Any time a team has a disappointing season, heads turn to the team’s stars. There’s a lot of pressure on a team’s leaders to motivate the room, stay positive, produce when no one else is producing, and carry the team to victory. And when team leadership doesn’t do this, it’s disappointing.
As we’ve seen in previous Year in Review articles, the Red Wings leadership core did not do this. So when your vets aren’t carrying the team on your back, it’s time for the future leaders of the team to start to take the reigns. They need to step up to the challenge and show Hockeytown that they’re up for it.
Hailed as the next Hank and Pav, Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar are meant to be the future leadership of this Detroit Red Wings team. So did they step up to the challenge? In my opinion, no. While neither player had terrible seasons, objectively speaking, they both needed to be better. We’ll get into Tatar tomorrow, but let’s dig into Nyquist’s season a bit and why I thought it was a disappointing one.
Goose’s HERO chart is impressive, if not a little misleading. 2015-16 was only his second full season with the Red Wings. In 2013-14, he played a little more than half a year with the team, but put up some really impressive numbers. So what this chart is telling us is that on average over the last three years, Goose has been producing like a first liner despite only getting second line minutes.
His possession metrics aren’t bad either. I’d like to see the CF60 pushing a little further into 1st liner territory, but his recorded Corsi was actually better in 2015-16 than any of his previous seasons. So you could argue he’s improving there.
What I see in this chart is maybe a poor coaching decision to not give Goose more top-line minutes. His average time on ice was down by over a minute in 2015-16. Perhaps a little more trust that he can play with the top dogs would be a boost to his confidence. We know from the 2013-14 playoff push that he can handle the pressure, so why isn’t he being allowed to thrive under it? Still, you can’t put all of the onus on the coaches. Goose has to prove himself, no matter what line he is on. There were bursts of it, but I didn’t really feel that drive this year.
There’s a reason my expectations for Nyquist are so high. In 2013-14, he was called up from Grand Rapids in late-November and played at a 0.84 PPG rate until the end of the season. He was one of the bigger reasons the Red Wings made the playoffs that year when guys like Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and Alfredsson were suffering mid-season injuries.
In 2014-15, Goose’s production tapered off a little bit, but he still scored north of 25 goals and put up 54 points for a 0.65PPG scoring rate. Not as good as his production the year before, but still not bad for a young kid playing his first full NHL season.
In 2015-16, Nyquist’s production tapered off even more as he produced at a 0.52 PPG rate. He didn’t even crack the 20 goal mark. There’s been a lot of talk and analysis about Nyquist’s offensive production this year and the stats back up the fact that 5v5, Goose was just as good of a goal scorer. It was the powe rplay that suffered, as Nyquist only put up 7 goals and 12 power play points compared to 2014-15’s 14 goals and 24 power play points. Considering the Red Wings’ power play was terrible overall this year, this would be an easy way to justify Nyquist’s decline in regular season points. But for me, it still comes down to the team needing help and Goose not being able to heed the call. In a season like this, ‘average’ or ‘just as good as last year’ isn’t good enough. Nyquist needed to take that step up and be better for himself and for his teammates. And he didn’t.
From an advanced statistics perspective, Goose actually didn’t have a terrible season. His CF% was up this year from 53.1% to 54.7% and he had a positive CF%Rel of 4.0%. So his possession metrics are looking better, but his 5v5 production has virtually stayed the same – what does this tell us? He’s driving the play in the right direction and clearly playing more time in the opponent’s end, but he’s got to find ways to actually put the puck in the net.
Speaking of putting the puck in the net, let’s have a look at Nyquist’s goal-based stats. Goose was on the ice for 53.2% of all 5v5 Red Wings goals this season. That’s 41 total goals that he was on the ice for. It’s a positive stat, but only 10 of those goals were off of Nyquist’s stick. Not enough for a guy who’s supposed to be the next Zetterberg.
While he didn’t have as many as he did in 2014-15, Nyquist had plenty of scoring chances this season, as shown in the chart above. He just wasn’t converting them into goals. He only scored on 11.6% of his iSC. What do you think? Is this enough?
Expect for Nyquist to have a bounce back season in 2016-17. A strong performance at the World Championships will act as a boost to his confidence and coaching changes behind the Red Wings bench will (hopefully) use Goose’s skills more favourably. If the Wings can breathe some life into their power play, expect Nyquist’s offensive stats to at least return to the levels they were at in 2014-15, but I think he’ll be even better if given the proper opportunities by his coaches. Like, a thirty goal season better.
In conclusion, Nyquist’s season was just as disappointing as the greater team’s season. Sure his 5v5 stats didn’t take a huge hit, but only in his second full NHL season, we should be seeing steady increases in his numbers for the next few years. At least they have to if he wants to live up to the fans’ high expectations of him and Tatar being the next leadership core of the team. Because the last leadership core is starting to fade away and they need somebody to pass the torch to.
The goose was not loose this year. Which is too bad, ‘cause this gif needs to be used a lot more.