Geek of the Week: The Skinny On Skinner

Michael Halbany

2020-04-26

After an eight-season tenure in Raleigh, the Hurricanes shipped Jeff Skinner to Buffalo in the summer of 2018. He went to post a career high 40 goals, 23 assists, 0 Plus/Minus, 268 shots, and 31 hits in 82 games in 2018-2019. In 59 games in 2019-2020, his numbers cratered to 14 goals, 9 assists, minus-22, and 183 shots. It feels as though this guy has been in the league forever but next year, he will be entering his age 28 season.

Perhaps the most notable thing that sticks out from this season was power-play shooting percentage. Prior to this season, his shooting percentages on the power play were (starting with the most recent): 13.56, 8.51, 12.73, and 9.76. This season, his power play shooting percentage was 0% (!) despite receiving 2:28 PP TOI/GP, so he didn't score a single goal on the power play. Also, his power-play shot attempts per 60 minutes cratered to a career low of 17.94.

His individual expected goals per 60 with the man advantage also declined to a career low 1.43. Both are alarming trends and bode poorly for future seasons. Is he better than his power-play output this season? Sure, but based on underlying numbers, it's hard imagining a big rebound coming in this department.

At 5v5 his shot attempts per 60 was 17.95, which have been on a steady decline. His individual goals per 60 minutes at 5v5 this season was 0.95, which is in line with career norms. Additionally, his points per 60 minutes declined to 1.43, the lowest of his career since 2014-2015. Nothing really sticks out as encouraging with him and suggests that he's entering the latter stages of his career. His 40-goal season came at the right time and he was able to cash in big on a contract that will pay him $9 million per year until 2026-2027 (woof).

I will not harp on too long that his plus/minus is dreadful. The Sabres are not likely to be contributors in the category so definitely look elsewhere. Project him for minus-10, and anything better than that would be gravy. Like many others, I'm very much in favor of doing away with plus-minus for other fun statistics.

There has been some progress made in recent years with Yahoo! revamping some of their standard hockey categories. The addition of hits over penalty minutes gives me hope that eventually we will be able to move on from plus/minus. I would be in favor of literally anything else because plus/minus is a heavily flawed statistic. Since so many leagues still rely on using it, we just have to roll with it for the time being.

Full disclosure, I used to be a fan of Jeff Skinner's game. I started writing this blurb on him with the expectation that I would be able to buy into him next season. The truth is, the more and more I look at his profile, the more I am not interested. I want to be wrong, as Skinner won me a league in 2018-2019 on the heels of his 40-goal season. When he's going right, he's fun to watch, but unless he's dirt cheap in drafts next year it'll be hard to get excited about him.

The only other saving grace for him would be getting consistent minutes on the top line again. This season he bounced around the lineup and his most common linemates were Marcus Johansson and Conor Sheary. This is a notable decline from his most common linemates from a season ago when he was paired with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart.

When it comes to projecting him for next season, I could see him returning to 25 goals. He'll get a bit more luck on the power play and should be able to contribute some goals with the man advantage. He won't post the shooting percentage he had on the power play last year (13.56%), but a mild bounce back in this department makes sense. His three-year average of shots per 60 at 5v5 is 10.6 and his three-year average of minutes per game is 14.10.

Assuming similar usage at 5v5 and a clean bill of health that puts him at 21-22 range for goals. Add in about five power-play goals, and I think 27 goals makes sense for him. Unless he takes advantage of a percentage binge again, it's hard to imagine him cracking 35+ goals.  I think we can reasonably project 27 goals and 20 assists.

Sources: Frozen Pool and Natural Stat Trick

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

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JOHN KLINGBERG DAL 4 0 6 6
ALEXANDER RADULOV DAL 5 1 5 6
VICTOR HEDMAN T.B 4 2 2 4
PAUL STASTNY VGK 6 2 4 6
BLAKE COLEMAN T.B 5 1 3 4
SHEA THEODORE VGK 4 1 2 3

LINE COMBOS

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28.5% OLIVER BJORKSTRAND PIERRE-LUC DUBOIS ALEXANDRE TEXIER
13.6% CAM ATKINSON NICK FOLIGNO ALEXANDER WENNBERG
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