What to Expect in 2011-12: John-Michael Liles

Photo Credit: avalance.nhl.com

Photo Credit: avalance.nhl.com

All of Leafs Nation was elated to finally have a first round pick in what seemed like forever on draft day this year. However, there was still another surprise only hours before the draft began. John-Michael Liles was brought in by Leafs general manager Brian Burke for a second round pick in order to fill the hole left behind by the departed Tomas Kaberle. Is that a reasonable expectation? Let’s find out.

Here are the offensive stats for Colorado’s defense (with at least 20 games played):

NameGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPoints
J.M. Liles7664046
K. Shattenkirk72 (46)*9 (7)34 (19)43 (26)
E. Johnson77 (22)8 (3)21 (7)29 (10)
R. Wilson6731316
M. Hunwick73 (51)1 (0)12 (10)13 (10)
R. O’Byrne67 (64)01010
A. Foote47088
J. Holos39066
K. Quincey21011

*Stats in brackets are that player’s stats with Colorado specifically

It’s not hard to declare Liles the most offensively talented of this group for this past season. Shattenkirk was definitely the best surprise of the season for the Avalanche, with an even bigger surprise seeing him shipped off to the Blues. As for Liles, it was Shattenkirk who saw the most powerplay time with him, but Ryan O’Byrne was his wingman during even strength. This is impressive, seeing as O’Byrne is ideally a stay at home defenseman not likely to rack up many points. Liles did all this with an exceptional points per minutes played ratio. Kevin Shattenkirk came out on top in this category with 1.36 points per 60 minutes of even strength time, with Liles close behind him at 1.21. Erik Johnson trailed far behind in third place with 0.78. If we wanted to fill in the offense left behind by Kaberle, we seem to have done so.

Let’s take a look at Corsi and some +/- stats:

NameCorsi ONCorsi OFFCorsi RELGAON/60GAOFF/60
K. Shattenkirk3.72-3.627.32.772.82
J.M. Liles-1.49-8.547.12.892.83
K. Quincey0.96-4.545.52.882.14
J. Holos-2.99-5.892.92.352.76
E. Johnson1.471.84-0.42.762.62
R. O’Byrne-8.13-4.40-3.72.433.37
M. Hunwick-8.67-4.57-4.12.512.65
R. Wilson-9.23-2.73-
A. Foote-14.61-2.84-

*Stats are for entire season

Corsi is a fairly simple stat that measures chances given and chances taken. Any time a player’s team fires the puck in the direction of the opposing net (whether it be a shot on goal, a blocked shot or a missed shot), their Corsi rating goes up. The opposite effect happens when the opponent manages to do the same on that player’s own net. Corsi ON is the team’s Corsi when that player is on the ice. So John-Michael Liles’ Corsi ON of -1.49 is not good; it means the opponent has higher possession of the puck than Liles’ team when he’s on the ice. Corsi OFF measures the team Corsi when that player is on the bench or not playing. Again looking at Liles, we see his Corsi OFF is -8.54. That means his team is outplayed by a much wider margin when he’s on the bench. From this we can garner the Corsi REL stat, which subtracts OFF from ON to come up with their actual Corsi based on the team they play for. Subtracting Liles’ OFF from his ON gives us a 7.1 Corsi rating, far higher than every player except Shattenkirk.

As for GAON/60 and GAOFF/60, you can probably guess what they mean based on their acronym. The goals against when these players are on the ice/off the ice are fairly consistent among the group, with only Ryan Wilson and Adam Foote being far worse than the group at large. Liles’ most frequent defensive partner, Ryan O’Byrne, actually has the greatest disparity between these two stats. It seems Colorado was far better defensively when O’Byrne was on the ice. This no doubt helped Liles to be creative offensively, knowing there was a steadying presence behind him.

Here are a few related stats to look at before we finish:

NameOzone%Fin Ozone%QUALCOMPBlocked ShotsHits
K. Shattenkirk60.150.0-0.0339666
K. Quincey55.953.8-0.0482628
J.M. Liles55.650.80.00015359
E. Johnson53.553.60.01913399
M. Hunwick49.551.0-0.0177165
J. Holos47.152.3-0.0543219
R. Wilson42.749.4-0.011110135
R. O’Byrne42.351.20.053131179
A. Foote40.152.6-0.0376755

*Stats are for entire season

Ozone% measures the  percentage of times a player’s shift starts in the offensive zone, while Fin Ozone% measures the percentage of times a player’s shift ends in the offensive zone. Liles ended up having 55.6% of his shifts start in the offensive zone. This is incredibly high and, at first glance, would suggest he was being sheltered from the defensive zone. However, his QUALCOMP (quality of competition) is at an even 0.000, higher than all but two players, one of which was his defensive partner. Going further, we can glean that Liles actually led the defense corps in blocked shots with a very respectable 153. It seems he wasn’t being sheltered completely, but there is evidence that the coaching staff preferred Liles in the offensive zone (which is hardly surprising). For reference, Tomas Kaberle blocked 21 shots in the 2010-11 season.

It seems realistic to expect that John-Michael Liles will fill the void that Kaberle left on offense, while also contributing on a far greater level defensively. Liles is still known for some gaffes on defense, but that’s certainly nothing new to us as Leafs fans. Personally, I believe Liles would do best paired with Luke Schenn in Toronto. Schenn could compensate for any defensive errors, while also being more offensively gifted than Ryan O’Byrne. I’ll end this article with a single statement: we traded Tomas Kaberle for Joe Colborne, Tyler Biggs and John-Michael Liles. It’s hard to be disappointed with that return.