2008 Final Grade: John-Michael Liles

2008 Final Grade: B

2007 Grade: B

Links:

{{liles}} (hockey-reference page)

2007 report

2008 ITCS (aka highly unofficial) Liles game log

Season Stats: 81gp 6g 26a 31pt +2

Minutes: 1,593.5 (2nd among D), EV 14:51, PP 4:39, PK :11, ATOI 19:40

1st Half: 40gp 2g 14a 16pt E

2nd Half: 41gp 4g 12a 15pt +2

Playoffs: 10gp 2g 3a 5pt -1

Best Month: December (15gp 0g 7a 7pt -1)

Linemates: Finger (43), Hannan (31), Skrastins (3), Cumiskey (2), Leopold (1), Sauer (1)

Season: Liles set career lows in goals (6) and points (32). Interestingly, Liles set career highs in shots (163) and TOI (19:40).

Report: How does an offensive defenseman drop almost 30% in points while maintaining the same grade? By playing defense. Liles has slowly and quietly progressed into a solid player in his own end. Last year, he struggled significantly after he broke his foot before improving towards the end of the season when paired with Jeff Finger. This year, he was a little shaky in the first 10 games or so but then was solid in his zone the rest of the way. In 2006-2007, Liles had 31 hits and 68 blocked shots. Last year, he improved those totals to 58 hits and 119 blocks - both career highs - and that's a major reason his EV ice time increased by over 2 minutes per game. For a player with his speed and puck handling skills, it was always strange to see him make bad plays with the puck in his own end when facing even moderate pressure, but he seems to have really limited (although not quite eliminated) those types of errors. Liles positions himself well and excels and getting back to make a big play when the other team has a breakaway. And if there's ever a scrum after a whistle when he's on the ice, he's going to be one of the first guys onto the pile. I personally don't think he gets enough credit for his defensive game, but the coaching staff seemed to notice: his EV ice time increased by over 2 minutes a game this year.

With the slobbering over his defense out of the way, it's time to look at his offense. Liles struggled to put up points all season long, although he picked things up towards the end. 4 of his 6 goals came in the final 10 games of the year, and 9 of his 31 points came in the final 22 games. It's worth pointing out that he was still shooting as much as before (in fact, he set a career high in shots), but they just didn't find the back of the net. I personally believe a big factor was that he was often the only defenseman on the PP, forcing him to stay back on the blueline more. Liles has an okay shot, but he's much more effective when he can move around and sneak into the slot. I think he would have had much better numbers if he was paired with another D on the PP - Leopold, Clark or Finger - instead of Sakic or Wolski. I don't have any answers for his low numbers at EV, however. Liles' 12 EV points was lower than Hannan (19), Finger (16) and Clark (15) and just one ahead of Leopold (11). Last year, he was outscored at even strength by Ken freaking Klee! For a guy who pinches as well as he does, those numbers just don't make a lot of sense. I know that the cycling style of the Avalanche will limit the point totals from the defense, but he still should be scoring more.

Fast Fact: 3 of Liles' goals came against the Canucks. He had 1 goal against Vancouver in 2006-2007.

2007-2008 Salary (and Cap Number): $1,400,000 ($1,325,000)

2008-2009 Status: UFA

Outlook: To get a grasp on Liles' asking price on the FA market, I looked around at defensemen who scored in the 40 point range either this year or last year. Many of those players have signed contracts recently, helping us find a nice basis point...


  • Timonen, $6.3 M

  • Visnovsky, $5.65 M

  • Schneider, $5.65 M

  • Hamrlik, $5.5 M

  • Kubina, $5 M

  • Whitney, $4 M

  • Bieksa, $3.7 M

  • Burns, $3.55 M

  • Carle, $3.4 M


A couple other similar players (Dennis Wideman, Michal Rozsival, Jay Bouwmeester, Marc-Andre Bergeron) are either UFA or RFA this summer. Considering the fact that the bottom four players hadn't hit UFA yet, I'd probably put Liles conservatively in the mid-$4 million range, with a chance that he could push quite a bit beyond that. Remember Brad Stuart got a $3.5 million contract last year after scoring 22 points, and he's topped 40 points just once in his career. As much as I love Liles, the Avs already have $13 million committed to defense and that's before signing Adam Foote. Add Liles and Foote and you'd have over $20 million going to the blueliners and that seems like an awful lot of money (on par with the Ducks, who have two bona fide superstars in Niedermayer and Pronger). I'd love to see Liles back, but I think Giguere will need to move one of the defensemen on the roster to make that feasible.
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