Thursday, September 10, 2009

Funny thing about perceptions

Now, I'm not trying to pick on anybody here. I base a lot of my analysis on the team based on what they've done, that's how I compare guys across our team and I'm wary about predicting too much into the future.

There are some Leafs out there who are, for some reason, maligned. Take the late Anton Stralman, who was lambasted for his play despite being on pace to tie White's points totals, had the second best Corsi rating on the Leafs, and had a better GAON/60 than White, Kaberle, Kubina, Schenn, and Finger. He also had a better Giveaway/Takeaway ratio than most of our top 6, and as an RFA would have likely cost us less than $1M to retain. Still, junk in the eyes of Leaf Nation.

Let's take this MLHS article (which makes an overall good point). Grabovski had "success" with a 48 point season in 78 games, supposedly justifying his raise to almost $3M in salary. Lee Stempniak, however, had an "underwhelming" 44 points in 75 games. That's a 4 point differential, for a guy who's making $400K less than Grabs and is only a year older.

(it should be noted that if you adjust Stempniak's time with the Blues out and work his numbers with the Leafs up to 78 games, he ends up with around 40 points)

The funny thing is, the players are almost identical. They're absurdly close in shots taken, TOI/G, Shifts/G, PPTOI/G. Defensively speaking Stemps has more blocked shots and an absurdly better Giveaway/Takeaway ratio, as well as double the hits.

Stempniak also came on in the latter half of the season, much like Grabs. While not as immediately impressive, he managed 18 points in his last 30 games with the Leafs, better than his first 13 points in the previous 30. After the trade deadline he got even better, with a 4 game point streak in March and 5 points in 5 games to close out April.

The difference? Shooting percentage. Stempniak's 0.086% is half that of Grabs' 0.167%, and it truly makes the difference, as if you adjust each player's totals to the others' Stempniak ends up with 19 goals and Grabs ends up with 14. There's your 4-8 points right there. And it's not as if Stempniak isn't capable of scoring at that pace either, he was shooting at 0.163% in his 27-goal sophomore season.

So why the difference in perception? Is it because Grabs is the flashy player, while Stempniak does more yeoman's work? Is it because one appears to be the hot up and comer, while the other appears to be waning? Is it because Grabs fills our need for a centreman, even though we need RW's just as badly? Are we really dumping on a competent forward over an almost identical one because of 4-5 goals?

There have also been eyebrows raised at Burke naming Matt Stajan a top 6 player alongside Grabovski. But why not? Matt outscored Grabs in the same amount of 5on5 and PP TOI. He can also be counted on for some defensive play, with more PK time, more hits, blocked shots, and a much better (and positive) giveaway/takeaway ratio. I hate to say it, but if we're basing expectations based on last season Stajan deserves the top centre job more than Grabs.

Stajan's also only two months older than Grabovski. Are we hating on Stajan because he's a known quantity to us? Did we actually buy into the hype that the guy was just more trash from the JFJ era despite what was going on in the games in front of us?

Look, I'm not making predictions for next season, nor am I saying that Grabovski isn't a good and exciting hockey player. I just think it's funny how opposing the viewpoints are on three players that are actually very similar in their contributions to the team we had last year.


PPP said...

Good post. Here are my thoughts:

Stempniak v. Grabovski:

I'd chalk it up to the age difference between the two, the fact that Stempniak's goals didn't match his potential (27 goal scorer once upon a time), Grabovski being a former Hab, the price paid for Stempniak, and his really slow start as a Leaf. Plus, as you noted, he's pretty invisible if he isn't scoring.

Stajan v. Grabovski:

There is the reality that Stajan was carried by Poni and Antropov while the perception (and I haven't had time to look at it) is that Grabovski was creating his own offence. Not to mention that I think when people say that he's not a top-six forward they mean that he isn't on a contending club. For this version of the Leafs he most certainly is. This coming season is hugely important to him as he needs to follow up his 55 point season and it's a contract year. Let's see whether last year was a fluke.

eyebleaf said...

There's a difference in perception b/c Mickey Grabs was a rookie, acquired after a team gave up on him. The difference was that Grabs was out to prove himself last year, and became a 20-goal scorer, while Stempniak has been in the league for 4 years now, and trying to prove that his 27 goal season in 06/07 wasn't a fluke.

I certainly don't think the two players should be looked at with the same lens.

Scott Baker said...


There's also the fact that Grabs actually hasn't done anything to prove his own season wasn't a fluke. As I said, one player is percieved to be on an upswing, while one appears to be fading, but Stempniak in a fading season is still producing points and playing at pace with Grabs in his "breakout" season.

I don't know why it's not fair to compare them, both are new Leafs to a forward core that needed their scoring depth. Their stats aren't significantly different, the roles given to both aren't different, their salary isn't very different, their age isn't very different.


It's hard to say Grabovski's creating his own offense when he didn't catch fire until he got Poni on his line (17 points in 19 games). Stajan also produced 12 points in 19 games once Antro was traded, with Poni factoring in only once in his scoring.

Once again, perception v. reality. Stajan's pace barely took a hit despite playing with Jeff Hamilton and Boyd Devereaux in the latter stages of last year.

As for his year being fluky, we'll see. Fact is that Stajan's played himself into a prominent role on the team despite being outclassed in terms of raw talent by 8 or 9 guys on the forward corps. The onus is on Grabs to prove likewise as well.