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Odouya vs. Beauchemin? Let the Data Decide

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There has been a lot of speculation on which free agent defenseman provides the best value. Let's see if we can quantify the argument:

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Odouya signed with the Dallas Stars yesterday for two years and 7.5 million dollars. Immediately, fans in Colorado wondered if the Avalanche front office had, perhaps, jumped the gun by signing Francois Beauchemin right as the free agent signing period opened. Already 35-years old, the former Anaheim Duck is an older player than Oduya, and the contract he received is not only a bigger salary cap hit (4.5 AAV vs. 3.75), but also longer in term (3 years). If the Avalanche were reluctant to hand out long-term contracts to some of the bigger names this offseason in fear of blocking their young prospects, wouldn't Odouya's contract have been more sense for the team?

More and more, it appears Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy weren't just trying to plug a hole. They needed a player accustomed to playing tough top-pairing minutes in the short-term, and the data shows Beauchemin is closer to being that guy than Oduya. The graph below depicts the following attributes for the past four seasons (Oduya's time in Chicago):

  1. The higher the circle, the tougher the competition
  2. The further left the circle, the more defensive zone face-offs
  3. The bigger the circle, the more minutes played
  4. The bluer the circle, the more shots of goal in relation to the on-ice competition
(Courtesy of War-On-Ice.com)

OduyaBeauch2

In this sample, we can glean a few things. Oduya has taken the ice for more offensive zone face-offs against lesser competition and has been pretty successful at it. Beauchemin has played more neutral minutes against slightly better competition and has had both pretty good and sort-of poor seasons. Both have a couple of odd outliers, but there are trends to discern here.

Important to consider, though, is that Oduya has played in Chicago's hyper-inflated possession system, while Beauchemin spent his time on the blue line in Anaheim -- a much more neutral possession team over the same time period. Odouya has taken more offensive zone face-offs because Chicago has taken more offensive zone face-offs than any team during this span -- period. Whether or not he can sustain his success for a Dallas team that was pretty middle-of-the-road in O-zone starts last year is yet to be seen. Beauchemin will be facing a similar challenge, heading to a Colorado team that had the 5th fewest offensive zone starts in the league.

So, will we going to see a significant drop-off with Oduya, now that he isn't sitting in the offensive zone of a Stanley Cup winner all the time? Can Beauchemin still be effective for another season as a top-pairing guy on a team that has struggled in their own end?

We'll have some answers come October, but right now we may see a reason why Sakic and Roy thought Beauchemin was worth the extra $750k.