Anton Stralman has solidified himself as a great option for defense, especially when he slides into the bottom pairing. He has proven to be worth the contract he has been signed to ($1.7 million through next season), and provides the Rangers with an incredibly deep blue line when everyone is healthy. In the salary cap era, clubs need to find cheap talent, and the Rangers have found that in Stralman.
That said, Stralman’s 2013 campaign has been very interesting. He’s not lighting the lamp, though he’s not really that type of defenseman, but he’s been playing a fairly solid two-way game. When looking at his metrics, he leads all Ranger defensemen with a whopping 17.0 RCorsi, which is absolutely absurd. That 17.0 RCorsi is better than puck possession monster Carl Hagelin and superstar Rick Nash. It’s actually mind-boggling good.
But Stralman’s performance isn’t against the best of the best. His -0.727 Corsi Rel QoC (fourth among defensemen) is fairly bad, meaning he’s getting favorable matchups against weaker competition. That does skew the absurd RCorsi, as does his 56.7% OZone starts.
When you put those three together, you have a player that coach John Tortorella has been sheltering to an extent, which you can see from the lovely Player Usage Charts at HockeyAbstract.com.
Side note: There’s an option to embed the charts, but they haven’t worked at all when I’ve tried. Has anyone else had this issue?
Stralman may actually be the most sheltered Ranger defenseman that plays regularly. You can argue Michael Del Zotto, but his Corsi Rel QoC is higher, and you can attribute the extra O Zone starts to Torts using his offensive weapons in good spots. Of course, MDZ’s RCorsi is nowhere near Stralman’s, which is why his metrics are incredibly interesting.
Stralman has shown he is more than capable of dominating puck possession against his current matchups, and it makes you wonder if he would succeed if he were given tougher matchups. We’ve seen him fill in as a top-four guy, and he was able to hold his own. It’s been small sample sizes, but what we’ve seen shows he’s capable.
Perhaps Stralman’s puck possession prowess is best served on that bottom pairing when Marc Staal returns. Pairing Stralman with swift skating John Moore provides the Rangers with a strong third pairing, and Stralman would still be getting the favorable matchups. There’s no way to predict that without actually seeing Stralman and Moore together as a pairing for a long period of time. But for now, Stralman’s strong puck possession season is a pleasant surprise.