While most people look at the Toronto Maple Leafs’ acquisition of Tyson Barrie as a major plus when the team picked up the lead defenseman and Alex Kerfoot for Nazem Kadri and Calle Rosen on July 1, there are other analytics experts who suggest that the addition of Barrie isn’t much, if any improvements over Jake Gardiner, who the team has allowed to walk away in free agency.
Of course, Barrie looks like an impressive upgrade, especially when you look at his offensive numbers. Barrie scored 14 goals and 59 points last season and posted 57 points the previous year, giving Toronto another top-notch offensive defenseman next to Morgan Rielly. Gardiner was a second-pairing defenseman whose offense disappeared last year with 30 points, even though he posted 52 points the previous season. However, only one player, Barrie or Rielly, can get those first-line power play minutes and there is no guarantee that Barrie will be able to pry those minutes away from Rielly next season, suggesting that Barrie’s number’s could drop quite a bit. In fact, two goals and 23 assists came off the power play last season where Barrie was the team’s quarterback of the first power play unit.
However, analytics suggest that Gardiner, despite his struggles might prove to be a better blueliner, especially defensively. While Toronto is an offensive juggernaut, Gardiner still had a plus-19 rating in plus-minus, while there are some questions about how good a defender Barrie is. In Colorado, Barrie posted a minus-3 on an Avalanche squad that made the playoffs last season and a minus-19 the previous year, when they were a playoff team as well. While plus-minus might be considered to be an unreliable fact, Gardiner has been solid for Toronto despite the fact receiving Toronto fans wrath for years. He has averaged over 21:48 of ATOI over the past three years and in those three years ranks 23rd in the league in points with 125. In goals above replacement (GAR), which is an all-encompassing stat to evaluate skaters, Gardiner ranked 17th among defenseman last year and fifth in the league at even strength, according to evolving-hockey.com. Barrie ranked 50th last season and 66th at even strength.
However, Gardiner’s value seems to have dropped. Despite being considered one of the top defensive free agents on the unrestricted free agent market, Gardiner remains unsigned with rumors he’s seeking $7MM per season. While a change in scenery might have been needed for Gardiner, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Barrie will be the better player.
So, is Barrie a significant upgrade over Gardiner?
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