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Islanders Grades: Matt Moulson, no one-hit wonder

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One of these guys is actually Matt Moulson, and one is just a Trevor Gillies impersonator.
One of these guys is actually Matt Moulson, and one is just a Trevor Gillies impersonator.

The question on fantasy hockey owners minds was how fluke-ish was Matt Moulson's breakout 30-goal season at age 26. The question on prescient Islanders fans' minds was: If John Tavares takes a reasonably expected step forward in 2010-11, could Moulson's production even increase?

I had bet no, but then in walks Matt Moulson, 31-goal scorer, 53-point producer at age 27, recipient of a three-year extension in January. (Check this post for more on how that contract stacked up next to recent salaries.)

Now, can he continue that curve upward further still in 2011-12? Let health, ice time and opportunity be thy guide.

Health: Moulson hasn't missed a game {knock on wood, hammer on pr*j*ct*n} in his two seasons as an Islander. He's played close to 80 games in four of his five full pro seasons. Sniffles does not keep the Cornell man from showing up.

Ice Time: Moulson's average ice time actually increased a full two minutes last season, as the Islanders top line was written into the lineup card in permanent ink and with it came ample powerplay time for Moulson, John Tavares and P.A. Parenteau. Moulson's increase over 2009-10 consisted of more PP time, more PK time and more 5-on-5 time.

(You might actually argue for a drop in performance since his production didn't increase in lockstep with his ice time increase, but I'd argue his roles and opposition make that a wash. In fact, his 5-on-5 scoring stayed steady at 1.83 5v5 points per 600 minutes.)

Opportunity: Well, the Islanders have skilled forwards headed this way in the prospect pipeline, but it's hard to see any making a jump in 2010-11 that significantly impacts Moulson's role. If anything, it's possible a full year of health for Kyle Okposo and quality play from Michael Grabner helps share the burden. One thing the Isles #1 line got that none of the other lines was consistent offensive zone starts: That line began its shifts in the O-zone 54% or more of the time, while every other regular drew such choice assignments around 45% of the time. Whether that distribution changes is up to Jack Capuano.

John Tavares did not make Matt Moulson, but Matt Moulson's counting numbers may rely in part on whether he continues to draw the same assignments John Tavares does.

The Grade

Regardless -- and in direct opposition to Mark McGwire's preference -- this report card post is ostensibly about the past: How do you grade Matt Moulson's 2010-11?

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG TOI PPtoi PKtoi Corsi Rel SOG PCT
2009-10 - Matt Moulson 82 30 18 48 -1 16 8 16:38 3:01 0:01 3rd/12 208 14.4
2010-11 - Matt Moulson 82 31 22 53 -10 24 9 18:52 3:21 0:35 5th/10 237 13.1

As noted in the Tavares report card, the quality of competition metrics for the top line got stiffer in 2010-11, a possible indication that Capuano let that line take on tougher roles or, just as likely, that opposing teams started sending out tougher players to match against them.

So the drop in Moulson's +/- figure (crappy stat caveat) doesn't indicate cause for alarm. By every measure available to us, Moulson faced the highest quality of opponents night in, night out.

Now then, the question is how well did he meet your expectations? Last summer this question was almost a no-brainer, as pretty much no one out there penciled him in for 30 goals. This season ... well I'd be lying if I said I expected that figure to increase. I wasn't even certain he'd remain paired with Tavares, much less get the increased opportunity to go beyond 30.

At this point I've learned not to put money on any outcome, but I figure Moulson gets another season next to JT and JT takes another step forward, so staying in the 30-goal vicinity is quite possible. One thing I will bet on: The guy can put up goals at even strength; we've learned that through two years of consistent all-around play.

The Poem/Lyric

Who is Matt Coulson?
Vancouver scribes once asked
61 goals later
Their ignorance unmasked

For now, a top-line winger
Relied on for goals
One day, a veteran swinger
Plugging any number of lineup holes

Times are good, when he's a leader
On the stat sheet
Times better, when he fills any line
On a deep, tough team to beat.


If you're new to this, these are our periodic summer-gazing report cards. Vote based on your preseason expectations. When bored, troll the different archive sections in our left-margin, including all our previous report cards -- where you can verify how foolish you suspect I have always been.