Michael Grabner Was Supposed to Regress – What Happened

December 9, 2017, by

It’s something many of us know-it-all number crunchers said: Michael Grabner simply wouldn’t be able to score this year the way he did last year. It tied into laments about the state of the forward corps, the fact that the Rangers didn’t offload him to a real contender (or some wannabe) at the deadline for a million first round picks, and came with an air of certainty often attributed to smugness by those less inclined to numbers. Well, it’s safe to say us spreadsheet samurai were wrong, and Michael Grabner is at least so far putting on a repeat performance. So what’s going on there?

First of all let me just say this – I’m happy to be wrong, and I’d imagine I speak for pretty much all of us in that regard. Nonetheless, it is something of a curiosity, because last year he finished the season with an individual shooting percentage (at even strength too, so no shorthanded or empty net situations inflating the numbers here) of 16.28%. To put it a little bit more intuitively, he was getting a goal more than every ten shots, which, even by Alain Vigneault standards, is high.

In terms of actual goals and assists, he had 21 of the former and 8 of the latter for a total 29 points and, astoundingly, only two of those points was a secondary assists. Normalized for ice time, his primary points per 60 minutes (although I suppose you could just do points per 60 anyways, because of how many of those were primary points) was a rock solid 1.8 – basically if you left him on ice all game he’d put up at least one and closer to two points. That’s uh, pretty good.

This year he’s been a scoring machine as well, and that’d not even getting into his prolific empty net scoring, one of the quirkiest fun facts in the modern NHL (just for comparison’s sake, the only Ranger with more empty netters over the course of his career is Mark Messier, with 11 to Grabner’s 10). He’s got 7 goals and 2 assists, and again, an incredibly high ratio of primary points to overall points – just one of those points is a secondary assist (and remember, this is all 5v5). He’s scoring at a rate of 1.52 primary points per 60 minutes, so even if he’s “regressing” as all of us nerdniks claimed he’s not regressing by much.

It’s also worth noting his shooting percentage – his individual shooting percentage is 15.91 percent – so it’s not really his scoring that’s keeping his numbers down. More likely, it’s his time on ice per game, which last year was 11.85 minutes at even strength per game and this year is 11.24. It’s not really a huge difference, but then again neither is the difference between 1.8 primary points per 60 and 1.52 primary points per 60, nor is the difference between a 16.28 shooting percentage and a 15.91 shooting percentage; basically if he were playing just a little bit more per game and getting a little bit luckier in that time he’d be putting up last year’s numbers.

As far as his underlying numbers go, they’re actually a little bit better this year. Last year he had a 44.84 CF% and a -4.21 relative CF%, where as this year his two most basic measures of how well things are going on ice are 46.25 and -1.85. Going a little bit deeper his xGF% last year was 46.83 and -3.39 relative, while this year it’s 48.21 and a marginally positive 0.23. This isn’t too much of a shock – he typically generates high quality chances, not volume.

For those a little less inclined to the numbers, who need a more concrete look at things, here’s Grabner’s goals from last year via (which you should all be patrons of so you can access these cool graphs and stuff showing every player’s goals and shots from like the past ten years – it’s only 5 dollars!).

And here’s this years so far.

It’s interesting actually – it appears he’s scoring less of those in-close, rush-based goals and actually shooting more from the outside. Imagine if he gets back on those odd-man rushes? Things could go from great to … great? I’m not sure how he could be more productive but if he were then look out. Even if the Rangers don’t make the playoffs this year, or, decide that they’re a little more “rebuild” and a little less “on the fly”, then they could take home a haul now that they’ve established he’s no fluke.

In the end these are happy problems to have – Michael Grabner was supposed to be a one-hit wonder, but actually has turned out to be the real deal (or at the very least a repeat performer). What’s going on there is hard to pin down exactly, but it speaks to the common understanding that Alain Vigneault’s teams typically score a lot of goals, and along with that have high shooting percentages. One thing is clear – he hasn’t regressed.

