Of all the failed experiments the New York Islanders fans have endured over the course of this nine-year rebuild there is one that sticks out as more egregious than all the rest.
The fact that there has been a revolving door of what I will politely call ‘lesser talent’ playing next to New York Islanders captain, John Tavares, for most of his career is beyond the pale.
The following is an accounting of the three stages of the sad game of musical chairs that has been John Tavares’ wingers. These stats are compiled using the Super WOWY (the best-named stat engine in the game) at Puckalytics (they’re doing good work over there, you should go play with their statistical toys as I did).
I included time on ice to demonstrate sample size and has been rounded to the nearest minute for ease of reading.
GF% = Goals for / Goals for + Goals against
PDO = Save percentage + Shooting percentage
CF% = Corsi for / Corsi for + Corsi against
OZFO% = Offensive Zone Face Offs / Neutal Zone FOs + Defensive Zone FO + Offensize Zone FOs
A few things about this data are noteworthy. These four ‘originals’ as I have dubbed them all represent the largest chunks of TOI with John Tavares. Despite the fact that Bailey and Okposo were on the team with Tavares the longest, Moulson played with him the most as he was almost exclusively on the top line.
Additionally, we see the beginning of a trend that will hold true for every group of wings – when you play with Tavares, your offensive zone starts go way up.
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- Islanders: Analyzing Mathew Barzal’s Evolving Play-Style
The fact that Tavares is in a separate class of player from these four is borne out by most of this data. In almost all cases his numbers are better individually and the wings’ numbers are made better when playing with him.
I attribute the lower numbers with Moulson and Parenteau to playing with lesser goalies/defense in the early days of the rebuild and to Tavares’ youth.
It’s also very clear, especially in the case of Moulson and Parenteau that they got a stat bump from playing with Tavares. They both put up, by far, the best conventional numbers of their career while playing with Tavares.
Moulson averaged .73 points per game with the Islanders and .45 ppg elsewhere. Parenteau averaged .75 ppg with the Islanders and .55 ppg elsewhere. Its harder to separate these stats for Bailey and Okposo since they played on the team for so long, and were subject to Jack Capuano’s bingo ball line shuffling technique. However, Bailey’s increased production amidst a season of down numbers for literally everyone else on the team would suggest he is seeing a bump as well.
They were the best of wings, they were the worst of wings. Boyes’ and Vanek’s data are like night and day in almost every way.
Boyes was one of many failed salvage projects that Garth Snow attempted when no one was willing to sign with the Islanders (See also: Cory Conacher, Pierre-Marc Bouchard). It’s not reflected in the team numbers for Boyes, again because our goaltending/defense at that time was out of the bargain bin, but during his time with the Isles Boyes averaged .73 ppg and elsewhere he has averaged .61 ppg.
I think most people will agree that Thomas Vanek is the only true top line talent that Tavares has ever been paired with and it is clear from the numbers that their time together was something beyond special.
Vanek’s baseline numbers are great, bolstered by playing on good Buffalo teams with consistent, talented linemates, but even he was subject to the Tavares stat bump.
Admittedly (and sadly), Vanek’s tenure represents a relatively small sample size, but during his time with Tavares, Vanek averaged .94 ppg. During his time elsewhere Vanek has averaged .79 ppg. The team’s numbers with Vanek are the most damning evidence in the argument that Garth Snow should be fired for not acquiring, by hook or by crook, a permanent top liner to put next to Tavares.
The Kids (and one Ladd)
Finally, there are the new kids on the block.
These stats are skewed, I think, as Tavares’ early career numbers with the bottom-feeding Islanders of days past (…oh wait…) bring down his overall numbers.
The trio of Nelson/Strome/Lee have spent most of their short careers on teams that included guys named Leddy/Boychuk/Hamonic and Ladd has spent a fair amount his career on better teams.
The one thing I will point out is that among all this data, there is a particular wing whose numbers resemble very closely that of Thomas Vanek, despite being a consistent healthy scratch.
Obviously Beauvillier’s numbers are a very small sample size, but clearly, numbers of that sort should be explored further, not stifled by hiding the young guy in the owner’s box.
Stay tuned for Part 2 later this week will address this year’s wingers only in much more depth.