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Tampa Bay Lightning: Evaluating Anton Stralman

Part 19 of my Tampa Bay Lightning player evaluations is here, and in the last part, we touched on currently unsigned Restricted Free Agent, Adam Erne. Today, I am going back to the blueline, and looking at a defenseman. This defenseman left Tampa this offseason, via free agency, but stayed nearby. That player is Anton Stralman

The Basics 

Stralman played just 47 games last season, dealing with injury after injury. He produced 2 goals and 15 assists, for 17 points. That’s the least amount of games played since the 2008-09 season, and his lowest point total since the 2013-14 season.

Stralman averaged 20:31 time on ice, with 46.3% of his shifts starting in the offensive zone. It was the first time in his career that he started under 50% of his shifts in the offensive zone. With the highest defensive zone deployment of his career, he posted a career-worst 47.4 corsi-for%.

However, his season, luckily, wasn’t full of all career-lows. He put up a career-best takeaway to giveaway ratio of 25 to 16, which is a +9 differential.

Finally, the most glaringly poor statistic for Stralman’s year was in his expected goals for and against. He had a career-low 35.2 expected goals for (since it has been tracked in 2014-15). He also recorded an expected goals against of 38.1, which makes his expected plus/minus a -2.9. That expected +/- marks the first negative expected +/- of his career since it has been tracked. 

Advanced Analytics 

Stralman had arguably his worst year since his first two years in the National Hockey League. His possession stats were bad, he didn’t produce at the same level, and he showed how much his durability has diminished. Being 33 next season, that’s very concerning. But what about some of his more advanced stats? Using my spider graph, we can see where he ranks among three other Lightning defenders. 

Stralman (green), had a low number of shot contributions, which includes goals and assists off shots, but still ranked second in that metric (ShotContr60). He ranked first in shot assists (ShotAssists60) despite the low total shot contributions, but ranked dead last in how many shots he takes (Shots60).

He ranked second in both entry metrics, with one measuring the total volume of entries he generates (PossEntry60) and the other measuring his entry success rate (PossEntry%).

Where he really separates himself, however, is in his ability to break out of the defensive zone. He has a high volume of breakouts (PossExit60) as well as a fantastic exiting success rate (PossExit%).

He also ranks first in the total number of times he breaks up an opponent’s entry attempts (Breakups60). However, he ranks last in the number of times he allows the opponent to enter the defensive zone (PossEntryAllw60) and ranks third in the success rate he has when trying to stop the opposition from entering the defensive zone (PossEntryAllw%).

What all that tells me, is that his offensive production is lackluster, he isn’t the best entering the offensive zone, and he struggles when keeping the other team out of the defensive zone. It also tells me that he is a breakout master.

With that in mind, let’s look at CJ Turtoro’s Exit per 60 minute visual to see just how good Stralman really was breaking out. 

Stralman Exiting Statistics 

Stralman ranks sixth on the team when it comes to exiting the defensive zone. He relies heavily on his teammates being open for a breakout pass, as a majority of his exits consist of passing it out. He very rarely skates it out himself, and when a pass isn’t there, he looks to clear it or dump it out. However, he has a high number of fails, which tells me he occasionally forces passes up ice that is ill-advised. This is a part of his game that he must dial back. However, he is still solid when it comes to exiting the defensive zone, and does effectively get the job done. 

Stralman Entry Statistics

Stralman struggled when it came to entering the zone, based upon our findings in the spider graph. Using CJ Turtoro’s Entries per 60 minute visual, we can see where he went wrong, if at all. 

Stralman ranked sixth out of seven total defensemen in this metric.

He very rarely passes it up to a teammate or skates it into the offensive zone. What he did do, however, was dump it in deep constantly. Over and over, Stralman would cross the center ice line, and send it in deep.

Despite a seemingly safe way of entering the zone, he managed to still have the third-highest volume of fails among the other defensemen. That is a huge red flag to me when a player seemingly plays safe and smart, yet still turns the puck over more than most of his teammates. That needs to be adjusted, big time.

Stralman’s Defensive Game 

Where Stralman also struggled  was in his ability to keep the opposition out of the defensive zone. Using Sean Tierney’s Controlling the Blueline visual, we can see where Stralman stands among other Lightning defenders. 

While Stralman looked a bit underwhelming on the spider graph, it is quite the opposite here. He holds the highest breakup% and the second-highest Possession Exit% among teammates shown. He was better than Victor Hedman in fact! 

In Conclusion

The Lightning not re-signing Stralman was perfectly fine to me, as what he is getting from Florida ($5.5M for three years) is too much for Tampa to afford. The soon-to-be 33-year-old, right-shot defenseman, is coming off one of his worst seasons in a long time.

Florida buying high on him now could potentially be a mistake. Tampa letting him walk is a win in hindsight, for me, especially if they’re able to bring back Brayden Point with the salary cap space they have by not keeping Stralman on board. 

Talk about this and more at the Overtime Heroics Forums!

All stats via Hockey-reference

Spider graphs created by Kyle Pereira, data gathered by CJ Turtoro

Exit/Entry Visuals via CJ Turtoro

Controlling the Blueline visual from Sean Tierney

Featured Image Credit: Dinur Blum

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