Dispelling Myths – Sheldon Souray

By , September 1, 2009 9:34 am
Craig Weller, trying to figure out why all these people are in his bedroom

Craig Weller, trying to figure out why all these people are in his bedroom

When people think of the Oilers best PKers, the first people that jump to mind are going to be Pisani, Horcoff… maybe Steve Staios. Well, for the most part, that is a good assumption. However, there is one guy who will amost always get no credit.

By nature, people think of Sheldon Souray as a very offensive-minded defencemen with very little – maybe average – defensive ability. However, the stats are telling us otherwise, on this.

David Staples has an article up that sparked this post. In it, he mentioned how more damage is caused to the team when Sheldon Souray takes a penalty than when Ethan Moreau takes a penalty. So this got me thinking. Is this because Sheldon Souray is that effective on the PK? Well, that turns out to be the case.


Of all of our PKers, Sheldon Souray saw the second most ice time at 283:31 (Steve Staios had 284:56, and Shawn Horcoff had 263:24, for those comparing numbers). While I can’t confirm that he was always facing top the powerplay, you can deduce by this TOI statistic that he would have been facing the top powerplay a considerable amount of time – as much as anyone on the team.

So how did he fair with those minutes? For this, I like to look at a stat I refer to as SH GA ON / 20 (while this player was on the ice and the team was short handed, how many goals were scored against the team per 20 minutes of ice time). Sheldon Souray’s SH GA ON / 20 was 3rd best among all Oilers players, and first amongst all defencemen. This is pretty remarkable. For one, Souray saw at least 3 times more ice time short-handed than either of the two players ahead of him (Erik Cole and Fernando Pisani). This SHOULD statistically work against him, so it’s natural that he would be lower ranked than those two.

Short-Handed Stats

Erik ColeL6382.021:1851.219
Fernando PisaniR3891.532:2491.967
Sheldon SourayD81283.523:30342.398
Ladislav SmidD6040.670:4052.459
Andrew CoglianoC8248.200:3562.490
Tom GilbertD82208.572:32262.493
Jason StrudwickD7196.201:21122.495
Kyle BrodziakC79216.332:44282.589
Ethan MoreauL77199.152:35272.712
Dustin PennerR7846.580:3573.006
Steve StaiosD80284.933:33433.018
Liam ReddoxL4652.971:0983.021
Shawn HorcoffC80263.403:17413.113
Denis GrebeshkovD72152.382:06263.413
Patrick O'SullivanC1923.151:1354.320

Now, there isn’t a giant deviation in numbers between Souray and a few of the players below him, but given the number of minutes Souray played and the quality of competition he would have faced, this difference has a bit more impact. If you compare him to a guy like Staios who would have seen similar minutes but was on ice for 20% more short-handed goals, then the impact again is even more significant.

Even Strength

Looking at things at even strength, the pairing of Sheldon Souray and Steve Staios did the best defensively of any of our pairings allowing only 0.627 GA / 20 mins of ice time. This was the lowest of all defencemen. They do suffer a small offensive drop when compared to a Sheldon Souray / Tom Gilbert pairing, though. However, if you look at the best pairings overall considering goals differential / 20 mins of ice time (GD ON/20), they look something like this:

Souray Staios (GD ON/20 = +0.235)
Visnovsky Grebeshkov (GD ON/20 = +0.433)
Smid Gilbert (GD ON/20 = +0.329)

Each of these pairings produce more than they allow, with Visnovsky and Grebeshkov being our best pairing (I think this will be our number 1 pairing in 1 or 2 years). It should be noted again that Souray generally faces the best quality of competition while on the ice (as would Staios, obviously, when paired with him). So for that reason, it should be expected that their pairing will have a lower GD/20. And I will say that Gilbert and Souray do make as good or better a pairing than Staios and Souray, however Gilbert is a much better defensive partner for Smid than Staios is, so far (GD ON/20 for Staios and Smid pairing is -0.197… which means they allow more goals than they manage to score).

