Instead of a longer blurb up here, I have a couple of longer form responses to articles linked in today’s Bits.
Mathew Barzal Should Be a Top Ten Forward
We spilled some ink on Mathew Barzal yesterday. So did Corey Sznajder, master of tracking zone entries and exits. Not only one of the best at entering the zone with possession, Barzal’s also one of the best at turning those entries into scoring chances—which makes this quote from Sznajder’s article all the more confounding:
This particular chart is important because it adds a new layer to zone entry tracking, which are entries that lead to scoring chances. It’s another area where Barzal stands out and shows that he isn’t just turning the puck over after gaining the line or orbitting the offensive zone while doing nothing of substance. You’re getting tangible results from him, which is why I’m so fascinated with how he isn’t at least one of the 10 best forwards in the league.
Is it purely lack of talent, be it himself or the players surrounding him? Playing in Barry Trotz’s system? Or does Barzal simply rely too much on the pass and become predictable? The short answer is probably all of this, but one cannot help but wonder how much brighter Barzal’s star would be if he had, say, Kyle Connor on his wing finishing his beautiful passes, or if he just shot the puck more.
Other New York Islanders Bits
- William Dufour had a season for the ages last year: QMJHL MVP, Memorial Cup, and WJC gold. He hopes to build off that dream year when he attends his first NHL training camp next week. [Islanders]
- It’s clear that he and Aatu Räty possess more offensive talent than the rest of the forwards at development camp, and they’re standing out, even if they’re long shots to make the big club. [Newsday]
- Meanwhile, Kevin Kurz took a deeper dive on the chances of development camp attendees Grant Hutton, Robin Salo, and Dennis Cholowski to win the sixth defenseman spot. [The Athletic]
- Andrew Gross got in front of the camera to give a quick preview of the upcoming Islanders season. [Newsday]
New York Rangers Rant
Justin Bourne has questions for the Eastern Conference teams. This isn’t to pick on Bourne specifically but the hockey media at large: Why does almost every writer that discusses the Rangers seem to treat it as a given that Chris Kreider is going to score like 40 goals again? He crossed 50 this year, but before that, he never even hit 30. (He’s paced 30, but never hit it before.) And he’s 31 years old.
They always say, “Oh, everyone knows they have the talent to score at will; what are the kids going to do? Imagine if they pop off too?! Look out hockey world!” And Bourne did here.
Of course they have a lot of offensive talent, but Kreider dropping 50 drove that last year. Artemi Panarin is declining—he can still score, but his two-way game suffered mightily last season. Same with Mika Zibanejad. And Adam Fox looked a little more human in a full season. Yes, Igor Shesterkin is probably the best goalie in the world right now, but he had one of the greatest seasons of all-time last year. He will be really, really good, but expecting him to repeat this past season’s performance seems unwise.
Let’s all pump the brakes, hockey media. Their flaws get consistently glossed over, unlike the other team with “New York” in its name. I realize it’s Good For The Game when the Rangers are good, but it’s also Super Annoying.
- Speaking of writers who obsess over top heavy teams, The Athletic broke down their player tiers by teams, giving each team a score based on how many players qualified. Stars always equal wins; just ask the Toronto Maple Leafs. Though to their credit, they acknowledge the limits of assessing team strength this way, and they’re also a little less bullish on the Rangers than everyone else. [The Athletic]
- Nathan MacKinnon wants his extension completed before the regular season begins. Elliotte Friedman and Frank Seravalli have said numerous times on their respective podcasts that it wouldn’t shock them if MacKinnon’s next deal makes him the highest-paid player in the league. [NHL]
- Brad Marchand hit the ice for the first time since undergoing hip surgery; he is still projected to return in late November. [NHL]
- The New Jersey Devils pushed hard on both Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, settling for Ondrej Palat. Also, Zdeno Chara has yet to decide whether to play this season, but other reports have stated that the Islanders have parted ways with him. [The Athletic]
- New Winnipeg Jets bench boss Rick Bowness removed the ‘C’ from Blake Wheeler’s sweater, opting for leadership by committee. [The Athletic]