Can Andrew MacDonald be saved?

I'll preface this entire post by stating that advanced stats, and statistics in general, are gibberish to me. Corsi, Corsi Rel, Fenwick and anything else along those lines make my brain hurt. I understand that those numbers speak in facts, but I have neither the time, the patience, nor the inclination to figure it out. So when I read a post quoting those facts, I believe them. I don't dispute. That person has done the research and the number crunching, the tea leaf reading and the permutations, while I've just watched and screamed at the television (aka, enjoyed a Flyers' game).

There is a lot of hate for Andrew MacDonald and his contract (mostly his contract?). I can feel it all the way out here in the 808. It's...formidable. Yet, it's refreshing. It feels great to immerse myself among so many other passionately maniacal Flyer fans. What other kind of people would spend too much time on this website refreshing an [insert day of the week] Morning Flyby in hopes of team news, when they already know that Vincent LeCavalier has STILL not been traded and that seeing Evander Kane skate around in our beloved Orange & Black is still merely a pipe dream?

I digress.

The palpable hate for Andy Mac (or maybe just his contract?) makes me like him. I want to be the genius who said "I liked Andy MacDonald all along" when in reality, I am ambivalent. I have read that his advanced stats are horrific, bordering on Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) horrific. Yet I watch the games (as many as I can) and the guy seems to know how to skate, pass and shoot. He seems poised with the puck (particularly in his own end), and very mobile. Knowing what to trust, my eyes or the facts, is maddening.

I could care less about Andy MacDonald. He's probably a nice guy; probably a decent tipper who holds doors for the pregnant, and the elderly, and the pregnant elderly. Doesn't matter. I have to root for him. Partly because I have a habit for rooting for the guy getting hated on, but mostly because he's a Flyer (for 6 more years). SIX more years? Yes, six more years. Damn you, numbers!

There is more than hope that all is not lost.

The Flyers have invested time and money in this guy, and judging by the way they refuse to eat 50% of a certain player's salary in order to move said player to a different club and let a younger player compete for that open spot, it seems the organization may no longer see logic in paying players to NOT play for them. It also seems a safe bet that they've seen the footage of Andy Mac's gap control issues. They may even recognize it as perhaps THE cause of his inflated shot-blocking numbers. It is reasonable to wonder if part of the reason they brought in Gord Murphy was to address this issue (maybe the guy works miracles).

Andy MacDonald is only 27, after all. He's a defenseman with 6 or so NHL seasons under his belt, and defenseman supposedly have a longer learning curve than forwards. The new GM has mentioned the word "analytics" without emphasizing the funny part of that word and chuckling. It's foolish to assume that Andy Mac can't learn and adjust his game accordingly, and that the Flyers wouldn't see it as being in their best interest to help him do just that.

Look at Anton Stralman: he's only 27. He has 7 years NHL experience. He was supposed to be an "offensive defenseman" who turned out to be a mediocre puck-mover that struggled to generate offense. He got a change of scenery and adjusted his game. He became a "defensive defenseman". His Corsi #s were the best of the diarRhangers over the last 3 seasons apparently (I THINK that was from a post their sbnation site). He earned high praise from a bunch of people by passing the "eye test" and then cashed in on free agency (via one diarRhangers playoff run, in my opinion).

That looks like proof. Or maybe it's just wishful thinking. I'm going to go with proof. Proof that it is possible to teach a 27 year old defenseman, with 6 years of experience in the NHL, to mind his gap control in the neutral zone. Proof that a change of scenery with a new coach can improve-NAY, OVERCOME a player's nightmarish Corsi. Proof that it is possible for Andy MacDonald to make better decisions with and without the puck, while still passing the "eye test". Proof that we will not all be swearing at the TV when Andy MacDonald is on the ice, regardless of whether or not we fully, or even partially, understand advance statistics.

This item was written by a member of this community and is not necessarily endorsed by <em>Broad Street Hockey</em>.

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