If there’s one thing Burke did right – and I mean really right – it was
stealing acquiring this fine young man from the Philadelphia Flyers in 2012 in exchange for defenseman Luke Schenn, Seriously, go hug a Flyers fan right now, they’re probably very sad on the inside. In a league where elite talent is extremely hard to come by, you have to give Burke credit for getting two offensive dynamos (the other being the Phil) that now form one of the most potent scoring duos in the league. All that’s left now is to fill the black hole in the middle.
2013-14 was JVR’s big “breakout” year as he obliterated his previous career high of 40 points (although he did have 32 in 48 during the lockout-shortened season) with a 61 point season. The funny thing is that van Riemsdyk actually hasn’t really broken out yet in the typical sense. While he’s steadily increased his totals over his five year career, that’s more a product of his increased ice time, which has climbed a decent amount every year. What hasn’t changed much is his production per 60 minutes.
It’s funny to look at in hindsight considering that a certain subsection of Flyers fans were just about ready to call van Riemsdyk a bust because he wasn’t putting up Patrick Kane numbers. What’s clear is that all JVR needed was an opportunity to shine, and he got that big time in Toronto where he played on a first line with Phil the Thrill and Cocoon Bozak.
The line was a force all year, even somehow (cough Kessel cough) making Bozak look good. Without that hot streak the three went on simultaneously in January, the Leafs would’ve hit their darkest days much earlier.
While the trio had great success together, what’s concerning is how much their play drops without each other. This is JVR’s corsi percentage versus the average of his teammates without him (weighted by how often they play with him) for his career. Try not to laugh at the effect of going from Philadelphia during their decent years to Toronto during the Carlyle era.
Basically, van Riemsdyk has had a steady positive impact on his teammates for the most part, until 2013-14 where he had a huge leap. I’m guessing that mostly has to do with small sample sizes in their ‘without you’ numbers (the average teammate corsi is weighted by TOI spent with the player). Bozak, Kessel, Phaneuf, and Gunnarsson spent a huge amount of time with JVR and their corsi without him plummets making the average corsi impact (better known as CorsiRelTm over at the newly minted puckalytics.com, but ACI sounds better I think) look inflated for 2013-14. It’s not to discount the drops, but I’m betting a lot has to do with their deployment in those situations (ie. Bozak going to take d-zone draws and retreading to the bench immediately after the draw or any of them playing with McClement). Even if it’s inflated by that, the point is that van Riemsdyk pushes play in the right direction, something this team sorely needs more of.
What should the Leafs expect from van Riemsdyk this year? Probably more of the same. He’s been extremely consistent as a Leaf and I doubt that changes as he enters his sixth season. He’ll likely continue getting points, continue driving play and continue trying to flip it over the goalie five times a game. With van Riemsdyk, what you see is what you get.
But considering how consistent he’s been since his rookie year in terms of point production without a really big spike, is it possible that there’s an even higher level van Riemsdyk can hit? I certainly think there’s a chance, especially considering van Riemsdyk is now in his peak years and playing with one of the best players in the world. He’ll get first line minutes and first unit powerplay time to pad his stats and possibly reach a new career high. With regards to the powerplay, JVR was a huge reason it was so successful last year as he’s probably one of the most effective net front presences in the league. He’s got great hands in tight and crazy hand-eye coordination. A decent chunk of his goals last year came off top-ins from point shots and just driving the net,
But there’s been some talk van Riemsdyk may not even slot beside Kessel, instead putting him with Kadri and bumping Lupul up. It seems nuts considering their chemistry, but the plan is so crazy, it just might work. Look at JVR’s production before and after Kessel. You can’t even tell he’s playing with a superstar. Now look at Joffrey Lupul’s production and it becomes clear Kessel took him to another planet (one where he’s a point-per-game all-star).
It’s a good idea to spread the wealth in terms of offensive weapons, and knowing the Lupul-Bozak-Kadri line has clicked in the past, why not? It might even prop up Lupul’s trade value. What we know is that it almost certainly won’t effect van Riemsdyk too badly. The guy produces no matter who he plays with, where he plays, or what minutes he gets. JVR is a machine built to score goals.
I’m going to go ahead and assume you have done your draft already with only a few days left until the season. But even if you have, go do anything in your power to trade for JVR now. He’s a pretty much a mortal lock for 30-30-60 and it wouldn’t surprise me if the former second-overall pick went to 35-35-70.
When you try the same play (in different variations) so many times, eventually it works. And if the goal looks like this, it’s definitely worth trying.