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2015 Season in Review: Emerson Etem

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Emerson Etem's last season in Anaheim brings up an interesting question: What happens when a breakout season doesn't look like a breakout season?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Emerson Etem is no longer a Duck. It's a sad fate for someone who grew up a short freeway ride from the then Arrowhead Pond, and someone who shared my second home, Long Beach!

Etem was a former first round selection for the Ducks, 29 overall. He was an elite scorer in the WHL, tallying 252 points in 202 games. His scoring talents carried over to the AHL, scoring 92 points in 119 games, and in his last two AHL seasons he put up 75 points in 72 games. Unfortunately, the scoring touch never really seemed to carry over to the NHL. Etem only has 31 points in 112 NHL games.

Perhaps Etem got run out of town because his point totals took a step back this year.  His first year Etem was on pace for 21 points, and 31 points the year after. That 31 points is pretty in line for the 12 minutes a night he was getting. This year he was on pace for 18 points- a huge reduction. However, Etem's possession metrics increased drastically. Here's the three years SF% for Etem, 46.0, 47.1, 53.1. Last year, Etem led the team in Shots For%.  The three year improvement for USAT%: 45.9, 49.0, 53.9, second on the team in unblocked shot attempt %. The three year progression in SAT%: 45.3, 47.4, 53.1, agains he was second on the team in shot attempt %.

All of Etem's NHL games occurred in the Boudreau era, so it's hard to say he benefitted from some radical system change.  The fact is he dramatically improved in terms of puck possession, but that also makes you wonder why it didn't translate into points. The easiest answer is probably puck luck. Etem had the worst PDO of any forward who logged at least 100 minutes at 96.8. The only person who finished worse in on Ice SH% was Tim Jackman. Etem's SH% was 4.94.  So, Let's do the math; At 5.0 SH%, 31.5 S/60, and 500 minutes of ice time, that's 13 even strength goals for. If you adjust to a more normal shooting percentage-I'm going to use 8% because it's between his 7.84 and 8.33 previous numbers-you get 21 ES goals for. That's a full goal more per 60 than what he posted this year. It also would have put him on the plus side of goals for %, which was his only bad stat this year. Furthermore, Etem also suffered his is worst on ice SV% this year, by about 1.8%. Overall, Etem had a pretty tough year in terms of bounces.

I know people struggle with the idea of players having unlucky years, but when a player improves in possession as drastically as Etem did, it's hard to believe that there's something seriously wrong with his game. If you check out his HERO chart over at Own The Puck, you'll see that over his 3 years he's been getting 4th line minutes while creating third line scoring output. Moreover, his SH% was so far off what he had previously put up in his NHL experience, that it's hard to believe that 5% should be the standard used to evaluate his game.

Etem15HERO

It's hard to say exactly how many points the change in SH% would have had for Etem, but it certainly would have flipped his abysmal GF%, and it would have at least shown that he could have been an ideal cheap third line winger for us next year.  Etem really did improve in pretty much everything you want a young forward to improve in, it just didn't immediately translate to output. The best explanation is probably that he had horrendous puck luck. What should be noted is that if Etem would have been allowed to log more minutes, it would have been good for the Ducks' possession numbers and probably good for the offense over the long haul. Sadly, the local kid got traded in the offseason and he will have to continue his progress in the Big Apple. Etem was one of the first players I followed all the way through the organization. He was someone I had noticed and I was ecstatic when the Ducks acquired him. I wanted Long Beach to stick around for many years. Unfortunately, I think he was sunk by an organization that didn't have the tools to see how much he was improving. Good Luck in the future Etem! You will be missed.