Insiders vs. Outsiders: There’s a Perception Disparity with Andrew MacDonald

Kevin Schultz

There’s a perception disparity with Andrew MacDonald

macdonald-headWell, it’s not really MacDonald’s problem, per se, it’s a problem with how everyone watching the games is evaluating and analyzing the free-agent-to-be’s play. There seems to be a very stark difference with how Islanders fans — you know, the folks watching all the games — view MacDonald as compared to those keeping up with the team nationally.

Nationally, MacDonald garners a lot of praise for working a ton of minutes on the Islanders blue line, being effective, and there’s usually something along the lines of “my goodness, that cap hit,” as MacDonald is tied for the lowest paid Islander making $550,000 this year. At that cap hit, his deal is extremely attractive and could be an easy way to trade him at the deadline, should the Islanders decide to do that.

But MacDonald has garneredd a lot of praise from outside, including a couple of articles yesterday. At NHL.com, his offensive contributions were highlighted for fantasy hockey purposes, as he is only five points away from a career high. With the absences of Mark Strait and Lubomir Visnovsky, MacDonald has been pushed to play more minutes and is now the No. 1 defender on the power play. A good pick up if your team needs blue line points, for sure.

Going further, SI’s Allan Muir added MacDonald to his Canadian Olympic Snub Team, which is really more a list of really good Canadians that Canada simply doesn’t have roster spots for.

MacDonald is usually talked about positively outside of Long Island, but no one really had him on the Olympic radar (especially since it was Travis Hamonic, not MacDonald, who got the invite to Team Canada camp over the summer.

macdonald

And, earlier this week some folks in the DC area expressed interest in adding MacDonald, including Caps beat writer Adam Vingan.

All of this is a stark contrast to what Islander fans seem to think of MacDonald. Not that folks have pitchforks out for him, when he got hurt during the playoffs last year I think everyone realized that he is an important defender on the roster, but it’s not such shiny and effusive praise. Here’s a small sampling of some of that.

So, what’s the truth?

For some help, I turned to someone who toes both lines. Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy covers the NHL and is a Penguins fan but is from Long Island, so he spends a good bit of time at the Coliseum covering hockey and is certainly familiar with the Islanders. I asked him yesterday about the differing views on MacDonald:

I think a lot of the hype around MacDonald from writers outside of New York is that they look at his offense then compare it with his cheap cap hit. At $550K and providing 20ish points a season and 23-25 minutes per game, many teams will take that value from their blueline. Those numbers, however, overlook poor possession stats and his being dominated when on the ice.

He’s fine for now, if you’re looking at him offensively. But when he hits the free agent market this summer and some general manager gives him 5 x $4.5 million, then the hype will die down.

In my opinion, Leahy hit the nail on the head. MacDonald, at a glance, looks amazing. He’s putting up career high numbers, and is sixth in the entire NHL in average ice time per game at 25:48 (sidebar: Ryan Suter is leading the league at 29:41 per game that’s literally half of every game and we’re halfway through the season!). Then, when you look at his cap hit it’s really easy to go, ‘wow, the Islanders have a top-pair defender for well under $1 million’.

When you really drill down, you realize that he’s probably at best a solid three or four guy who is way, way over worked.

MacDonald’s fancy stats are poor. Really poor. His corsi number is tied with Matt Martin for third worst on a team that lets up the second most goals in the NHL and ninth most shots. That’s especially bad because Martin is a guy you don’t expect to necessarily get pucks at the net or away from his own net while MacDonald should at least be keeping them away from his. Plus! MacDonald plays a ton on the power play, a place where his team should be getting loads of shot attempts but even when we include those numbers it’s still not good.

USATSI_7651942_110579513_lowresEarlier this year, Garik broke down the numbers on MacDonald based on level of competition. He concluded that MacDonald was playing poorly against all levels of competition all the way from ‘elite’ down to ‘poor’.

All that’s not to say, hey, kick this guy off the team right now. MacDonald is on pace for a career high in points and blocks more shots than anyone else in the NHL. There is value in him as an NHL defender; he’s not Bruno Gervais-ing it up out there. But it certainly seems a sure bet that he’s not the top pair defender the Islanders have tried to wedge him into becoming the past two seasons.

The question for Garth Snow going forward is: Can you convince another GM that these overwhelmingly positive outsiders who love MacDonald are correct and get an accordingly valuable return? It certainly seems as though that’s a possibility.

Keeping MacDonald, who is — all debate be damned — going to get paid millions this July doesn’t necessarily fit in the Islanders plans. One, because they’ll need to pay Thomas Vanek and/or a goalie this off-season, and two, because they just don’t pay money to their pending free agents, especially when those guys are likely to get a big contract on the open market (examples: PA Parenteau, Mark Streit).

