Kris Russell

I wanted to take a quick look at Kris Russell’s stats with his defense pairings and compared to his defense partner’s and the Flames as a team for the past 3 seasons.  To see if Kris Russell was the black hole defenseman that the analytics community has said that he was.

The team’s 5×5 stats for the Flames for the past three seasons as per

Team GF60 GA60 GF% SF60 SA60 SF% FF60 FA60 FF% CF60 CA60 CF%
CAL 2.2 2.48 46.9 26.5 28.8 47.9 37 41.1 47.3 51 59.2 46.3

Russell played 3875 minutes in the past three seasons with the Flames and Stars.  The majority of the minutes were with the Flames so we will look at the Flames team.

Player Pos GF60 GA60 GF% CF60 CA60 CF%
RUSSELL, KRIS D 2.65 2.6 50.4 50.4 64.58 43.8 100.0%
WIDEMAN, DENNIS D 2.88 2.59 52.7 52.41 66.14 44.2 47.3%
HAMILTON, DOUGIE D 1.93 2.47 43.9 49.98 61.16 45 14.4%
BRODIE, TJ D 2.47 2.02 55 46.12 60.63 43.2 13.8%
BUTLER, CHRIS D 1.82 2.6 41.2 45.68 69.82 39.6 11.9%
ENGELLAND, DERYK D 3.33 2.22 60 46.21 68.38 40.3 4.2%
GOLIGOSKI, ALEX D 5.12 5.12 50 54.63 64.88 45.7 2.7%
GIORDANO, MARK D 2.61 3.92 40 49.64 62.7 44.2 1.2%

Here’s a chart that shows the % of time Russell has played with over the coarse of the past three seasons.  He’s played predominately with Wideman.

WOWY Impact

Here is a chart that shows the GoalsFor and CorsiFor WOWY and the positive and negative impact that Russell had on his defense partner for the past three seasons.

Teamate GF% CF% GF% CF% GF Impact CF Impact
WIDEMAN 48.3 43.5 39.6 44.1 8.7 -0.6
HAMILTON 51.3 43.6 53.1 54.5 -1.8 -10.9
BRODIE 49.8 43.9 49.8 49.4 0 -5.5
BUTLER 51.5 44.4 44 46.3 7.5 -1.9
ENGELLAND 50 44 41 43.3 9 0.7
GOLIGOSKI 50.5 43.8 54.3 53 -3.8 -9.2
GIORDAN 50.6 43.8 50.5 50.6 0.1 -6.8

The CF% impact is horrible.  Out of the 7 defenseman that Russell played 45+ minutes with in the past three seasons only Engelland had less Corsi events.  However, you need to keep in mind these are three year averages.  Hamilton played with Zdeno Chara (38% of his 5×5 minutes) and their CF% was 56.3% while with the Bruins.  Goligoski has played over 65% of the time with John Klingberg the past two seasons with a GF% of 57.7 & CF% of 55.5 while playing with him.

In the past four seasons 167 Defenseman have played 2000+ minutes  in the NHL 5×5 Kris Russel ranks 161st in CF%, 154th in SF% but he was 84th for GF%.  The GF bump was due to a PDO bump in 2014-15.

How Much of an Impact Did Not Playing With Giordano Have on Kris Russell?

Russell has played nearly three seasons with the Flames and has played only 45 minutes with, in my opinion, the teams best player Mark Giordano.  The team’s shot rates are higher when Giordano is on the ice.  With Giordano on the ice, whom Russel did not play with, the Flames had a CF of 50.6.  Without, Giordano the Flames were 45.1 and Russell’s number is 43.8.  Still below, the team average but is not out of line with the rest of the team’s performance without Girodano.

Giordano has the biggest impact for defenseman on his teams Corsi.  Here is the CF% RelTM (Corsi For % relative to Teamates).

Player Name Team CF% TMCF% CF% RelTM
GIORDANO, MARK Calgary 50.5 45.1 5.3
STRALMAN, ANTON Tampa 55.9 50.6 5.2
KARLSSON, ERIK Ottawa 53 47.9 5.1
CAMPBELL, BRIAN Florida 53.3 48.9 4.4
SMITH, BRENDAN Detroit 55.5 51.1 4.4
MUZZIN, JAKE Los_Angeles 58.8 54.5 4.3
LINDHOLM, HAMPUS Anaheim 53.2 49.4 3.9
HEDMAN, VICTOR Tampa 55 51.1 3.9
SUBBAN, P.K. Montreal 51.4 47.6 3.8
GARDINER, JAKE Toronto 49.9 46.2 3.7

In the past three season’s Mark Giordano & Kris Russell have played just over 31% of their teams minutes and have not played together.  Are we certain that Russell is a bad defenseman or are the Flames a bad team when Giordano (and to a certain extent TJ Brodie) are not on the ice?

The Flames were a tire fire when Giordano wasn’t on the ice.  Only two teams had a CF% of worse than 45 in the past three seasons Colorado and Buffalo.  So obviously, Russell not playing with Giordano impacted his shot rates. How much is another question?

When Russell played with Giordano & Brodie his CF% didn’t increase.  Although you could say that it might be due to the Lefty/Lefty issue.  Although it seems to work out alright for Brodie & Gio.

However, Russell also didn’t differentiate himself from the 5-6 defenseman.  In fact the CF% is slightly less.  Although, Russell was playing higher level of competition.  The Flames played their bottom pairing defenseman fewer 15 minutes game and sheltered minutes.

