For the moments in between real news and report cards (which will resume soon, honest) and inspirational analysis (time for left-wing lock!), we shall hereby steal a category from Senators blog Silver Seven and ask, in assorted ways, Which Is More Likely?
Today we select a topic that will surely re-ignite post-Parenteau emotional distress, although that is far from the point. (We've been down the P.A. Parenteau and free agency road many times this summer. New topic.) But this one is intended to get our readers thinking about the many variables that go into a banner season -- or alternatively, a disappointing one.
So, dear reader, which is more likely: Matt Moulson scores 30 goals yet again, or Brad Boyes scores 20?
The assumption here is that Moulson again plays on John Tavares' line, which not only means ample helpings of Tavares feeds but also opportunities (offensive zone starts, powerplay time) to convert them. The wild card here is ... will Boyes join them on that line, or will he be on a secondary line? Will performance on the former lead to the latter?
In both questions, history may point your way:
Moulson and 30 Goals
Since gaining full-time NHL employment in 2009-10, Moulson has been remarkably consistent, collecting over 200 shots, converting between 13.1 and 16.4 percent of them, and of course hitting the 30-goal milestone each year. Many don't realize he actually excelled even as rookie-year Tavares was struggling mightily, but as Tavares has grown Moulson's production has ticked upward to 31 and then 36 goals.
Moulson (who, knock on wood, has also not missed a game as an Islander) has been healthy and is entering his age 29 season. Scoring 30 goals in the NHL is hard, doing it consistently is even harder. It sounds like Moulson's opportunity to extend his run to four seasons will be there, but if you're superstitious or fear the hockey gods are out to get you then you might think Moulson is due a small injury interruption or a turn of luck that keeps him short of 30.
Boyes and 20 Goals
If you can check your "Snow replaced a 67-point guy with a 23-point guy?!" rant at the door for a moment, Brad Boyes is actually a fun subject for this kind of exercise, because his production has been very yin and yang in his NHL career. There are solid reasons to suspect he could hit either yin or yang this year for the Islanders.
Now entering his age 30 season, he's not exactly over the hill. And he can't be considered someone who's had fluke success in the past because he's done it in at least three seasons: Seasons of 26 goals with Boston and 33 and 43 with St. Louis. Having watched him closely in St. Louis, I suspect but cannot prove that part of his dropoff was all in his head. If there are players who truly depend on "confidence," Boyes is a prime candidate. I swear as luck went south in St. Louis, he started to squeeze his stick more (in the parlance of our times) and tried to over-aim his shots, with too many ending up hitting the glass rather than the net or the goalie.
In his seasons of 43 and 33 goals for the Blues, Boyes had over 200 shots. In his dropoff year of just 14 goals, he still managed 197 shots -- but his shooting percentage dropped from the high teens to just 7.1 percent, a remarkable drop that indicates either injury, awful luck, or shot confidence (or perhaps all three).
That decline, and the chance to shed his $4 million salary, precipitated the Blues' trade of Boyes to the Sabres and Pegula's Millions, where they could suddenly afford to overpay for things. But for Boyes, it also meant a decreased role, a drop in ice time and a drop in shots. He had only 100 shots and 13:10 ice time (per game) last season in Buffalo.
With the Islanders, his role and ice time are guaranteed to rebound, unless he outright Rolstons it in training camp. Chances are he'll get decent powerplay time too, which is key to any offensive star's production and was key to Boyes' best years (11 PPG in 08-09, 16 PPG in 09-10).
Finally, the Islanders recent history has included a non-Moulson 20-goal scorer on Tavares' wing (Parenteau in 2010-11) and further 20-goal scorers on secondary lines (Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner in 2011-12, Grabner and Blake Comeau in 2010-11).
Boyes hasn't seen 20 goals since 2008-09. But he hasn't had nearly the same opportunity since then either, when he hit 33 goals. It's not far-fetched to think he might hit 20 again at age 30.
But which one do you bet on?