Plus, if the Islanders keep MacDonald, they’ll need to deal with finding him a spot given the youth that is expected to be on Long Island next year (Donovan, de Haan, Reinhart, plus the possibility of Pulock, Pedan and Mayfield) and the contracts they already have (Hickey, Carkner, Strait, Visnovsky). And they would be doing so with the knowledge that he’s not a top-pair defender on this team. The locals and #IslesTwitter may get crazy and blow things out of proportion, but they probably aren’t pulling deficiencies in MacDonald’s game out of thin air, either.

There’s still a ways to go to see how exactly this plays out. The Islanders are two months from the trade deadline and hot, having won 7 of their last 10. They should, for all intents and purposes, be out of the playoffs but given the weak Metro Division they’re still hanging around, eight back of third place. If I had to wager a guess, I’d think this one could go down to the wire and depend on the team’s play over the next month.




71 comments
Joe Geyer
Joe Geyer

Excellent article, key point being AMac is a 3-4 that is "way, way overworked." At his best, AMac moves the puck well, blocks shots, and gives us some life on the power play. The problem is he's always on the ice, and he makes mistakes constantly, possibly due to fatigue. 


I would like to see him re-sign, but going forward the Isles have to find a way to limit his minutes, at least back down to 18-20 mins/game. 

js43
js43

Pulock is going to be a superstar...We just have to get through this year...Problem is the Islander defense will prevent the team from getting into the playoffs... 

js43
js43

Bottom line... he is not even serviceable..he has no grit and is extremely soft... Watch the game!!!  When a opportunity presents itself where he has to throw a check he won't do it...it is that simple...you constantly see forwards come into his zone and get 2nd and 3rd chances to put the shot on net...It is a glaring weakness...I am extremely surprised the coaching staff doesn't address it !!!!   He is a liability every time he is on the ice... Remember the Islanders have the 2nd worst defense in the entire NHL...  

Dean Patrick
Dean Patrick

Kevin I thought Carkner's deal was only for 2 years!?!?!?

Julian Schubach
Julian Schubach

Our D prospects are stacked... Pokka, Pedan, Pelech, Pulock, Reinhart, De Haan, Donovan. What we don;t have is any forward prospects other than Petrov. I'd be fine trading away Pedan, Donovanand Pelech. I think The rest are untouchable... If we can trade Vanek, Bailey, Amac and a combo of those three dmen, we should be able to replenish our forward prospects, add a #1 goalie and add an NHL Dman...


Richard Gauthier
Richard Gauthier

People on here are way to pessimistic in their views of AMac. He is a good 3-4 D who blocks a lot of shots and puts up points. Remember he is 27 years old which is very young for defencemen. He has 3 1/2 years of NHL experience so yes he will still make mistakes. It take 6-7 years for an average defenceman to fully develop. If we can get him resigned for a decent cap hit then yes we should do it. It will plug a hole and allow Reinhardt, Donovan, Pulock and Pokka a few more years to properly develop in top flight D-men.

Zee Executioner
Zee Executioner

Truth is MacDonald, in spite of being much maligned, can be a valuable asset to a winning team. He is a second pairing defenseman, as others have stated and is getting way too many minutes.

However, I HAVE A NOVEL IDEA!!

How bout Chucky actually pony up some dough for this thing and start to climb that ladder from the salary floor. The market paid Oduya 3.45 per year. If Snowang can lock AMac up for several years at 3 million, and ACTUALLY SIGN TOP DEFENCEMEN or defencemen that can fill a role (a guy like Macquaid on Boston), and sure up their goalie situation by paying for one, then maybe AMac can stop being the pariah and succeed in the uniform he's wearing now (well, assuming that once this team moves, they'll be wearing the same laundry).

Matt Rogers
Matt Rogers

Between Andrew MacDonald, and cal clutterbuck I think we can manage to get a second round pick and a bag of hockey tape. I've never seen someone so single visioned as clutterbuck. All the guy does is take bad shots and throw the puck through the crease, he needs to go. As for MacDonald I feel he is serviceable but not on the powerplay. He should be a 3rd line MAYBE second line d guy who kills penalties because he blocks shots. He's just not that great. But for real clutterbuck is a bad fit for this team. Who agrees??

dzruggie
dzruggie

For me the perception I am getting is the Islanders have been playing him top minutes and PP with the idea of over pumping his value come 3/5.  Listening to NHL on XM and Boston saying they need a minute eating D (they were talking about Brad Stuart) it is clear there are not a lot on the trade front.  The problem here is this would mean that Snow actually had a plan with an end game and you know how that goes over lol.


