Tyson Barrie – Best Offensive Defenseman In The NHL?


Tyson Barrie may look innocent enough off the ice. His young face, sheepish grin, and curly hair don’t give you the impression that he is particularly dangerous. On the ice, that’s exactly what he is. When it come to offensive minded defensemen, Tyson Barrie is as dangerous as they come.

It might be a stretch to call Tyson Barrie the best offensive d-man in the NHL, but then again, is it? Barrie is having a fantastic season, and unless you are a Colorado Avalanche fan, you probably haven’t heard about it.

While I think it would be a bit brash to label Barrie as the absolute best offensive d-man in the NHL, I certainly think he belongs in the select handful at the top. He is criminally underrated in NHL circles, and I’m going to tell you why.

A cursory glance at the NHL point totals will tell you that Tyson Barrie sits tied for 8th in scoring this season among defensemen. Barrie has 11 goals and 33 assists (44 points) in his 65 games this year.

Kris Letang leads the NHL with 51 points on the season. Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, PK Subban, Mark Giordano, Roman Josi, and John Carlson round out the defenders with more points than Barrie this season. Pretty select company.

Fair enough. Looking at those numbers, most would agree that Barrie is a solid point producer in the NHL. I think most would list him in their top-15 as far as offensive d-men in the league.

Digging deeper into the numbers, and breaking down what he does on the ice, I think he’s so much more.

Barrie doesn’t have an overpowering slap-shot. He isn’t particularly big. In fact, in hockey standards, he isn’t particularly average sized either, measuring in at 5’10” and 190 lbs. What the pint-sized Barrie lacks in size and raw power, he makes up for in effortless puck-handling, an uncanny knack for jumping into the play in the offensive zone, and smooth passing.

Watching Barrie play, you realize that he simply makes things look easy on the offensive end.

Breaking down his numbers further, you can make a strong argument that Barrie is even better than his point totals this season suggest.

First, consider his 5-on-5 point production. At 5-on-5 Tyson Barrie is an absolute monster relative to his peers. For NHL defensemen with over 200 minutes played at 5-on-5 this season, Barrie ranks 3rd in the league in points-per-60-minutes of ice time. Barrie is scoring 1.46 points/60 on the season, trailing only John Carlson of Washington (1.56 points/60) and John Klingberg of Dallas (1.49 points/60).

The points/60 stat is great, because it normalizes every player, which allows for better comparison. I also believe that even strength production is a great way to see who is really able to drive production for their team on the scoreboard.

To highlight a few of the big-name defensemen in the NHL, PK Subban’s points/60 sits at 1.22, Erik Karlsson’s is 1.19, and Kris Letang’s sits at 1.13. Kevin Shattenkirk has one of the best PPG ratios for d-man, yet his 5-on-5 points/60 sits at a modest 1.05.

Hockey at its core is a 5-on-5 game, and Tyson Barrie excels under those circumstances. His 7 goals and 19 assists when both teams are at full strength weigh heavily in my evaluation of him as one of the games premier offensive d-man.

Simply put, Tyson Barrie is as good as it gets when it comes to facilitating offense for his team at 5-on-5.

This brings us to another interesting point. Overall offensive impact for their team.

Consider the following chart. This chart gives a nice visual of the top 8 scoring d-men in the NHL, as well as a few other notable players selected by myself. You’ll also see Erik Johnson and Zach Redmond from the Avalanche at the end of the chart.

The chart includes 5-on-5 point/60 rates, as well as the overall team goal/60 rates for the team of that player. The final column (% of total) is the total percentage of points/60 relative to overall team goals/60 each defenseman is contributing for their team. Since it technically is more of a ratio than a true percentage, I represented it in decimal form. While not perfect, it gives a general idea of which players are driving offensive production on their respective teams. Players with a higher percentage are accounting for more of their team’s goals at 5-on-5.

As I said above, Tyson Barrie has one of the highest 5-on-5 points/60 rates in the league. You can also see that he is one of only 3 defenseman whose points/60 rate is better than 60% of his team’s goals/60 rate.

You will notice that John Klingberg’s 5-on-5 scoring is significantly boosted by Dallas having a very potent offense overall. Dallas scores a whopping 2.71 goals/60 at 5-on-5 which trails only Tampa Bay.

This means that Klingberg is likely getting a boost in his 5-on-5 scoring rate due to the fact that Dallas plays a high-scoring style of game.

Keith Yandle should also jump out at you, because of his dismal 0.69 points/60 rate at 5-on-5 (Note: I used Arizona’s team 5-on-5 goals/60 rate for Yandle. His new team, the NYR, has a 2.65 goals/60 rate. In theory, Yandle’s 5-on-5 scoring should improve immensely with NY). Unlike Klingberg, Yandle played a majority of his season with offensively anemic Arizona Coyotes. Yandle’s % of total is actually on par with the NHL’s leading scorer, Kris Letang. Very interesting.

