Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Andrew MacDonald Needs To Be Fired Into Outer Space

I can't let this go on any longer. I've tried to convince myself that everything is going to be okay when Ron Hextall sends The Kids back to juniors or the AHL and keeps Andrew MacDonald in Philadelphia. I threw out every excuse in the book.

"He's not terrible, he's just overpaid."

"He looked good in training camp, maybe he worked on his game this summer."

"He's got decent stick skills and he can skate alright."

"No, I definitely for sure don't want to claw my eyes out every time I watch him attempt to defend."

Last night was the first chance I got to actually see the boys in orange and black play in a game setting in person. And, because Radko Gudas got himself tossed like one minute into the game, we got to see MacDonald paired with just about every defenseman that dressed last night.

How'd it go?
Now, for my next example, I'm going to just Chart Vomit everything from Hockeyviz (you should be following Micah, consuming all of his content, and if I eventually make any money I promise I will buy him an Outback Steakhouse gift card).

This picture is really, truly worth a thousand words. The whole Flyers team (basically) was positive in even strength score adjusted shot attempts. The rest of the defensemen finished the game at 55%, 60%, 69% (nice), 69% (nice), and 69% (nice). MacDonald was only slightly above 35%. 

He routinely got caved in, and he dragged quite literally every single one of his partners down with him. 

Quick side note from MacDonald: the Couturier/Read/Voracek line (and the Coots/Read duo specifically) finished below the rest of the team in shot attempt differential. But, as usual, there is an easy explanation. 

It's the same explanation as every game ever for Couturier: he spent the bulk of his minutes against the other team's best line. In this case, it was Nash/Stepan/Vesey (RIP), and they held them scoreless at even strength (Vesey's goal was on the power play). 

Now back to the reason we've all gathered here today. Andrew MacDonald played 19 minutes last night against a team that was icing a bottom six and four defensemen that shouldn't sniff the NHL, and did not finish with a positive shot attempt differential against ANYONE. Not one single player. 

I know Corsi isn't everything, and you have to watch the game so you have some context to judge the numbers. And the "eye test" last night was MacDonald allowing controlled entries and letting the Rangers set up in their offensive zone. He was the only Flyers blueliner to give up a goal without also being on the ice for a Flyers goal. His best play of the night was a sliding-on-the-seat-of-his-pants breakdancing move where he poked the puck away from whoever this was:

 That's not good hockey.

And so, here we are. The Flyers next preseason game isn't until Thursday (in New York, and then they play Saturday in Boston). There is expected to be another round of cuts before then.
Let's stay focused on the defense for the purpose of this post. The four guys in green are going to make the team. Nick Schultz is going to make the team. Brandon Manning will be the 7th defenseman and they'll mix him in for his dozen or so games to allow him to be exposed for the expansion draft.

That leaves one final spot on the blueline, for either MacDonald, Provorov, or Morin. I thought Morin was the best player on the ice in the first period last night, but he really fell off a cliff from there and solidified that he needs more time with the Phantoms.

If you watched last night, or any other night, or looked at any low-level or high-level stats, I can't fathom how you can possibly have MacDonald slotted higher than Provorov on your organizational depth chart. Keeping Manning in the 7th spot for this exercise, you have two options:

  • Del Zotto-Gudas, Gostisbehere-MacDonald, Streit-Schultz
  • Del Zotto-Gostisbehere, Provorov-Gudas, Streit-Schultz 
That second combination also gives you the option to split up MDZ/Ghost with Streit/Schultz if the need arises (if Streit is bad, basically). Manning can rotate in every so often to ensure he can serve the role of Exposed Defenseman (usually MacDonald's job, am I right?), and there is a mixture of skill and stay-at-home in the final year before Streit-Schultz are replaced by some combination of kids.

That second lineup also gives you the chance to send MacDonald through waivers, which is a quick rabbit hole that I'm going to fall down. Here are some teams that have the requisite cap space (per General Fanager) and also a desperate enough need for blueline help (per Dom I-Can't-Spell-His-Last-Name) that they might take on someone who stinks as bad as MacDonald for the next four years:
  • Hurricanes: $16.5 million in cap space, a bunch of young/cheap defensemen that could benefit from the tutelage of an experienced vet like MacDonald, similar to how he had a positive impact on the Phantoms last season (ignore that he played for an AHL team and got paid $5 million last season)
  • Devils: $11.3 million in cap space, are already paying $5 million for multiple years to Replacement-Level Defenseman Andy Greene, do not have a defenseman that projects in the top half of the NHL since they traded away Adam Larsson, are already going to ice the worst blueline in the league, midas whale go for it and try to have the worst group of defensemen in history
  • Panthers: $9.2 million in cap space, are probably actually okay on overpaid defensemen since they're paying Keith Yandle and Jason Demers a combined $10.85 million through 2023 and 2021 respectively. They also have $7.5 million committed to Aaron Ekblad until 2025 (not an overpay, just mentioning the financial obligation)
  • Sabres: $8.5 million in cap space, are going to ice (by Dom's estimation) the second-worst defense behind the Devils, including the worst number one defenseman in the league (Rasmus Ristolainen) and the worst overall defenseman in the league (Josh Gorges)(yes, he's even worse than Dan Girardi). I've been mostly sarcastic in this section but I think the Sabres would actually benefit from claiming MacDonald and working them into their blueline rotation
Maybe Hextall has to grease the palm of the Sabres a little bit, with a prospect or a pick. Maybe Tim Murray realizes what's happening in Philly with Provorov (and the "next year" guys like Morin and Sanheim and Myers) and sees a way to pry a long-term asset away from Hextall while also making his miserable blueline a bit stronger in the process. Maybe he realizes he can buy MacDonald out next summer (or the following one) with a cap penalty of less than $2 million when MacDonald's gone. 

Here's my dream Hexy press conference: "Andrew MacDonald has been traded to Buffalo with a second round pick in exchange for a conditional pick that ranges from fourth to sixth depending on MacDonald's games played and the team's success. No salary will be retained."

Now it's time for me to go have some alone time in the bathroom and think about that fantasy. 

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