, but strip away his great reputation and how he physically looks, is it worth it? That’s a tough question. You’re essentially paying for maintaining the status quo of the Leddy-Boychuk pairing, which is certainly worth it if it can continue. But Boychuk himself should get worse over the next few years, and almost certainly will be not living up to his next deal 4-5 years down the line, (and he’s almost certain to get 5+ years).
If you could get a Cody Franson, who’s a younger player with clear possession driving skills and offensive talent for cheaper, I’d prefer that of course. Still, there’s something to be said about a bird in the hand – barring an unlikely trade for a guy like Franson (arguably better than Boychuk) or Jeff Petry (who’s closer to Boychuk in statistical profile albeit without the same reputation) – the ability to negotiate with Boychuk NOW without any other suitors is very appealing. If this sounds wishy-washy, it is. Overpaying for the status quo is hard to stomach, especially when you know itll get worse. But the status quo is really really good…(this is why, contrary to what would happen, I’d try and get Leddy’s deal done first, but the opposite will happen).