Matt Benning: The Oilers’ Best Defenseman… Really? Maybe. #SmallSampleSize

Matt Benning

Before we get into the meat of this beast I’d like to preface it by letting you know that you don’t have to believe what you’re about to read and you should probably do yourself a favor and check out the data for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

  • (here)
  • (here)

Also… #SmallSampleSize

The Oilers have a handful of very nice young dmen patrolling their blue line this season. Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Andrej Sekera, Eric Gryba, Kris Russell, and most notably Adam Larsson but has Matt Benning been the best of the bunch since being called up on the 21st of October?

Let’s toss some numbers out there to gander upon.

For this part, I enlisted the help of our in-house stats guru, G-Money (@oilersnerdalert) and asked him this:

If you were to take a handful of stats from in search of the best dman on the Oilers, which stats would you take?

To which G-Money replied:

First and foremost would be the ‘against’ metrics: CA (raw shot attempts), FA (unblocked shot attempts), and xGA (expected goals against).  I like them as rates, so you adjust for ice time.  CA/60 etc. To my mind, that’s a primary marker. 

Secondary are the balanced metrics e.g. CF%/FF%/xGF%, since a high ‘against’ number can be offset if the defender also creates a lot.  And either way, you want those to be above 50% if you can, and if you can’t, at least the “Rel” version to be positive so he’s showing better than his team. 

And of course, the WoodMoneys! Which show you how the numbers break down vs comp. I have the numbers generating for this season so I can supply you with those if you like, though the sample sizes are still smaller than I’d like.

So… We are here and here we are. The numbas!!

Matt Benning (9gp 0g 2a 2pts +3)

CA 101 (1)
FA 74 (1)
xGA 4.41 (1)
CA/60 47.53 (1)
FA/60 34.82 (1)
xGA/60 2.08 (1)
CF% 57.2% (1)
FF% 34.82% (1)
xGF% 60.4%(1)

Stats courtesy of Corsica.Hockey.

Benning’s rank within the Oilers defense is the number in brackets.

We still need to remember that he has only played a handful of games and according to Corsica.Hockey, he’s only been on the ice for 127 minutes. The next player with the least amount of regular ice time is Kris Russell and he is last in most of the categories above… Could that be due to missing training camp? Who knows?…

So apart from that FF% (which we want over 50%), we find Benning at the top of every major statistic G-Money has instructed us to use in our search to determine the Oilers best dman.

But how about to our eye?

For me, his best game was the last one versus the Kings and that’s probably because he was smashing bodies left and right and didn’t make any major mistakes.

I like what Bruce McCurdy had to say about that performance in the Cult of Hockey’s post-gamer:

#83 Matt Benning, 6. Joined the back end hitting spree with his most physical game as an Oiler. Really cranked a couple of guys, even as one booming hit took him out of position to enable the Nolan breakaway that his partner Sekera thwarted. Later crushed Kings banger Kyle Clifford with a solid wallop. Excellent shot and scoring chance shares, and the only Oiler to post a +2 on the night.


G-Money introduced us to Dangerous Fenwick last year and that is basically the Fenwick stat (unblocked shots for/against) but it takes into consideration where the shot was released. Read more about it HERE.

What WoodMoney does is it calculates a player’s fancy stats versus different “calibers” of player. Elite, Middle, and Gritensity. Read more about that HERE.

I just want to focus on Benning’s Dangerous Fenwick For/Against (DFF/DFA) here because I feel like we’ve already gone over the other fancies above. Also, these numbers are good up to last Thursday.

Stat Elite Middle Gritensity
DFF 16.9 (7) 50.3 (6) 28.7 (6)
DFA 17.4 (1) 39.6 (1) 12.6 (1)
DFF% 49.3 (1) 56 (7) 69.5 (1)
DFF/60 32.1 (6) 55.3 (1) 66.7 (1)
DFA/60 33 (1) 43.6 (6) 29.3 (1)
TOI 31.37 54:32 25.50

Again, numbers in brackets are where Benning ranks within the Oilers defense. That defense being Klefbom, Larsson, Nurse, Sekera, Gryba, Russell, and Benning himself.

So my understanding is that for the “against” numbers, we want that to be as low as possible and the “for” numbers to be as high as possible. Naturally. what I’m reading in Benning’s numbers here is that

Now, what I’m reading in Benning’s numbers:

  • Versus “Elite” competition, he struggles… As he should.
  • Versus “Middle” competition he does better
  • Versus “Gritensity” competition he does worse than versus “Middle”…

I think that since the rookie has been playing the majority of his hockey versus “Middle” competition, the numbers are less up-and-down. I mean look at his DFA. Very low versus “Elite” and “Gritensity” but much higher versus “Middle”…

If you can’t tell, I’m not all that versed in the fancies and reading G-Money’s numbers is like having a driving wheel in my zipper… It’s driving me nuts.

Look, I could be reading all of these numbers all wrong. I could be jumping the gun too because Benning has only played such a low number of games. But can we take into consideration that he basically came on when the Oilers losing streak started (It’s all HIS fault!! BURN THE WITCH!!) and the fact that he’s putting up these kinds of numbers is pretty bloody rad! One only wishes he could have a cannon of a slapshot and was putting up Weber-like numbers…

I know that Russell and Gryba are coming back but I’d be hard pressed to send this guy back to Bakersfield with the way he’s playing right now. Benning is a right-handed defender (something the Oilers need), he can skate and move the puck, he can hit and I believe he’s been getting some time on the powerplay as well.

I vote he stays ON the island and maybe it’s time we shipped Gryba out. At the very least you have Benning and Nurse playing together. I know they had a shift or two against LA together and I was pleasantly surprised at how well they did in that limited time. #SmallSampleSize

What do you think? If I’ve missed anything or misunderstood something, please let me know in the comments below or on the Twitter machine @beerleagueheroe!

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Beer League Hero Written by:

I’m the Beer League Hero! I am from Camrose, Alberta but I make my home in Taipei City, Taiwan. I’ve been through the ups and downs and the highs and the Lowes, the Bonsignores and the McDavids, the Sathers and the Eakins but I’ll never leave my Oilers, no matter what!

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