"Michael Grabner Was Supposed to Regress - What Happened", 5 out of 5 based on 7 ratings.
Categories : Players


  1. Spozo says:

    Vegas also thought he was going to regress by not selecting him in the expansion draft. I’m sure they would rather Grabner and his 14 goals right now than Lindbergh’s 6.

    • Richter1994 says:

      that team is something huh? I think everyone is waiting for the bubble to burst but now they are starting to get their goalies back. Nice story so far.

      • upstatetom says:

        yep, shows what you can do when you really put out a constant EFFORT !!

        • Richter1994 says:

          Very true, what little I have seen of them, they do play hard.

          I was at the Halloween game when they played the Rangers, and they were kicking the Rangers’ butts for the first 40 minutes, and then the 3 games in 4 nights kicked in and so did having their 4th string goalie playing that night.

          That’s the only reasons why the Rangers ended up winning the game.

    • Lace says:

      I’m sure they are pretty happy with a 4th Line centerman with 6 goals right now on a ELC in Vegas but I felt it hurt our center depth loosing Lindberg.
      On this post, when hearing all the stats Grabner has put up this season as opposed to last got me back a little brain power. From one fan of stats to another, I would be curious to know what the NHL average is of a defensive zone start that resulted in a shot attempt for and of course the opposite. An offensive zone start that resulted in a shot against. With enough data I think we could discern quality of a player or teams season from previous ones as well as future. I’m sure there is something similar already if this data is not available for consumption right now.
      When some stats are so close as in Grabners last 2 seasons possession numbers, maybe they would provide another POV for us.

  2. Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

    As I said on the other page, Grabner is the best dollar for dollar value signing in modern Rangers history. It will be very interesting to see what he commands as a UFA this summer and whether the Rangers will want to spend a significant portion of their cap space in order to retain him. Based on the their thought process when Hagelin was about to hit FA, and looking at some of the decisions the Rangers will need to make with Hayes, Miller, Vesey, Skjei, and Nash, I suspect the answer sadly will be no—he will not be a Ranger next season.

    • RichS says:

      That’s why I advocated signing him to a reasonable 3 year contract BEFORE this season, BUT NO…..many here including Gorton was sure he was going to regress…….just shows many times the fans, incl you and I do KNOW more than these so-called experts……………would have saved rangers some money…….and locked up a very good player— cheap…..
      NOW… the time to resign Miller, Hayes and Vesey while they are all having sub-par years……..but just like grabner we will soon, next year or sooner I hope… we will be saying how good these guys are ……..
      Sjkel……he will cost big money when ever he is due for raise….Nash, who is terrific, our best all around player……either sign for discount or he leaves…….

      • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

        Rich, glad to see you kicked your Captain Hyperbole alter ego to the curb, at least for today. Tell him to stay away. This version of you is far more sensible. I mean, yesterday’s post about Hunwick and Staal, I thought you had finally lost it and the men in the white coats had come for you! 🙂

        Seriously, while I don’t 100% agree with this post above, this at least makes some sense. Credit where credit is due. You advocated all along for Grabner. I certainly did not see any way he would replicate his amazing first season with the Rangers, but he has. So credit to you for seeing it.

        I said this the other day, if there was such a thing as an award for the best third line player in hockey, he would have to be right there in the running. And if there was an award for the MV3LP (Most Valuable 3rd Line Player), given our lack of legit top line talent, Grabner would have to be the guy.

        Now, that being said, I still advise caution here. Grabner has scored a significant portion of his goals when the net is empty, so his stats this year are a bit of an aberration. And, where I think you are being too simplistic in your analysis of how best to manage the cap. Teams don’t usually double down on signing third line guys, even a great one like Grabner, to big raises and long term deals—especially given what his age would be at the conclusion of such a deal. You do that IF you have enough cap space to work with and you are that one piece away from winning it all. Will the Rangers be in that position next season?

