Carolina's young defenseman Jamie McBain is probably one of my favorite players to analyze because the fanbase's opinion always on him always seems to be split. On one hand, people see a skilled player who is slowly, but surely, adjusting to the NHL and will be a great top-four defenseman in the next couple of years. Then you have the people who see him as a complete liability on defense and should be dealt for a team that needs a puck-mover. There are also individuals in the same crowd who think that he should be moved to make room for Ryan Murphy, the Hurricanes' first round pick from last year.
I have discussed McBain many times in the past and have determined a few things. The first of which is that he isn't quite ready to play tough minutes yet and was most effective when used in a third-pairing role with Jaroslav Spacek. In addition to that, I said McBain is good enough that he doesn't need to be completely protected and that his most recent season wasn't much different from how he performed in 2010-11. He just looked worse when he was being used in tough situations that he likely wasn't ready for.
McBain has his flaws and probably isn't going to be a top-pairing defenseman but it is my opinion that he hasn't been nearly as bad as a lot of fans have made him out to be. That being said, I think that he has his limits and I do question whether or not he has the ability to play tough minutes in the future. He doesn't need to play this kind of role, but it would make him a much more valuable player if he does. Justin Faulk playing a top-four role at only 19 years of age is another thing that probably made McBain look worse than he really is, since he is 24 and has struggled in similar situations.
There are a couple things to remember with that last point. 1) Defenseman in general take a long time to develop. Faulk is an exception to this rule. 2) At 24, McBain is still relatively young and this season was only his second full-year in the NHL. Saying that he will never be a good defenseman now when he has played a top-four role and posted decent to good possession metrics on a bad possession team is just silly.
Where is McBain in his development, though? It seems like the "peak age" for players is getting younger each year in the NHL so it would be good to know where McBain stands compared to other defensemen his age. We will explore this issue after the jump.