The famous saying in sports when a team experiences something like a long-term injury or a suspension is “next man up.” Just wait, that term is going to be thrown around City National Arena more than “chip on our shoulder” was last year.
Sometimes the “next man” turns out to be a superstar like Lou Gehrig or Kurt Warner, other times it doesn’t work out so well. Most of the time though it falls somewhere in between, where the replacement isn’t as good as the missing player, but not a complete disaster. That’s where we expect the Golden Knights to land with the loss of Schmidt.
First of all, hockey is unlike many other sports where the loss of a player results in a direct replacement. Aside from goalies, a loss of a skater in hockey means a shift in the depth chart. In this case, the replacement of Jon Merrill, Brad Hunt, Griffin Reinhart, Zach Whitecloud, or Erik Brannstrom will not be expected to step in and have the same role and responsibilities as Schmidt. Instead, more than likely Deryk Engelland or Nick Holden will find themselves filling those shoes. So rather than replacing Schmidt with Merrill, it’s like replacing Schmidt with Engelland AND Engelland with McNabb AND McNabb with Theodore AND Theodore with Holden AND Holden with Miller AND Miller with Merrill.
Nonetheless, someone does have to step into the lineup that otherwise would have been in the press box watching the game.
To give a statistical look at what the Golden Knights look like without Schmidt, we start with the expected values Schmidt would have brought to the team both offensively and defensively based on last season’s stats.
Schmidt averaged 22:14 while scoring five goals and tallying 31 assists in 76 total games. He had 57 giveaways and 57 takeaways and registered 103 shots. His point shares were 2.2 offensively, 4.8 defensively, totaling 7.0.
He played 76 games, so we first multiply all the numbers (except TOI) by 1.079 to calculate them to an 82 game total. Then, we’ve divide by 4.1 (or divide by 82 then multiply by 20) to calculate his stats over the course of the 20 games he’ll miss. Here’s what we get.
|Per Game||Over 20 Games|
As you can see, those numbers are not substantial by any means, and this is if there isn’t any replacement at all. If a player who adds absolutely nothing is added to the roster, the estimates say Schmidt’s 20 game absence would cost the Golden Knights just one goal, nine points, and about 1.8 points in the standings.
Depending on which defenseman you plug in that number will decrease. Adding Brad Hunt, using last year’s stats, would offset 1.02 of the 1.8 points lost by Schmidt. Merrill would offset 0.82. Plus, this doesn’t take into effect the time on ice increase for the “better” players that will actually be replacing Schmidt. Admittedly I didn’t take the time to do all of those calculations, but the numbers indicate missing Schmidt and replacing him at the bottom of the lineup (while pushing everyone up) shouldn’t cost the Golden Knights much more than a point in the standings, if that, over the course of the 20 game suspension.
This doesn’t mean it’s not a blow to lose Nate Schmidt for 20 games, it obviously is, but it’s not nearly as significant as what it may feel like when put in terms of “losing the team’s top defenseman for a quarter of the season.” The “next man up” for the Golden Knights isn’t an All Star, or even anything quite like Schmidt, but he’s also no slouch, a bonafide NHL player.
In hockey, one skater impacts a game in a fairly minute way. If anyone should know that it’s Golden Knights fans after last year’s magical run without any superstars. So everyone, step off the ledge and relax. Missing Nate for 20 games is not the end of the world.
Unless you are the type who likes awesome quotes after games. That will be a significant loss with Schmidt not available to speak.