The only thing I like less in any analysis than blanket labeling is the lazy, inaccurate application of advanced analytics.
Meet Brandon Tanev, premature victim of plenty of both.
The labeling has been mostly about his bottom-six status with Winnipeg matched against the six-year, $21 million contract he just signed with the Penguins out of free agency. Some are aghast at the term, some at the dollars, some at both, and almost all of those critics apparently can't be bothered to compare within the free-agency class as a whole. And all of that, it's seemed, has been based on how the Jets deployed him behind a forward group loaded with elite talent.
Hm. What ever might the similarities be here?
Context is everything with this contract. Jim Rutherford didn't feel he needed to add several players, and he didn't feel the need to add more to his top six forwards or even his top nine, at least not against reigniting some consistent fire to a team that terribly lacked that all last winter. So, he freed up a few bucks in the Phil Kessel trade and pulled in the player he wanted.
Just as trades don't occur in a vacuum to be independently graded -- one of the most hollow forms of sports analysis across the board -- the same applies for a signing like this. I write this all the time, but it's not about winning the transaction. It's about winning games.
Of course this is an overpay. My goodness, that couldn't be any more obvious.
Also, who cares?
Tanev's $3.5 million fits under the salary cap and, if Rutherford so chooses, he's free to make another move or two to create more space. But in the interim, he and his lieutenants, operating within a one-day window with at least eight other teams known to be in pursuit, got exactly the guy they coveted for their specific situation.
Their. Specific. Situation.
Context is everything with Tanev's advanced analytics, too. He logged the second-most short-handed ice time of any Winnipeg forward this past winter, and his 42.27 Corsi For percentage was the lowest of any of them. The Penguins' five lowest, in order from the bottom: Matt Cullen, Riley Sheahan, Zach Aston-Reese, Teddy Blueger, Garrett Wilson and Bryan Rust.
Know what they all have in common?
Yep, penalty-killing and tons of defensive-zone starts, both of which are Corsi killers. And yet, no one would identify any of those five Penguins as anything other than among Mike Sullivan's most dependable defensive performers.
That's where the analytics have stopped in a couple studies I've read, though a couple others responsibly stressed that Tanev's relative Corsi -- which takes into account multiple other variables -- was a respectable -0.1.
This is an important acquisition for the franchise, so I'm going to split my own study here into two parts, the second one running Friday. And in tribute to all the lazy ones available all around, let's limit this one to Tanev's more easily recognized skills:
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