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Evaluating Andrej Meszaros and Where He Should Fit In When He Gets Healthy

 

Lost in the shuffle of the Flyers injuries on defense is someone who has been missing for a long time, Andrej Meszaros. Since he’s been targeting a return to the lineup sometime during the second round, now is a good time to look at where he would fit into the lineup.

Meszaros would seem to be best served on the third pair taking Erik Gustafsson’s slot in the lineup. The reasons behind this move are simple; Meszaros and Gustafsson both bring the same skill set with Meszaros having a few more years of experience, but is it the right move? To find out, let’s analyze the production of the Flyers defensemen.

For the sake of a fair comparison, it is possible to compare to the production of Meszaros and Gustafsson both offensively and defensively to show who has the advantage as a player. For the sake of comparison points, it’s possible to look at Timonen-Carle and Coburn-Grossmann to show points of reference.

Offense

(note: all stats taken from regular season, GF/60 and advance metrics are 5v5 only, and Grossmann and Kubina combine totals from pre and post-trade except for scoring which is just with Philly)

Carle: 82, 4-34-38 GF/60: 2.58 Corsi REL: 3.2 O-Zone Start: 49.4%

Coburn: 81, 4-24-24 GF/60: 2.75 Corsi REL: -2.0 O-Zone Start: 50.2%

Kubina:  17, 0-4-4 GF/60: 2.71 Corsi REL: -7.0 O-Zone Start: 46.6%

Grossmann:  22, 0-6-6 GF/60: 2.30 Corsi REL: -15.2 O-Zone Start:  43.9%

Gustafsson: 30, 1-4-5 GF/60: 3.31 Corsi REL: 0.2 O-Zone Start: 55.6%

Lilja: 46, 0-6-6 GF/60: 2.39 Corsi REL: -11.7 O-Zone Start: 47.6%

Meszaros: 62, 7-18-25 GF/60: 2.96 Corsi REL: -1.7 O-Zone Start: 52.0%

Timonen: 76, 4-39-43 GF/60: 2.71 Corsi REL: 8.2 O-Zone Start: 53.6%

 

There’s a few things we can quickly learn from this chart. First, Gustafsson had the most sheltered minutes of any defenseman during the regular season, but with only a 0.2 CORSI REL, he struggled to hold puck possession in the offensive zone.  Conversely Lilja, Grossmann and Kubina had their CORSI REL ratings killed by the fact that they played mostly defensive minutes. One of the things the numbers will show is that Kubina, for all his hype as being a right shooting point threat on the power play, is actually a very solid shutdown defensemen on the second pair when facing second line opponents.

Both Gustafsson and Meszaros held onto the puck the same way. Gustafsson had 14 giveaways in 30 games played and Meszaros had 30 giveaways in 60 games. This is effectively an even ratio so in terms of passing, both players are equals. Mesz shot 6.1% while Gustafsson shot 5.6% which is very close in terms of shooting production. This effectively leaves Meszaros and Gustafsson as equals in terms of offense. The small differences in CORSI REL and larger difference GF/60 can be explained by the Zone Start differential and Qual Team. 

Gustafsson had a 2.224 Corsi QoT while Meszaros had a 1.922 Corsi QoT which means Gustafsson had better offensive tools around him while on the ice while Meszaros did not. Gustafsson’s offensive production is also boosted by an unsustainably high On-Ice SH% 11.85 which is about 3.6 percentage points higher than the league average.

Gustafsson’s forwards scored more because they were better offensive players than the forwards Meszaros played with. With that, Gustafsson can easily deliver the same offensive production as Meszaros.  However, Gustafsson should fall a bit over time as regression happens, but he should still out produce Meszaros offensively over time.

Defense

(note: all stats taken from regular season, GA/60, On-Ice SV% and advance metrics are 5v5 only, Grossmann and Kubina combine results from pre and post trade)

Carle: TKA: 18 BLK: 164 GA/60: 2.5 On-Ice SV%: 911 Corsi Rel Qoc: 0.589

Coburn: TKA: 33 BLK: 119 GA/60: 2.54 On-Ice SV%: 910 Corsi Rel Qoc: 1.079

Kubina:  TKA: 18 BLK: 119 GA/60: 2.99 On-Ice SV%: 900 Corsi Rel Qoc: 0.470

Grossmann:  TKA: 8 BLK: 152 GA/60: 2.35 On-Ice SV%: 920 Corsi Rel Qoc: 0.525

Gustafsson: TKA: 6 BLK: 35 GA/60: 2.12 On-Ice SV%: 929 Corsi Rel Qoc: -0.603

Lilja: TKA: 8 BLK: 72 GA/60: 1.35 On-Ice SV%: 957 Corsi Rel Qoc: -0.960

Meszaros: TKA: 21 BLK: 88 GA/60:  2.84 On-Ice SV%: 906 Corsi Rel Qoc: -0.040

Timonen: TKA: 14 BLK: 129 GA/60: 2.38 On-Ice SV%: 913 Corsi Rel Qoc: 1.220

Now, it’s a bit harder to judge defense based on stats. Sure blocked shots and takeaways are good showing prevented goals and changes in possession, but takeaways are subjective from arena to arena so there is some bias with them. Luckily, GA/60 and On-Ice SV% indicate the difficulty of shots the Flyers goalies were facing. It can be assumed that if the Flyers goalies stopped more shots than their average, then the defensemen involved were a part of a system that was allowing less difficult shots on goal.

So, Ilya Bryzgalov had a .920SV% at even strength and Sergei Bobrovsky posted a .916 at even strength. Since Bryzgalov is the guy for the playoffs, it’s better the judge to the defense against his EV-SV%. What we learn here is that Andreas Lilja is a very good defensive defensemen when sheltered against the opponents third and fourth lines. Lilja may be on the ice for more shots against but, the abnormally high On-Ice SV% that sustained itself over 46 games indicates that Lilja was very good at preventing high quality chances from developing.

Gustafsson had a .929 On-Ice SV% compared to Meszaros’s .906 On-Ice SV% which indicates that Gustafsson was allowing fewer quality chances than Meszaros. Since Gustafsson’s Corsi was even, meaning that both the Flyers and his opponent’s would generate the same amount of attempted shots, this On-Ice SV% indicates Gustafsson did a better job than Meszaros in suppressing quality opponent scoring chances.

Another place where Gustafsson has an advantage over Meszaros is discipline. Gustafsson took one penalty over the whole regular season, a minor penalty for tripping. Meszaros had 19 penalties, all minors for 38 PIMs.

The concern with the penalties for Meszaros is what they were for. He was called three times for interference, three times for holding, three times for hooking and once for holding the stick. These 10 calls are, usually an indication of a defensemen who has been caught out of position and is taking the penalties because they need to prevent an opponent’s scoring chance.

When comparing Gustafsson and Meszaros, the numbers seem to indicate that Gustafsson is delivering better defense than Meszaros. So the edge here goes to Gustafsson as well.

 

Conclusion

If the Flyers want to use a third pair of offensive defensemen, then Meszaros and Gustafsson are the hands down choice, if they want balance, then Gustafsson and Lilja make more sense, especially if Kubina is still being bothered by the injury that put him out of the lineup at the end of the regular season.

Right now, the Flyers might actually be best served by just keeping Meszaros out of the lineup even if he is cleared. There is no reason to mess with a system that works, and right now Gustafsson-Lilja are getting the job done. For a bit of history involving messing with chemistry, just look back to 2000 when Eric Lindros’s returned arguably disrupted a stacked Flyers team and caused them to give up a 3-1 lead to the Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals.