I didn’t intend to make this about Julius Honka, but somehow things always seem to be about him. I suppose that happens when your team has a bad record, you have consistently good numbers, and you can’t get in the lineup.
This is really more about Marc Methot. When he came back from his extended injury absence he re-entered the lineup in place of Honka. Honka and Stephen Johns had been going pretty well in his absence.
Derek brought this question up and it did get me thinking more about Methot. He got injured on January 6th. He came back on February 16th. In that span with him out of the lineup the Stars went 10-4-1. Since that time they are 3-11-2.
There is zero chance Methot is solely to blame for the dramatic swing, but the question of his impact on Johns made me curious what kind of impact he does have on the defense pairs.
I pulled the defense pair stats from Corsica and did 10 seconds of Excel Magic to pull up their expected goal rates per hour to see which pairs had been the most effective at maximizing potential goals for and limiting potential goals against at even strength for the full season.
The top two pairs have barely been on the ice together so we’ll crown Esa Lindell and John Klingberg as the Stars best defense pairing. Dan Hamhuis and Greg Pateryn have been really good too, with most of their value coming in the defensive end. We’ve seen that Pateryn does have some offensive value, so I do wonder if this pair could do better if Pateryn was allowed to be slightly more active.
The third most effective pairing has the duo of Julius Honka and Stephen Johns, which goes to the question Derek put out there. Methot has actually been a member of the two three least effective pairs the Stars have run. (And Jesus, Johns has had six different partners).
Is there a reason he is in the lineup over Honka? He isn’t one of the Stars top penalty killers so his value is going to have to come at even strength, and it’s pretty obvious the value is less than what Honka brings.
Does he give you a better chance of winning? I don’t think so, but does it really matter? They’re effectively out of the playoffs. I think Honka gives you a better chance of winning so #TeamTank might prefer Methot, but in the interest of next season you really need Honka to play the rest of the stretch unless you feel like you already know what he is.
Does Hitchcock even feel there is an issue? Methot is doing exactly what is being asked of him so asking Hitchcock to bench him seems like an unreasonable proposition. Why would he scratch a guy doing the job asked of him without an order from up high to get Honka more ice time? I don’t see it.
If the Stars did truly want to see Honka over Methot, they at least have to consider his trade value. He has five million dollars coming to him. Determining that Honka needs to play over him is a tacit admission that he’s the Stars 7th defenseman….making five million dollars. They gave up a 2nd round pick for him, and almost certainly aren’t recovering a pick that high in return for him. Would benching him over Honka the last two weeks hurt his value more?