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Is Ryan Getzlaf capable of a rebound season?

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The Ducks captain is coming off the worst season of his career. How much can he contribute in the Ducks transition this year?

Calgary Flames v Anaheim Ducks Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf has been the primary driver of the Ducks offense for almost a decade now. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: as Getzlaf goes, so do the Ducks.

At no point has that been truer than this last season. As far as results go, Getzlaf had his worst season since his rookie year with just 48 points (14G, 34A) in 67 games played. His on-ice play driving was also the worst it’s ever been.

Ryan Getzlaf shooting metrics. Data for chart courtesy of corsica.hockey.

While his shot attempts were about average on the season, his goals for, scoring chances, and high danger chances were all career lows.

Data for chart courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.

As you can see, Getzlaf hasn’t been below break-even in any major play driving category since 2012. The sharp drop-off in production from the captain has begun to set off some alarm bells as to whether or not this could be the new norm for the 34-year-old center.

On the other hand, pretty much every other skater on the team had an awful year as well. And the last significant drop in production came during the 2011-2012 season, which was, maybe not coincidentally, the season Randy Carlyle was first fired.

I started the article with this phrase but I believe it bears repeating: as Getzlaf goes, so do the Ducks. Most fans can see this through the eye test.

Well guess what? The numbers back it up too.

Data for chart courtesy of corsica.hockey.

Other than the first two years of his captaincy, Getzlaf’s expected goals for percentage curve is almost identical to Ducks expected goals for percentage as a whole.

So what does this mean for the captain and the team behind him? Are they screwed in the offensive department until they can find someone who can prove that they drive play as well as he does? Or was last year an unfortunate dip brought about by poor health and bad coaching?

Right out of the gate, we have an encouraging sign that Getzlaf could bounce back this upcoming season. Last year, he was the unfortunate recipient of an on-ice shooting percentage of 7.88% and an on-ice save percentage of .902 for a dismal .981 PDO. Keep in mind an average PDO (more or less a number that measures “luck”) is 1.000, so this number should come back up as the on-ice shooting and save percentages rebound to average rates.

Additionally, Getzlaf being just above breakeven on on-ice shot attempt numbers and isolated impact still indicate that he can lead the Ducks in offensive production.

Getzlaf is only a season removed from a 60+ point season and only two seasons removed from a 70+ point season. And although he is at the age where most NHLers start slowing down significantly, he is not exactly the average player. Most players shot rates steadily decline as they age, which leads to overall decreased production. Getzlaf’s shot rates, however, have not shown any significant signs of slowing when looking at his PDO.

Our knowledge so far:

  1. With Getzlaf on the ice last year, shots attempts were still being produced at a decent rate.
  2. On-ice scoring chances were way down.
  3. His PDO was in the gutter.

It’s important to note that Getzlaf’s individual shooting percentage last season was 10.5%, just under his career average of 11.5%. So it seems as if he may not be the problem.

Was it coaching? Unfortunately, I will admit that I don’t have the data powers to try and adequately prove or disprove the effect of coaching on Getzlaf’s performance last season. In fact, I’m not sure we will be able to prove that until we get access to the player and puck tracking tech debuting next season (even though that likely won’t happen for several years).

The eye test, along with the mountains of data we have essentially proving that Randy Carlyle has not been a good coach in a long time indicates that this definitely could have been a significant contributing factor in Getzlaf’s down season. How much of an impact it had, however, is difficult to quantify.

Something we can look at, however, are the performances of Getzlaf’s most common linemates when on the ice with him.

A chart of the effect Ryan Getzlaf had on skaters on the ice with him last season.

Getzlaf’s most common linemate last season was, you guessed it, Rickard Rakell. These two have formed one of the most lethal scoring duos in the NHL over the past few seasons, last year notwithstanding. As you can see from the chart (if you squint, as one of the Rakell data points is obscured on the bottom by 33), last season Rakell was not good with Getzlaf on the year as a whole.

However, his next most common linemates were Pontus Aberg, Ondrej Kase, and Nick Ritchie. And as we can see, all three of them were dramatically better with Getzlaf on the ice than without. Even Daniel Sprong turns into a tremendously fun player skating alongside Getzlaf

With Rakell’s shooting percentage rebounding in the last month of the season, it’s reasonable to assume that even he will return to being an effective battery mate for the captain next year in an effort to generate more offense for a team that is in desperate need of it.

The hallmark of a great hockey player is that they make those on the ice with them better. Getzlaf has done this for his entire career, and even with the down personal year as far as the scoresheet is concerned, it’s apparent that he still had the ability to elevate the play of his teammates.

Getzlaf may not have had the point totals we have become accustom to, but his shot rates (4.48% above the Ducks average) and ability to make his teammates better on a team that suffered from a combination of relentless injuries as well as poor coaching bely desperately needed good news for the team. The Ducks captain and most important skater could be in for a rebound as he continues he march towards his place as the Anaheim Ducks greatest player.