Why is Russell playing so much?

This I do not understand.  In each of the past three seasons Kris Russell has finished top 15 in Even Strength TOI.  Prior, to that season Russell played under 15 minutes the previous two seasons with St. Louis.

How Did He Play Before Calgary?


Player Name CF% TMCF% CF% RelTM
SHATTENKIRK, KEVIN 55.5 50.2 5.2
PIETRANGELO, ALEX 52.3 51.6 0.7
COLE, IAN 52.1 52.4 -0.3
RUSSELL, KRIS 51.1 51.8 -0.7
POLAK, ROMAN 50 52.7 -2.7
LEOPOLD, JORDAN 48.6 48.2 0.4
BOUWMEESTER, JAY 48.5 49.9 -1.4
JACKMAN, BARRET 46.6 54.6 -8


Player Name CF% TMCF% CF% RelTM
COLE, IAN 55.1 52.6 2.5
SHATTENKIRK, KEVIN 54.2 51.6 2.5
COLAIACOVO, CARLO 53.9 53.1 0.7
JACKMAN, BARRET 52.6 53.1 -0.5
RUSSELL, KRIS 51.9 51.8 0.1
HUSKINS, KENT 51.4 53.2 -1.8
POLAK, ROMAN 49.8 54.1 -4.3

To me those numbers don’t scream ‘black hole’, Russell isn’t a guy that can drive the offense but he can hold his own by those numbers.  It must be noted that he was playing third pairing and in a a sheltered role.

How did he play after he left Calgary?

Here’s the Dallas Stars Defensemen Numbers this Past Season

Player CF% FF% SF% xGF% SCF% GF%
ALEX.GOLIGOSKI 53.68 53.07 53.84 52.16 51.52 55.4
JAMIE.OLEKSIAK 50.48 54.55 54.3 55.64 51.67 35.29
JASON.DEMERS 54.17 54.28 53.5 55.4 53.54 52.24
JOHN.KLINGBERG 55.59 53.83 55.12 54.29 54.35 57.5
JOHNNY.ODUYA 50.68 50.74 50.12 51.14 46.92 46.39
JORDIE.BENN 48.83 49.53 49.94 49.27 47.83 50
JYRKI.JOKIPAKKA 50.34 49.31 49.31 49.58 51.35 51.06
KRIS.RUSSELL 50.52 56 57.89 52.27 48.21 53.57
PATRIK.NEMETH 51.81 53.29 52.19 53.7 47.26 48.39

Russell’s numbers don’t look out of line with most of these players.  Klingberg was the best defenseman.  I’d say that Russell is behind Jason Demers and Alex Goligoski but those players have signed long term deal 5 Year deals.  Demers carrying a 4.5 million dollar cap hit with a NTC.   Goligoski with a 5.475 million dollar cap hit and a NMC.  I think that you could make a good case that Russell performed better than Johnny Oduya who will be 35 at the start of this season and has a 3.75 million dollar cap hit with a modified NTC.

Is Kris Russell the Next Andrew Ference?

One of the things I’ve heard is that with Russell’s game he could become the next Ference.

The problem with that is, the Oiler’s signed Ference as a 34 year-old to a 4 year deal and Russell will likely sign a 1 year deal and is only 29.  From ages 29 – 33 Ference played 288 games and averaged over 19 minutes a night.  If the Oiler’s sign Russell to a reasonable contract and get the level of play that Ference provided the Bruins then it will be a helluva deal for the Oiler’s.

Player Age GP
Kris Russell 29 573
Andrew Ference 34 760

What Would You Expect from Russell?

He shouldn’t be a featured player in a top 4 role, but he can contribute as a depth player that can play within the top 4 in a pinch.  If a team could lower his TOI/G he might be a more effective player.  Offensively he’s put up .55 – .75 PPG, which would be ahead of most Oiler defenders.

Should the Oilers Sign Him?

First, I think that you have to way the good and the bad.

The Good

  • Russell is an actual NHL defender.  Although he’s critic’d by the analytics croud, he has been trusted to play 20+ minutes by his coaches.
  • He is at this moment a better defenseman than the Oiler’s currently have employed and penciled in their top six.
  • It would allow the team to send Nurse & Reinhart to the AHL for some seasoning.
  • It would allow the Oiler’s some depth when injury occurs.
  • The Oiler’s could flip him at/near the deadline if the defense core is healthy and Reinhart/Nurse or the field are ready to push for playing time.

The Bad

  • If you think he’s a legit top 4 defenseman, you will be disappointed.  I think he could anchor a decent bottom pairing.
  • If the Oiler’s sign Versteeg & Russell they are close to the roster limit.  It will be roughly 47 players.  Which doesn’t allow much wiggle room to add players or sign college free agents at the end of the season.  Not a huge issue but something to keep in mind.
  • The money.  How much will it cost?  That’s the key.

How Much?

  • If you are the Oiler’s you would want him in the 1 – 2 million dollar range.
  • I think more realistically the 2 – 3 million dollar range is what he should be signing.
  • I would consider going in the 3.5 million dollar range only because that’s what Oduya is getting and it would only be a 1 year deal.
  • Anything about 4 million should be avoided.

What Would I Do?

  • If Russell would sign for 2.5 million, I would do it.  Anything above that number, I would look at signing a player like Gryba (provided that he would want to come back) and look at the waiver wire for potential upgrade.  I think a guy like Ryan Sproul might be a good target for the Oilers.



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