Advanced Stats Or Eye-Test : Donovan Vs de Haan

Posted on Aug 26 2014 - 1:15pm by Andy Graziano


It’s been debated all summer long on social media platforms and written ad nauseam by bloggers and main stream media columnists. Yep, even our own Michael Willhoft just recently penned his thoughts on the subject.

I think my old 5th grade English teacher even wrote in her diary about the topic. Or so it seems. It wouldn’t surprise me.

It has also caused many Twitter discussions (‘debates’ should we call them? ‘brawls’? ‘donny-brooks’?).

National Hockey League teams are scrambling to hire the best of the best when it comes to advanced statistics in the blogosphere, creating analytical departments to analyze every piece of data they possibly can to further test a players’ usefulness and effectiveness on the ice in various situations.

But do they really compare to the eye-test? The proven ability of your brain to accurately process what it sees before it?

There are strong arguments on both side of the fence and I am not here to disprove or discredit either one, just present the facts.

For the sake of this argument, let’s compare two Islanders defenseman, Matt Donovan and Calvin de Haan.

Undoubtedly, de Haan got more of an opportunity last season, both in terms of minutes and defensive partners. Donovan was shuffled back and forth between Bridgeport and Long Island on two separate occasions and as a reward for his outstanding play in January, up to and including the Stadium Series game at Yankee Stadium, where he was one of the best players on the ice for both teams,  continued to get paired with the likes of Matt Carkner as he attempted to learn arguably the most difficult position in the sport.

That is not a knock against Carkner, who has no doubt seen the best of times pass him by like they would anyone else, but more a statement that being paired with a strong partner can bring a rookie defenseman a long way in this league and cover up some of the inevitable mistakes that will occur.

Now, the eye-test might tell you that de Haan so clearly and consistently outplayed Donovan in every way imaginable and social media reaction from fans would tell the same story. Mistakes so strongly called out by Donovan while de Haan’s gaffes (yes, they were there) were largely ignored or forgotten quickly.

But the advanced statistics for both players tell an entirely different story.


Base Offensive Stats:

Matt Donovan5221416-926100862.3
Calvin de Haan5131316-730101714.2


Advanced Stats: 

Matt Donovan441533199.56.8
Calvin de Haan391435168.45.4

Glossary : GSOG : Games with shot on goal, GWPT : Games with a point, GM +/= : Games with a plus rating or even, GM – : Games with a minus rating, CORSI/FEN : From


To reiterate, this was not meant to prove one side’s argument or the others. Just to present the facts as they are readily available on the subject and let you decide.

In my mind, this to me says Matt Donovan is a better player than a 52 game rookie season eye-test would try to prove otherwise.

Sure he made mistakes, but if you factor in the mental aspect of being sent up and down repeatedly and who he was paired with (exception being of course January when he was matched with….you guessed it. Calvin de Haan), he is more than deserving to come into camp next month and attempt to make his mark and prove he belongs a part of this team’s future.

There is one thing that almost everyone can agree on. And that is defense is the hardest position for a rookie to come in and learn on the fly.

Without the benefit of a true, established veteran presence to right the ship when the waves get a little rough, some find themselves being thrown overboard into a feeding frenzy of talented forward infested waters.


Andy Graziano

Andy Graziano

Founder / Editor-in-chief at Islanders Insight
Andy lives in central New Jersey with his wife of 24 years and 2 children. He is a credentialed member of the New York Islanders media and founder of Islanders Insight. He played and coached the great game of hockey for over 35 years and has written for The Hockey Writers as well as Fansided.
Andy Graziano


Credentialed Islanders journalist - Founder & Editor-in-chief for Co-host Dump & Chase Podcast.
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Andy Graziano