Why Neil Greenberg is wrong, but not that fancy word Howie Rose called him.

So, last week, the blogosphere was aflame by Neil Greenberg’s list of the top 25 players under the age of 25. Then people dismissed it, then Howie Rose brought the simmering fire to a roaring inferno by lambasting Neil on the air for having the audacity not to include John Tavares on his list.

I’m not going to knock the guys on the list. I like the majority of them. But there’s 5 or 6 of them you could get a GM to trade you for Tavares.

I’m also not going to be looking up that word Howie called Neil. Sounded too science-y. I’m sorry, I’m a history guy. It was funny, haha, great Howie.

I “appreciate your passion, but tone it down” (as some asshole who tried to get me to shut up at the game said, fuck you too guy). But in reality Howard Rose, the only people who still give a shit about this team are the ones who read about in on a daily basis on messageboards, people who get their fix from junkies on blogs, not too unlike this one. We are among the most digital fanbases in the NHL. Look at my home away from home, Islandermania. Half the STH base is on there chirping Wang right now (By the way, Charles, you suck). So no, don’t bite the hand that feeds.You called out (though not by name, oddly enough) Neil Greenberg of ESPN, the WaPost and formerly of RussianMachineNeverBreaks, the parent site of Puckbuddys, which is the parent site of this blog. That makes me like Neil’s BlogBro-In-Law. 6 degrees of internet memes.

Anyway, I spoke a bit with Neil about his column after I turned Isles country lose on him by linking his piece to a few of my influential media friends who fed it to their followers and it became a pitchfork and torch wielding mob. I take all the credit for this. It was awesome to see that people still get pissed when this franchise is disrespected. I thought we lost all our passion to apathy. Glad to see that is not the case. Sorry you ate that shit sandwich, Neil. I apologize for calling the dogs of war. You are a nice guy who gave his opinion, you just happened to make a party foul against possibly the most pissed off fanbase in the NHL.

Why are we so pissed off? The constant disrespect. From every other fanbase, the officials… the league. We have a storied past. I don’t wanna hear shit from NuNHL fans whose teams have either never one a cup or took the fucking cold war off. Shoosh. This fanbase has taken 20 years of fecal matter in our faces and every year on opening night we come back bright eyed, bushy tailed and hopeful just to be crapped on again.  And then we come back again. Why? Because we really are pretty goddamn resilient. All we need is hope. And Tavares is that hope. He is the embodiment of that hope.

That’s why you got that anger, Neil.

That out of the way, let’s talk about why you are wrong!

Initially, I said Neil went after JT because it would be a controversial statement and there was noone left in Isles country to answer Neil’s call to arms. I dared him to pen the same piece about Ovechkin, basically implying he wouldn’t shit where he eats. He then provided me links of every anti-ovi piece he had penned. Oh, did I feel like a dick.

ANYWAY… Neil said to me in essence “Come at me bro” but don’t bring “Saw Him Good!” as analysis. Have something deeper.

Neil, you have my respect for your metrics, though they are in my opinion,  over analysis. I’m not Billy Beane. I’m a loudmouth blogger, so let’s tell ya what I got and we’ll compare notes.

The crux of Neil’s criticism of JT91 is that Tavares benefits from his linemates, JT’s lack of ‘clutchness’ and that JT is placed in advantageous offensive situations, thus not needing to go 200 feet to create, but rather being in position to capitalize on a chance from the moment he hits the ice.

Let’s take these things in reverse order.

Why is JT91 put in offensive situations? Why? Because a line better suited for defensive situations will take own zone draws, headed by our Selke candidate, Frans Nielsen. It’s not a knock on JT, it’s an asset we have on call, a legitimate shutdown defensive centerman. John’s talents are better utilized in neutral zone draws or Ozone faceoffs. Tavares wins nearly 55% of his draws. He also now has the half wall attack dog, Kyle Okposo at his disposal for the ones he doesn’t win. That’s forecheck city, you don’t burn their minutes in your own zone. It’s not good resource management.You let Frans the Great Dane handle the bulk of the DZone heavy lifting. It’s just proper allocation of skill sets.

This is not to say JT91 is a DZone liability. Each year, incrementally, he has raised his strength on the puck, his battle level in the corners, and the most eveident, after working out with the same power skating wizard who aided Bobby Nystrom, Laura Stamm, he has made his skating explosive, making himself into a complete player, capable in all 3 zones. Hes’ 7th in the league in takeaways at last check. Neil told me that’s an unreliable homer stat (similar to FLAWLESS PRINCE MATT MARTIN’S LEAGUE LEAD IN HITS) which may be true, but my counterpoint is when you are that high up, you are doing SOMETHING right, even if the numbers are slightly askew.

Oh, the clutch thing. Oh boy. “John Tavares isn’t big in big spots” may have been paraphrasing, but that’s pretty close. Ok! The numbers call BS on that.

  • 18 of his 20 goals have been scored when the team is tied, up or down 1.
  • 9 have been in the 3rd period or OT.
  • 5 have been Game Winners, ergo he is 6th in the league in GWG.

Big time spots. Big time goals, dial 91.

The last point actually made me chuckle. Tavares “benefits from his linemates strengths”. HA! PA Parenteau is going to buy a house this offseason and owe it to John Tavares. He is the straw that stirs the drink. Let’s look at his 3 most frequent linemates to this point in his career and their production with and without him.

Matt Moulson: Tavares’ finisher, Wingman, and BFF.

Moulson was ferrying back and forth between the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL and hanging in the Kings Pressbox. Before arriving on LI, he had 6 career goals in 29 career NHL games. And looking back at his numbers through the NCAA and the AHL, he was never a 30 goal scorer. Since he arrived and was pit on JT’s wing, he has eclipsed 30 goals both seasons and looks to hit 40 this year. But yeah, the guy was waiting to explode on the Kings depth chart before being reunited with childhood friend John Tavares. Certainly, all draft picks go through what 4 organizations before stardom, right? Odd, that.

P.A. Parenteau: “Screw it, big win. Do It Shirtless!”

Ah, PAP. Much maligned by some Isles fans because of his pedigree (Ranger castoff), a minor league journeyman kicking around the AHL for years (Drafted in 2001!) he shockingly enjoyed a career year on Tavares’ wing. He had a whopping 3 goals in 27 career NHL games before finding 2 tickets to Tavaradise. Last year, riding shotgun with JT, he potted 53 points. He started guns blazing this year, but once he was taken off the line, he has cooled. Odd, that.

Kyle Okposo: Back from the brink.

It’s been a long hard road for Kyle. Injuries and poor developmental supervision nearly snuffed out his potential. He was struggling recovering from a very bad shoulder injury during last season to start this campaign, and many in Isles country had began to call him the dreaded ‘B’ word, which no young player ever wants to hear. Then he was put on Tavares’ wing and magically became a PPG player. His career high before this season was 18g. He’s at 11 already. Odd, that.

John Tavares is the guy that got all of these players going. It’s not the other way around. The man is a top ten player in the NHL right now, let alone a top 25 player under 25.

As for the ‘saw him good’ portion of the analysis Neil feared was coming… he’s right. I saw him do good. He’s pretty fucking awesome.


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