3. Talking About Islanders First Liner Leo Komarov
During the Islanders post-game press conference on Thursday, several Islanders beat writers took the opportunity to ask Barry Trotz and Leo Komarov about the latter’s performance. Newsday’s Andrew Gross in particular took the opportunity to ask Komarov if he enjoyed “turning analytics over a little bit.”
Komarov, naturally, responded by saying essentially that he doesn’t care whether his performances look good or not, whether they are pleasing on a chart or not, and that he’s just focused on playing, not on reading about himself.
The comments by Komarov are what they are. I wouldn’t expect a player to answer any differently in his situation, and I think he answered the question perfectly normally.
It was the actual question that left me scratching my head on Thursday night, because the Leo-Barzal-Eberle line’s analytics have been good. Not as good as when Anders Lee was manning the left side of the top unit, but still good no less.
Further, Gross’ comment about the analytics crowd being unable to figure out why Leo should continue playing top-line minutes was even more odd. The analytics crowd is very often accused of not watching the games, but the sentiment of Gross’s comment leads me to believe he hasn’t checked the charts, so to speak.
I myself have stated Leo shouldn’t be on the first line, but it wasn’t analytics making me say so. It was results and the eye test. Remember when he turned around and began leaving the offensive zone in the midst of an Islanders scoring chance earlier this season?
Even more puzzling about the whole situation was the anti-analytics segment of Islanders Twitter taking an odd victory lap about the whole thing like it was some kind of undeniable proof that Leo had broken analytics. To which I’ll first say he hasn’t, and further, many of these same people have groaned about Barry Trotz’s decision to keep Leo on the top unit. Some of them to me directly.
It’s an odd one alright, I certainly didn’t envision a world in which detractors of analytics suddenly did a 180 and began kissing the ground First Line Leo walks on.
I also want to make it clear, I’m not trying to take away from Leo himself. He played a good game. He scored a goal. He did his thing, I can’t hate that, especially when the Islanders win.
The whole thing just seems a bit on the nose. Especially considering that first period goal was Leo’s sixth point and first goal all season, and that’s after playing over 120 minutes at 5v5 with Barzal and Jordan Eberle. To make him the poster boy for your argument that analytics are nonsense just seems an odd and very reactionary choice.
I’m happy for Leo, of course. After all, a poorly photoshopped image of his number being retired is my Twitter header, and I made the poorly photoshopped image. But seriously, he has a particular set of skills that make him valuable in the lineup, like the ability to kill penalties, play the role of the agitator, and suppress 5v5 shots against from dangerous areas.
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But, as someone who uses both analytics and the eye test to make my assessments of player performance, I’m not going to suddenly turn my back on the charts because Leo scored a goal.