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Hockey Analytics

On Blocked Shots: Kris Russell

by Gus Katsaros
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Kris Russell debuted in a Stars uniform after being traded from the Calgary Flames at the NHL trade deadline for a small fortune in return. The windfall landed by Calgary for the soon to be unrestricted free agent is extravagant after looking at his valuation based upon his transaction history.

 

Prior to becoming a Flame, Russell, a restricted free agent at the time, went unclaimed after being waived by the St. Louis Blues on July 2, 2013. He was subsequently traded to Calgary for a fifth round pick in 2014.

 

A fifth round pick. The Blues chose Jaedon Descheneau.

 

The Blues originally picked up the Red Deer native by trading Nikita Nikitin to Columbus.

 

Nikita Nikitin. Waived as an RFA. Traded for a fifth round pick in 2014. A couple of short term contract signings in between, and here we are at the 2016 trade deadline.

 

At the 2016 deadline he went for a highly skilled prospect in Jyrki Jokipakka and secondary Brett Pollock, both question marks at this point. Additionally was a conditional draft pick, a second with the potential to become a first round pick if the Stars reach the Western Conference Finals in 2016 and Russell dresses for at least half of each of the first two rounds.

 

Russell (http://www.mckeenshockey.com/players/kris-russell/) will turn 29-years old in May, and seeking a hefty raise in comparison to his $2.6 million salary in ’15-16 from a two-year $5.2 million contract. Craig Custance pointed to Montreal rearguard Jeff Petry’s contract as a comparable, starting an onslaught of online Petry/Russell comparisons that clearly showed a gap in the two players.

  

If a team is looking to trade for Kris Russell and eventually sign him, look at Jeff Petry's 6-year, $33 million deal as a comparable.

— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) February 29, 2016

 

Bob McKenzie went so far as offer Petry, Andrej Sekera and Jared Spurgeon as other comparables.

 

Blocking Shots

 

Russell has been lauded as a shot blocking machine, with conventional thinking construed to indicate an above average, leading to excellent defensive ability. It’s been established time and again, via analytics research or listening to hockey industry personnel, leading in shot blocks means that the opposition likely has the puck to begin with, clearly an undesirable situation.

 

I’d add another scenario. Drill down even further and aside from zone pressure and cycling blocking a lot of shots would also indicate flaws in a defenseman’s gap control. Either easing back and allowing too much space for opposition attackers and requiring a shot block attempt (the go-to skill) to make up for giving up the space. It could also stem from awkward backward skating technique. Russell is a swift skater but does give up room in the gap. Forwards can exploit this and try to get better distance/shot location.

 

Having a player in the lineup known for having good shot blocking ability is desirable from a structured standpoint, playing a penalty kill, or willing to sacrifice body after defensive zone pressure ends up as a shot attempt. But if the player is known for that one skill, the question has to be raised as to why there are so many attempts with him on the ice, and what does that mean for his own specific skill set.

 

In his Dallas Stars debut, Russell played (5v5 score-adjusted) 12.9 minutes and 2.7 minutes at 4v5, representing 40% of the Stars total penalty killing time, second pairing minutes with some special teams work. At 5v5 he fired two shots on goal, one blocked and missed shot each ending with a 54.55 Corsi For%. At 4v5 while on the ice, the Stars gave up two shots, while not blocking any.

 

Using data from War-On-Ice I looked at the distribution of Russell's shot blocking heroics from 2013-14 until present in the table below by game situation. Notice how his 5v5 CF% drops dramatically as the number of shot blocks per game increases.

 

Game Situation

5v5

 

5v4

 

4v5

 

Shots Blocked/game

No of Games

 CF%

No of Games

 CF%

No of Games

 CF%

0

141

55.34

523

89.06

491

25.82

1

168

50.52

26

58.80

46

5.86

2

105

46.56

2

68.75

7

3.93

3

66

43.70

   

3

8.70

4

45

44.38

   

1

4.70

5

20

38.91

       

6

13

37.46

       

7

1

48.00

       

8

2

40.15

       

10

1

25.90

       

 

That one game listed with 10 5v5 blocked shots occurred on March 5, 2015, and became an NHL record for most blocked shots, an incredible 15 for the game. Must have been black and blue after that affair.

 

Preceding that crazy game was the first of two eight shot block games, the first on Feb 2, 2015  and another on Jan 16, 2016.

 

We can check Russell’s overall differentials to show there’s a decline in his overall on-ice shot attempt percentages. The blueliner, moving over the hump of his prime years shows the decline in Corsi For percentage, even with the slight uptick at the end of the chart.

 

View post on imgur.com

 

Dallas obtained a serviceable defenseman, but his next contract is going to be interesting should any team decided to go long on his aging ability to block shots.

Gus Katsaros
Gus Katsaros is the Pro Scouting Coordinator with McKeen’s Hockey, publishers of industry leading scouting and fantasy guide, the McKeen’s Annual Hockey Pool Yearbook. He also contributes to popular blog MapleLeafsHotStove.com ... he can be followed on Twitter @KatsHockey