New York Islanders Casey Cizikas is said to be one of the top ten players in the NHL that are regression bound in 2019-20. I don’t think so.
There’s no doubt that Casey Cizikas had an uncharacteristically productive season for the New York Islanders in 2018-19. With 20 goals on the season, he smashed his previous career-high of nine goals.
With a 15 percent shooting percentage at 5on5 (the number of goals divided by the number of shots), it’s easy to see why The Athletics Ian Tulloch (subscription required) had Casey Cizikas down as a regression candidate.
As Tulloch writes, fourth-liners don’t frequently have a 15 percent shooting percentage. So there’s a real doubt that Cizikas does it again in 2019-20.
He’s got a point, but there’s so much more to Casey Cizikas’s game that a seemingly inevitable decrease in goals shouldn’t smear him as a player bound to “regress” next season.
Not Getting Worse
When I hear “regress”, I think “will be worse”. I understand that Tulloch is simply trying to say that Casey Cizikas won’t be as good as he was last year. But that’s not totally true.
That shooting percentage is certainly high, but there was a clear shift in Cizikas’s game to shoot more. He ended the season with 98 shots at 5on5. A whole 36 more shots than last season and 19 more than his previous career-high of 79.
Across all situations, Cizikas had 111 shots. That’s 21 shots more than his previous career-high of 90.
He created more high-danger chances than he ever has with 57 and created more scoring chances than ever with 100, again all at 5on5. That 15 percent shooting percentage did not happen by accident.
Can it be repeated? Maybe. What I’m trying to show is that while Cizikas had an incredible bump to his goal production, I wouldn’t expect that production to suddenly fall off a cliff in 2019-20. I would expect for Casey Cizikas to repeat that strategy in 2019-20.
Will that production go down? Maybe. But again, there’s so much more to Cizikas’s game. The point I’m trying to make is that Cizikas may score fewer goals next season, but that won’t mean he’ll be worse in 2019-20. There are other areas of Cizikas’s game that can in fact get better.
(All stats from NaturalStatTrick)
Other Areas of Improvement
Like in the faceoff dot. Cizikas had a sub-par year. For the first time in his career, Cizikas average a below 50 percent faceoff win percentage. Cizikas will get better on the draw next season.
His offensive deployment will also certainly go up in 2019-20. Last year Cizikas’s defensive zone starts hovered around 67 percent. In 2019-20, with no better third-line center on the roster, Cizikas will certainly see his zone starts skew evenly between the offensive and defensive side of the ice.
Meaning there’s more time for Cizikas to either keep up that goal-scoring production or help out his teammates. Again, he had a career-year in terms of scoring chances and high-danger chances.
Even though Cizikas had a breakout year, his linemates Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck finished the season right around where you’d expected them to produce with 14 and 23 points respectively.
Along with that increased offensive-zone time should come more offensively minded players on Cizikas’s wing. Players that find seems and gaps in the offensive zone more naturally than Martin and Clutterbuck.
Cizikas is great at feeding the puck to open areas in front of the net. More offensive-minded players can help increase what was an average return in the assists column for Cizikas from last season.
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Was a 15 percent 5on5 shooting percentage high for Casey Cizikas? No doubt. Will he score fewer goals in 2019-20? Maybe. Will he regress in 2019-20? I don’t think so.