The other players I’d like to highlight are John Carlson and Brent Burns. They are the only two players contributing 5-on-5 point production relative to their respective team’s goal scoring output at a rate higher than Tyson Barrie.

As an Avalanche fan, it’s fun to look at this chart, and realize how truly special Tyson Barrie has been this season.

Not too many teams have a d-man within 3 points of their team’s scoring leader, as is the case with Barrie. Gabriel Landeskog currently leads Colorado with 47 points. Barrie sits 3rd on the team with 44 points.

It will probably surprise those who don’t follow the Avalanche that Barrie is outscoring Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Ryan O’Reilly, and the veteran Alex Tanguay this season. You have to be pretty good at offense to do that.

Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon both have had rough years offensively, so this is part of why Barrie has been able to outscore them.

However, defensemen often rely on their forwards to score to post big point totals. Barrie is producing despite the fact that many of the forwards he is playing with have struggled to find their scoring touch this season. To me, this makes Barrie’s numbers that much more impressive.

Another area that defensemen are often able to supplement their point totals is the power play. Keith Yandle is a prime example. Yandle has a whopping 26 points on the power play this season, which is tops in the NHL.

Kevin Shattenkirk is another example of a power play specialist. Shattenkirk has put up 8.66 points/60 min on the power play for the Blues so far this season, which is hands down the best in the NHL. Shattenkirk has an extra 24 points on his season’s total thanks to his power play points.

Tyson Barrie’s Avalanche have been one of the NHL’s worst power play teams this season. They rank 29th in the NHL at 13.4%.

Barrie’s 13 power play points this season have him tied for 22nd in the NHL in that category. His points/60 rate sits at 4.12.

Enter, chart numero dos. This chart includes the top-8 scorers in the NHL, as well as power play anomalies Keith Yandle and Kevin Shattenkirk. You can see that Barrie is outscored by most of his competition for the PP scoring title among defenseman.

Some might be inclined to argue that this hurts Barrie’s credibility when considering him among the NHL’s best offensive d-men. They might say that the Avalanche’s dismal power play is partially Barrie’s responsibility. After all, a good power play starts with a great PP quarterback at the point.

Take a closer look at the chart. Barrie’s Avalanche are the worst team on it as far as their goals/60 rate on the power play (makes sense considering they are 29th in the NHL on the PP).

Tyson Barrie is actually 2nd on this chart in terms of the percentage of PP points/60 he is scoring relative to his team. To me, this says that Barrie isn’t the problem with the PP in Colorado. In fact, it says quite the opposite.

These numbers show me that Barrie is an excellent point man on the PP, but the Avalanche power play as a whole is flawed. Barrie is being victimized by a bad power play, despite the fact that he appears to be a glowing bright spot on that unit.

Only the god-like Kevin Shattenkirk (seriously his PP numbers are insane this year) is contributing more to his team’s PP success than Barrie.

On the flip-side, Kris Letang, Erik Karlsson, Keith Yandle, and Brent Burns are all getting a lot of “free” points on the PP, because they play on teams who have good power plays overall. Their teams are pumping out goals with the man-advantage at a much higher rate than Colorado, allowing those d-men to leech extra points in some ways just because they are touching the puck on a potent PP. This is a bit abstract, and not necessarily intuitive. Just take a moment and let it all marinate.

Based on the data, and the % of offense on the PP Barrie is responsible for, it seems reasonable to conclude that if the Avalanche didn’t have such a dismal power play, Barrie could easily have racked up at least another 7-8 points this season.

This would make him the NHL’s leading scorer among defensemen. Imagine that.

Tyson Barrie truly is a dynamic player on the ice, and is an absolute joy to watch. His creativity and ability to generate offense for his team make him a very dangerous weapon in Denver. Looking at his % contributions to his team’s offensive output, nobody in the NHL can match Tyson Barrie. He is the only defenseman in the top-5 in those ratios at 5-on-5 and on the power play. These ratios count for a lot in my book.

I said above that it would be brash to call Tyson Barrie the best offensive defenseman in the NHL. You know what? I’m feeling brash.

Tyson Barrie is the best offensive defenseman in the NHL this season. He has the numbers to prove it, and in my mind, deserves the recognition. Someone just had to say it.

I know I wear the burgundy glasses, and that certainly factors into this statement, but when you really analyze his numbers, they back me up.

Barrie truly has been fantastic, and at just 23 years of age, he’s only getting started.

Here’s to Tyson Barrie – the best offensive defenseman in the NHL.

*Stats credit to NHL.com and stats.hockeyanalysis.com current as of 2pm Thursday, March 12. All tables self-generated*

Next: Tyson Barrie Should Be Signed Long-Term

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