Would much rather keep Persson than Benning. Persson deserves a chance, he could be good. We already know how bad Matt Benning is...
I don't really know where to start on this, but I'll just share a few facts and leave opinions out of it.
Over the past 3 seasons combined, 5v5 stats:
Goals/60: 0.22 (2nd among Oilers defensemen / 61st in the league)
Assists/60: 0.59 (2nd / 105th)
Points/60: 0.81 (2nd / 90th)
CF%: 50.59 (2nd, +1.50 relative to teammates)
FF%: 50.37 (2nd, +0.76)
SF%: 50.46 (2nd, +1.58)
GF%: 54.44 (1st, +6.78)
xGF%: 50.96 (2nd, +1.90)
SCF%: 50.46 (1st, +1.65)
HDCF%: 49.58 (3rd, +1.75)
EV_GAR: 16.3 (1st)
GAR: 22.0 (1st)
WAR: 4.0 (1st)
Most people look at these numbers and proclaim it's because Benning gets easier minutes in the 3rd pairing, and he certainly does play on the 3rd pairing much of the time - but not always. In the past 3 years he has played 1250 minutes in the top-4 and his numbers shine. Here's how I separated his top-4 results from his bottom pairing results.
To start with I used a proxy for “top-4” each year going back to 2016-17, based on TOI v Elites taken from puckiq.com, as follows:
2016-17: Sekera (35.5%), Klefbom (34.6)
2017-18: Nurse (34.9), Klefbom (32.3)
2018-19: Klefbom (35.1), Nurse (33.8)
Next I went to naturalstattrick.com and, using their “Teammates” tool, filtered all the stats for each year for the TOI Benning spent with each player listed above. I realize there were times when Russell-Benning were the 2nd pairing, but there may have been games that they were 3rd pairing too and I didn’t want to confuse the numbers with 3rd pairing data. Then too, who you play with is as important as who you play against, so showing those games where Russell-Benning played 2nd pairing probably doesn’t give us much information about potential combos this coming season, unless the injury bug strikes down 2-3 of the top-5 guys. For reference though, Russell-Benning were together just 21:04 in 2018-19 and outscored the competition 2-1. Negligible.
So I built an excel spreadsheet combining all the figures for Benning’s ice-time with the top two LHD for each season and the results were interesting to say the least. For the 3 years combined, 5v5 minutes in the top-4 only:
Again, this is just the time he spent in the top-4, these numbers don’t include any bottom-pairing play at all. This looks like a decent top-4 blueliner from here. Is it the McDavid push? Let’s look at the numbers with and without McDavid, filtered by the aforementioned top two LHD:
The truth is that Benning, even when playing top-4 minutes, isn’t getting a ton of “McDavid time”, just 33.6% of his TOI was spent with the world’s best center. Of course his numbers in those minutes are better, but he performed quite well even without the CMD push.
And then there’s this: Benning personally posted amazing boxcars during these minutes. His .912 points/60 puts him tied for 58th best defenseman in the NHL over the past 3 years, while his .29 goals/60 puts him in a 5 way tie for 24th, with Jones, Ekblad, Markov and our own Darnell Nurse. (I can’t believe so many Oilers fans are calling for these two to be traded). These are phenomenal numbers.
The list of marquee players that couldn’t match Benning’s .912 p/60 over the past 3 years is long, including Slavin, Petry, Morrissey, Ekholm, Heiskanen, Gostisbehere, Miller, Pesce, Ekman-Larsson, Parayko, Ekblad, Brodin, Doughty, Lindholm, Fowler, Ristolainen, Klefbom, Hamonic and Vatanen.
Now, I’m not suggesting that Matt Benning is a top-pairing guy or even a sure-fire top 4. I do know for sure that he’s played a reasonable amount of top-4 minutes over the past 3 years and has won those minutes even playing behind a piss-poor forward group. NONE of the other top blueliners can touch Benning’s GF% without McDavid, and it isn’t close:
Benning: 49.18 (while in the top-4 only)
Sekera: 40.00 (includes bottom-pairing time)
For reference, Benning’s overall GF% without McDavid (just so we’re comparing apples-to-apples) is 51.45%.