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2015 Season in Review: Clayton Stoner

Stoner was definitely the worst defender in Anaheim last year. The question is how bad was he.

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Clayton Stoner contract was, at best, a head scratcher. He was a career bottom pairing defenseman who had trouble getting consistent work in Minnesota. He had a standout stretch of games in the playoffs and apparently parlayed that into a sizeable contract with Anaheim: 3.25 million AAV for 4 years.  It wasn't exactly a buyer's market in 2014, but that still seems like a hefty contract for a bottom pair defender, considering the team really needed another top 4 presence to bump Ben Lovejoy to a more manageable bottom pairing role.

So, the bad news. Stoner had the worst goals-for percentage, 45.3, despite getting arguably the softest assignments of any defenseman.  The good news is that he was one of the Ducks best possession defensemen this past season. Of course his primary partner, Sami Vatanen, is a monster at creating shots and owning the puck.  It also helps to get the second most offensive zone starts and the weaker defensive assignments.

As a bottom pairing guy, there aren't  a lot of high demands. Stoner was brought in to be a grinding, stay-at-home defender. That usually means hitting people, blocking shots, and taking care of the puck. So, how did Clayton do with those things?

names Hits/60 BKS/60 GVA/60
Cam Fowler 1.67 3.6 1.8
Sami Vatanen 3.1 5.13 2
Hampus Lindholm 2.1 2.7 2.4
Francois Beauchemin 4.3 4.4 1.65
Clayton Stoner 6.3 4.14 1.97

Before I talk about Stoner, I'd like to make a couple of observations. First, real time stats can be unreliable, but they are still tools that can be helpful. Results can vary depending on which arena is counting hits, blocked shots, etc. Still, these are things that are valued in evaluating performance, and I think it's worth a look. Plus, making a number based on a rate of per 60 helps solve Time on Ice issues by standardizing the numbers. In case you're new to advanced stats, this helps solve the problem of simply saying Fowler is a better shot blocker than Stoner because he has more total blocked shots.

Second, Vatanen is a savant. Conventional wisdom says that guys with worse possession numbers usually have higher blocked shot numbers. It makes sense when you think about it, and Cam might be a good example. He faces equal competition to Lindholm, but starts more shifts in the defensive zone. As a result, it makes sense that he blocks one extra shot for every 60 minutes played.  Vatanen is apparently just very good at blocking shots. He starts in the offensive zone more than any other blue liner on the team and drives possession better than anyone as well. But there he is leading the team in blocked shots/60.

Second, Giveaways might not be 100% accurate, but that discrepancy between Lindholm and Beauchemin makes me wonder if Beauchemin was getting blamed for some of Hampy's mistakes when we administered the eye test. It makes at least a little bit of sense that Lindholm would give up the puck more, because he is supposed to have it more.  I'm more concerned that Lindholm gives the puck away more than Fowler and Vatanan than I am that he gives it away more than Beauchemin. That's also my problem with Stoner's number. Either Vatanen is really good at taking care of the puck, or Stoner isn't. I think it's more of the latter.

Looking at it, Stoner is a bottom pairing defender. Stoner with Vatanen posted a shot attempts percentage of 52.3%. Away from Vatanen the SAT% was 49.3%. Take away the possession numbers that are being inflated by Vatanen and it's hard to make an argument that he deserves $3.25 mil. The number one thing I've learned from this is that salary should be a category added to the statistics websites so we can start getting better comparisons based on salary.  I have a hard time imagining that Stoner gives us great value for salary. More importantly, Sami Vatanen deserves a better partner.