Frozen Pool Forensics: John Tavares

by Cam Robinson on April 29, 2016

This week's Frozen Pool Forensics dives into the line mates and production of John Tavares. 

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Make no mistake, the New York Islanders have been John Tavares’s team since the moment they won the draft lottery in April 2009. However, this year’s first round victory over the Florida Panthers was the moment he transcended into the realm of playoff hero.

Despite laying claim to one of the few true dynasties in NHL history, the Islanders and their fans had suffered through 23 seasons without winning a single playoff round. That is until this year… and thanks in large part to their captain, and this week’s focus of Frozen Pool Forensics.

That other JT, has been everything and more for the Isles through round one and the start of round two. He scored five goals and nine points through six games against the Panthers, none more crucial than the game six tying goal in the final minute of play to break Roberto Luongo’s shutout, and the corresponding double OT winner about an hour later.

To date: Tavares leads the playoffs in scoring with six goals and 11 points in seven games; leads all Islanders’ forwards with an average of 24:37 of ice time per contest; has taken an average of 4.5 shots per game; has converted on a sizzling 18.8 percent of those shots.

Top 10 Point Categories – 2016 Playoffs

All this comes on the heels of one of Tavares’s statistically worst seasons. Thanks to a late season surge which saw him put up 14 points in his final 10 games, Tavares managed to reach 70 points through 78 games – fantastic production for most NHLers, but for Tavares, it was the third lowest point-per-game output (0.89) of his career. It was also the first time he hadn’t managed at least 0.98 points-per-contest since 2010-11.

Was his regular season just an aberration for the franchise centre, or are there factors at play that may reduce his effectiveness moving forward?

In the spirit of fence-sitting, there are two ways to look at this: Tavares has displayed an ability to wrack up points like few others in this league, he’s heading into his 26-year-old season, and has remained relatively healthy for his career. He should be an impact player for many more years. On the flip side, the Mississauga native needs a proper supporting cast to work his magic.

Let’s take a look at Tavares’s most common line mates using Dobber’s Line Combination Tool:

Even Strength Line Combinations – Regular Season

Freq     

 Line Combination                                           

  34.1%

NELSON,BROCK – OKPOSO,KYLE – TAVARES,JOHN

   22%

GRABOVSKI,MIKHAIL – STROME,RYAN – TAVARES,JOHN

  14.9%

BAILEY,JOSH – LEE,ANDERS – TAVARES,JOHN

 14.7%

BAILEY,JOSH – STROME,RYAN – TAVARES,JOHN

14.3%

LEE,ANDERS – STROME,RYAN – TAVARES,JOHN

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Even Strength Line Combinations – Playoff

Freq

  Line Combination                                                  

  56.2%

NIELSEN,FRANS – OKPOSO,KYLE – TAVARES,JOHN   

  33.6%

OKPOSO,KYLE – QUINE,ALAN – TAVARES,JOHN

   5%

MARTIN,MATT – OKPOSO,KYLE – TAVARES,JOHN

  2.8%

OKPOSO,KYLE – PRINCE,SHANE – TAVARES,JOHN

  2.4%

KULEMIN,NIKOLAY – OKPOSO,KYLE – TAVARES,JOHN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those of you with an eye to the upcoming free agent market, there are a couple of names that stand out: Tavares’s most common line mates this post season have been Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo. The problem is, both are unrestricted free agents at the end of this season, and each will be looking for sizable raises.

With $54.25-million already committed to 16 NHL players, and key RFAs Ryan Strome, Shane Prince, and Casey Cizikas needing new contracts as well, it’s not outlandish to believe at least one of Nielsen or Okposo will be leaving this summer.

Coach Jack Capuano spent most of this season with his lines in a blender. Whether that was in an attempt to forge new chemistry between players other than Okposo and Tavares in an effort to smooth the likely transition for 2016-17, or just to shake things up, the results were not quite up to snuff for their captain and star player.

The Islanders have some promising looking young players coming – Michael Dal Colle, Matthew Barzal, and Josh Ho-Sang, just to name a few – but none appear ready to step into a top line role next to the face of the franchise. Fantasy owners will hope that at least one of Nielsen or Okposo sticks around, and a player like Strome, Anders Lee or even recently acquired Shane Prince can fill the hole adequately.

For now, all fans and fantasy owners can do is sit back and enjoy must-see TV as Victor Hedman tries to contain Tavares in a battle of the top two picks from the ‘09 draft. The winner gets a date in the Eastern Conference finals.

But make no mistake, this is John Tavares’s team. And this spring, he’s showing the hockey world just what he’s capable of.   

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Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3 where I mostly retweet other people witty comments and occasionally add my own. 

More from Cam Robinson and Frozen Pool Forensics:

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The Norris Debate

 

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