Giving Kadri a New Contract
Despite playing the best hockey of his career, leading the Leafs in ice-time among forwards and being consistently praised by Mike Babcock, Nazem Kadri just can’t seem to get any respect.
I feel like Kadri is the perfect example of the level of discourse permeating the NHL. When the team hit the 25% mark of the season, many media outlets released grades for each player:
I saw someone rank Kadri a C; I saw another guy rank Bozak ahead of him.
Then, in perhaps the worst intermission “analysis” I have ever seen, TSN’s panel (Jeff O’Neil, Craig Button and Bob McKenzie) recommended that the Leafs do not give Kadri a long-term contract, and in one case, even suggested he should take a pay cut because he has just 3 goals.
Look, these guys are professionals and they get paid to go give their opinions on TV. But as a hockey fan, I feel that fans of the NHL’s most important and widely watched team deserves a level of discourse on the TV broadcasts that is, at the least, intelligent and well thought out.
It doesn’t matter what the topic is, one of the first things you learn about in science class is that if you want to analyze something you need to look at the process and not the results.
In hockey, goals are the results of everything else a player does to try to score them. It is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt (i.e it is a fact) that goals are just the random results of shots – whether a goalie makes a great save, or an error; whether the player makes a great move or scores on a fluke from centre-ice, given enough time and big enough sample size about 9% of all shots go into the net.
Therefore, it is not intelligent to analyze a player based on his goal totals, especially not 20 games into the season where variance is clearly going to be very high. Nazem Kadri has 3 goals, but he is shooting 3.1%. His career average is over 9% (because he’s a better-than-average player) but clearly he isn’t a 3% shooter which would make him much worse than the worst player of all time.
Inevitably this number will go up, and I just think that it was really disingenuous of TSN to have three professional hockey analysts (guys who shape how Leafs Nation thinks about its players) go on TV and tell viewers that a player who has demonstrably been one of the best players in the NHL this year deserves a pay cut.
Let’s Look at Some (5v5) Numbers:
Kadri is a 52% possession player, which is absolutely fantastic for a top centre on a bad team (or any team, actually).
He is third in the NHL in shots.
He has a + 52 scoring chance differential, which is 5th among NHL centres. His two wingers happen to be 1st and 2nd in the NHL overall.
He is 4th in the NHL in individual scoring chances.
He is 7th in the NHL in individual high-danger scoring chances.
Kadri is 8th in total shot attempts: Brent Burns, Alex Ovechkin, Max Pacioretty, Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jason Spezza are the only players ahead of him.
But don’t take my word for it, go to waronice.com or stats.hockeyanalysis.com yourself and play around with the filters – these are the players who show up regularly near Kadri on the list of any stats.
If we are to believe what the people on TV tell us, we should discount all of this because the puck has gone in the net at a rate that would suggest he is the worst shooter of all-time. Basically, logic says you have to either suggest Kadri is the victim of terrible luck or you have to call him the worst shooter ever.
And yet, if you do what science suggests is an absolute necessity – analyzing process and not results – then you have no choice but to say that Kadri has been one of the NHL’s best players so far this year.
Look beyond the points: He’s limiting other teams chances, which means he is playing excellent defense. He creates offense at an elite rate and draws more penalties than anyone else in hockey.
A pay cut? That is absolutely insane. It is the complete opposite of what even a cursory view of the data suggests. Maybe for the guys on TV, but not Kadri.
If anything, the Leafs could take advantage of the low goal totals and sign Kadri to an extremely team friendly deal once he is eligible, although it’s highly doubtful that his agent is an idiot, so I’d settle for a fair deal, which, if you look at the guys he produces like, is over $6 million/year.
Thanks for reading.
Covering the Leafs for the Hockey Writers.