Michael Shuckers is a numbers guy. He readily admits that. As an associate professor of statistics at St. Lawrence University, his analysis of the 4 year contract given to Rob Scuderi by the Pittsburgh Penguins gives him an excuse. As a numbers guy.
However, Shuckers is also co founder of Statistical Sports Consulting which is a company that uses numbers to provide logical conclusions on a players worth in hockey circles. And as such, he has no excuse.
Shuckers caused a slight stir when his article suggested that the four year, 13.5 million dollar contract the 34 year old received from the Pittsburgh Penguins was the worst signing amongst the available UFA's this summer.
"That's the one that sticks out to me this year," Schuckers said. "Pittsburgh is supposed to be a team that's fairly analytic. All the analytics I've seen suggest he's well past his prime."
Perhaps Pittsburgh is known as "analytical". But then again, they chose to extend the contract of head coach Dan Bylsma despite a 4th consecutive playoff flameout (an article for another day I suppose). I bet those same advanced stats love THAT move but I regress.
The problem with Professor Shuckers line of thinking is as glaring as it is obvious. It simply measures only stats. And that ain't good.
Scuderi's worth isn't going to show up on your average stat sheet. His worth is in keeping the opposition off of those same stat sheets, and he does that very well. His worth is in the locker room, as a leader and mentor to young defensemen. A position which the Penguins have a kings (no pun intended) ransom of. His worth shows up as a guy who uses excellent positioning in his own zone and as a guy who remains steadfast in those responsibilities which then allows for his partners to jump into the play (a role which Kris Letang thrives in mind you).
Even advanced stats like The Corsii ratings don't measure how effective a player like Scuderi is at keeping opponents in check. This is a guy who is consistently paired opposite of the very best scoring forwards in the world and even at his age has excelled in this role.
Which brings us to his age. Professor Shuckers DEFINATELY sees yet another red flag there. "At that point in someone's career, you know a good bit about them and how they play in the NHL," Schuckers said.
Since the Professor likes numbers so much I thought I'd throw out a few for him.
If Scuderi is past his prime, explain to me how he has not missed one single game over the past three years? In the past 5 years, you could count on one hand the number of players who have played more games than Rob Scuderi. In fact, Scuderi averaged more time on ice this past season for the Kings than he has at any time during his career. BY OVER A MINUTE. In fact, he averaged 2 minutes more time on ice this season than his career average. And in the playoffs his Ice time actually INCREASED by OVER A MINUTE AND A HALF. All of this on a Kings team which won a cup 2 seasons ago and was a Western Conference Finalist this season
All of this suggests that Professor Shuckers comments that Scuderi is well past his prime (not just past his prime, but WELL past) are disengenuous at best.
Do analytical numbers take into account team needs? Of course not. They don't tell you how badly the Penguins needed a defenseman of Scuderi's ilk. How they need a ying to Letang's yang, or the need for a top notch penalty killer to patrol the back end.
The major problem with The Professor's analysis is that it is far to robotic in nature. It doesn't take into account many variables which are impossible for numbers to tell you such as market value. Or better yet, market value in a very weak UFA class.
Look, I'm a big believer in analytical stats. And I believe in the importance of due diligence. I simply think that basing a blanket opinion based upon these stats is NOT using said due diligence.
As a professor of numbers, Shuckers has an excuse. As a man involved in sports he should be a bit embarrassed.
Besides, we all know that as far as the worst off season moves go, Toronto takes the cake!