New York Islanders Analytics: Understanding Player Styles

UNIONDALE, NY - FEBRUARY 16: John Tavares /

My fellow Eyes on Isles colleague Matt O’Leary wrote about the New York Islanders optimal lineup based on analytics. But let’s disect that further and look at the Isles player styles and what that means.

Earlier today we ran a piece on Eyes on Isles about the New York Islanders optimal lineup based on the best possible expected goals for percentages. These percentages were based on a player’s individual expected goals for and how their varying playing styles meshed.

The piece was based on fabulous work by a conglomerate of hockey analysts. Everything was put together by Sean Tierney, but his output is based on work by Ryan Stimpson (@RK_Stimp), @DTMAboutheart and Dom Luszczyszyn (@domluszczyszyn).

Matt already spoke about the lineup and how he feels the math is certainly fine but Brock Nelson on the fourth line is shaky. Heck Lee on the second line in favour of Josh Bailey will drive most Islanders fans nuts.

But the math and justification makes sense. That lineup maximizes the New York Islanders expected goals for.

If you’re not sure why that’s important, don’t worry you’re not the only one. But if you want to understand why it’s a good predictive stat here’s a piece from Ryan Stipmson on the subject.

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Player Chemistry and Player Styles

So we know that expected goals for is the stat that we want to maximize. What combination of players create the best output?

Again, Stimpson found that NHL player styles since the 2015-16 season fall into four categories: Playmaker, Shooter, Balanced, Dependant.

*Exert from Stimpson’s previously linked Playing Style piece.

Just look how the dependant style is a drastic fall from the other three. That’s why Sean Tierney shot that out in his tweet. The Islanders have a ton of dependants. More than any other style.

It’s not fun to see Andrew Ladd mentioned as a dependant player with his salary cap hit, but based on the numbers he fits the profile.

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And that’s where the New York Islanders issue lies. There aren’t enough players that drive play either shooters or playmakers to compete with the big clubs. Even balanced players are rare in the lineup.

Tierney assumes that both Joshua Ho-Sang and Mathew Barzal would be balanced players. Which would go a long way to round out the roster. but that still leaves a number of dependant players that offer very little in the way of expected goals for and even influence.

What I take out of this is the Islanders need players that aren’t going to leach on other and offer little independently. So perhaps those in the red (dependants) present the best trade options, in terms of minimizing expected goals for output.

Players like Brock Nelson, Shane Prine, Cal Clutterbuck and Anthony Beauvillier should form the backbone of any deal to land a top level player to better round the Islanders roster.

I don’t like seeing Beauvillier on this list, I like how he plays the game. I think with another full season he might round out into something more. But the reality of the situation is he might have enough value to steer any team away from the likes of Ryan Pulock or Mathew Barzal.

Next: Will Tavares Win A Cup Before Hitting 30?

This was a sobering look at the New York Islanders roster. It’s not too far from what we thought as  fans. Saying Brock Nelson is a dependant player probably plays perfectly well in most of our narrative assessments of him. Seeing Josh Bailey as balanced might contradict what some think of the former ninth overall pick.

Looking at this roster shows just how heavily the success of the 2017-18 season lays in the hands of John Tavares, Josh Ho-Sang and Mathew Barzal.