Islanders: Anders Lee vs The Power Forward Decline
By Matt O'Leary
For power forwards like Anders Lee, there seems to be a decline at 30 years old. Can the Islanders captain avoid the steep drop off?
Yesterday, I wrote about my expectations for Anders Lee in the 2021 NHL season. The New York Islanders can absolutely use a bounce-back season from their captain, and I think he finds his scoring touch again.
While I’m high on Lee having a return to form, others are concerned about Lee reaching 30 years old. We’ve seen some recent forwards who play a similar game to Lee see a decline in production around that time.
We’ll use Milan Lucic, Wayne Simmonds, and Jeff Skinner as player comparisons. Both Simmonds and Lucic are older while Skinner is two years younger than Lee for reference.
This chart shows the number of goals scored by each player and their age. So far, both Anders Lee and Wayne Simmonds had their peak goal performance in their age 27 season. For Simmonds, the following year saw just a slight step back while Lee went from 40 goals to 28.
Skinner so far had his peak at age 26, while Lucic was more productive in his early 20s before seeing a significant drop after his age 28 season.
For shooting percentage, we see Wayne Simmonds remain pretty consistent through his age 29 season before dropping off a cliff in his age 30 and 31 seasons. Lucic was interesting because his deop off started at age 27 but saw a rise in his age 30 and 31 season.
Skinner’s is just an absolute roller coaster and it’s hard to say what he will do going forward. Anders Lee peaks at age 27 also and then drops to an uncharacteristic 10.3 percent in his age 29 season.
Here’s some good news. Anders Lee is better than both Milan Lucic and Wayne Simmonds at getting in high danger scoring chances. Both Simmonds and Lucic had their peak around 27 but Lee, thanks to Barry Trotz’s system is having it at age 28 and 29.
What Does This All Mean?
Basing this off of Simmonds and Lucic it seems like it’s all over for Lee, right? Well, one thing that’s vastly different between Lee, Simmonds, Lucic, and even Skinner is when they came into the league.
Lee’s first full season in the league came at 24 years old. Skinner popped in at 18, Lucic at 19, and Simmonds at 20. Anders Lee’s body hasn’t been through as much wear and tear due to his late arrival to the league.
Of course, eventually, Lee like every player will begin to slow down but to automatically chalk it up to him becoming a disaster at age 30 is slightly misguided. A 34 and 35-year-old Anders Lee at $7 million might not be great but over the next three or four years, I think we can expect Lee to be somewhere in the ballpark of a 30 goal scorer.