Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images
Tom Wilson has become one of the more polarizing Capitals players in recent years. A first round pick comes with certain expectations, and he has certainly not fulfilled all of them to this point in his young career. It may be too early to decide on his bust status quite yet, but those questions are rightfully being raised. As long as Wilson can keep contributing in a positive manner, whether the offensive numbers come or not, and his salary truthfully reflects his output, most Caps fans will want him on the team for as long as possible.
And that’s a good thing. He showed growth this year. If he continues to grow on the offensive side of the ice as well, it would make the Caps all the more dangerous.
|12.9||time on ice per game|
|47.6||5v5 shot-attempt percentage|
|53.6||5v5 goal percentage|
About this visualization: This series of charts made by Micah McCurdy of hockeyviz.com shows various metrics for the player over the course of the 2015-16 season. A short description of each chart:
It was somewhat surprising to see the growth in Wilson occurring in the defensive zone this year. It would be a shock if many expected Tom Wilson to be the Capitals most used penalty killing forward this season, and yet he was. He also may have been the Caps best not named Beagle or Backstrom. His style and size work perfectly in the Capitals pressure PK system.
Tom Wilson is very active on the PK, a quality the Caps like in their penalty killing forwards. It is very important that he does it under control though, which has been a problem of his in the defensive zone in his career. He seems to have figured it out on the PK. He will chase hard, but also knows when to ease up to play positionally. There is a fine line between too aggressive and not aggressive enough, and he toes it well on the PK.
There still are times when he is too spastic in the defensive zone at even strength however. Let’s bring you back to the Patric Hornqvist Game Four OT winner:
Most lambasted Mike Weber for this goal, but the bigger onus should be placed on Tom Wilson and Marcus Johansson. Mike Weber was following his man, Connor Sheary, up towards the loose puck at the point. Wilson then waved off Weber instead of staying with his man Trevor Daley. As Daley moved toward the point and Weber was left in no man’s land, Johansson chose the wrong guy to follow, Daley, and left Patric Hornqvist, who was his man as the center on the ice, all alone. Had Wilson stayed within himself, things may have played out differently.
After the requisite Wilson bash, it is time to move back toward the positive, and I do not mean his hair or uber-impressive jawline. Let’s talk fighting.
I have already touched on how the right hits at the right time can have a positive effect for a team in a previous post. But what about fighting?
Can a fight at the right time spark a team? Are they only good for policing the game? Are they actually good for nothing?
Let’s take a look at that first question.
Tom Wilson fought seven times this year in the regular season. The Capitals were 4-1-2 in those games. Done, success…no there is more to it.
I want to first mention that seven games is a small sample size and this is going to mostly show correlation and any causation that is inferred is not conclusive.
In those seven games, in gameplay prior to the fight, the Capitals were operating at a 44.8 shot attempt percentage. The opponent fired 198 shots toward the Capitals net to only 161 for the Caps.
After the fight, in the time remaining in each period that the fight occurred in, the Capitals achieved a 61.7 shot attempt percentage, 82 shot attempts for the Caps compared to only 51 for the opposition. I chose the time remaining in the period somewhat arbitrarily, but it makes sense that any boost from a fight may be wiped out by a period break and would be temporary at the least. Here is a nice table to consult:
|Shot Attempts For/60||56.62||50.11||73.13|
|Shot Attempts Against/60||55.30||61.62||45.48|
So, before the fights, the Caps were playing worse than their season averages in both shot attempts for and shot attempts against per sixty minutes. In the minutes after the fight, they really ramped up their shot attempts for and even slowed the opposition at the same time. That difference is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, it is staggering.
That isn’t all. Three of the fights occurred in the first period. The Caps went on to win all three games against the Lightning, the Canadiens, and the Bruins. One in the second period against the Kings ended in a Capitals win. One of the fights occurred later in the third period in a 4-1 loss to the Sabres. Two of the fights spurred multi-goal comebacks for the Caps, though. Against the Flames, the Caps scored two third period goals following a Wilson fight to force OT. In March, the Caps came from three goals down to force OT against the Kings after a Wilson fight.
It is important to note that due to the duality of a fight this would not be seen throughout the league. If one team received a boost from a fight, it meant that the other received the opposite. Likely teams and even individuals are affected differently when a teammate fights, so it may be interesting to look at individuals before and after and other teams.
Like I said before, this is a small sample size and nothing can be concluded from this, but I find it interesting that the Caps got a boost from Wilson fights this year, and many hypotheses and conclusions have been made from smaller sample sizes. I wonder if the same can be said following Michael Latta fights, or anyone else on the Caps for that matter.
Keep dropping them Tommy Boy. They love you for it.
What’s the bigger driver of his impact: Wilson’s self-discipline or his league-wide reputation? Without being able to draw penalties, what is Tom Wilson’s primary on-ice contribution to the Caps? What is fair compensation on his next contract? …And, oh yeah, is he a bust?
Read more: Japers’ Rink
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