Thursday, December 18, 2014

What's Up with John Tavares this Year?



John Tavares and the Islanders are off to a scorching-hot start this season, but a lot more of it is due to Tavares' teammates on the island then the play of the Islanders' captain himself. That's not to say that Tavares has been bad this season-he hasn't. But the numbers show that he's performing far below his typical level in a lot of areas.

Is Tavares' still getting to know his body after the knee injury that kept him out of the season after the 2014 Olympic games? Or is he facing tougher competition? How about just a little mini-slump? Or, maybe, it's all three.

Let's take a closer look at Tavares' performance thus far in 2014-15:

At even strength, the Islanders have been less successful when Tavares is on the ice this season. They are scoring 47.7 percent of total goals scored with Tavares on the ice, and 55.1 percent of the goals with him off. That means the Islanders net goal situation is 7.4 percent less when Tavares is skating, compared to when he's on the bench. Granted, he's faced tougher competition this year than in any other year of his career (and it's a relatively small sample size), but the contrast in numbers between this year and last year is a little bit strange given what quality of player we all know Tavares to be.

In 2013-2014, The Islanders net goal ratio was 13 percent higher with Tavares on the ice than when he was off. He's been positive in that regard in every year of his career except his rookie year, but not the case this season.

***To read the chart: GF%off (far right column) = the percentage of total goals scored (Islanders and opponent, cumulative) that the Isles scored with Tavares on the bench. Take this number and add Tavares GF% relative to figure what percentage of total cumulative goals the Isles scored with Tavares on the ice. Most seasons, the Islanders couldn't do much without Tavares on the ice, but this season it's been the opposite.***

(Stats Via War on Ice)

Tavares' even strength relative quality of competition (corsi of players faced on-ice) has been higher this season than in any of his previous seasons in the NHL, so that could be the reason for his dropoff in numbers (below is the measure of the Corsi numbers of the players that Tavares is getting ice time against (and their relative Corsi's when compared with the rest of their teammates):

Corsi of Competition, Relative Corsi of Competition (Stats Via Behind the Net)

1.660, .972/
.946, .636/
.065, -.044/
.380, .562/
.782, .557/
.690, .473

But no matter what the reason, the numbers do show that Tavares is scoring at a far less proficient clip than usual. A glance at his average points per game number shows that he's dipped below 2 points per 60 minutes for the first time since his rookie season:

(Stats Via Hockey-Reference.com)

All of this is true despite the fact that Tavares' possession numbers are quite high. He's improved them vastly from last year, probably benefiting from the addition of puck moving defensemen Nick Leddy and Johny Boychuk, as well as the return of Lubomir Vishnovsky.

Below are Tavares' Corsi and Fenwick numbers, which point to the percentage of scoring opportunities that the Islanders generate when he is on the ice:

(Stats via Hockey-Reference.com. Top Row 2009-2010))

The good news for the Islanders is that they are dealing with Tavares's lack of production by racing off to a 21-10 record, which is their best starts in decades. And if Tavares hits his stride, which he is bound to do, they'll be even more formidable as a team.