True story: I, an incredibly stupid person, had planned to go all fancy stats on everyone to illustrate exactly why Johnny Boychuk's 2015-16 season seemed so... "off." I should have known this was a bad idea.
I wondered if it was a systems thing or a defensive partners thing or an injury thing or an age thing or a perception thing. But after reading and thinking about it, I still have no idea.
Another true story: I like Johnny Boychuk. Chances are you like Johnny Boychuk, too. He came to the Islanders in a surprising trade and stayed with an even more surprising longterm deal in a UFA year. He had an eye-opening first season, especially on the powerplay, and was a mad man in the playoffs. He's by all accounts a valued team leader and is the hero who brought the leather to the Islanders locker room. Even his family is fun.
But some of these numbers, man. Woof. (data courtesy of corsica.hockey)
Overall Stats Regular season
Everything is down across the board except ice time. Last season, Boychuk was one of the Islanders' leaders in corsi for, helping the team control the puck over 55% of the time. This season, the team was below 50% (although the team's corsi was down as a whole) and they had less than 30 shots per 60 minutes with him on the ice. By himself, Boychuk maintained about the same amount of shots per 60.
Overall, Boychuk had nine goals and 16 assists for 25 points. He had a career high 35 points last season on nine goals and 26 assists.
Boychuk and Nick Leddy were acquired on the same day in September of 2014 and spent nearly the entire 2014-15 season together as a pair. Together, they had a 56% CF and were the team's de facto first pairing.
This season, Boychuk spent less time with Leddy and more time with Calvin de Haan as his defensive partner. Both pairs were just below 50% CF together and in each case, Boychuk's corsi was about 47% while his partner helped control the puck more often. (numbers via puckalytics.com's SUPERWOWY)
|Sit.||SSN||TOI||CF60||CA60||CF% Together||Boychuk's CF%||Partner's CF%|
In the post-season, Boychuk saw a further drop in corsi from the regular season and a steep drop from last year's playoffs against the Capitals, when he was indeed a mad man.
In a series in which the Islanders very much chased the Panthers around the ice (and were bailed out regularly by John Tavares and Thomas Greiss), Boychuk visibly struggled. When asked after the season if he was injured, Boychuk said he wasn't, making these numbers even more troubling. Maybe he was just being a tough guy. Speaking of injuries...
On New Year's Eve in Buffalo, Boychuk and the Sabres' Jack Eichel chased a puck in the corner behind the Islanders' net. Eichel got the puck and Boychuk got a busted shoulder. He wouldn't return until the first week in February.
Thing is, there weren't a lot of differences between pre-injury Boychuk and post-injury Boychuk. The team had (barely) more shots on goal with him on the ice after coming back, but they gave up more shots against. His CF didn't change, but that of his teammates did which makes for an interesting flip in his relative corsi. In any case, the numbers aren't great.
Power Play Time
Okay, last one, and this is more on the coaching staff than the player. In the first few games of his Islanders career, Boychuk showed himself to be a serious weapon on the power play. Those days are gone. This season, Boychuk's time on the man advantage dropped by about 60 percent and even when he was out there, the Islanders had less shots on goal.
The team's power play percentage didn't change all that much from year to year (18.7% in 2014-15, 18.3% in 2015-16), but they had five less power play goals this season.
There was a conscious effort by the coaching staff this season to reserve Boychuk more for penalty killing than power plays. The Islanders finished with one the best PK units in the league, so it wasn't all bad. But not using his big shot on the power play seems like a waste of an asset.
Can We Wrap This Up?
So what did we learn from all this? Like I said, I have no idea. Boychuk had the kind of season we all thought he had; a visible step backwards from last season.
Age was always going to be the looming issue when the Islanders dedicated seven years and a $6 million annual cap hit to him. He was 31 at the time and already had a lot of miles on him. Not signing him wasn't really an option for the Islanders after the resurgent season they had, so the risk was a calculated one. But there's no way Garth Snow expected Boychuk's decline to start the very next season.
Maybe he had a bad year. It happens to everyone. Maybe another season and a few systems tweaks can get Boychuk back over the breakeven corsi line and his minutes back to being more productive.
I like Johnny Boychuk. But if 2015-16 was the start of a continuing downward trend, the next six seasons are going to feel very, very long.