Ramblings: Season-Ending Q+A (Mar 30)

steve laidlaw



Today’s ramblings will be a blowout Q+A. Enjoy!



I have mild concerns about all the point totals we have seen this season. The early crackdown on obstruction led to penalties getting called at a rate we hadn’t seen in years, and the subsequent bump in power plays shot goal scoring up about an extra goal per game. That lasted for about a month and then things got back to normal.

That October bump is a big reason why of the 39 individual seasons in which a player scored 30+ PPP in a season over the past five years 13 of them (a third) are from this year, and that number is likely to climb with a little over a week remaining and several players knocking on the door.

Power plays are getting more efficient across the board as more teams buy into the four-forward look, but there has been a significant give-back in goal scoring since October. With teams better adapted to how the game is getting called, plus the natural progression away from referees making those calls, I doubt that we see scoring the level we saw it in the first month of the season.

For Barzal, who has 24 PPP, any slippage could see him fall below the point-per-game mark. However, Barzal scored only one of his 24 PPP in October. His season didn’t take off in full until November, when the Islanders finally sorted out which line Jordan Eberle should play on, and also that Barzal should indeed become a primary part of their top power play unit.

Barzal is also a super-duper star, capable of carrying his own line, and potentially his own team. No doubt life would become more difficult losing John Tavares as he’d get more attention from the oppositions best players as well as more focus from coaching staffs trying to shut him down. However, a guy who skates like Barzal is always going to be able to put the opposition into crisis.

My main concern would be if the Islanders make a coaching change and get away from the wide-open play they have had all season. A coach not so content to trade chances could stifle Barzal by really having him focus on becoming a more complete two-way player. I suspect that plan would be accelerated if Tavares leaves.

There are also reasons to be suspect of assist-heavy players. Barzal’s performance is all too similar to Evgeny Kuznetsov’s breakout 2015-16 season. Kuznetsov’s subsequent decline in 2016-17 was a shock to many as it was assumed Kuznetsov had asserted himself as a star. As this season will prove, Kuznetsov is indeed a