[Wild About Numbers]: Clayton Stoner & Nate Prosser Should Not Be Re-Signed

This was the first picture that came up when I searched: "Stoner Prosser". Not surprising. - Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Wild's season has come to an end but we'll be keeping our coverage going right through the offseason. Today's numbers article is about why the Wild should just let two of their pending UFA defencemen walk away this Summer.

We've talked about Clayton Stoner and Nate Prosser a lot this season on Hockey Wilderness so I'm gonna try not to retread too much old ground here.

Basically, Stoner is a prototypical "gritty 3rd pairing guy" that coaches in the NHL seem to love. He's big, he knocks guys around in the crease, he protects his goalie and he drops the gloves (sometimes). Prosser isn't as big as Stoner and plays a game based around agitation. He is constantly involved in post-whistle scrums and seems to draw a lot of ire from other teams' players. They both get deployed mostly in the neutral or defensive zone against 3rd and 4th line forwards at even strength and contribute on the PK. Neither possesses any noteworthy offensive or defensive ability.

Stoner (29), a 3rd round draft pick n 2004, has been in the organisation since 2005, being a regular with the Wild since 2010/11. Prosser (28) was signed as a college free agent in 2010 and has been a regular with the Wild since 2011/12. This season, Stoner was a constant presence on the 3rd pairing when healthy while Prosser, after spending the early part of the season in the press box, found himself on the 2nd pairing thanks to injuries and then played on the 3rd pairing down the stretch and into the playoffs, before he was scratched in favour of Keith Ballard.


-Here are the important stats for both players over the last 3 seasons along with how they ranked among regular Wild defenceman in each:

CLAYTON STONER

EV TOI/G

PK TOI/G

EV P/60

CF%

CF% Rel

QoC Rel

ZS%

11/12

15:54

8th

1:39

7th

0.30

6th

45.2%

3rd

+1.1%

3rd

0.042

7th

37.2%

8th

12/13

16:37

4th

1:32

3rd

0.69

3rd

47.9%

7th

-2.8%

7th

0.468

3rd

47.3%

5th

13/14

12:00

7th

1:17

6th

0.40

7th

47.5%

4th

-1.3%

4th

-0.354

6th

44.6%

4th

  • Stoner was used as a 3rd pairing defenceman in 2012 and 2014, but played 2nd pairing in 2013 and it really shows.
  • As a 3rd pairing defenceman, his production has been bad and his possession numbers have been mediocre while being deployed against soft competition. In his one season on the 2nd pairing, his production was better but his possession numbers were awful (relative to the rest of the d-corps) suggesting he was way out of his depth.
  • He ranked low in TOI/G at EV and shorthanded last season despite often being billed as an important penalty killer.


NATE PROSSER

EV TOI/G

SH TOI/G

EV P/60

CF%

CF% Rel

QoC Rel

ZS%

11/12

16:17

7th

2:04

5th

0.58

2nd

43.2%

6th

-2.0%

6th

0.248

4th

38.9%

7th

12/13

10:29

7th

0:44

7th

0.00

7th

47.0%

7th

-1.1%

6th

-1.266

7th

41.9%

7th

13/14

12:53

5th

1:37

5th

0.53

5th

46.5%

6th

-1.9%

5th

-0.260

5th

43.6%

5th

  • Prosser generally has faced soft competition with heavy defensive and neutral zone starts and his possession numbers have been consistently bad.
  • His best year was 2011/12, when he played a lot of minutes at EV and on the PK while also enjoying decent offensive production.
  • He didn't feature much last year, but his results were bad and this season has been no better. He doesn't bring any notable positive effects to the team in terms of scoring or possession.
*

Stoner's cap hit this season was $1.05 million while Prosser's was $825 thousand. That's pretty cheap, but I think the question about whether to re-sign them or not isn't a financial one. This team is trying to become a Cup contender in the near future with a combination of veterans who are on the downside of their careers and inexperienced youngsters. They can't afford to have roster spots taken up by players who don't make any tangible positive contribution to the team's on ice performance and who are at the age where they are almost certainly not going to improve.


You know what you're gonna get with Stoner and Prosser; they'll play soft minutes (meaning there is more pressure on the top-4), they'll play rough and they'll get under the opposition's skin, but that shouldn't be enough to earn them new contracts with a team that actually has aspirations to compete for a Cup. As the Wild moves out of the shadow of 2011-2013 and the dull, grinding hockey that they played in that era, players like Stoner and Prosser need to be swapped-out for upgrades. The Wild need to be icing 6 defencemen who move the puck effectively with great skating and/or a nice first pass out of the zone.


Right now, the Wild have 3 bottom pairing defencemen who are all at the same level in terms of ability. Ballard brings more offensive upside than the other two, but he's worse defensively. The only thing he has in his favour is that his contract goes for another year. With that in mind, he should be the 7th defenceman next season while Stoner and Prosser are allowed to walk as free agents.


