Vulgar Opinions: The Sekera – McBain Deal
I’m not going to talk about the pick, I don’t know prospects and even those that do don’t have a high enough success rate when projecting NHL stars for any discussion to matter. And the inclusion of Sekera and McBain beside one another is less to compare the two players and more to highlight what the Sabres lost and what they gained.
I went back through three years of numbers as I am wont to do, and it ends up being extra convenient in this case because those are the only full seasons McBain has played in the NHL. I think it is helpful if we break the statistical comparison down into two parts.
I think in a lot of ways McBain is the player many people have (mistakenly) thought Sekera was. He’s a defensman with a good shot and an emphasis on offensive production and his use has largely reflected that, this past season (where he entered out of shape and subsequently had good minutes taken away) notwithstanding.
That said, he’s not a huge upgrade in this regard at even strength with his increased point totals largely attributable to his time on the power play. However, the Sabres have generally lacked power play talent on their back end, so McBain may be a shot in the arm to the special teams. He’s gotten more out of his shot, both in terms of simply hitting the net, and in scoring more goals.
Defensive and Possession Numbers
Those that think dealing Sekera and acquiring McBain is part of a plan to get tougher will find themselves disappointed. Often Sekera was criticized by being less than physical, but his frame and his skills were never suited to that style of play. If you’re of the mind that players should be playing to their talents (and thus don’t want a guy like Vanek on the penalty kill), you can’t tell me that Sekera should be lining guys up for hits with regularity. That said, Sekera was always reasonably physical and could be counted on to occasionally put the body to someone where that is really not part of McBain’s game.
But those “stats” are largely a crapshoot anyway, on to more pressing matters. I really thought the Sabres were giving themselves a massive downgrade by the advanced stats, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. While Sekera did match up against tougher competition, McBain has proved himself reasonably capable of handing mid-tier opponents as he’s grown in the NHL. If the Sabres think they have another guy to play shut down (and the Weber contract suggests they do), then they can afford to swallow some of McBain’s faults. McBain’s decent possession numbers, and ability to at least hold his own in moving the puck from the defensive zone are certainly reasons to be hopeful.
The Non-Hockey Aspects
Andrej Sekera counts for $2.75M against the cap with his contract ending in 2015-2016, and Jamie McBain counts for $1.8M with his contract ending after next season. What the Sabres have done is given themselves a bit more wiggle room when certain prospects mature and avoided having to make a tough decision on Sekera when the team is (presumably) on the rise at the end of his term. If McBain morphs into the power play defenseman the Sabres have lacked, even on the second unit, they find themselves with one more asset, and if he turns into a crap sandwich, it’s only going to make a bad team slightly worse and they can part ways with him after next season.