Isleguy27
Isleguy27

For anyone to say that Andrew Macdonald sucks or is terrible, is completely unfair. As several of you have posted, he has been cast into a role on this team which he really has no business in. However, if he were to play as a 3, 4, 5 defenseman I think he would be looked at as quite a serviceable defenseman. His career numbers aren't that bad.

MysteryMachine
MysteryMachine

You state that the Islanders do not pay money to their pending free agents.  I submit the name Josh Bailey to you.  Too much money, too many years, and earned none of it.  Would it really surprise anyone if Snow locked up AMac for 7 years at $24.5m ($3.5m per year)?

Mark Pomerantz
Mark Pomerantz

Plays a lot because coach trusts him.

On a better team not always playing against the best....he would look better

If Campoli fetched a first rounder, Amac should.

I think Snow offers him 3X5

If he says no and isles are out of it, Malcolm Subban will be in Bridgeport.

mrcisback
mrcisback

  I've commented several times before on my opinion of the Islander defenseman. I feel Travis Hamonic and Andy Macdonald are really 2nd pairing defenseman. Thats the problem we really don't have a legitimate #1 and #2 1st pairing defenseman. I'm hoping between Griffen Reinhart,Ryan Pulock,Ville Pokka and the Pelech kid we come away with two studs. 

isles23
isles23

IMO Amac is a solid 2nd pairing dman. If he were playing 18-20 minutes a night instead of 23-25+ than you would see a lot less of his warts. Is he terrible? no. Is he great? Also no. A lot can be argued about how good he actually is but what you can't argue is he is an NHL defenseman that many teams would like to have.

jepliberty
jepliberty

Too many on this thread wearing rose colored glasses.

ny711ot
ny711ot

Brian Rafalski came out of retirement to play in the echl.  If his knees are  healed he is the anchor veteran dman this team needs.

millhouse
millhouse

Cut this guy some slack, he's out there breaking his ass every night playing top pair minutes when clearly he is not a top pair defenseman.that being said I'll take him on my team any day at a fair price.

Isleguy27
Isleguy27

Whoa nelly! I don't know if I'd say that. I hope he will have a lengthy career as an Islander, but to dub him a superstar is a bit premature.

Zee Executioner
Zee Executioner

@js43 Gimme a break. Superstar. You don't know that - he was projected at the draft to be a Dan Boyle type. if he becomes Erik Karlsson, great, but with this org's track record of drafting, you'd better sin some Dmen and stop being so damn cheap. 

js43
js43

@Julian Schubach How do you trade Vanek ? He is a great player...Remember he put up amazing numbers with a bad Buffalo team 

mrcisback
mrcisback

@Julian Schubach   I think you forgot our biggest remaining forward down in Bridgeport Anders Lee. Also the little guy Taylor Cammarata was rated pretty high in hockeysfuture. Petrov to me is just a big wimp. He had a chance to come to the Islanders organization and he decided to stay in Russia.

metzfan22
metzfan22

@Richard Gauthier Blocking a lot of shots means that opponents are shooting at the Islanders net all day when he's on the ice. That's bad when you have a team with bad goaltending. The point is to keep the puck away from your net (which is what the fancy stats measure- these stats show that MacDonald is awful). 


Basically, when MacDonald is on the ice, the puck is in our zone the vast majority of the time. When de Haan, for example, is on the ice, the puck has been in the offensive zone/neutral zone more often, where it's pretty much impossible for the opponent to score. So let's not use blocked shots as evidence of MacDonald being good; they're actually evidence that he's played poorly. 

metzfan22
metzfan22

@Zee Executioner Haha I like how you're ready to destroy Wang for not signing AMac for $3M, when someone else is sure to pay him $5M on the open market. 

Richard Gauthier
Richard Gauthier

@Zee Executioner Signing D is usually a terrible idea. More often than not you massively overpay. Be patient we have about 7-8 good prospects on D with 2 of them being all world talents.

tag1
tag1

@Zee Executioner Wasn't AMac a Teddy Nolan Guy? Maybe if things don't work out here something can be worked out with Buffalo, but I agree put in the right role he can be a asset.
BTW he is playing 2 more minutes a game this season from what he has been averaging the past 3 seasons.

Don22
Don22

@Matt RogersI'm sorry, but I don't think you've really been watching games very closely.  I will say it does help if you get to see a game in person.  You can then see that Clutterbuck is all over the ice.  He never stops moving and he makes other teams know he's out there. He kills penalties and can even be on the PK.  I think you are underestimating him.

Richard Gauthier
Richard Gauthier

@rmreturns I agree with that except Reinhardt needs to play a year in the AHL to get acclimated to the pro game. He's too young to be a reliable 3-4 and wont get enough minutes to develop as a 5-6.

Timothy John
Timothy John

He can be brutally bad at times to be honest... yes, he's over used, no question about it... but he's a 5-7 guy on almost any other teams...