-Here are some possible defensive pairings the Wild could roll next year depending on what they do in free agency:

SIGN TOP-4 UFA

NO UFA

RE-SIGN STONER

RE-SIGN PROSSER

Suter-Spurgeon

Suter-Brodin

Suter-Brodin

Suter-Spurgeon

Scandella-UFA

Scandella-Spurgeon

Scandella-Spurgeon

Brodin-Folin

Brodin-Folin

Ballard-Folin

Stoner-Folin

Scandella-Prosser

(Ballard)

(Blum)

(Ballard)

(Ballard)

  • For me, bringing back Stoner or Prosser instantly makes the entire d-corps weaker. The 3rd option above doesn't seem to be much of an improvement on this year, which shouldn't be the goal.
  • The 4th option looks like a real mess with either the team's most talented young defenceman (Brodin) or best shutdown guy (Scandella) having to play on a pairing with Prosser, thus hampering their effectiveness.
  • The best option for the Wild next season is one of the the first two above. For me, it would be ideal if they brought in a solid 2nd/3rd pairing guy in free agency, someone who can play at both ends of the ice and won't be a liability if he has to move into a bigger role because of injuries. Names like Anton Stralman, Mark Fayne and Henrik Tallinder could be good options at the cheaper end of the scale.
*

I think almost everyone is resigned to the fact that Prosser will be gone this Summer but there appears to be some support from fans and writers for Stoner to be brought back. What are some of the arguments in his favour?


1) The Wild need him because he brings grit to the blueline and will stand up for his teammates by dropping the gloves sometimes.

I think the Wild's defence is a lot more gritty than people give them credit for. Suter seems to be a mild mannered guy, but he plays physically and isn't afraid to make his presence felt after the whistle if provoked. For a little guy, Spurgeon is extremely gritty and never backs down in a scrum. Scandella has size but  knows when to use it (i.e. not at times when it will cost the Wild with needless penalties). Folin is coming here with a reputation for being a big, nasty guy in college hockey. Ballard has no fear of dropping the gloves or sending a message with a big hip check. Dumba hits like a train. They'll be just fine without Stoner.

If the team needs someone to punch faces sometimes, they might have McCormick coming back next year and, if not, Brodziak, Ballard, Coyle and Bulmer can drop the gloves on occasion. Cooke, Koivu and Nino are tough customers too. There's always the option of bringing in a guy with a similar nasty streak to Stoner but who is actually good defensively. Maybe Matt Greene (depending on his health) or Brett Bellemore.


2) Stoner is a good character guy in the locker room.

This may be so, but I think this team has more than enough guys to fill that void. Watching the post game videos in the locker room after those playoff wins, you could see who those character guys were and, for me, Cooke, Haula, Brodziak and Scandella seemed to be the major ones.

Besides, it's not like players of the calbre of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville etc. are gonna have trouble motivating themselves to play just because Clayton Stoner isn't there. After the great playoff run that they had, locker room chemistry should be through the roof next season.


3) He's a cheap option for the 3rd pairing.

Cheap doesn't mean good. A team looking to be competitive in the near future should be looking to bring in good players at all costs. If you can get good players for low prices, then great, but Stoner is a bad player and you don't want those guys taking up a roster spots regardless of cost.


4) He provides a stop-gap option while Dumba, Folin and Olofsson get time to adjust to the AHL.

I think the marker for being an improvement on the Wild's 3rd pairing defencemen from this year is pretty low and those young guys will have all of training camp and preseason to fight it out for a spot. We'll know after that time that one of them (likely Folin) is ready and that the other two need more seasoning in the AHL.

I don't think there's even a chance that Folin comes in and doesn't do better than Stoner or Prosser would have.


5) He was good in the playoffs.

He deservedly received a lot of plaudits for his play in the series against the Blackhawks in which he scored a goal and two assists but it's worth remembering that he had a pretty terrible series against the Avalanche. Besides the fact that judging players based on a short playoff run is dangerous (Ville Leino says hi), I think 6 good games is heavily out-weighed by several years worth of mediocrity.

*

This all probably makes me come across as very anti-Stoner, but I was actually really happy with his play early in the season. For the 1st month or so he seemed to have re-invented himself and was a much savvier player but as the season wore on he just looked worse and worse and more like his old self. If Ballard was also a UFA, I might consider Stoner as the best of the 3 to bring back but Ballard still being under contract means that there is no other option but to cut Stoner and Prosser loose.


What are your thoughts on all of this, Wilderness? Leave a comment below.

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Thanks to Extra Skater, Hockey Analysis, Hockey Abstract and SomeKindOfNinja for all the data.

For a quick advanced stats 101, read this. For more in-depth stuff, read this.

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