Again, I'd like to start by acknowledging the great Ryan Stimson over at In Lou We Trust. I urge you to read any and all of his articles as he is the leading thinker in passing stats.
Since the last post...
It's been a great last 23 days. The Islanders went 8-2 and share first place in the Metropolitan with the flightless birds. There isn't much to gripe about this team anymore: the shorthanded incompetence seems to have turned itself around, Jaroslav Halak is doing what he does, and the defense is contributing on offense. Perhaps the most important thing we can do with this information then is decide who should sit out when Michael Grabner returns.
But first, let's see what the defense has done over the first 19 games of the season (11/22 game vs. Penguins not included.)
The Defense Dances Their Assess Off
So now that we're getting more and more data to rely on, a couple things have changed but one remains the same: the defense is solidly contributing to the offense. Nick Leddy, Thomas Hickey, and Johnny Boychuk are comparable to second liners at generating shots...second line forwards!!
Leddy (1.20) especially has been receiving praise this season and deservedly so. His potential assists (secondary or primary passes that led to a shot on goal) per 20 rank first among the defense, and fifth among forwards. While Boychuk (1.05) has seen a lot of luck add to his 11 assists, Leddy's modest 4 assists this season are bound to increase.
On a more depressing note, Travis Hamonic (0.55) still ranks worst among the top six. At least he is joined by Lubomir Visnovsky (0.65) who received premature praise in my last post. Hey, we're learning this stuff together!
Shot Attempt Generating Efficiency (SAGE) for the Defense
The trending blue line across the graph shows the SAGE of each defenseman. SAGE is a measure of efficiency in passes at generating shots on goal (a high score is good). Here we can see that Visnovsky and Hamonic are particularly efficient at setting up their teammates. 60% of Visnovsky's passes that generate a shot on goal make the net, while Hamonic is at 54%. These are both outstanding numbers that show the talent is there, they just need to do it more often.
The Offense Goes America All Over Everybody's Ass
The top three offensive passers haven't changed much since my last post; only the order has changed. Kyle Okposo (2.20) leads all forwards in generating shots on net, with almost a 20% lead over John Tavares (1.85). Speaking of JT, it's good to see him bounce back to his elite self in this category. Grabovski, Strome, Nelson, and Kulemin then round out the top six, which is where they belong in the line up.
Now to the question of who should sit for Grabner. Spoiler alert: it's looking like it's between Anders Lee (0.45) and Josh Bailey (0.55). Neither have shown much offensive prowess in the first 19 games of the season: a combined 6 goals in 24 games does help a bit. It may be unfair to judge since neither has played more than 14 games, but 0.55 potential assists per 20 is plain terrible.
Matt Martin (0.60) sits three places above both but isn't too hot here either. He may be playing too well right now to sit, but he should definitely be on the short list along with Bailey and Lee.
As Coach Cappy has been saying, it's a tough call for who should sit when Grabner's back. I admittedly didn't shed much light into this argument but at least our opinions can be a bit more informed. I'm just glad I'm not the one making the decision.