The difference in results from the first half to the second half of the season was drastic for the New York Islanders. What can some of the underlying numbers tell us about this remarkable turnaround?
When the New York Islanders fired Jack Capuano the team was a point clear of Buffalo for the last place in the East. With 42 points in the same number of games played the outlook was bleak.
Appointing Doug Weight didn’t immediately calm the fanbase. He was, after all, on Jack Capuano’s coaching staff. How was he going to turn this team around? He wasn’t exactly a new voice, although the team went with that narrative for the hiring.
But did he ever turn things around? Before being appointed the Isles held a 17-25-8 record. By the end of the season and 39 games played the Isles went 24-12-4.
They went 5-3-1 on a franchise-record nine-game road trip. And ended the season with a six-game winning streak. This was the same team who couldn’t win on the road before Weight. And couldn’t string together more than three wins in a row (it happened once at the end of November/beginning of December).
To The Numbers!
We know that the team responded to Doug Weight. Whether it be simpler and more focused communication. (No more nuanced puck luck!) Or maybe guys could connect to a guy who’s played over 1,200 games and 1,033 points.
But how did things change on the ice exactly? What can the numbers tell us happened?
All stats were taken from a custom team query on Corsica.hockey and aren’t adjusted for 5-on-5.
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In almost every category the team performs marginally better under Weight than Capuano, save for scoring chances (SCF/60 & SCA/60). But the main one to look at is the last one. Cause that one sheds light on all of the other numbers.
Under Weight, the team increased their possession by a full four percentage points. That doesn’t sound like much, but consider that all NHL teams are within ten percentage points of each other when it comes to all situations CF%.
Just controlling the puck affects all those other metrics. Like shots for and against (SF/60 & SA/60) where the Isles added almost a full shot per 60 minutes and shed two and a half shots against. Just by controlling the puck more frequently.
That then translated into an uptick in goals for. Anders Lee’s rediscovered scoring touch might have had a bit to do with that. Capuano didn’t have a free-scoring Lee till mid to late November.
It might look odd that scoring chances for and against go down almost evenly, SCF/60 went down by 2.13 SCA/60 went down by 1.94. Because higher goal scoring should technically mean that scoring chances go up.
But these aren’t mutually exclusive. It just means that the Isles were more clinical with their finishing under Weight.
Next season with a full training camp and offseason to prepare, Doug Weight should be able to get the Isles clicking at least at the same rate if not better. A positive Corsi (over 50%) seems obtainable, maybe that’s all it takes to get them back to a 100 point team and in the playoffs.