Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Brief Introduction: Paul Mara

[In which the author attempts to control her chronic logorrhea, and at the same time get to know the new Canadiens.]

The Reputation: General consensus seems to be that Mara’s a large, aggressive, #5-6 guy; solid enough defensively when not attempting offense (which he’s not particularly good at anyway); ‘tough’ in the generally admired ways; perhaps pestilential under the right circumstances. He ended out his last season with the Rangers on a weak note. At 29, he’s already something of a vagabond, having played for the Lightning, Bruins, Coyotes, and Rangers in the past 10 years. As far as the online documentation goes, he was well-liked in New York, in a love-the-guy-but-not-particularly-attached-to-the-player sense. Mara is best known for the quality of his facial hair, which adds novelty value to mid-game interviews and credibility to any potential playoff appearances. Also, he’s American, continuing Gainey’s long love affair with eccentric hockey nationalities.

The Evidence: Nobody’s taking Mara for his offensive stats, so they’re reasonable enough for the expectations: .52 points per 60, 5 on 5, which is obviously not good but puts him squarely in Komisarek range. He had a fractionally positive Corsi, same with GF/GA per 60, playing against relatively soft opposition. Still, the Rangers’ D from last season looks like a carnival of numerical disappointment, within which Mara’s digits are fair-to-middling. It seems like he played on the Rangers 2nd power play unit, to no great effect, and didn’t hardly penalty kill at all. His last counting numbers were 5-16-21, which seem typical. For all the optimists out there, in his best season (2005-2006 with the Coyotes) he went 15-32-47.

Highest Hopes: Could potentially, in an emergency, on a good day, with the right pairing, if he eats his Wheaties, be competent in the #4 slot- in case of injuries.

Reasonable Expectations: Bottom pairing, with another vet for steadiness or a kid for development purposes. Say what you will about Gainey’s decisions with the top end of the roster, he’s always been a minor genius with the depth guys (well, excepting Laraque). Figure on Mara to be more remarkable for toughness, tenacity, and all around-character-guy stuff (classic hockey-eccentric look, cute interview, friendly with teammates) than for any particular skill. Being big, bearded, and belligerent, he’s likely to provide some entertaining moments along the way.

Risks: If you ever see him playing with Markov, it’s time to start rooting for your second favorite team. More realistically, he’s prone to taking penalties, both of the righteous and the useless varieties, so let’s hope there he can control himself at the critical moments. Aside from that, all the man has to do is smile for the cameras and avoid acts of embarrassing stupidity (especially in front of the Leafs) and we’ll be okay. Such is the upside of sharing a defensive corps with the unfortunate Ryan O’Byrne.

It’s a backup-redundancy signing, since with Markov, Hamrlik, Gorges, Spaceck, and Gill, we’re thick on established D already. Assuming that O’Byrne and Weber will at least be in competition for a regular roster spot, Mara starts to look like the 7th guy. Unless, of course, we’re giving up on prospect development altogether; given the track record with the last set, it wouldn’t be wholly surprising.


JLikens said...

I don't think that the Mara signing was a good one for the Habs.

His corsi, as you mentioned, was only marginally positive even though he played on a team that dominated the opposition at even strength in terms of SF/SA and territorial play. This despite having a generous starting faceoff ratio relative to the team average. He was also sheltered.

[Granted, the guy was paired with Kalinin who, by all accounts, was absolutely brutal last season.]

I suppose that the amount and term are tolerable, though. Also, he can't possibly be worse than O'Byrne.

E said...

see, i thought the stats for the rangers d overall were pretty unimpressive, and the subjective accounts suggest it was an unusually rough second half for mara in particular, so there might be an element of bad luck involved. it's also fair to mention that (although i have some as-yet-nebulous misgivings about the qual stats) while he was playing soft opposition, he was also playing with his weakest teammates.

it strikes me as a good enough signing for a guy you don't intend to rely on heavily, and it's tough to object to a one-year-contract, unless you think there was a better player out there willing to go for less. do you? i haven't done the hypothetical comparative legwork on this one.

JLikens said...

The underlying numbers (i.e. corsi, SF/SA) for the Rangers D-Men -- as well as for the team as a whole -- were actually pretty good, excepting Kalinin and Mara, who had comparatively poor stats (although, to be fair, average in an absolute terms). The team was EV GF/GA wasn't great -- I think their GD was slighlty negative, even. However, that was primarily due to a poor EV shooting percentage.

There's some evidence that the Rangers were a shot quality outlier last year in that they took low quality shots and conceded shots of slightly above average quality, which would account for the crappy EV percentages. However, this would have likely had a global effect upon the players numbers and therefore leaves the rank-ordering unchanged. But I digress...

You make a good point about him possibly playing with weak teammates. There's some evidence that corsi and the like are largely forward-driven statistics. If Mara's shifts did tend to coincide with the Rangers 3rd and 4th line forwards then that might absolve him of some responsibility for his less than impressive numbers.

In any event, I think that the Habs would have been better off retaining Bouillon -- his underlying numbers are superior if you account for the fact that he played on a weaker EV team (again, going by the underliers). Of course, that's assuming that he even wanted to come back in the first place and would have accepted a paycut in doing so.

E said...

a pox on shooting percentage, that one's going to give me conniptions forever.

as to corsi and the like being a forward-driven stat, that always occurred to me in the case of guys like komisarek, who take very few shots themselves and tended to play stiffer opposition. it'd have been tough for komi to have a great corsi under even the best of circumstances, just because of his role and the situations he was used in. there needs to be, at some point in the consideration of a shot based stat, an acknowledgment that some players have a lot more direct personal control over it than others. doesn't necessarily absolve mara, but i'm glad you mentioned it.

Olivier said...

Corsi's an interesting stat... Still haven't wrapped my head around faceoffs, but I'm getting to it.

I'd cut him some slack, regarding his numbers with the Rangers... sniffing around Gomez's stats at tiemonice.com, I was struck by the fact that the Rangers's corsi/60, when Gomez wasn't on the ice, was 2.48 (Gomez stands at 15.8/60). Mara spent around 25% of his ES ice-time with Gomez; add in, as JLikens said, Kalinin, and well...

If you look at it the other way, of Gomez's 1200+es minutes, the split (shown here) is: Redden and Stall 450 min, Rozival-Girardi 400 min, and then Mara (288) and Kalinin (222).

I don't know, he doesn't look that bad as far as #6-7 guys are concerned. But the numbers are worse than Bouillon's, that's for sure. I guess Bob tought Francis was getting too fragile...