This season, I’ll be kicking off a new series called Team Prospectus. Starting with this installment on the New York Islanders, I’ll make my way around the league, putting each team under the microscope:
- Recapping the team’s VUKOTA projection
- Poking around some individual metrics that were outside the scope of what we covered in the Hockey Prospectus annual
- Taking stock of the coach’s best options in the shootout
- And finally, answering the Big Questions facing the team
- As we get further into the season, we’ll also keep our eye on how the team’s performance changes over time.
Think of Team Prospectus as an addendum to what we’ve covered in Hockey Prospectus 2010-11.
New York Islanders, 2009-10
Goals For: 222 20th
Goals Against: 264 28th
GVT: -42 26th
Points: 79 27th
New York Islanders, VUKOTA Projection for 2010-11
Goals For: 225 21st
Goals Against: 243 30th
GVT: -18 28th
Points: 84 28th
While VUKOTA isn’t particularly bullish on the Islanders, potential upside is certainly there, given breakouts by young players such as John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey. For New York to get into legitimate playoff contention, Johnny T certainly needs to take the big next step towards franchise player and the Isles need to get a healthy Rick DiPietro to re-establish himself as a reliable—and available—number one goaltender.
Unfortunately, the losses of top defenseman Mark Streit (for an estimated 6 months) and top six forward Kyle Okposo (for an estimated 3 months) to injury make that task even harder.
Counting stats can be misleading, often fooling us into thinking that the skaters with the most ice time are the best when glancing at their compiled numbers. So to check out the Islanders top performers, I’m predominantly turning to rate stats. And no, you won’t find big picture measures like GVT, Corsi or ESTR here. This is a snapshot of some more specific skills.
Islanders top forwards, by 2009-10 stats
Shots/60: Trent Hunter 10.3, Matt Moulson 9.2, Kyle Okposo 9.1#
Best departed player: Sean Bergenheim 9.0
Hits/60 (Hits per 60 minutes): Zenon Konopka 10.9*, Trent Hunter 8.2, Jon Sim 8.1
Best departed player: Tim Jackman 13.2
Blocked shots/60: Jon Sim 2.4, Matt Moulson 2.3, Zenon Konopka 2.3*
Best departed player: Tim Jackman 4.6
Takeaways/giveaway: Jon Sim 2.3, Matt Moulson 2.2, Frans Nielsen 1.9
Best departed player: Sean Bergenheim 3.6
Net penalties/60: Jon Sim +1.0, Kyle Okposo +0.6#, Rob Schremp +0.6
Best departed player: Sean Bergenheim +0.6
Faceoffs: Frans Nielsen 50.0%, John Tavares 47.5%
Best departed player: Richard Park 51.5%
Minimum 40 games played.
Islanders top defensemen, by 2009-10 stats
Keep in mind that many of the Islanders young defensemen—like Dylan Reese and Dustin Kohn—played less than 40 games. They aren’t listed here, but that doesn’t mean that they might not contribute significantly this season.
Shots/60: Mark Streit 5.3#, James Wisniewski 5.2*, Bruno Gervais 3.5
Best departed player: Freddy Meyer 3.1
Hits/60: James Wisniewski 4.6*, Bruno Gervais 2.7, Andrew MacDonald 2.3
Best departed player: Freddy Meyer 10.0
Blocked shots/60: Andrew MacDonald 6.1, Jack Hillen 5.5, Mark Eaton 5.1*
Best departed player: Andy Sutton 8.2
Takeaways/giveaway: Andrew MacDonald 1.8, Jack Hillen 1.4, Mark Streit 1.0#
Best departed player: Freddy Meyer 1.8
Net penalties/60: James Wisniewski +0.1*, Mark Eaton -0.3*, Andrew MacDonald -0.3
Best departed player: Brendan Witt -0.5
# Injured – Out indefinitely
Minimum 40 games played.
Islanders goaltenders, 2009-10 stats
None of the Islanders goaltenders (including Martin Biron, who’s now a New York Ranger) acquitted themselves particularly well by any measure least season. Keep in mind that a league average save percentage last season was .911…and that includes second stringers.
