We are now twenty games into the 2021-22 season, so it’s time for us to see where we stand. There will be a bunch of nerdy analysis stuff coming up, but I want to start with the most important dimension of Capitals hockey: feelings.
Here now is the executive summary for the first happiness survey of the season. About two thousand respondents scored each Capitals player from 1 to 5, with five meaning that the respondent is very happy that the player is on the team. The results may shock you.
Here’s how the question was worded:
On a scale from 1 to 5, how HAPPY are you to have this player on the team?
1 means VERY UNHAPPY TO HAVE THEM ON THE TEAM
2 means UNHAPPY
3 means NEITHER HAPPY NOR UNHAPPY
4 means HAPPY
5 means VERY HAPPY TO HAVE THEM ON THE TEAM
I have subjectively grouped the results into tiers.
Below, each player is listed with their average score and their standard deviation. A bigger average score means fans are happier to have that player on the team. A bigger standard deviation means there is more disagreement about the player. Here we go.
The tier with Alex Ovechkin in it.
Only one in every twenty voters gave Alex Ovechkin less than a five. Eleven people gave him a one; so they’re either trolls or misunderstood the scale. Alex Ovechkin is playing hockey at a level that’s historically unprecedented for his advanced, disgusting age (36 years, 69 days / younger than me). This is the highest Ovechkin has ever placed on the happiness survey; last time he was 4.69 ± 0.69. I am not making this up.
The tier with a bunch of premium studs who are profoundly loved by you.
Martin Fehervary is the big surprise here. The 22-year-old has finally emerged from a two-year-long campaign to hide him from the league, and his debut has been solid. He’s seen big minutes as a near-constant partner of John Carlson, who is further down the list.
This is the tier with cool dudes who are just below the threshold to become a stud. Still widely liked players though.
Last time we did the survey, Evgeny Kuznetsov was a 2.22. The Kuznetsov comeback szn is in full effect, as he’s nearly doubled his average score. Only thirteen people were grumpuses.
These are just some guys who are neither widely loved nor reviled.
Now I'm surprised. Goalie Vitek Vanecek somehow places 0.3 points above Ilya Samsonov despite the timing of this survey coming one day after Samsonov completed two consecutive shutouts. I'm a bit surprised that Trevor van Riemdsyk places so low despite coming into his own this season as a full-time defender, leading the whole blue line in on-ice shot-attempt percentage. I suppose this is a good time to remind myself that we all grade on a curve, and these "just some guys" are still above an average score of four.
Here are four guys under an average score of four.
Ilya Samsonov pitched two straight shutouts and yet our happiness ratings still put him in "prove it" mode. He's up from last time (3.25 ± 0.89),but I have a hard time imagining him staying put here. I think he'll either be north of four next time we meet or he'll be back around the low threes. Is an end to the goalie drama finally coming?
Lars Eller had a rough start to his season, going goal-less until November 11. With so many absences, I think our voters might be expected the center to pick up a bit more scoring slack.
The tier with Carl Hagelin in it.
Nine Caps forwards have played more than 200 minutes this season. Of them, Carl Hagelin ranks last in all-situation individual expected goals (2.24). He also ranks last in actual individual goals (0). Hagelin's never had much finish to his game, but now he's got a bad habit of putting the Caps on the penalty kill (1.35 minor penalties per hour, behind only Orlov for the team lead), where he wouldn't be around to help out. All of that would be a bit easier to swallow if Hagelin weren't paid well above his grinder role ($2.75 million). The Caps need more from Hagelin, and you all know it.
These guys don't fit in.
I love that Nicky Backstrom is still a beloved player as he takes his time to recover from his long-nagging hip injury. Zach Fucale got a shutout in his only NHL appearance. Anthony Mantha has hardly suited up. Aliaksei Protas is still making his early impressions. I think we're all okay punting on these fellows.
More twenty-games-in stuff coming soon.
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