Originally written on Shutdown Line  |  Last updated 5/7/12

After a solid rookie season, Jamie McBain began this year in the press box and had to earn his playing time with seven other defensemen also on the team. It didn't take long for him to be inserted back into the lineup and he had quite a wild year to say the least. With his usual defense partner, Joni Pitkanen, being on the IR for most of the season, the coaching staff had a tough time figuring out how to use McBain and his performance on ice either thrived or suffered as a result.

There were games when McBain was used against the toughs and that had mixed results. He managed to hold his own on some nights and got destroyed on others. The word "sophomore slump" came up a lot with McBain this year when he was playing tough minutes when in reality, he was playing a role that he wasn't fit for and probably shouldn't have been used in. Uncoincidentally, he started playing better in a protected third pairing role with Jaroslav Spacek and saw all of his numbers improve.

McBain's versatility is nice to have and he gained a lot of experience this season, but where does he fit on the team long-term? A look at his numbers from this year show that he is best as a third-pairing defenseman for now but might not be completely helpless in a top four role. A look at said numbers is coming after the jump.

Jamie McBain 2011-12 Scoring Chances

Average TOI: 19:47
Even Strength Chance% Defense Ranking: 3/9
Even Strength Chance Diff/60 Defense Ranking: 3/9
QualComp Defense Ranking: 6/9
OZ Start%: 51.5%

McBain logged most of his minutes at even strength while playing a considerable amount of time on the powerplay. He was used only sparingly on the penalty kill. His assignments at even strength were relatively soft since he spent a good chunk of the season playing on the third pairing, and he didn't get matched up against the toughs with Joni Pitkanen either. In short, he was protected but he wasn't Marc-Andre Bergeron.

Scoring Chances by Season Segment

Game # TCF TCA SCF SCA Segment% Team % 1-10 30 34 30 34 0.469 0.475 11-20 61 69 31 35 0.470 0.527 21-30 93 97 32 28 0.533 0.518 31-40 140 160 47 63 0.427 0.473 41-50 183 206 43 46 0.483 0.465 51-60 221 241 38 35 0.521 0.511 61-70 275 287 54 46 0.540 0.454 71-82 333 347 58 60 0.492 0.548

TC = total chances, SC = segment chances, Segment% = scoring chance percentage during segment, Team %= Hurricanes' scoring chance percentage during segment

Scoring Chance Segment by Line Graph

Click to enlarge

McBain hovered around the team average for most of the year but you can tell that he had some stretches of good and bad play mixed in. The one very bad stretch came during games 31-40 when he was playing the toughs with Tim Gleason as his partner. It's easy to tell that things didn't go so well there. His play improved when he started playing with Spacek on the third pairing and he seemed to play decently with Joni Pitkanen when he returned at the end of the season.

The thing with McBain is that he will give you a solid amount of offense but give up just as much at the other end, if not more. His numbers from this season are extremely similar to what they were last year as he hovered around the 50% mark in even strength scoring chances (49.9% this season) and gave up the same amount of scoring chances at he created per 15 minutes.

The raw numbers help gain some perspective on this.

Player TOI 5v5 SCF 5v5 SCA SC +/- SC% EV CF/15 EV CA/15 Jamie McBain 1201.9 332 333 -1 0.499248 4.143543 4.156024

For a defensman, 4.14 chances per 15 minutes is a pertty high amount, the third highest among Carolina blue-liners in fact. However, he gave up just as much in his own zone which was the fourth highest amount among defensemen. McBain's a very high-risk player and he showed that this season, especially when he was playing against more difficult assignments. His ability to play 20+ minutes a game makes him a nice asset and he had a solid season but I have to wonder if McBain will become expandable on a blue-line that has a few puck movers on it already.

It is tough to call this year a "sophomore slump" for McBain because he performed at about the same level as he did last season. Things just looked a lot worse when he was playing against tougher opponents and better when he was being protected. Am I disappointed that McBain couldn't handle himself against that kind of competition? A little, but at the same time I don't think the Hurricanes need him to play that kind of role, especially with Justin Faulk's emergence. Things might get dicey next season if Ryan Murphy makes the team, though.

Scoring Chance WOWY

The success McBain had with Spacek is noted here and so are his struggles when playing with Gleason. Something else of note is how poorly he and Derek Joslin played together which is interesting because they were probably getting protected minutes as a defense unit. This could be a testament to how solid Spacek was this year or just how bad Joslin played, but I think McBain has something to do with it too. You can see that Spacek played a lot better when he wasn't with McBain while the latter struggled away from Spacek.

For next season, I think it is time to break up the Pitkanen/McBain defense pairing. I know they had great chemistry together and yadda yadd yadda, but they give up way too much in their own end when they are playing together. Pitkanen's season was hampered by injuries but I think the coaching staff should try to pair these two with other people. Spacek probably won't be back next season, so I will be interested to see who they decide to pair McBain with if they split up him and Pitkanen.


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