I would pay Elliotte Friedman to stop talking about an Anthony Mantha / Brock Boeser trade

Dear Elliot Friedman,

Hi. Are you OK? I’m very good. Almost done with Christmas shopping, which is good.

Anyway, I’m writing to ask you to stop talking about the Washington Capitals trade Brock Bosserespecially in exchange for anthony manta. Please consider. In exchange for your forgoing, I’ll donate $69 to a charity of your choice.

We’ve been paying attention to this for a while, most recently when Friedman called Washington a “dark horse” in Boser’s campaign, and Vancouver has empowered Boser to find a new team. Friedman expanded on the story on Friday’s 32 Thoughts podcast.

“I do think the Capitals are one of the teams interested in Bothell,” Friedman said. “Someone from another Capitals team said to me today that they thought the Capitals were interested in Bothell before.”

Before last season’s trade deadline, Washington was rumored to be interested in Bothell.

Even more worryingly, ELF seems to imply that this scenario is not entirely hypothetical. “Some people are saying it’s a complicated deal that will take time.” The context suggested to me that Friedman meant that Washington would make a concrete deal to get Bothell, not just Vancouver from Any deal taken over by Bothell.

Friedman made it clear that Mansha’s involvement in the deal was his opinion.

Boeser, 25, was once on the cusp of stardom. A runner-up to Rookie of the Year in 2018, Boeser has at least 20 goals and 20 assists in the shortened season. But the Minnesota seems to have lost his scoring touch.

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Below are Boeser’s goal totals in even power and power play.

season games played uniform strength Game of Thrones
2017 9 2 2
2018 62 19 10
2019 69 20 6
2020 57 11 5
2021 56 14 8
2022 71 12 11
2023 twenty one 2 2

But I think I learned more from his five-on-five work.

Boeser’s goals dropped. If he didn’t get as many secondary assists (which is basically statistical noise), he’d look even worse. His individual offensive rating (shot attempts, expected goals, etc.) has held steady, so the decline can be explained by his field goal percentage, which has dropped from over 10 percent in past seasons to under 6 percent this year.

But that’s just the dashboard. What happens below the waterline is even more important to understanding how bad this deal is. Here’s how HockeyViz estimates Boeser’s impact on the game. Red spots mean more shots are coming from those positions on the ice – so red is good above it, bad below it.

In short, Bothell crippled the offense by four percentage points and the defense by three. Additionally, he was mediocre in completing his own chances or helping his teammates complete theirs (“assist”). Unlike his tapering offense, Boeser has always been that way: He doesn’t push the game at all. And it just got worse.

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Evolving Hockey measures a player’s contribution to a team over the course of a season as “above-average points.” By that measure, Boeser shares plummeted.

Once a player of real value, it’s no longer accurate to say Bothell is mediocre. He is on the south side. That makes any Anthony Mansa equivalence seem absurd.

No matter what you think of Mantha’s goal totals and his frustrating usage rate (i.e. bottom six, no power play time), there’s no denying that he’s one of the team’s most reliable game drivers. Here’s the same HockeyViz impact diagram, but this time with Mantha:

Mantha improved the offense by 5 points and the defense by 7 points. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Caps had the second-best improvement in expected target percentage on the ice when Mantha jumped the rebound, trailing only Aliaksei Protas.

Even if he loses his scoring touch (which I don’t think he has), Mantha’s 6-foot-5 frame and strong fundamentals make him a more valuable player than Boeser.

Evolving Hockey has a metric they call RAPM, which basically plots how much better or worse a player is than average on various metrics. In the next visualization, there are three indicators of attack:

  • Fiberglass/60: the actual number of goals scored by the team per hour,
  • xGF/60: Expected team goals per hour, always pretending to be league-average goalie,
  • Cubic feet/60: Team shot attempts per hour,
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Then there are two defensive indicators:

  • xGA/60: opponent’s expected goals per hour,
  • CA/60: Opponents’ shots per hour.

So Mantha has gone head-to-head with Boeser over the past three seasons:

This is not a game. Even though he’s not flashy or as athletic as the coaches would like him to be, Mantha does everything right, raising both sides of the ice by about a standard deviation. Boeser also had some offensive upside, though the goals were higher than expected and the defense was terrible.

I need to emphasize that I pulled three years figures above. If you’re only going during the season…

Boeser broke the damn Y axis on defense. His problem isn’t that he’s a poor shooter; it’s that he’s atrocious without the puck.

Trading Boeser is a bad idea. Trading Mantha for Boeser is stupid. Trading Mansa while deftly carrying the goods in Washington’s 5-on-5 game would be astounding. I don’t know where these rumors are coming from, but if it’s coming from the capital, it would be a sign of their management’s incompetence.

This story would not be possible without Natural Stat Trick, Evolving Hockey and HockeyViz. Please consider supporting these sites with us.

Header image: @milliemantha/Instagram, @Canucks/Twitter



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