The two Philadelphia Flyers defensemen have been linked in recent discussions on which deserves to be in the lineup more.
The Philadelphia Flyers have a problem, but not necessarily a bad one. They have seven defensemen on the roster right now. Five of those seven appear to have permanent spots in the lineup right now.
When an injury knocked Shayne Gostisbehere out of the lineup, it allowed Robert Hagg to get consistent playing time. This is where the discussion took off. There’s no argument that Gostisbehere hasn’t looked the same since his breakout rookie season. But is there truth that a slumping Gostisbehere is better than Hagg? A little help from Corsica Hockey can help us decide if that is true.
Gostisbehere has appeared in 40 games while Hagg has played in 36. While their point totals won’t tell the true story, Gostisbehere does have the slightest edge there. He has 12 points, while Hagg has 11. This isn’t where the focus will be, however. The more advanced numbers will help us with that.
Staying on the offensive end briefly, Hagg does have better numbers when we look at goals for and expected goals. Hagg has an xGF% sitting at 46.86 and has a GF% of 65.85, which is second among Flyers defensemen. It’s first if you take away Mark Friedman’s five games, a small sample size.
For Gostisbehere, his xGF% isn’t too far below Hagg’s at exactly 44. His GF% is a lot lower, however. While he’s only been on the ice for one more goal against than for, his percentage sits at 48.84.
Getting away from the offensive side, we’ll start by taking a look at the quality of opponents that each has typically faced on a nightly basis. That stat comes in the form of CF% QoC which is the Corsi of the competition that both defensemen face. Hagg has faced slightly better competition, but not by much. The CF% QoC for him sits at 49.65 while Gostisbehere’s is just below that at 49.48. So the two are facing very similar competition.
The next assortment of stats is where Gostisbehere begins to take the edge. Since we’ve looked at the CF% of their opponents, the next place to look would be their own Corsi percentages. Gostisbehere has a 52.17% and a rel CF% of 1.06 while Hagg sits at 46.85% and -7.07.
One of the most useful stats we can take a look at is PDO. To put it simply, it is the sum of a team’s shooting percentage, and its’ save percentage. A player or team with a PDO over 102 is typically viewed as not as good as they seem. When the PDO is 98 or lower, the team or player may be better than they appear. And while Hagg has the higher number, that isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Hagg sits at 106.45 which, based on the definition above, can mean that he is performing at an unsustainably high level. So one can assume that he will fall back to the mean at some point. For Gostisbehere, he falls almost at the average number with a 99.4 PDO.
So have we answered the question on which defensemen should be in the lineup over the other? Well, sort of. Hagg has better numbers when you look at the offensive side, but Gostisbehere’s numbers are more favorable on the defensive side. And despite the streak Hagg has been on, there is a good chance that he will regress at some point.
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In the end, the choice seems to be between an average Gostisbehere or a possibly over-performing Hagg. And with Gostisbehere dealing with some scar tissue, Hagg’s place in the lineup is safe for now. But the numbers show us that there is no easy decision between the two. So the discussions are likely to continue with arguments available for both Flyers’ blueliners.