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February 2, 2012
Howe and Why
Slide Back Index

by Robert Vollman

Slide Back Index

Last month, we revisited the Bounce Back Index to find the players whose performance were restored to previously-established levels, so this month we'll revisit the Slide Back Index to identify the players whose previously impressive performances proved to be only temporary.

Similar to Bounce Back Index, the Slide Back Index (SBI) is calculated in terms of GVT so that it compares all types of skaters, and takes all types of contributions into account, whether they're offensive or defensive.

Naturally, it excludes players whose drop-off is due more entirely to injuries, but the concept is the same: the degree to which a player reverts to (or beyond) a previous lower level of contributions after one, two, or even three seasons at a higher level.

2010-11 SBI Leaderboard

Among those whose health isn't entirely to blame, there were 17 players who slid back towards previous levels of performance by at least 5 goals, led by Mike Fisher whose 9.4-goal drop means over three points in the standings, or over $3 million in financial terms.

Player               Low  High  SBI
Mike Fisher          2.1  11.5  9.4
Dustin Penner        4.6  13.0  8.4
Henrik Sedin        18.0  25.9  7.9
Duncan Keith        14.8  22.4  7.6
Alexander Semin     14.5  22.0  7.5
Nicklas Backstrom   17.4  24.6  7.2
Sergei Gonchar       5.4  11.9  6.5
Jamie Langenbrunner  5.1  11.3  6.2
Kurtis Foster        3.2   9.4  6.2
Drew Doughty        12.8  18.9  6.1
Andrew Brunette      4.7  10.6  5.9
Jeff Schultz         3.1   8.9  5.8
Chris Phillips       3.4   9.1  5.7
Jussi Jokinen        8.7  14.3  5.6
Alexander Ovechkin  20.1  25.6  5.5
Daniel Carcillo     -1.8   3.4  5.2
Mark Fistric         0.5   5.5  5.0
Minimum 5 goal slide back

The higher you are, the harder you fall. In 2010-11, Henrik Sedin actually led the league in assists and had his second best season ever, but it was a big step back from his Hart Trophy, Art Ross 2009-10 season nevertheless. Likewise, Duncan Keith had his second highest-scoring season, but it was a steep drop from his Norris-winning 2009-10 season—especially with his terrible minus-1 rating. And young Kings superstar Drew Doughty? He went from 59 points and plus-20 to 40 points and plus-13.

Capital Slides

2010-11 was an especially tough year for anyone playing in a national capital. The Washington Capitals had four players revert to previous levels of performance, and the Ottawa Senators would have had three had Mike Fisher not been wisely dealt to the Nashville Predators at the trade deadline.

In Washington, Alexander Semin went from 40 goals, 84 points, and plus-36 to 54 points, Nicklas Backstrom went from a stunning 33 goals, 108 points, and plus-37 to 65 points, and blueliner Jeff Schultz went from 23 points and a league-leading plus-50 to 10 points and plus-6. Perhaps these plummets were due to Alexander Ovechkin, who dropped from three straight 50-goal seasons, a feat no one has accomplished since John LeClair in 1998, and his three straight 100-point seasons, last accomplished by Jeremy Roenick in 1994, to just 32 goals and 85 points.

In my own national capital, Mike Fisher dropped to a career-low minus-17, and dipped below 20 goals and 40 points for only the second time since the lockout, and was dealt to Nashville. Sergei Gonchar may have enjoyed 50 points in 62 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009-10, but dropped to 27 points and a career worst minus-15 with the Senators—with the exception of an injury-shorted 2008-09 season, Gonchar was rocking a nine-season 50-plus point streak. Finally, Chris Phillips went from 24 points and plus-8 to a boggling nine points and minus-35.

What Happens Next?

Players don't generally stick around after slide back seasons.

-After 32 goals and plus-6, Dustin Penner reverted back to career-low minus-12, 45 points, and was shipped off to Los Angeles.
-Jamie Langenbrunner went from back-to-back 60-point seasons to 32 points and a career-worst minus-18, and was shipped off to Dallas (and then St. Louis).
-Kurtis Foster followed up a strong 42-point season in Tampa Bay with just 22 in Edmonton, and he was off to Anaheim and then New Jersey.
-Andrew Brunette went from 25 goals and 61 points to 46 points, and was off to Chicago.
-Daniel Carcillo joined him in Chicago after the enforcer went from 22 points and plus-5 to 6 points and minus-14 for the Philadelphia Flyers.

One of the few exceptions is Jussi Jokinen, who followed up his surprise 30-goal, 65-point 2009-10 season with just 19 goals and 52 points. Another is depth defender Mark Fistric, who went from 10 points and plus-27 to 5 points and minus-10 for the Dallas Stars—he's yet to score a single point in his 35 games this season.

As for last year's Slide Back Players, five of the top fifteen either retired or left the NHL (Rob Blake, Todd White, Craig Conroy, Slava Kozlov, and Denis Grebeshkov), and another was injured (Evgeni Malkin), leaving nine players to study. Of those nine, two made full recoveries (Brad Boyes and Cory Sarich), six enjoyed modest 2-3 goal Bounce Backs (Shane Doan, Jeff Carter, Devin Setoguchi, Michael Ryder, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and David Krejci) , and one stayed about the same (Dennis Wideman)—no one continued to decline.

The Slide Back Index is an easy calculation; please contact me if you'd like a copy of the raw data (for both the BBI and the SBI) for yourself.

Robert Vollman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Robert by clicking here or click here to see Robert's other articles.

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