Don’t Panic! Quick Review of the Isles’ first 11 games.

Okay we’re 11 games in, so we finally now have some data to evaluate this team. 11 games isn’t much mind you, and such data – PARTICULARLY individual data – is likely to still be pretty volatile, and can change in games 12-20. But it’s enough for a start, so let’s take a look.

Team Play at 5 on 5

This is the most important thing to measure of how well the team is playing – special teams play takes up a lot less of each game (see the Boston game, where it took up only 4 minutes) and is extremely volatile and prone to lucky swings, whereas 5v5 play is much more important and is easier to evaluate and control.

Fenwick Close: 53.54%
Score-Adjusted Fenwick (classic version*): 53.34%
Save Percentage: .8975
Shooting Percentage: 8.85%

*A new method of calculating SAF has been recently posted about here, but I don’t think there’s a place listing the #s yet. For now, this shouldn’t change much.

I know a lot of people have been starting to panic about this team, especially with the current 3 game losing streak, but the numbers here suggest this is really overblown. The 5v5 Possession #s, as represented by Fenwick Close (Fenwick % in close situations at 5 on 5 play) or score adjusted fenwick (Fenwick % overall with adjustments for score situation) suggests the team has been pretty damn good – 53% is usually good for around 5th or 6th in the LEAGUE and suggests the Isles are outplaying opponents by a decent margin on average. And this is without a full healthy D corp till last game, as well as injuries to Bailey, Grabner, and Grabovski for a few games.

In short, the possession #s suggest the team is outplaying opponents on average at even strength, and the team SHOULD get better.

The issue at 5 on 5 has been goaltending, which has obviously been poor – .8975 is terrible. No one should be saying Halak or Johnson has been good overall. That said, we shouldn’t expect this to continue. Halak has years of above average play, and should be expected to do that going forward. Johnson is a bit more uncertain, but it’s unlikely he’s below a .900 goalie, as he is now.

Individual Play at 5 on 5

So how has each player done on 5v5? You can get a quick look at 5 on 5 fancystats of each player here: (No Neutral Zone #s here):

The Good:
Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk have been amazing, with the Islanders dominating with the two on the ice. Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin have also been great overall, with Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome just behind. Hell, Matt Martin has actually been a positive possession player, of all things.

The Bad:
Let’s quickly talk about Cory Conacher, who’s been a punching bag for the Isles’ fanbase this year. I was very excited when he was signed, and still think he’s quite likely a positive force long-term. That said, his overall numbers have been quite poor, and the WOWY data suggests that he’s been extremely carried by John Tavares (the data does not suggest Conacher is hurting JT by the way, just that Conacher is doing awful without him). Moreover, the goal scoring hasn’t come. This last bit is likely fluky again – his 4% 5v5 shooting percentage isn’t likely to continue, but it’s not helping his case when his possession numbers have not been good.

Now again, 11 games is a small sample, and players who have previously been solid possession wise have had horrible 11 games before. So perhaps Conacher would turn it around on first line – or on others. I think dumping him overall over certain others on the team would be foolish – he still has potential. But it’s unquestionable he’s been poor. And he’s only had extremely easy minutes so far, so these numbers are inexcusable.

Travis Hamonic: Hamonic’s possession numbers have been a tire fire this year. He’s been a lot more passive and the pairing with Hickey has basically been a disaster. It’s a problem when he’s pulling Andrew MacDonald possession numbers….WITHOUT Andrew MacDonald!

Some of this should hopefully get better – putting him back with deHaan should improve the numbers of both if last year’s performance was for real….of course, last year’s data wasn’t a huge sample, so it might NOT have been for real. But if this team is to improve, Hamonic improving may be the real key, to give this team 3 above or well above average pairings. Not that having only two such pairings is a problem, but you get the idea.

Casey Cizikas: Cizikas-Martin was a tire fire the last two years. It STILL is a tire fire. And unlike Martin, who has made up for it when without Cizikas, Cizikas has only been okay without Martin in 30 minutes. I’m really not sure who is more to blame at this point – both are likely just not good players. If the team was willing to eschew grinders, itd be best off when Bailey and Grabner return to eliminate both from the roster.

John Tavares-Kyle Okposo: Both guys are in the green this year, but for the second straight year, despite really favorable minutes, it’s not by the dominant margins you’d hope for. Tavares isn’t a liability defensively, despite what some may think, but he used to be far better and it’s worrisome.

Overall though, it’s a good thing when only 5 of your rostered players are being outshot, and 1 of those is basically out of the starting lineup (Brian Strait). Improvements can be made, sure, but this is overall a pretty solid team so far.

Special Teams Play

At least at 5v5. Special teams have had some issues. Well, the penalty kill at least. By any measure, the power play (5v4) has been anywhere from average (by shot attempts (corsi) per 60) to well above average (by unblocked shot attempts, shots on goal, goals, etc.) so that’s not an issue.

The penalty kill however has been a disaster. Last year’s penalty kill allowed an average amount of shots, but the goaltenders couldn’t stop anything. This year’s team is allowing the most shots on goal and unblocked shot attempts per 60 in the ENTIRE LEAGUE.

The goaltenders have also been awful, yes, but that should get better based on historical track records. The shot #s are very disturbing. The Isles claimed they were tinkering with the PK after last year, and they put Greg Cronin in charge and the results have been awful.

A note on Cronin: Toronto’s PK wasn’t alarmingly bad the last two years, so I’m not saying putting him in charge was an obvious error. But the PK seems more passive and needs to cut down on shots against. The addition of Michael Grabner in a few weeks, an elite PKer, will definitely help, but the other guys should be a lot better too.


Really, the full package paints a rosier picture than the Isles’ current 6-5 record, so pay attention to the graphic atop this post. DO NOT PANIC – this is a good team. It should also get better as regression kicks in.


3 thoughts on “Don’t Panic! Quick Review of the Isles’ first 11 games.

  1. I believe there’s a small typo, Garik. You think the 4th line will be better when Bailey and Cizikas return, but Cizikas is already there. I think you meant Grabner.


  2. Good article but it really is hard–if not to panic–to keep my chin up about the team when we’ve been waiting TWENTY ONE years to see them win ONE playoff series, especially when it’s obvious that this roster looks, well, better than it has in probably MORE than 21 years! This leads me to the opinion (not original, I know) that, should this Nov. be a recurrence of the annual season-wrecking Nov. swoon, Cappy MUST GO precisely because this roster is better than any the team has had probably since Reagan was the President!


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