Photo: Amy Irvin (38 Photography)
Via War on Ice, all numbers 5v5
Andrew MacDonald is a lot of things. Separating Andrew MacDonald the player from Andrew MacDonald’s contract is one of the hardest things to do. He’s obviously not living up to that contract, ever, but he should be evaluated against his talent. Paul Holmgren is the one who owns sole fault of the contract.
WERE YOU SATISFIED WITH MACDONALD’S PERFORMANCE INDEPENDENT OF HIS CAP HIT? WHAT ABOUT RELATIVE TO HIS CAP HIT?
Jess: If we’re ignoring his cap hit, then I’d say MacDonald had an ok season. He had relatively average success in zone entries, exits, and helping out in transition. He still has major problems in the neutral zone but at this point in his career I’m not sure there is much you can do to fix those problems. At best, he’s probably an average puck mover and passer. It certainly seemed like there were numerous times where he would hang out by the faceoff dot in his own zone with the puck and completely miss a pass attempt even when facing no pressure from the opposition. It’s quite possible that his limited success this year was a product of missing time due to injury and the overall lack of quality defensemen on the team. If we’re looking at his season relative to his cap hit then he’s still a mess. If a you’re paying a guy 5 million dollars a year you’d hope he’d at least excel at something.
Matt: Andrew MacDonald is not an ostrich and therefore he is not flawless. However, he’s a viable third pair and penalty killing defender. Unfortunately, he’s paid to be the replacement to the now traded Braydon Coburn and well, he’s quite the opposite of Coburn. While Coburn was visually awkward to watch, he got great results, MacDonald may pass many people’s eye test, but he doesn’t actually deliver the solid results of Coburn.
Scott: I think that MacDonald gave the Flyers exactly what should have been expected of him. During his astoundingly poor seasons in New York, MacDonald was a third pairing defenseman playing in top pairing situations. Obviously this did not work out well. In Philadelphia this season, MacDonald was still the same third pairing defenseman. The main difference is that his usage was much more in line with what a player of his caliber should receive. He played against the lowest quality of competition (by TOIC%) that he’s seen during his career. He also started a career high 53.85% of his shifts in the offensive zone. His TOI% was significantly lower than anything he’s seen throughout his career. As a result, MacDonald was able to post career high raw possession statistics and generally was not the tremendous liability that he was during his previous seasons on the island.
Typically, you would hope to get much more than third pairing minutes out of a 5 million dollar player. However, we’ve seen how things end up when MacDonald is used like a top four defenseman. It isn’t pretty. I think Craig Berube did a good job managing MacDonald this season, and I’d like to see Dave Hakstol continue to use him in a similar fashion. I’d much rather be overpaying for a decent third pairing guy than be using him in a role where his shortcomings cost the team significantly on the ice.
WHAT WERE YOU MOST ENCOURAGED BY ABOUT MACDONALD THIS SEASON?
Jess: I was encouraged that he didn’t seem to be a complete disaster this year (we’re setting the bar really low here). Like I stated above, it’s quite possible this is a result of less games played and a bad defensive unit. Although he did do ok in shot suppression this year, but I don’t expect him to have that success next year.
Matt: I was most encouraged by the fact that Berube’s insistence on using Grossmann-MacDonald as a defense pair helped get the Flyers to the 7th pick instead of the tenth. While his shot suppression was third pair worthy, his inability to generate anything on the counter rush basically meant that he ended up back where he started, the defensive zone. But at least this means a top end prospect like Mikko Rantanen or Ivan Provorov instead of being the team stuck with Lawson Crouse or Pavel Zacha.
Scott: I was most encouraged by the fact that MacDonald seemed to be a viable option in a limited role. His neutral zone play appeared to take a very slight step forward. He wasn’t costing the team the same way that he was while playing in a more prominent role as an Islander.
WHAT REALISTIC STEPS CAN HE TAKE TO IMPROVE AND NOT BE A TOTAL DEADWEIGHT CONTRACT?
Jess: Review tape, work on positioning and passing. There were stretches where it seemed like he was making an attempt to be a bit more aggressive at defending the blue line. Unfortunately, it ended up being a complete mess most of the time. Old habits are hard to break but if he can work on his gap control and passing abilities there may be some hope for him to be a more productive member of the defense.
Matt: I’d actually use him as an experiment and play to his shot suppression and PK talent, bury him in the defensive zone and in PK situations and see if you can generate a false positive in his possession stats when they’re zone adjusted and possibly score adjusted, using those doctored possession stats and the eye test on the effort he would show to get out of those situations, see if you can sucker a less savvy GM (looking at you, Calgary Flames or Winnipeg Jets) into trading a mid round pick for the whole contract during the 2016 off-season. Hell, it could even be a 7th round pick if the next team absorbs the whole deal.
Scott: There has been plenty of talk about MacDonald learning to be more aggressive defensively in the neutral zone. Obviously, I’d love to see that happen. That said, MacDonald will be 29 next season, and it just seems unlikely that he will successfully make such a drastic change to his game.
I do think that MacDonald could improve his ability to bring the puck up ice and contribute offensively. MacDonald struggled this season in terms of both carrying and passing the puck through the zones. His career low P/60 of 0.39 probably reflected that. I’d like to see MacDonald carry the puck and make breakout passes more successfully next season.
Things will be better in Philadelphia if we simply accept that MacDonald will never be worth his contract. Aside from the slight changes to his game that can come with coaching, he will probably continue to be the same player that he already is. The problem with MacDonald isn’t that he is a horrible player. It’s that he’s a very mediocre player who was wrongfully evaluated as a good one for a large portion of his career. The organization can minimize the damage caused by MacDonald’s contract if they determine his role by competently evaluating his play instead of fixating on his salary.
Jess: I’ll give him a 5 because I’m feeling really generous today.
Matt: .833, the Cap Hit, in Millions for Andrew MacDonald had Paul Holmgren given him 5 million over 6 years instead of 5 million per year for 6 years. 4 for Andrew MacDonald for basically existing and being better than Nick Grossmann. Do we really need more reasons for hate Paul Holmgren?
Scott: 6: While MacDonald still doesn’t really do anything particularly well, he did show slight improvement in some areas. His negative impact on the team was kept to a minimum.