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  • [Wild About Numbers]: Trading Jared Spurgeon Is Just About The Worst Thing The Minnesota Wild Could Do This Summer


    My friends, I've been waiting to write this article for some time now. The day when I actually have the free time to give this the thought and effort required to do it justice has finally arrived.

    Here are Russo's (who tends to be in the know to say the least) recent thoughts on it:

    Now it's no secret that we've been big fans of Spurgeon around here going all the way back to 2011/12 when he was one of the few bright points in an extremely bleak season, so you can imagine that all the Spurgeon trade talk was received pretty badly by us here at Hockey Wilderness. But this isn't just because we like Spurge, it's because trading him is a downright terrible idea for a whole bunch of reasons that I'm gonna explain for you right now.

    Firstly, let's establish exactly what Spurgeon brings to the team in terms of on ice impact. How good is he really? Well the following numbers might give you an idea.

    Here's the impact on the Wild scoring chance differential when he's on the ice versus when's he off it:

    That 4.34% difference is the greatest among Wild defenceman by a huge margin. What this means is that when Spurge is on the ice the Wild are dominating even strength play way more.

    Could this be because of his deployment? Well no, it couldnt. Despite being on the Wild's "2nd pair", Spurgeon plays the minutes of a 1st pairing defenceman. A few months ago, when I analysed Spurgeon's impact in another article, I found that he had the 22nd highest TOI/G of qualifying defencemen. If you take it that there are 30 teams, and thus 60 1st pair defencemen, you can see why calling him a 2nd pairing defenceman is ridiculous.

    In fact the Wild pretty much roll two first pairings and then a heavily sheltered 3rd pairing. That means that Spurge and, his usual partner, Marco Scandella take the ice against tough opponents and with a hefty share of defensive zone starts.

    You can see from the two player usage charts above, which show the deployment of Wild d-men this season, Spurgeon and Scandella arguably had the toughest deployment of any Wild d-pairing and yet they were easily the team's two most impressive d-men in all 3 zones, a trend continuing on from the previous season.

    What about defensively? Well lets look at the impact Wild d-men have had on High Danger Scoring Chances (as tracked by War-On-Ice.com) since 2012/13:

    Put all the numbers aside, put aside any confirmation bias you have, forget about names and contracts and just watch a few Wild games. I don't see how anyone could and not come away thinking Spurgeon is the team's best defenceman. He is by far the team's most creative blueliner through the neutral zone and in the offensive zone and he compensates for his lack of natural physicality in the defensive zone with perfect positioning, great reading of the game and really quick stick work.

    What else does Spurgeon bring to the table? Well despite being a puck possession monster, he still manages to hit people and block shots like a demon. He's got to be one of the tougher players around given how gritty he plays in spite of his small stature.

    Since he entered the league, he has the 2nd best penalty drawn vs taken ratio of any d-man with 5000+ minutes played behind John-Michael Liles. He really should have a Lady Byng to his name at this point if the PWHA appreciated how tough it is for d-men to keep their PIMs down given the nature of the position.

    So we know pretty conclusively that Spurgeon is the Wild's best defenceman. How does he rate league-wide? Well I'm glad you asked. I checked where Spurgeon ranks overall in several important stats since he came into the league in 2010/11 and the results I found were quite breathtaking.

    Just to give you an idea of what the above means. With Spurge on the ice, the Wild have scored 53.49% of 5v5 goals. With him on the bench, that drops to 45.88%. That's a simply incredible impact for one player who plays tough 1st pairing minutes. While GF% can be skewed by various factors, Spurgeon's impact on scoring chances, Corsi, etc. shows that his impressive impact on goals is rooted in excellent process and consistently driving play in the right direction when he's on the ice.

    His powerplay goals rate is impressive too. It should be remembered when fans are complaining about the team's lack of a dangerous goalscoring defenceman when they have the man advantage (trade for Byfuglien!!!) that one of the best in the league is already wearing Wild colours.

    This is likely because defence is harder to quantify as you can't just look at points totals and determine who is better. In the end, I don't want a blueline full of big names, I want guys who make the team better every time they hit the ice. Spurgeon is a guy that does that, and does it to a great extent. That is true value.

