Hey, did you know that since the 2007-2008 season, Nazem Kadri’s 2012-2013 season was the 9th highest points scored per 60 minutes among players with at least 40 games played? No fooling. The players ahead of him on that list are Sidney Crosby (thrice), Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Eric Staal, and Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
That’s intense, and puts Kadri in some pretty good company among former MVP winners and scoring title winners. It is, of course, important to put into context that while Kadri’s huge 2013 season was influenced in part by talent, luck had a role to play in it as well.
According to that behindthenet.ca, with Kadri on the ice, the Leafs took 22.3 shots per 60 minutes of play, and scored goals on 3.8 of those shots. That’s a shooting percentage of 14.4%, the highest on the list of these players in the Top 20 (though Daniel Sedin’s 2010 campaign is close).
If you scroll down this list of players, you’ll see that in the second column from the right, the “SF ON/60” which indicates those shots for, Kadri and the Leafs are pretty low compared to most of the stars appearing on the list. In fact, he’s the highest on that list until Ilya Kovalchuk in 2008, ranked 83rd. Kovalchuk’s Atlanta Thrashers took just 21.5 shots per 60 minutes of even strength ice time.
Kovalchuk is a good hockey player. So is Kadri. His low shot totals are not fully on him. They’re partly due to playing with players who have suspect offensive abilities often last year, such as Nik Kulemin, Leo Komarov and Matt Frattin, neither of whom take a lot of shots at goal.
On-ice shooting percentage is a bit of a contentious issue. Here is a list of players that have registered an on-ice shooting percentage of 13% or higher since 2007-2008:
|SEASON||NAME||TEAM||GP||TOI/60||P/60||GF On/60||SF On/60||On-Ice Sh%|
You may have noticed something odd: not a single one of these names repeats itself. On-ice shooting percentage, or a particularly elevated one, is not a repeatable player talent. There are a lot of skilled players in the game such as Crosby or Malkin that can sustain very high rates (over six seasons, Crosby has an 11.7% on-ice shooting rate, while the league average is closer to 8.5% or 9.0%) while the lowest, Samuel Pahlsson, is at 5.8%. Over 4000 minutes, there’s enough information to surmise about the shooting qualities of those players.
Over a small season though, there’s an awful lot of noise. The second thing you may notice in the chart above is that of the 17 names that appear on the list, 7 of them come from the most recent 2013 campaign. There are six seasons of data, but only one where the maximum number of games played was 48, which amounts to just over half of a regular 82-game season. The chance for outliers is much greater, much like if you flipped two coins, you would have a much greater chance of both coins landing heads (25%) than if you had flipped four coins (6.25%).
None of this is meant to lead you to the conclusion that Nazem Kadri is a bad hockey player. Quite the opposite: he is excellent. He had an 11.0 Relative Corsi and one of the highest drawn penalty rates in the NHL. He does a lot of things right at both ends of the ice. There is one problem:
Nazem Kadri’s scoring was unsustainable
It gets its own section. Expectations are very high for Kadri this year. With Mikhail Grabovski out, Kadri gets a job as a top six centreman right out of camp. He will play with good linemates in Joffrey Lupul and David Clarkson, in all likelihood, and he begins a two-year question to convince Leafs management he is a star and get a long-term, big-money contract in the summer of 2015.
But expectations run very high, of course, and most commentators don’t exactly pay attention to things like on-ice shooting percentages because they’re boring and it’s harder to spot outliers using only your eyes. It’s not Kadri’s fault he has a high on-ice shooting rate. He got lucky, and there’s no shame in saying that he was lucky in 2013. A lot of players get lucky, but it is less likely that will happen over an 82-game season, and the chances are astronomical that Kadri’s scoring of near-point-a-game dips to around the 55-60 mark.
This leads to the question…
Can we start a list of things Kadri’s regression will be blamed on this season?
— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) September 11, 2013
Toronto has a lot of good hockey writers. Toronto is home to probably some of the best hockey writers going, writing for local and national platforms. But this is because there are lots of hockey writers in Toronto, not that they are all talented. There are a lot of lazy, bad, grumpy hockey writers in Toronto that write things lazily in a broad sense, ignore historical data, don’t catch up on the inconsistencies of their arguments, and attribute greater meaning to things that can be easily explained by luck.
Two writers, each writing for the Toronto Star, Dave Feschuk and Damien Cox, have already got a head start on questioning Kadri’s commitment issues to the Maple Leafs. It’s almost as if both columnists had written their stories about Kadri skipping out on training camp, then when they heard the news that Kadri had re-signed the day before camp opened, hastily changed around a few details, but kept the broader point.
The knock on Kadri, after all, has always been that the breadth of his obvious talent isn’t matched by professional-calibre work habits. It was around this time last year, don’t forget, that Kadri raised the ire of Marlies coach Dallas Eakins by showing up to AHL training camp out to shape. Even if you’re not as much of a stickler for body-fat percentages as the fitness-focussed Eakins, it’s important to remember that Kadri was a healthy scratch for under-performance in the AHL as recently as last November. And Kadri, it’s also worth noting, was used far more sparingly by Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle in the playoffs than he was in the regular season, the low point coming when he logged less than 11 minutes of ice time in Toronto’s Game 5 win over the Bruins.
He might be the most talented offensive player the Leafs have drafted since Vincent Damphousse in ‘86. Or at least since Brad Boyes in 2000.
But Kadri and the Leafs are like bone rubbing against bone right now. The only former top Leaf pick with a similarly problematic relationship with the team who comes to mind would be Al Iafrate, who struggled under a weak organization and with his own insecurities and only truly blossomed after he left Toronto.
Iafrate never believed that the team appreciated him, at least not as much as others. You sure get that feeling with Kadri.
Cox goes on to suggest that the likeliest scenario is that “[s]ometime in the next 2-4 years, Kadri will be moved elsewhere the same way Boston moved Tyler Seguin this summer. The Leafs, in calculating fashion, will extract what they can from Kadri’s abilities, then move him for maximum value to another team.”
He adds “a great deal would have to change for this to become a happier, long term relationship.”
Forgive my eyeballs rolling out of my head and onto the floor. Cox wrote last month about how “the Habs will be happy to pay up” for P.K. Subban after a bitter contract dispute lasted into Subban missing games this past season.
So what have we learned from the Star? Well, we’ve learned that Kadri and the Leafs hate each other, and that the Leafs do not approve of Kadri’s off-ice habits. Surely, once Kadri’s scoring rate has dipped from Hall of Fame-level to merely very good, we can learn again that these off-ice issues are related somewhat to the slump. Kadri’s inability to score down the stretch and into the playoffs may be invoked.
After all, in the sports’ sabremetric world, we make forecasts. Sometimes they’re pretty easy to make, especially when you’re dealing with storylines from members of the hockey media. This is mostly a prediction, but Cox and Feschuk’s audience are now primed with the information that Kadri and the Leafs don’t see eye-to-eye. That’s going to make criticism a lot easier for those two this coming season.