To me, it looks like these are great pairings, and good advertisement to go with these pairings for the start of next year. I know a lot of people are going to scoff and say that Staios doesn’t belong on the top line pairing, but the stats so far have shown otherwise. Jonathan Willis of Copper & Blue did have an argument on this issue, stating that the SV% with these guys on the ice is unnaturally high as well, which might be why they have an easier time. But to that, I think one can say that perhaps that SV% is higher because the quality in close shots aren’t there as often as they would be with some of our less experienced guys on the ice. Dwayne Roloson, to me, is the type of goaltender that is a great first save goaltender and due to positioning, a below average second save goaltender. He’ll give up that big rebound, and if someone isn’t there to clear it away, there could be trouble. I am thinking that our best players on the ice at the time (which would include Horcoff, Staios and Souray) were successful at keeping the net clear, and keeping the shots to the perimeter.

The other odd pairing in this is Smid and Gilbert. They haven’t seen enough ice time to really judge yet, however so far, Gilbert has been Smid’s best defensive partner at both ends of the rink (as mentioned above). As much as I like Smid, he has had some struggles, as we’ve all seen, when paired with Staios. That could be as much Staios’ fault as it is Smid’s though. At any rate, I’d like to see the coaching staff stay away from that timebomb this year. Now that I’ve managed to veer off topic….


My thoughts, in summation… at even strength Souray and Staios don’t make quite as bad a pairing as one might think. I think Souray actually gives Staios a calming presence that he needs. When paired with a fellow experienced d-man, I think his confidence is a little higher, and he can play better to his game. I still would like to see a better option for top “shut down” d-man… but for now, Souray is it, and Staios helps him in that regard. To be honest though, Staios (as well as Smid, indirectly) seems to benefit from that pairing a fair bit more than Souray does, however.

Now I have no delusions that Sheldon Souray is the same defensive wall that Chris Pronger was for us, but his play last year was phenomenal at both ends of the ice, and he deserves a bit more credit for being a stabling force on the blue line. It’s not often pretty, but he gets the job done.

At any rate… Sheldon Souray proved last year that he is worth every penny.

20 Responses to “Dispelling Myths – Sheldon Souray”

  1. pharsyde says:

    Interesting read. I wouldn’t have thought that our two slowest (arguably) defensemen would be the best pairing. Souray always seems to be in the right position with his 8 foot long stick and he’s got that old man strength that allows him to whack the puck out from in front of the net. And Staios too is always at or near the top of the list of shot blockers, so perhaps its not too far-fetched to imagine them being a good pairing.

    While Souray is no Pronger, like you mentioned, he does bring a similar defensive game. Not a heck of a lot of movement, but always in the right place with his stick, strong on the puck and he’ll clear the net with his body or with his stare, which he must have learned from the Dos Equis guy.

  2. Racki says:

    LOL @ Dos Equis.

    You are right though, he does seem to have good positioning… almost Pronger-like (easy folks, I said almost 😉 ). And he does have a big, effective reach. You don’t have to be the most fleet of foot when you’ve got a wingspan of a “Spruce Goose“. He also was a lot calmer with the puck last year, than I’d seen him before. I can think of a number of times where I witnessed him standing up at the other team’s blue line, poking away at the puck and stickhandling it to keep it in at the blue line.

  3. pharsyde says:

    You’re obviously a busy guy at work Racki ;), but I was wondering how these numbers compare to those of say, the top PK teams in the league (NYR led the league in PK, really??).

  4. Racki says:

    Yah, I’ll whip up some stats later tonight or tomorrow night (this whole write-up was done last night, I’m not quite that lazy at work :lol:) to compare against other team’s PKs. That’s actually a really good question and a good point of comparison.

  5. NorwegianOiler says:

    Great read! And I must comment that if a goaltenders save percentage is particularly high when a particular pair of defensemen are on the ice – then it’s probably the defensemen who contribute most to it – given that the goalie’s “normal average spans out over more time. That is, if a goaltender suddenly does better for a minority of the time, then I’d start looking at what factors allow that to happen, not claim that it’s just a freak accident (which it still might be though).

  6. Racki says:

    Yah, I agree with you, N.O.. I’m simplifying things a bit and perhaps not giving Roloson enough credit by saying this, but I’ve always found that Roli tends to play his best games when the defense are collapsing around him, clearing away the rebounds. I think Roli is a stellar “first-save” goaltender, and he can make some really nice acrobatic desperation saves. But for the most part, I think our defense has to play pretty tight around him and clear those rebounds. And well, perhaps Souray and Staios can take a lot of credit there for doing those things well. Obviously Staios is pretty proficient with the shot blocks. Taking away those quality shots and sacrificing quantity go a long way in preventing goals. Anyone else ever notice how Roli is on fire when he faces a lot of shots? Keep them to the outside for him, and he’ll thrive. Again though, not taking anything away from Roloson. He had some great games last year. But his d-men should take a bit of credit on occasion too.