        Signing Miller, Hayes and Vesey are extremely likely. You can’t let them walk for nothing and they won’t. Whetehr they are having an off season or not, they all will command raises of varying degrees—especially Hayes and Miller. They won’t come as cheap as you think. They all are potentially tradeable assets though. I’d have no problem dealing any of them however for the right return. I am not at all sold on your “elite beast” description of any of them.

        I have great respect for your knowledge (well, when you are being Rich and not CH), and yes, there are many knowledgeable fans out here who know their stuff. But trust me on this, managing the cap is far more complicated that you realize. There’s a reason why GMs are paid what they are paid. Are they always right? Of course not. But simply saying sign all these guys that you are suggesting without considering all the ramifications of doing so would surely not get you a GM job on any NHL team, that’s for sure.

        • RichS says:

          I caution you, just because I post some ”’more reasonable ”’ comments does not mean that I haven’t lost it……many close lifelong friends question if I ever ”had it ” to begin with…..I blame it on the mercury fillings!!!!!
          With the cap going up NOW is the time to sign those 3…..before some team overpays them when they hit FA…. I have had to downgrade all 3 to ”’potentially elite beasts”’ especially Miller who plays terrific and drives play …. EXCEPT he cant score!!!! Maybe back to hayes wing???????
          Like Buch this year, I thought Miller ”got it” last year but where are the goals……..
          And yes, I really dont count empty netters……but even without, grabner has played very well since game 1…..and missed many scoring opportunities , like nash, the first 10 games……

  3. supermaz says:

    I think the Rangers need to do everything they can to resign Grabner. He has proven to be more valuable a player than Miller, Kreider, Hayes, or Vesey. I don’t care about the age, give him 3 or 4 years @ 4.5 million per, that should keep him here.

  4. Ranger17 says:

    Think they should give Fast a game or 2 on the PP in Ovi’s spot while he is hot and Z is recuperating . Please take DD off the PP he seems to always being thrown out of the face off don’t know what the problem is there with him .
    We need a 3C and a 1st pair D man to contend for the Cup this year , with out giving up to much to get it

  5. Bloomer says:

    Grabs has had big scorings years throughout his career. Like most hockey players he went into a scoring drought when he put on a Maple laff uniform. He would be great trade bait should the Rangers find themselves sellers at the trade deadline.

  6. Peter says:

    I’ve often complained and been amazed how the stats guys around here have been so blind regarding Grabner. Go take a look at his career stats. First off, his career avg. shooting percentage is 13%. Secondly, his year in Toronto is the only full season that he shot under 10%, and that was a terrible Leafs team. He’s shot over 14% in three seasons and shot at over 15% in the playoffs last year.

    The reason for his success here? Give AV credit for deploying him properly most of the time. I’d argue that he could use a little more ice time, but things have worked out well so far. Most of all, give Grabner credit for his hard work. As far as empty netters are concerned, isn’t that something any team wants to do, bury the other team when they opt to pull the goalie and put 6 skaters on the ice trying to tie the game?

    While Grabner is definitely a role player, he is a weapon to be worried about by the other team. The guy has been huge. I don’t know if they can afford to keep him, but his time here has been something to be very happy about.

    • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

      Whatever you do, do NOT give AV any credit. That is not permitted here. We all know that all the players succeed in spite of their clueless coach, or so we’ve been led to believe. 🙂

      • Peter says:

        Ha 3E, I try to be balanced and somewhat objective. I’ve criticized AV (I think his prejudice against defenders and forwards carrying the puck out of the zone is ridiculous considering the offensive schemes he favors), but compared to Barry Trotz, AV is the second coming of Scottie Bowman.

  7. avsucks says:

    my great nephew huge islander fan cried when they traded him. He tweeted back to the kid told him to hang in. Great guy and a fav of my family.

  8. King Sieveqvist ! King Sieveqvist ! says:

    You can’t teach speed … hence most of goals come from

  9. bernmeister says:

    very good article.

    I did not have him pegged this year for decline
    He plays a speed game, and post 30 you do have to be careful about after next year, maybe yr after that
    But this year I expected he’d be good, and was right.

    X factor in his production is who are his linemates