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The Kindl Reaction: Why Red Wings Fans are Happy about Jakub Kindl being on Waivers

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Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

From the looks of the internet today, you'd think that Alex Semin had been waived again. A team with a well-known questionable defense for years has placed a birds-eye-view analytics darling defenseman on waivers and certain corners of the internet are honestly astounded at the response from a lot of Red Wings fans (this blog included).

Let's be clear, I don't think Jakub Kindl is garbage. I think he has a place in the NHL and I think that there's a real good chance a team making a claim on him will get a value pick-up for taking his $2.4M salary through the end of next season. I'm not happy Jakub Kindl is on waivers because I think he's bad. I'm happy Jakub Kindl is on waivers because I don't think he's good enough for what he's been given in Detroit and for what he'll continue to get.

I also think that there's kind of a gap in analytics when considering usage effects on defensemen and that's leading to a bunch of the misconceptions about how good he is and why Wings fans are happy. Unfortunately, I'm not leading edge enough to fully explain usage effects, so I will have to rely on a mixture of what I can tell from the available stats and from my own eyeball test.

There are things like this from Canucks Army which make the argument that picking up Kindl should be considered a no-brainer:

From what I've gathered he's drawn the ire of Red Wings fans over the years as a player that makes too many costly mistakes, and is something of a liability. Heated fans generally aren't the most reliable source when it comes to properly evaluating their own assets, though. Particularly when it comes to players - like, say, an Alex Edler - that are prone to committing the occasional particularly glaring error that sticks out like a sore thumb, masking all of the other subtly effective things they do otherwise.

Heck, I've made the confirmation bias argument myself in our comments section in the last week (in regards to Brendan Smith). It's not entirely crazy to say the inherent lie of the eyeball test is part of it. Kindl has probably gotten a bit of a raw deal from fans; we just don't know how raw that deal is.

But then there's this:

That's not to say that he's without his flaws, because he certainly is. If he weren't, he surely wouldn't find himself on waivers at the moment with his future in doubt. He's been heavily sheltered throughout his career by his coaches, and he's been prone to taking his fair share of penalties.

This is literally the only "whoa, slow down" part of the article on Kindl, a kind of perfunctory nod to the fact that Kindl can't be perfect otherwise he wouldn't be on waivers. This is buried as an afterthought under a more-thorough paragraph about Kindl's corsi and an embed of his HERO chart showing relative numbers, but not correcting much for deployment.

To give my own look at the numbers, I built a chart at War-on-Ice showing every Red Wings' defenseman's collective numbers since the 2012-13 season, filtered down to only include players with more than 500 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time. Usually, the color of the circles represents relative Corsi (how good your numbers are compared to your teammates). Relative numbers show Kindl dominating comparatively. I went with absolute Corsi as a percentage of total.

The reason I did this is because relative Corsi falls victim to usage considerations while overall Corsi here shows that Kindl's numbers are just good compared to good for the most part.

Kindl Usage

If you're still curious why Jakub Kindl is the odd-man out on the defense, despite good fancystats numbers, this is why. The seven D-men left on the roster after waiving Kindl are all used in harder roles either by defensive zone deployments or by the amount of ice time the people they're out to defend against get (or both, as in the case of most of these guys). When added up against the $2.4M cap hit and hints that the Wings are trying to get under an internal cap number, the inability of Ken Holland to trade Kindl without taking back salary is why.

Again, Kindl isn't garbage. It's possible he can do this well on a different team and could keep up decent performances with tougher usage. It's possible he could put up real points if given power play opportunities he wasn't going to get in Detroit. However, if there's still any leftover confusion about why Wings fans are generally happy about this decision, I hope this helps.