If there's one thing many people have agreed on it's that Douglas Murray 2012-2013 is killing our perception of Douglas Murray prior to 2012-2013. (We can let Douglas Murray 2011-2012 have his own place since, you know, puck broke his laryngeal prominence.) I don't have to look hard to see that there's a ton of criticism of his play.
Now, I'm going to take an agnostic position on all this for now. Let's look at some simple Shark defencemen numbers, and try to see what's going on.
I looked at two things I care about in Sharks defencemen. The first is simple +/-. Now, I know traditional +/- takes a beating, but I still think it tells us something about what happens on the ice 5v5. The second was to look at Fenwick +/-. I know that, again, some prefer different metrics, but I actually didn't want to include blocked shots in comparing Shark defencemen because a) Murray lets shots get off because he's such a good blocker, and b) I want to know about pucks actually getting toward/in the vicinity of the net. The numbers are drawn from this morning via behindthenet.ca.
Ja, beaucoup de nummern. Sorted by Fenwick +/-. Excluding Pelech and Petrecki.
Now, looking at this table, I want to point out a couple of things.
First, MATTHEWIRWIN. We should just call him MATTHEWIN.
Second, Murray is obviously giving up a ton of shots. Per 60 minutes, a difference of 5 more shots against than the next closest defenceman (Braun). In addition, Stuart, Demers, and Braun are all within 1.5 shots of each other. On the one hand, this little clumping at the bottom segment suggests Murray is a real outlier. Again, he gives up a shitton of SA/60. On the other hand, note that with the straight-up SOG +/- the gap is smaller. Presumably, Murray "produces" more missed shots because Murray is a human 2x4 Lego block (thanks, Nordic people). In SF/60, also note that Murray isn't even the bottom (Braun). He's in the bottom segment with Demers and Braun.
Third, Murray's traditional +/- rate is better than MATTHEWIN, Burns, and Demers. In terms of GF/60 when he is on the ice, Murray correlates better than Demers. In terms of GA/60 when he is on the ice, Murray correlates better than MATTHEWIN, Boyle, Burns, Vlasic, and Demers. What this means is that FOR SOME REASON, Murray on the ice equates with a very high SV% for Niemi (93.5%, only Stuart's is better at 93.9%). Since I'm not sure what this reason is (chance likely having some effect), I'm going to chalk this up to some kind of crazy Nordic telepathic shit. Watch how Murray interacts with Niemi. If you saw the last holiday video, you know what I'm talking about.
[Just for the shits: In the two previous seasons (10-11 and 11-2, i.e. when Niemi showed up), Murray's on-ice SV% was, respectively, 92.9% (behind Kent Huskins, 94.6% and Demers, 93.8%, both played at +50GP), and 94.4% (tops excluding Vandermeer, 25GP). This season Demers SV% is 92.5%, so, not quite the same crazy Nordic telepathic shit (CNTS) as Murray.]
Lastly, caveat: I'm leaving out his cap hit in this analysis. This is on-ice play 5v5. Also, I like all these guys and wish they would play better. Yup, I'm a fan.
1) Because I care about shot differential, I'm least excited when Murray is on the ice. When he is on, there tends to be way more shots toward Niemi. I usually just hope for pleasegodnotanotheroddmanrush, saves, and a shot +/- of 0 at the end of the game. These are not particularly joyful feelings.
2) On the other hand, Murray's SF/60 rate suggests that scoring opportunities do occur when he is on the ice. In addition, Niemi seems to save a lot of shots when Murray is on.
Now let me add eyeballs here. The explanation for continued deployment seems to be: coaches like him. Maybe the reason why they like him over Demers and Braun (seems like they are the 'competition' here) is that coaches KNOW what they will get with him. Because of their youth (and the often attending fluctuations in play), perhaps this is just coaches leaning toward known quantities rather than more unpredictable play; even if those known quantities tend toward great shot differential. (I'm not sure how to measure unpredictable play, but this is what my eyeballs are telling me.) Lastly, I think that if Demers and Braun were playing like MATTHEWIN, we wouldn't be having this conversation. The numbers for those two, while generally better, aren't great.