  7. Trogdor says:

    I wouldn’t be too concerned about giving Roli a hard time. I was against having him around the whole time he was here and he very much was a first save goalie. He didn’t earn the moniker Rubber Roli for his ad campaign with Trojan. That being said, it’s a goalie’s job to make the first save and they’ll need assistance beyond that. They can make it easier on themselves though and direct rebounds into lower percentage shooting areas, but more often than not, it was a juicy puck to the slot area with Roli.

    We shall see soon enough how the Wall stands in Edmonton and hopefully there is a marginally better rebound direction combined with the defensive pairs clearing out of pucks. It would go a long way to help our GAA.

    Not sure I’m still on topic here, but when I see mention of Roli, I need to add my 2 bits. I won’t argue that last year he did earn his money though, but in the same breath, I’m glad he’s gone.

  8. olivier says:

    Completely off-topic: how do you do those nifty sortable tables? I want them!

  9. Trogdor says:

    olivier: Completely off-topic: how do you do those nifty sortable tables? I want them!

    Looks to be a built in part of the Word Press software, either that or Racki stays up late programming code like crazy.

  10. Racki says:

    Actually, I do stay up late, coding like crazy 😉 But no, they are actually from the Word Press plug in: WP-Table Reloaded

  11. Steve-O says:

    Racki: Actually, I do stay up late, coding like crazy ;)But no, they are actually from the Word Press plug in: WP-Table Reloaded

    Well you sure are not staying up late working on actual work

  12. Racki says:

    This is the pot calling the kettle black here.

  13. Hockey Noob says:


    Great post!

    Oliver, I had already asked him the same thing via email, lol…

    Overall, we’re in pretty decent shape with respect to our defesemen especially with the rumored return of Lubo. Imagine if Lubo and Souray can both stay healthy this year…

  14. Steve-O says:

    Who brought work home tonight buddy

  15. Racki says:

    I don’t know, all I know is I have to do your work tomorrow! 😛

  16. Racki says:

    Hockey Noob: Racki,Great post!Oliver, I had already asked him the same thing via email, lol…Overall, we’re in pretty decent shape with respect to our defesemen especially with the rumored return of Lubo.Imagine if Lubo and Souray can both stay healthy this year…

    For some reason your post got picked up as spam, originally.

    But yes, wow, we could be in a lot better shape if both those guys remain healthy (Souray and Lubo). And I honestly can’t stress enough just how good of a pairing Lubo and Grebs are. Looking forward to seeing more of those two guys, in particular. I think that Visnovsky had a lot to do with “Garbagekov” becoming Grebeshkov again. Lubo probably gave him some confidence and maybe some good pointers.

  17. LateNightOilFan says:

    Good analysis Racki. Souray is probably my current favorite Oiler now, in fact I like all our D. I don’t mind Staois and feel he has been forced to play over and above his comfort zone in the past so it will be interesting to see if coaching addresses this.

    I am more curious though to see how well Khabbi adapts to the Oiler D compared to the D he has left behind in CHI. This is my quick and dirty comparison of the top 6 D for each team last year – based on both traditional stats and Behindthenet.ca advanced stats. Sorry, no tables tonight!

    Keith +33 25:34 TOI/G GFON-GAON Differential 1.00 Corsi 12.7
    Seabrook +23 23:19 TOI/G GFON-GAON Differential .66 Corsi 11.7
    Campbell +5 22:34 TOI/G GFON-GAON Differential .30 Corsi 14.1
    Barker -6 18:20 TOI/G GFON-GAON Differential -.39 Corsi 9.4
    Walker +7 16:37 TOI/G GFON-GAON Differential .58 Corsi 8.1
    Johnson +19 14:08 TOI/G GFON-GAON Differential 2.12 Corsi 4.9

