In a season where the Detroit Red Wings failed to find any form of consistency, it turned to its young guns to relieve pressure off their aging veterans. But the call wasn’t answered by two players who have been hailed as the future of Hockeytown: Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar.
Yesterday, I took a look at Nyquist’s season and why I thought it was a disappointing one. Today, I’m digging deep on Tatar and have come to the same conclusion. In a year where Detroit needed offense, Nyquist and Tatar needed to be better.
Looking at this HERO chart, Tatar looks like even more of a first liner than Nyquist does, at least in terms of offensive production and possession impact. Yet his time on ice reflects that of a second liner. Much like Nyquist, one could make the argument that Tatar’s offensive decline this season was due to poor coaching decisions. In fact, Tatar actually alluded to this in a post-season interview with the Detroit Free Press, where he said, “It was different stuff this year than last year … It was different position for me”.
While I agree the coaching decisions on how to use these guys could have been better, it is easy to place blame on external factors when, at the end of the day, Tatar just needed to be more powerful for the Red Wings. They needed the Tatar that performed in 2013-14 and 2014-15, the one that skews the stats in this HERO chart, and instead they got the below.
While it’s hard to argue with the numbers that clearly state he has been performing like a first liner, you can’t ignore the fact that Tatar had an off-year. After almost hitting the 30-goal mark in 2014-15, he barely broke the 20-goal mark in 2015-16. His powerplay production was also down, but not as bad as Goose’s was.
Tatar is on a very team-friendly contract right now that ends with an RFA status after next season. If he wants the big boy dollars, he’s going to have to not only return his production to where it was in 2014-15, he’ll have to be better than that.
Similar to Nyquist, Tatar actually had pretty decent puck possession numbers. His CF% of 56.5% was good for fourth on the team and his relative CF% is in the positive. He just wasn’t getting into prime scoring position or converting on his scoring chances.
If Tatar wants to be part of the next core for the Detroit Red Wings, he needs to convert this puck possession into goals and assists. Datsyuk and Zetterberg can’t do it by themselves anymore and Tatar failed to pick it up from them this season. Driving possession isn’t enough – you have to put goals on the board. That’s what wins games.
When it came to goals that won games, Tatar only netted three of them this year, compared to seven that he contributed the year before. He clearly wasn’t being used in tight game scenarios when the team needed a goal to win the game, despite having a positive goal differential of plus-7. He drove the play in the right direction and has some positive offensive numbers to back it up, they just weren’t as good as his numbers in 2014-15. And this is the year we needed him to be better.
Similar to the rest of his offensive stats, Tatar’s scoring chance statistics were positive. Slightly lower than Nyquist’s, but then again Tatar had 40 less scoring chances against. It’s not fair to always compare them, though. Tats generated a lot of scoring chances, despite being constantly shuffled through the lines. These really aren’t that bad for not being able to find a consistency with your linemates.
Similar to Nyquist, I expect Tatar to have a bounce-back year next season. After some rest and self-reflection, I think Tatar will take on more responsibility in the locker room and put some more pressure on himself to be a better player. And, with a big contract extension on the line, he’ll need to show Red Wings management he’s worth the big dollars. He’ll break the 30-goal mark and secure himself a spot in the top-6.
A lot of fans are calling for Tats to be traded, but I don’t think this should, or will, be the case. He’s got potential, but he had an off year. Everybody has an off-year at some point.
Still, in my opinion, having an off-year last season was unacceptable. When your aging veterans start to slow down, your team can’t afford for its future stars to have an off-year. What we saw here was two players having a serious sophomore slump. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Tatar needed to be better to support his leaders and the rest of the team. Instead, he struggled with being shuffled throughout the lineup and fell to the pressure of being one of the next Eurotwins.
The Tatar Sauce was a little too sweet when we needed spicy this year. Him and Nyquist can both have C+’s and work together to improve their grades next year. Summer school, anyone?