Marc-Edouard Vlasic is one of the most intriguing players in the National Hockey League. Hes become a staple of the San Jose Sharks blue-line. He earned national recognition after being named to Team Canadas roster at the Sochi Games. And yet, despite consistent performance on the biggest stages, hes often left off of the list of the leagues best rearguards. One of the elements that seems to hold Vlasic back from proper consideration as an elite defender is that he doesnt necessarily fit neatly into the boxes used to describe his comparables. Players like P.K. Subban, Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, and Duncan Keith are recognized for their ability to create offensively and drive play territorially. Players like Zdeno Chara, Shea Weber, and Ryan Suter are more regarded for their ability to deter shot attempts and scoring chances, relatively excelling in the defensive zone. Generally, the above group of players – you can throw in Alex Pietrangelo, Mark Giordano and Ryan McDonagh – are talked about as the games best on the back end. I find the regular omission of Vlasic here odd, and I think its largely because hes a unique player. Theres no definitive aspect of his game that stands head and shoulders above everyone else. He doesnt have Erik Karlssons skating, or Zdeno Charas physicality, or Shea Webers slap shot. Hes just pretty good at – well, everything. Consider this simple plot of the top defenders performances over the last three seasons. Here, the x-axis is raw Corsi%, or the shot-share the players team had when he was on the ice. The y-axis is Goal%, or the goal-share the players team enjoyed when he was on the ice. The size of the bubble indicates 60-minute scoring rates. The larger the bubble, the more productive the scorer. These are fairly crude multi-year numbers, but the driving point here should be that Vlasic is right in the mix with some of hockeys finest. Here, Vlasic has enjoyed just over 54 per cent of the shot-share with his team on the ice, and just under 54 per cent of the goal-share. As an aside, other bubbles of note: Chara, for an older guy, has still more or less dominated (56 per cent of shot-share; 58 per cent of goal-share). Karlssons bubble is the size of Jupiter because his scoring rate is miles and miles ahead of the competition. Its also remarkable to see how close Ryan McDonagh and P.K. Subban are here. Terrifyingly, Montreal could have had both. Back to Vlasic. Where I think he ultimately stands out is in his relative numbers, in which we can compare San Joses performance with the player on the ice as opposed to San Joses performance with the player off the ice. Intuitively speaking, if Vlasic was really driving play, wed see San Joses numbers spike when he takes a shift. So, lets take Marc-Edouard Vlasics Relative Corsi% over the last three years, and roll it over 10-game spans. I prefer to use rolling averages for player and team data analysis because it can smooth out short-term fluctuation and help identify longer-term trends. What we generally see with the leagues leading defenders is consistency over break-even or 0.0% Relative Corsi% - which is the threshold where a team sees the same shot-share with the player on the ice as off the ice. How does Vlasic fare? The games are chronologically ordered, starting in 2011 and 2014. Other than a small blip (games 43-50) where Vlasic was lagging behind the team average, hes generally been a positive Relative Corsi% player. And youll quickly notice the longer-term trend here, too – Vlasics numbers continue to rise above the team averages, which probably speak both to his improvement as a player, and San Joses reliance on him to drive play at even-strength. The latter part is interesting. While it speaks to Vlasics capabilities, it may also speak to San Joses capabilities – or, lack thereof – when Vlasic steps off the ice. San Joses still getting the better part of the shot-differential when Vlasics off (its a touch over 50 per cent over the last three seasons), but its considerably lagging behind what the teams accomplishing with Vlasic. For a team with legitimate Stanley Cup hopes, bringing their "without Vlasic" numbers closer to their "with Vlasic" numbers should be an organizational goal. All in all, it seems to me that Vlasic is one of the leagues premier defenders. San Joses recognized it. Team Canadas recognized it. But, the discussion of the leagues best defenders has far too often omitted the rock on San Joses back-end. Lets try and change that going forward. Manuel Neuer Jersey . The 10-year deal the league and players agreed to that ended the 2011 lockout gave either side the right to opt out after six years. 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Instead, Nonis and Kessel were sorting through the fallout of a wild melee with the Buffalo Sabres, one that saw Kessel suspended for the duration of the pre-season.Andy Walker says Celtic have sound claims for favouritism ahead of Sundays Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers. Rangers are generally available at 4/1 while Celtic are on offer at around 4/6 for the Hampden showdown, live on Sky Sports from 11am on Sunday.And Walker, who played for Celtic in two spells between 1987 and 1996, believes the bookmakers have it spot on considering the merits of the respective squads. Speaking to Sky Sports Now, he said: Yes, they are comfortable favourites for me. I think when you look at what the bookies have got Celtic priced at with Rangers 4/1 or 5/1, I think its a fair reflection on the strength of each teams squad.Celtic go into this one as big favourites.Rangers manager Mark Warburton is reported to have labelled the game as just another football match, but Sky Sports pundit Walker believes he could not be further from the truth.Im born and bred in Glasgow and I went to these games as a youngster for many years and eventually I was lucky enough to play in one, he said. Mark Warburton says Sundays Glasgow Derby is just another game It blew me away, just the noise, the passion, the sheer determination and everything about the fixture. I dont think Mark will have experienced it before.That said, I think it is a bit of a free-hit for Mark Warburton. You have to remember this is very early in his Rangers career. Hes only had two transfer windows to put a team together, had very little money to spend and I dont think anyone would be looking at Mark Warburton and criticising him if Rangers lose. Ronny Deila in trouble if he loses, according to Andy Walker On the other hand, if Celtic lose you look at Ronny Deila and you can throw up a number of losses that have been painful for the Celtic supporters. Im thinking really of the Champions League so I think Celtic are under more pressure to deliver at the weekend and well need to wait and see if it is a pressure they can handle. Fellow Sky Sports Now guest Paul Dickov iss another to question Warburtons claim, insisting no other game comes near it.dddddddddddd Celtic striker, Leigh Griffiths, explains why this weekends Old-Firm derby against Rangers is as big as any. The former Arsenal and Manchester City striker, capped 10 times by Scotland, said: Im looking forward to it and Andy hit the nail on the head there. When you watch these games, the atmosphere just blows you away and it is like no other game I have ever been to.And I think Mark is playing it down a bit saying its just another game. Being born in Glasgow this is nowhere near just another game.I think Rangers have a decent chance. Defensively theyve not done well of late but at the same time in players like Harry Forrester - an old player of mine - they have match winners throughout the team.Celtic will be big favourites, of course they will, but its a game Im looking forward to.Watch the Glasgow derby on Sky Sports 2 HD from 11am this Sunday.By purchasing a Sky Sports Day Pass for £6.99 or Sky Sports Week Pass for £10.99, you can enjoy access to all seven Sky Sports channels and watch on a TV with a NOW TV Box or on a range of devices. 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