Originally written on Shutdown Line  |  Last updated 3/12/12

If you have been keeping up with the scoring chance recaps, one thing you will notice is that Jamie McBain & Jaroslav Spacek have been the team's "highest rated" defensemen in about six of the last seven games. These two are also leading the defense corps in terms of possession metrics and are currently the only defensemen on the team with scoring chance percentages above the .500 mark. What this means is that whenever these two are on the ice, the puck is moving in the right direction and the Canes have been creating more chances.

Another thing they have in common is they rank near the bottom of the defense corps in corsi relative to quality of competition, which means they are mostly matched up against third and fourth liners from the opposing team. They are also among the team leaders in offensive zone starts, showing that they've been given a strong territorial advantage which has contributed to their success. Essentially, these two have been third pairing defensemen who have been seeing protected minutes and are used in mainly offensive situations. Some might see this as a knock on their game because they aren't being used against tough minutes, but I see it as head coach Kirk Muller utilizing both players to their strengths and it has had a very positive effect on the team's defense.

After the jump, we'll take a look at how McBain & Spacek have excelled in this role and the effect it has had on the rest of the defense corps.

Here's a quick breakdown of what the offensive zone starts have looked like ever since Kirk Muller took over. Data courtesy of Vic Ferrari's time on ice site.


OZ DZ OZ% Spacek 174 129 0.574 Joslin 76 61 0.555 McBain 207 188 0.524 Harrison 199 189 0.513 Faulk 245 239 0.506 Allen 193 239 0.447 Gleason 197 276 0.416

Gleason & Allen are getting the tough minutes, Faulk & Harrison are being used primarily against secondary competition while McBain & Spacek have been getting the offensive/protected minutes. This should be no surprise with Spacek because he played a similar role in Montreal last year, only not as extreme. Still, with his age and reputation as more of an offensive specialist (and the greatest offensive defenseman the Columbus Blue Jackets organization has ever seen), this role makes perfect sense for him. McBain is an interesting case because Muller is using him in a completely different way than Maurice did. When Maurice was head coach last year, McBain was used a lot more in the defensive zone, but saw only average competition. For whatever reason, Maurice decided to increase McBain's workload this year by using him even more in the defensive zone (44.3 OZ%) and using him against tougher competition. Muller, on the other hand, has been using him completely differently as McBain's OZ% is 52.4% ever since the coaching change and it get even higher when he's paired with Spacek.


OZ DZ OZ% CF CA SC% Spacek/McBain 93 77 0.547 81 65 0.555 Spacek overall
93 77 0.547 88 67 0.568 McBain overall 127 100 0.559 116 103 0.53

Here is a breakdown of zone starts and scoring chances dating back to the game on January 12, 2012 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, which is when Muller started to use McBain & Spacek as a regular pairing. Some of the data is skewed because Spacek missed a few games in January with an injury but this does represent how both defensemen have been utilized under Muller. You will see that McBain & Spacek are regularly deployed in the offensive zone and are getting the job done when it comes to being third pairing defensemen. Over 55% of the even strength scoring chances are going in Carolina's favor when these two are on the ice and that's pretty good even with protected minutes. Some more points would be a nice bonus, but these two have done a great job as the third pairing thus far.

I have heard some say that they expected McBain to be playing a bigger role than this, which is fair because he played in the top-four last season and should be growing as a player but you have to remember what kind of player he is. McBain has a great offensive skillset and isn't exactly the biggest player, so he may not be suited for a shutdown role yet. I've also heard some people say this is Muller not showing confidence in McBain, but I do not buy that at all. If Muller didn't have any confience in McBain, he would be sitting in the press box. This is simply a case of a coach using an offensive defenseman the way he is supposed to by playing him to his strengths. Neither McBain or Spacek are racking up points but they are doing their jobs by creating chances and not giving up too much at the other end.

Also, I think the play of Justin Faulk & Jay Harrison has allowed Muller to utilize McBain & Spacek the way he wants to. Harrison started a ton of his shifts in the defensive zone last season and has proven this year that he can take on opposing team's second lines while Faulk has shown that he does not need the benefit of a protection despite being only 19. Because of this, along with Gleason & Allen forming the shutdown/tough minute pairing, McBain is freed up to easier minutes and this is the role that suits him best on the team now. He isn't ready for tough minutes yet and his best assets are his puck-moving skills and offensive upside, which makes him a fine addition to the third pairing. Muller deserves a lot of credit for recognizing this and managing the defense corps carefully. It will be interesting to see how McBain is utilized next year after Spacek leaves for free agency and if McBain can find a success with another defense partner.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

With Kevin Love retained, the Cavs can take care of LeBron

Aldridge crosses Lakers off list, did not mesh well with Kobe

Jerry Dipoto officially steps down as Angels GM

Report: Rajon Rondo wants 'all of' Kings' $10M cap space

Reports: Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson returning to Cavs

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Dwyane Wade, Heat reportedly progressing in contract talks

Obama Administration: Change name if Redskins move to D.C.

Brandon Spikes sentenced to one year probation in crash

Report: Leafs trade Kessel to Penguins in multi-player deal

David Ortiz vehemently denies that his bat speed is declining

Report: Spurs sign Danny Green to deal, trade Tiago Splitter

Mike Green is joining the Red Wings on a three-year deal

Grading the deal: Davis commits to Pelicans until 2020

ESPN denies censoring Keith Olbermann commentary

The best and worst MLB players in the month of June

Report: Lakers didn’t make strong impression on Aldridge

Danny Green takes the Andre Iguodala path

DeSean Jackson rips Eagles in new reality TV show

Deciding what the All-Star Game really means

Being a Dallas Cowboys fan could cost Chris Christie votes

Winning and losing the strike zone game: Midseason update

Baltimore Orioles keep finding a way to win

Aldridge recruited to Lakers by Adam Levine, Snoop Dogg

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

With Love retained, the Cavs can take care of LeBron

Grading the deal: Davis commits to Pelicans

Obama Administration: Change name if Redskins move to D.C.

Deciding what the All-Star Game means

Odell Beckham Jr. offered professional baseball contract

Orioles keep finding a way to win

Lloyd sends USWNT to World Cup final

Selecting the 2015 AL All-Stars

NBA Draft grades: Eastern Conference

Under the radar NBA free agents

Michael Sam, boyfriend broke up?

Mickelson linked to money laundering?

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.