Don22
Don22

@Lyle Odelein I agree.  He is being asked to much.  Put him where he belongs and I think he would be though of much more highly by fans. 

nics21
nics21

The thing is Amac has been bad not only against the other teams best players but he has been equally as bad against 2nd and 3rd line players as well. His Corsi is horrible against all level of competition. He is a 3rd pairing defenseman at best.

Don22
Don22

@jepliberty How so?  Are you saying that he can't be a serviceable 2nd pair?  Nobody is saying he is great.  He is exposed playing so many minutes.  Not saying he wouldn't make some of the mistakes he does now, but they probably would be less frequent and less costly when he plays less minutes and not against the top lines all the time.

orange2327
orange2327

Yep!! I know what you mean!! Not gonna say anymore!!

dzruggie
dzruggie

@ny711ot Not sure if that is true but if it is you have to know that he expects there to be no market for D and expects to get a contract, which if that is the case will pump up the value for Amac - IF Viz comes back or Donovan steps up.  If neither happen the will not break up the D the way they are playing and being within breathing room of the 3rd spot in the Metro.  

doc942
doc942

@ny711ot Seriously?  That's like the worst idea I've heard in years.

Richard Gauthier
Richard Gauthier

@Zee Executioner @js43 No way. That guy is a superstar all the way. This organization has a very good draft record over the past 5 years. Most people are used to the NFL and prospects jumping into the lineup right away but thats not the case with the NHL. Signing overpriced free agents is a terrible idea in hockey. See Philly, Rangers, Wild for more details.

Don22
Don22

@js43 @Julian Schubach Yeah.  I'm kind of confused at trading Bailey Vanek to "replenish" our forward prospects.  Then what does that leave you on the NHL team?  You don't trade Vanek unless he tells you unequivocally that he will not sign with the Isles.  Otherwise, you do what you can to sign him.

Don22
Don22

@Lyle OdeleinWith me or Matt?  This new system is weird and can't really tell. 

Isleguy27
Isleguy27

5-7 is your opinion. I suspect actual NHL GM's would have a different opinion and the majority would have a higher value of him.

Timothy John
Timothy John

he isn't a 2nd pairing. not even close. he makes glaring mistakes OVER and OVER

orange2327
orange2327

Butch goring thinks the sun rises and sets with amac!! Note to butch- try lasix for your eyes!!

Isleguy27
Isleguy27

Ahh, Chris R is back with some great comments. The arm chair GM that wants to send half the current Islander roster to the minors.

Don22
Don22

@Richard Gauthier @Zee Executioner @js43 Although I am looking forward to seeing him along with some of the other young D, you can't label him a superstar any more than Zee can say he won't.  


They need to sign a reliable defenseman.  They are not going to sign Amac (nor should they for 5 million).  Lubo is uncertain.  Although 1 or even 2 of the young guys may be able to make next year's' team, you can't count on that.  Look what happened this year.  Garth was hoping Donovan would step in for Streit and that hasn't happened yet.  

Get a good, solid top D man if you can and take some pressure off the young guys as the come up the ranks.

Richard Gauthier
Richard Gauthier

@Zee Executioner @Richard Gauthier It was attitude like that the got Mike Milbury to trade away all of our good prospects in the late 90's. Have patience. A rebuild take 8-10 years and D propets take 6-7 years to develop.

Richard Gauthier
Richard Gauthier

@rmreturns You're 100% right. He has the size. I would be concerned with the speed change of the WHL vs NHL / AHL

Don22
Don22

@Chris R @Don22 @Lyle Odelein You're right Chris.  He has no skills whatsoever and is probably the worst Dman in the league.  How he is even allowed to play in the NHL is a mystery.  He must have blackmail pictures of someone.  


He is horrible because when he makes a mistake it is magnified.  And that is what everyone focuses on.  I won't deny he makes his fair share.  But he has also made some really nice plays which don't stand out as much because there isn't usually a celebrated result like a goal.  You tend to not really remember the good stuff because it is usually a few blocked shots or a nice poke check on a 2 on 1 or something like that.  That doesn't make him horrible.  

Don22
Don22

@Timothy John The glaring mistakes only stand out when they result in a goal because the goal is something remembered.  You don't remember the 3 or 4 nice poke checks.  You don't remember the blocked shots.  You don't remember the outlet passes that started a nice rush.  You don't remember these things because it doesn't result in something celebrated like a goal.  It just fades into the flow of the game.


He's not as horrible as everyone makes him out to be.  He's also not a top pair either.

Don22
Don22

@Timothy JohnRight. Because he is asked to do too much.  If he was able to play less minutes and not have to be there against the top all the time he would be able to keep his game simple and play within his means.  He tries to do too much.  If he were not relied on so much, I think it would cut down on those mistakes.