Carolina Hurricanes Best Defenseman: Talking Brett Pesce Part 2

Earlier this year we looked at Brett Pesce’s stats.  Now over twenty games in, is his performance holding up for the Carolina Hurricanes?

Everybody loves Jaccob Slavin.  Left and right on all the social medias one finds praise for the Carolina Hurricanes’ second-year defender.  Which is odd seeing how when we looked at his d-partner earlier this season, the numbers told a different story.  But now that over a quarter of the season has passed, surely Jaccob Slavin took over as the best defenseman of the team.  When one watches both Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin they look equal.  It feels Slavin leans a bit more offensively, and Pesce defensively, but overall they are equal.  Most fans pick Slavin as the better of the two, but the thing is this season that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Brett Pesce is better in almost every category than Jaccob Slavin.  In fact, Brett Pesce is the one making Jaccob Slavin a better player and not the other way around.

How They Measure Up

The graph there is self-explanatory.  Except for GF% and xGF60, where they are tied, Brett Pesce put up better stats so far this year.  And one can’t point to them playing with different players to

describe the difference because they’ve played less than 200 minutes without the other.  Pesce’s CF% is 8th in the league for defenseman over 200 minutes.  That puts him better than Erik Karlsson, Kris Letang, P. K. Subban, and almost any other top defenseman.  I’m sure most readers are saying this is because of his excellent defense instead of any offensive talent.

Want to know the surprising part?  Pesce is even better than Slavin when it comes to generating offense as well with a better CF60.  Even if one does move down to the individual level, Pesce still outperforms Slavin with 9.15 individual Corsi for per 60 compared to Slavin’s 7.71.  Basically, the stats say that when Pesce is on the ice not only does he generate more offense individually, but the team does as well.  Once again this runs counter to the narrative of Pesce being the more “defensive” of the two.  If Pesce can keep playing at this level, oh man this duo will be a force in the league for years.

Pesce’s Play Improves Jaccob Slavin

As this chart from hockeyviz.com shows Pesce’s effect on Jacob Slavin’s game is immense.  Jacob Slavin without Brett Pesce allows significantly more Corsi events than with him to the amount of around 7 more per 60 minutes.  This graph also disproves the idea as well that Slavin is more skilled offensively of the two.  Pesce without Slavin generates more offense than with Slavin while still maintaining the same level of defensive play.

Now does this mean that Slavin is a drag on Pesce’s play?  No, some of it could stem from systems or defined roles in the pairing.  But one can’t deny that Slavin isn’t propping up Pesce with his play.  A most surprising discovery I assure you.  I thought both would be better together than either apart, but the data just doesn’t back that up.

What does it mean?

In short, it means the Carolina Hurricanes’ defense is better than most people think.  Jaccob Slavin is a very, very good defenseman and nothing here says differently.  But when Slavin’s partner puts up better numbers maybe it’s time people start giving credit where credit is due.  Because it just isn’t up for debate anymore.  This season Brett Pesce’s play is the best on the team and the fact nobody realizes is a shame, and I don’t doubt for a moment that the other 29 NHL teams know it as well.

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