Save percentage: .900
Even strength save percentage: .910
Power play save percentage: .842
Shorthanded save percentage: .750
Save percentage: .907
Even strength save percentage: .915
Power play save percentage: .857
Shorthanded save percentage: .971
While New York’s goaltenders have slightly above average career numbers in the shootout (average is roughly .667, saving two out of every three shots), they have a wealth of great shooters, which could help them steal a number of crucial extra points in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Based on their excellent track records to date, Frans Nielsen and Rob Schremp should participate in every shootout, while the likes of P.A. Parenteau, Matt Moulson and John Tavares should be given a chance to prove their mettle. And if Kyle Okposo (1 for 10 career) ever gets a chance before the tenth round or so of a shootout, that’s a major fail by the coaching staff. Good scorers aren’t necessarily proficient in the shootout (See: Gaborik, Marian).
Best options, shooters with 10 or more career attempts
Frans Nielsen, 57.9% (11 for 19)
Rob Schremp, 50.0% (5 for 10)
Doug Weight, 36.4% (8 for 22)
Best options, shooters with a limited track record
P.A. Parenteau 100.0% (3 for 3)
James Wisniewski, 66.7% (2 for 3)
Matt Moulson, 57.1% (4 for 7)
Rick DiPietro: .737 career (96 for 141), .625 in 2009-10
Dwayne Roloson: .681 career (84 for 114), .615 in 2009-10
THE BIG QUESTIONS FACING THE ISLANDERS
Big Question #1: Will John Tavares become a legitimate franchise player?
Head coach Scott Gordon (on whether Tavares can make a similar jump to what Steven Stamkos made in his sophomore season): “I don’t know if it will be the same, but I know that John has done everything that you could possibly ask of a player as a coach that you could ask a player to do. His skating is night and day better than it was last year. He’s physically stronger—you can see it and he looks bigger in his uniform. And what he did for me after the Olympic break was a great indication of where he was going to be coming into this year. To be able to go through that long stretch without being able to produce and then to finish up what should be the hardest part of the season—the last 15-20 games—to produce at a higher rate than he did at the beginning of the year, he made a lot of strides in small areas that are going to allow him to have a lot more success this year and again, I can’t predict that he’s going to do better than Stamkos, but I know he’s going to do better than John Tavares of last year because of all of the effort that he’s put forth this summer.”
Linemate (and former housemate) Matt Moulson: “I know he’s going to be a great player and I think he’s going to do great things. I think the sky’s the limit for John and we’ll see how well he does. If I play on his line, I don’t know if I’ll be the same as Marty St. Louis for Stamkos—I don’t even know if it’s fair to compare Johnny to that. But he’s a great player and he’s going to do well. He’s obviously trained hard over the summer and is a very talented and focused kid. So I think he’s going to do great. I don’t want to compare him to anyone, because I know how much he hates it.”
John Tavares: “It’s just encouraging to see—whether it’s guys like Steven, Pat Kane, Crosby—really what they’ve learned from their first year and how they kind of exploded in their second year, whether it was offensive production or just their ability to make other players better or take control of the game and I think for me that’s a positive sign. And knowing what I know now compared to last year is going to make a world of a difference. What the numbers are going to be, I don’t know, but I’m definitely looking to make a big upgrade in a lot of areas of my game and take more responsibility out there on the ice.”
VUKOTA says: 28 Goals, 37 Assists, 65 Points, 7.6 OGVT, 1.4 DGVT, 9.0 GVT.
Timo says: 65 Points is the bare minimum you should look for from Tavares.
So the answer is: Yes, and perhaps as early as this season—although we’re not talking Crosby or Ovechkin here.
Big Question #2: Can Rick DiPietro become a legitimate #1 goaltender?
Rick DiPietro: “This is the first normal training camp I’ve had in two years, so that’s always a good start. And as I approach any camp when I’m not hurt, you take training camp to get everything fine tuned and then you expect to be ready when that first game happens.”
GM Garth Snow (on getting DiPietro extra rest): “It’s simple. We’re in a position now where he comes in, and he’s healthy. In many cases, when there’s a situation like happened yesterday, we’ll give him days off, probably more than he’s accustomed to. It’s part of a plan that we’ve set out weekly, monthly, and for the first quarter and the entire season. So don’t surprised if he’s not out there for practice – it’s part of how we’re going to handle it. And I can probably tell you right now, two days from now, he probably won’t be out on the ice for practice—it depends how things progress. So we feel that we have a solid plan for him. But like I said, the big bonus for us is that he’s out there, he’s practicing and he’s ready to go.”
