This comes a bit late -- and to make it more of a true "mid-term" report, the stats used below cut off after Game 44 (the 5-2 loss to the Devils). But it's time to have some mid-term discussions before games pick up again after the All-Star Break. What follows are our report cards for the forwards (if you missed them, here are grades for the defensemen and goalies).
"Grades" though is a bit presumptuous. Call them "discussion starters," as I won't pretend to have the authority that other writers claim via the certainty of the declarative voice.
In short: The Islanders have a bunch of forwards, some of whom will prove part of the future, and some of whom will fall short. We discuss several of them here. For many, the window is still open but it's starting to close. There are a number of forwards in juniors and NCAA who will be knocking on the door in a year or three. Consider this a look at how the current crop is faring based on age and expectation.
Explanatory Note: Didn't have time to do this post then, but I pulled all of these stats after Game 44. I figured better to pull data then, than after game 49. The time-consumption by the SBN stat feed complicates things.
|2010 - John Tavares||41||18||15||33||-18||25||8||19:03||3:37||52.9||126||14.3|
Again, these are stats after Game 44 -- so Tavares has actually added zero goals and three assists since then.
Tavares probably isn't putting up quite the production some hoped, and despite Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau's quality all-around play, he probably doesn't have the sexy linemates many would like either. Tavares has two hat tricks, his all-around game looks generally more assertive than last year, and his defensive side is improving but still needs work. About 40% of his points come from the powerplay.
Positive peripheral signs: His faceoff work has improved quite a bit in his sophomore year, and his penalty rates have decreased..
He gets ample powerplay time, and his shifts begin in the offensive zone 52% of the time -- highest on the team along with Parenteau. Plainly, he is put in position to succeed (as opposed to Frans Nielsen, who is started in the offensive zone a mere 38% of the time), so he should be the team's leading scorer. Over time, he should do more.
|2010 - Matt Moulson||44||14||12||26||-11||16||4||19:00||3:22||10||125||11.2%|
Moulson's scored three more goals since the above stats were pulled -- and more importantly, he's signed a nice three-year contract to stick around. While there were understandable fears that he could never live up to last season, he pretty much has. While his powerplay time is ample, he continues to be one of the Islanders' better producers at even-strength, which is a testament to his value to the team even if additions to the team during his contract push him off the Tavares line.
|2010 - P.A. Parenteau||43||11||17||28||-8||24||6||17:46||3:35||66||79||13.9%|
PAP. The Fist. Do we still grade him as a Rangers cast-off, a reclamation project? Or as a first-liner?
He has proven at minimum that he's a quality NHLer. He works all 200 feet of the ice. He and Moulson's Corsi are tops on the team. He may not be a prolific scorer in the end, but his first half has shown he's a keeper. The Isles would do well to have depth filled with forwards like Parenteau.
|2010 - Frans Nielsen||37||5||14||19||-3||18||0||3||18:03||2:55||3:17||48%|
As Nielsen's biggest unapologetic advocate, I marvel when people criticize his lack of scoring: He's simply not deployed in a scorer's role (Nor is his frequent linemate Michael Grabner, incidentally). As mentioned above, Nielsen is used on defensive zone faceoffs more than anyone else on the team other than Zenon Konopka.
And yet despite starting in the defensive zone 38% of the time, his shifts end in the offensive zone 45% of the time. Simply, he is put out there to get the team out of trouble. He is put out there to drive the play the other way. I'm sure if he were used in the same offensive-friendly situations Tavares is, he would produce the same totals -- but it would likely be closer than the average critic thinks. I'd love for him to score more, too, but I won't be indicting him until I actually see him used in that role and come up short.
To paraphrase Nielsen's description of Tavares's sick passes: You know Frans, that what he do.
|2010 - Josh Bailey||32||6||8||14||-4||14||3||18:25||2:34||2:15||54||43.8%|
What an up and down year it's been, from the six points in the first five games, to the hip injury that seemed to stall everything, to the demotion -- and lighting up the charts at Bridgeport -- that seemed to restore his confidence, to the current drought that followed a brief post-recall scoring binge. I accept that Bailey has been jerked around and asked to take one for the team -- and I believe his current placement on right wing is the worst of three possible positions for him. But the production is still too short, his appearance in games still too intermittent.
He'll surely rally out of this funk -- and his two-way play and PK work is still underappreciated -- but for now his grade suffers.
|2010 - Michael Grabner||40||11||4||15||-2||6||0||13:29||0:23||0:59||86||12.8%|
Speed demon! Flavor of the month! His hot January makes the above stats the most laughably out of date of them all. (He's actually at 15-6-21 at the All-Star Break.)