    So it's pretty clear that, not only is Spurgeon probably the Wild's best defenceman, he's also right up there with best right handed d-men in the NHL and, at just 25 years of age, has a ton of good hockey left in him.

    The Wild need to be patient with Dumba. Just a few months ago everyone was saying how he needed more time in the AHL to develop. Trying to suddenly turn him into a top-4 d-man next season with Christian Folin as the Plan B is an incredibly risky plan and is almost certain to fail. Letting Dumba develop on the bottom pairing for a couple more years isn't a bad thing. Having too much defensive depth isn't possible. Why turn a strength into a weakness?

    Another point I keep hearing is that the Wild need to acquire a true goalscorer and Spurgeon is the ideal bargaining chip. This team has issues, but I don't think it's as clear-cut as "they don't score enough goals" anymore. It's about their overall two-way game dipping for stretches and them not being able to maintain dominant play. They seem to always go from crushing the opposition to relying on hot goaltending to bail them out. This should be enough of an indicator that scoring too few goals ain't the problem:

    So what about the financials? The Wild are gonna be tight to the cap next season for sure, but Spurgeon will only be costing them a measly $2.6 million against the cap. Trading him this Summer is especially ludicrous for that reason. Next year he will be an RFA and due a big contract and that's when the trouble will start. I understand that maybe the Wild want to trade him now as opposed to when they're capped out and clearly in a desperate position but that's not a good enough reason to do it.

    Having Spurgeon on such a low cap hit for next season should be hugely beneficial as it gives the Wild another year to assess their young defence and make better decisions in a year's time. Maybe by next Summer we will have seen Brodin or Scandella take a step back in their development. Maybe we'll see Dumba make a huge step forward. Maybe Spurgeon gets even better. It's impossible to predict, but moving Spurgeon now is risky and unnecessary when the Wild could give themselves another year to see a clearer picture of each young defenceman's ability.

    Also, it's worth remembering that, with rumours that the cap will be increasing next season, there could be enough flexibility for the Wild to fit a new contract for Spurgeon under the limit. Personally I think they should negotiate a long term extension with him now because he could cost even more next year. They should try to get him to sign a long term deal and try to shave off some of the cap hit by adding a couple of years. It's a worthy risk in my opinion given what he brings to the ice.

    The team's goal is to win the Cup. They're built to do that right now but they won't do it without their best defenceman. It's as simple as that. Keeping him might be a real headache, but you just have to find a way to keep your best players if you want to win.

    Teams always have a few million dollars wrapped up in depth players who aren't really key to their success. Why not save some cap room by not signing those players and instead using players from the farm system who are on cheap entry level contracts?

    Theoretically, the Wild could roll these very economical lines next year:


    In the end, what's worse? Your 4th line that hits the ice against other 4th lines being made up of cheap, young players or being forced to trade one of your best players? I know which I'd prefer.

    While we're talking cap space. How does trading Spurgeon help the Wild in that regard? If the goal is to go out and get a #1 centre, what kind of cap hit do you think they're gonna have? I bet it's a hell of a lot more than what Spurge makes next season and probably more than he'll cost after he gets his extension in 2016. Logan Couture for one costs $6 million against the cap. So should the Wild just trade Spurgeon for picks and prospects and start rebuilding? Maybe they can get some young talent that'll develop just in time for the core to be aged beyond usefulness and the cup window to be shut.

    It seems crazy to me that a team, who's major complaint is that they're lacking in players who are in their prime as the roster is made up of veterans who are past their best and prospects who haven't got their yet, would trade a 25 year old defenceman who is totally out-performing his contract and most of his peers.

    Anyway, I could ramble on this topic forever and ever but I'm gonna try to keep this to a readable length and I gotta go get some sleep before work soon.

    I'd love to hear a strong rebuttal of this piece that convinces me the Wild; A) Have to trade Spurge and/or B) Wouldn't be dramatically worse as a result. Good luck with that because as far as I can see, trading him is downright insane. I can't emphasise that enough.

    I'm out. *drops mic*


    Thanks to War-On-Ice for all the stats.

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