Martin Fehervary entered the COVID-19 protocol in the middle of December. When he returned, he was not the same player.
|19.7||time on ice per game|
|49.1||5-on-5 shot-attempt percentage|
|47.6||5-on-5 expected goal percentage|
|52.6||5-on-5 goal percentage|
About this visualization: This series of charts made by Micah Blake McCurdy of hockeyviz.com shows lots of information for the player over the season. A short description of each chart:
About this visualization: At three times during the season, RMNB shared an open survey with fans, asking the following question for each player:
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
The numbers above show the average score for the player in each survey period.
Prior to 2021-22, the Caps more or less hid Fehervary in the minors, presumably to keep him out of the expansion draft. That looked like a genius move when Fehervary started getting real ice time this season. He immediately looked at home in his top-pairing NHL duties.
But the season is long and hard, and the shine eventually came off Fehervary.
No, wait. “Eventually” is the wrong word.
Fehervary entered the COVID-19 protocol after the team’s December 19 game against the Los Angeles Kings. He didn’t return until the new year, and his play immediately degraded. Opponent offense in particular peaked in February (plus a late-season swoon in April), as Fehervary seemed to fall behind the play more and more.
Forgive the simplicity of this table, but I think it makes the case clear.
I worry sometimes that these numbers are little too oblique, so here’s another way of thinking about it. The 54 percent Fehervary had early in the season — that’s a bit above where the Colorado Avalanche were all season. The 44 percent he had in the back half of the season — that’s exactly what the Arizona Coyotes had all season.
So yeah, it’s the difference between being a Cup favorite and the laughing stock of the league.
I don’t know if Fehervary’s drop-off was the direct result of being sick with COVID or just one of many factors. The dramatic dropoff sure suggests it played a big part though, and maybe, perversely, we can find that encouraging? Maybe Fehervary’s recovery will be ongoing. Maybe he’ll gradually return to his original form as starkly as he fell from it.
Either way, the Capitals need to do a far better job evaluating their players. By February, Fehervary’s diminishment was apparent to pretty much everyone, but Peter Laviolette continued to use him as John Carlson’s partner in big minutes exclusively.
This was a dumb mistake that really hurt Carlson’s regular season. Here how the Capitals fared (measured in shot attempts) when Carlson and Fehervary were on the ice.
When Carlson was with anyone else, the Caps had league-best offense (think the Flames) and league-best defense (think the Bruins). I hope that’s corrective information for anyone else still seething over Carlson’s season.
But Carlson and Fehervary remained a constant pairing, which we should consider no fault of the players, but rather a profound mistake by the coaching staff. In the playoffs, Carlson and Fehervary were outscored 10 goals to 2, so that same profound mistake basically ended the Capitals season.
Marty's 1st career NHL goal came just when needed 🔥 pic.twitter.com/isOIqZR98M
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) October 23, 2021
Can Fehervary return to how he played in early 2021? If he’s not playing with Carlson, who should be? And how are you modifying your personal behavior based on changing risks of COVID-19?
Read more: Japers Rink
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