Tied to Nielsen most of the season, Grabner has evolved from a curious speed case to a winger who is doing smart things at both ends. Like Nielsen, he is not often put in offensive situations -- his powerplay time is still meager, and his zone starts are only 44.6% in the offensive zone. Even his failure to finish his many breakaways, I suspect, is a bit exaggerated since he simply creates so many of them for himself.
|2010 - Blake Comeau||43||13||16||29||-12||22||3||19:31||2:52||2:18||119||10.9%|
This will be the most controversial grade here because Comeau's wanderings -- you may call them COZO's, or Comeau Offensive Zone Orbits for short -- and brain farts drive people nuts. However, he likewise is not given choice starts (43.6% offensive zone starts) and yet his and linemate Rob Schremp's even-strength scoring rates are tops on the team. As a bonus, Comeau is another go-to PK forward.
This is hard for some to admit, or agree with, but: Comeau is an asset. A cheap, cost-controlled one. Maybe he will smooth the rough edges to his game, maybe he won't. But it behooves the Islanders to keep him and find out.
[NOTE: For more on Comeau -- and Schremp and Bailey -- in terms of what we might expect in the 2nd half, check this FanPost.]
Rob Schremp Hockey
|2010 - Rob Schremp||30||7||10||17||-8||10||1||15:38||22||2:10||43||48.7%|
Likewise a divisive topic as he does not exhibit the old-time hockey traits held so dear, Schremp is nonetheless a scoring threat and, again, the Islanders' top per-minute scorer at even-strength. However, the season-opening injury delayed his start, and his play lately has had enough warts to warrant a healthy scratch and some frustration from fans and coaches alike. Schremp's game is hardly flawless, but it's hardly worthless. At the moment, it's still far better than the alternative. (Wanna see Jeremy Colliton in a creative/offensive role?)
He's had some time at the powerplay point, but not enough for us to know whether it's preferable to Nielsen there. It seems the Islanders like to use Kyle Okposo there though, so who knows what the second half will bring.
|2010 - Zenon Konopka||44||1||5||6||-8||148||6-5-5||10:52||72||1:56||29||58.6|
He was brought in as a curious combination of faceoff wizardry and willing pugnaciousness. He has delivered on both. Even his shorthanded faceoff record was 93-78 after 44 games. As mentioned, he is used specifically for defensive zone faceoffs -- his offensive zone start rate is an almost unheard-of meager 26.7%.
His fighting seems almost gratuitous at times -- frequent fights early in games, or against combatants who haven't posed a real threat -- but it's part of his game, and he will pile up the PIMs accordingly. He is not a threat to score -- nor hardly to get a shot on goal -- but for his singularly circumscribed role, he has delivered as billed. Live is life.
For what it's worth, Hockey-Fights has his record at 6-5-5 so far.
|2010 - Matt Martin||34||2||3||5||-12||55||0||10:39||156||0:32||24||8.3%|
If Martin's job is to hit people, he does as asked. He is used sparingly, usually on the fourth line next to Konopka and often Trevor Gillies (thought lately on a stronger fourth line with Colliton), so personally I don't yet fault him for his ugly Corsi yet. [NOTE: Check more into Martin's underlying numbers in this FanPost.]
People advocate using him more as an in-front-of-the-net guy on the powerplay or next to two scorers, but I'm not sure he has the skating or know-how to do that...yet.
Will he ever be able to be more of a power-forward type beyond a fourth-line/fighting role? Unclear, and maybe unlikely. Right now he's used as an energy-hitter guy, and that's what he does. His fighting skills are raw, but he's always game, so the Isles likely have something in that department if that's what he ends up being.
|2010 - Trevor Gillies||27||1||0||1||-2||75||0||5-2-0||26||2:48||4||25%|
He got his first NHL goal, and he's had his share of fights. He doesn't get to skate much -- and thus not even fight much -- but his fights are entertaining and Hockey-Fights has him at 5-2.
Plus, I mean, there's The Gif:
|2010 - Jeremy Colliton||6||2||0||2||-6||6||2||11:58||14||1:09||3||66%|
Pretty early to say anything about Colliton -- especially with me cutting things off at Game 44 (Colliton has since nearly doubled his game total), but he has won about 60% of his faceoffs, including going 8-2 on shorthanded faceoffs.
While his two goals in his first game made for one of those fun mirage stories, it's nice to have a mobile, good faceoff taker stored on your fourth line.
It's quite too early to know whether he'll be a significant PK help, but so far he's done what's asked of him in a limited role.
Grade: Provisional Status
Jesse Joensuu...Doug Weight...Trent Hunter...The latter two were felled by injuries and haven't played since our first-quarter report cards. Joensuu meanwhile is back in the AHL, but we have at least one argument for not giving up on him just yet.
All told, there aren't a whole lot of superlatives nor massive negatives here because everyone is basically playing within the range of their expectations. This is a young, unproven group that's suffered from inexperience as well as massive injuries on the blueline behind them. Some of the most disappointing players may prove to be the ones who rebound in the final 30 or so games...or they may find themselves falling down the depth chart.
Class dismissed. Appeals to the grading body always welcome. After that, it's time to get on with the second "half."