Rick DiPietro: “I felt great. We pushed it pretty good there for the month before camp. Everything feels good. Obviously, there’s a lot of things I’d like to work on and to iron out, but I’m pretty optimistic as of right now.
VUKOTA says: 15.1 GP, .906 save percentage, 0.5 GGVT, 0.0 DGVT, 0.5 GVT.
Timo says: DiPietro should exceed VUKOTA’s Games Played, at least. The knee seems to be the major issue that his career will hinge on. You never know what will happen, but—knock on wood—DiPietro looks to actually get back on track this season. He’s got a long, long ways to go, but remember that he posted 31.9 GVT in 2006-07, the fourth best mark in the NHL that season.
So the answer is: DiPietro’s still got a shot. At this point, I’m sure the Islanders are thinking “no news is good news”. A full season—with plenty of starts going to Dwayne Roloson, to help protect DiPietro—would be the first step.
Big Question #3: Is Rob Schremp the Islanders’ secret weapon?
Head coach Scott Gordon (on Schremp’s potential): “Before he got hurt, there was a stretch of 15-20 games where he was a point per game guy. He had a slow start, maybe the first 10-15 games, but he really took off. And I would expect that he would pick up where he left off. I think he’s figured some things out. He knows that the coaching staff believes in him. You know, it’s probably the first time in his career that he can walk out of the locker room knowing that we support him and we’re behind him and we want him to succeed. He’s another guy who’s come in here, he’s changed his physical makeup, you can just see the confidence he has out on the ice. He’s a very gifted player. We’ve just got to make sure that he’s doing all of the other things that are going to give us team success.”
Rob Schremp (on his goals for the season): “To perform every night. Realistically? 20 goals? 30 assists? I don’t know—what’s realistic? In my head, I have a goal, I’m going to shoot for it, and hopefully, it comes true.”
Schremp (on what went wrong with the Oilers, and what worked on Long Island): “I had a passion for the game and it was exciting to get out of Edmonton, that’s really all it was. I didn’t do any different. I just played hockey, and one team believed in me and one team didn’t. That’s how I feel. I didn’t really consciously work on anything. I just came here and played how I play and they liked it.”
Schremp (on his strengths): “Strengths? I just create, make plays on the ice, pass the puck well. And I bring a lot of fun. My improvement? Just be strong defensively—and that’ll probably give me more ice time…I just want to go dangle. I want to go out and do things like I did in junior and have fun. Play hockey and make plays where people say ‘Holy crap’. That’s what I’m going to work on doing and hopefully it comes true for me.”
Check out Chris Botta’s interview of Rob Schremp here.
VUKOTA says: 9 Goals, 19 Assists, 28 Points, 2.8 OGVT, 0.8 DGVT, 3.7 GVT in 48 games.
Timo says: Last season, Schremp would have been second to only Matt Moulson with 10.1 GVT given a full slate of games.
Answer: Yes. Schremp’s always had the tools, but now he has the mindset—as well as the right organization and the right coach backing him—to enable him to contribute as a top six forward.
Big Question #4: How much of an impact can the Islanders’ farm system make?
Rookie Nino Niederreiter (on what he wants to bring to the Islanders): “Trying to be a two-way player, who loves to shoot the puck and obviously loves to score and just tries to be a goal scorer one day and has a lot of offensive skills.”
Timo says: The injuries to Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo may tempt the Islanders to start more than the relatively polished Niederreiter in the NHL. But while a top talent like John Tavares was able to bypass the AHL, pushing the likes of top young defensive prospects Calvin de Haan and Travis Hamonic could be a mistake, developmentally. And the talented Kirill Kabanov is definitely not ready for the big leagues—he was sent back to junior after a brief taste of training camp.
That said, there are plenty of young defensemen and forwards that are in a position to contribute more to the Isles, such as 21 year old Josh Bailey and 24 year old Andrew MacDonald.
Answer: A little bit this year. But it’s best if the Islanders don’t push it.
Timo Seppa runs the statistical hockey site Ice Hockey Metrics and is co-editor of Hockey Prospectus 2010-11. Follow Timo on Twitter at @timoseppa.
Timo Seppa is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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