    Souray +1 24:50 TOI/G GFON-GAON Differential .10 Corsi -1.3
    Visnovski +6 23:00 TOI/G GFON-GAON Differential .71 Corsi 5.8
    Gilbert +6 21:58 TOI/G GFON-GAON Differential .23 Corsi -3.5
    Grebeshkov +12 21:10 TOI/G GFON-GAON Differential .81 Corsi 2.6
    Staios -5 19:48 TOI/G GFON-GAON Differential -.29 Corsi -11.6
    Smid -6 14:57 TOI/G GFON-GAON Differential -.36 Corsi -13.4

    As I said, I like our D, but compared to CHI there is a drop. Now given that Roli and Khabbi posted similar sv% last year, with Khabbi playing only half of CHI games, do you think the CHI D is that much better because of Khabbi or was Khabbi better because of the D? My feeling is the latter, and I’m not sure how well Khabbi will fare when he gets to E-town. Further, Chicago’s D was better in 07-08 than the Oiler’s D in 08-09 based on the above-noted factors and Khabbi’s sv% was .909 that year. I am just worried we are going to see a drop in goaltending sv% next year given that Khabbi will face more shots and be expected to play more. It is imperative to me that our goaltending remain on the same level as it was last year.

    As an aside, because it has been mentioned, re the team collapsing to the net with Roli and also his second save ability, I would have agreed with that moreso in 07-08 but I thought both areas improved in 08-09. I particularly noticed Roli was able to direct his rebounds to the side more in 08-09 and that was likely a key success factor for him in 08-09 compared to 07-08. I also feel that the breakout was much more improved in 08-09 which was a combination of less collapsing and the play of Visnovski but the forwards were less successful at finishing the chances that were created. We generated more shots in 08-09 compared to 07-08 but our shooting % declined.

  18. chucker says:

    Interesting post. Maybe Stev is “steady”. I still think he’s more effective with less ice, but maybe it simply comes down to who is paired with as your analysis would seem to show. I think it will be safe to say that the D staying intact will likely improve everyone in terms of chemistry and familiarity. The X factor is Khabi. Hopefully there are no holes in the wall.

    The comparison to Chicago’s D is interesting. There’s a team with two starters and a lot more fire power than us with a bigger D and and a little bit more experience for their youger players. Nice to think that could be our D soon if they develop as they have to date. If JDD proves to be a great tandem goalie then we can be in a really good position. I’m just reluctant to compare the two teams especially based on the forwards they have vs. ours. Not to say they are not good comparables because they are, but Chicago is four years ahead and drafted a lot higher for many years than we have.

    It will be fun to watch these guys play head to head this year. I’ll be at those games for sure.

  19. Racki says:

    Hey LNOF… good post. And actually, I completely agree that Roli was much improved in the area of weakness that I mentioned (requiring the team to collapse around him). Some nights he was just completely on and didn’t require that “babysitting” that I’ve been a bit frustrated with in previous years. I will give him a lot of credit, he played pretty damn fantastic last year and was one of our top players, for sure. So yes, some of my comments about needing to collapse around him does span over his entire stay here. I still saw some of that last year, but it was definitely a lot less frequent than in previous years.

    As for Khabi, thats a good point, for sure. Lots can change under new coaching staff too, so we could see a boost from our D. Who knows. It’ll definitely be like a completely new team next year even though there are barely any changes. Well, one can hope, anyways.

  20. Racki says:

    chucker: Interesting post.Maybe Stev is “steady”.I still think he’s more effective with less ice, but maybe it simply comes down to who is paired with as your analysis would seem to show.I think it will be safe to say that the D staying intact will likely improve everyone in terms of chemistry and familiarity.The X factor is Khabi.Hopefully there are no holes in the wall.

    I completely agree with what you said.. except for I think the ice time part with Staios. I remember an argument towards the end of this season with someone. I had brought up that Staios has been playing way more ice time than he’s used to. I thought it was affecting him too. However, I took a look, and a lot of his best games were where he was eating up big minutes, unbelievably enough. So that’s kind of weird. I don’t quite think he’s “Steady Steve” any more, but I do think that he and Smid make a pretty poor pairing.

    Most of us saw a pretty bad Staios last year, but I think some of that can be pinned on some rookie mistake by the other partner. I think Smid will be a rock solid d-man, but for whatever reason, it looks like him and Staios just don’t jive together.

    I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Staios moved for a younger option. But at this point, oddly enough he still seems to be the right guy for that top RD. I will take this moment to yet again cry about how the Ducks made a great signing in Boynton, however. 😛 That would have been a good replacement for Staios.

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