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Player Grades: Where I differed from everyone else in grading the Tampa Bay Lightning

My grades were pretty close to the rest of the overall grades, but there were a few differences that stood out.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning season ended, and it was time to grade how the players did last season. So we polled Raw Charge readers to get an idea of how everyone out there felt about the players’ performance, and I was a little bit surprised that my grades mostly lined up with everyone‘s.

Out of 25 players, I had six players with the same grades, seven players one grade off, nine players two grades off, and three players three grades off. For reference, I had seven players that got into the As, 14 in the Bs, three in the Cs, and a single player got a D.

What I want to focus on are those three players where I more significantly disagreed with the readers. For my grading process, I used a B as my “performed as expected” mid-point and went from there. I tried my best to think back to the beginning of the season to what my expectations were for each player to grade them. For a couple players, I had to extrapolate that a bit because I didn’t expect them to be in the NHL, like Anthony Cirelli, or weren’t with the team to start the season, like J.T. Miller and Louis Domingue. For those players, I based it on my expectations when they made their way to Tampa Bay.

Playoff performance was weighted into my grading, but was not a huge component. I feel it’s unfair to a player to tank their grade based on just a handful of games in the way I believe some readers have done.

Yes, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov didn’t show up on the scoreboard in the last two games of the playoffs. For me, that does not take away from their outstanding regular seasons where both exceeded my expectations and got an A and A+ grade from me respectively.

Contract status and salary also played no impact on my expectations. I understand that for many readers, there are disagreements with a number of contracts and that colors their perception and expectations for a player. I take the position that while salary considerations are obviously important in roster construction, it doesn’t impact my expectations on the ice.

If I did, it would mean that every player on an entry level contract that put up more than 10-15 points would be an A. Normally a player making around $1 million in salary wouldn’t be expected to put up much more than that. On the other hand, Ryan Callahan is obviously overpaid for his contributions, but my expectations for his performance are not based on his salary that says he should be putting up 60 points as a top forward.

Alex Killorn

Geo Grade: A-
Reader Grade: B-

Killorn is often a target of anger for Lightning fans on social media. He’s a streaky scorer (and always has been in his career) and that leads to shouts about him disappearing. That conveniently ignores the stretches where he gets hot and puts up points in bunches. I think that, combined with his sub-par playoffs and his contract led Lightning fans to feel he did not live up to expectations.

From my perspective, I expected Killorn to put up around 15 goals and 40 points. He’s been a very consistent player in his final season totals throughout his whole career. In his four previous full seasons, he averaged 16.25 goals, 22.5 assists, and 38.75 points over 78.75 games. Only one season did he have less than 81 games played when he had 71 games in 2014-15. He played in 82 games this season with 15 goals, 32 assists, and 47 points setting career highs in assists and points.

For me, Killorn exceeded expectations and exceeded them far enough for him to get an A-. That’s also combined with the fact that he mostly played a third line role throughout the year and put up second line points. I see a lot of people calling Killorn “just a third liner,” but that does him a disservice and doesn’t reflect his actual performance in the league.

If you assume a perfectly even distribution of talent across the league, then the top six forwards for every team should make up the top 186 forward scorers in the league. Killorn ended up tied for 111th in forward scoring making him equivalent to a #4 forward on an NHL team. Going backwards from the current season he has finished t-156th, t-129th, t-135th, t-120th, and t-166th. Not a single finish outside of the top 186 forward scorers.

Yanni Gourde

Geo Grade: A+
Reader Grade: B+

This one is interesting to me from the readers. I would have figured he would have been graded higher because of his excellent performance through the whole season. Especially when you consider that he was a rookie and has a cheap contract at $1 million. As I said, his salary doesn’t play into my expectations, but he still exceeded my expectations by a large margin.

We knew that Gourde was a big scorer in the AHL. He had shown it over a number of years and in 2016-17 had gotten especially hot for the Syracuse Crunch. That led to his 20 game stint in Tampa Bay when injuries decimated the NHL roster. In those 20 games, he picked up six goals and two assists for eight points. He also had a penchant for scoring goals in big moments and that had fans very excited for him at the end of last season.

While I was impressed by his goal scoring, he was a player that I had expected to be more even in his offense from a goals-versus-assists standpoint. My expectation was that he’d be primarily a third liner that played on the second power play unit. I had him penciled in for around 15 goals and 30-35 points. I would have been quite happy with that kind of production. The overall points would have been in line with the point production he had in his 20-game stint, but with a more even goals-to-assists ratios like he had in the AHL.

With 25 goals, 39 assists, and 64 points, Gourde completely blew away my expectations. He provided two-way play proving to be one of the Lightning’s most defensively responsible forwards while performing offensively. He also showed his flexibility playing on both wings and center every where from the first line to the third line.

Unfortunately, he didn’t keep up his offensive production in the playoffs and whiffed on a couple chances late in the series against the Washington Capitals and I think that played into at least some reader opinions on him. Again though, a couple games does not tank my opinion of his overall season where he completely surpassed my expectations.

Victor Hedman

Geo Grade: B
Reader Grade: A

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the differential in this grade. For me, Hedman met expectations. I expected him to be around the 55-60 point mark. While I hoped he would get back up to the 70 point plateau once again on the way to a Norris Trophy, I wasn’t expecting it. He had benefited a lot from the power play and I thought that his production there might come down a bit.

Hedman actually set a new career high with 17 goals after setting a high of 16 goals last season. His assist total came down though and he finished the season with 63 points. For much of the first half of the season, Hedman was carrying around Jake Dotchin. Later in the season after Dotchin fell out of favor with the coaching staff and Ryan McDonagh was acquired, he spent more time carrying Dan Girardi.

It doesn’t take away from a great season where he once again was a Norris Trophy finalist. But I think for me, the expectations for him at this point are to have Norris caliber seasons. His point production ended up right around my expected numbers. If he had gotten into the 70 point plateau or had a Brent Burns-esque goal total or had been the runaway, without a doubt favorite to win the Norris Trophy, I would have been giving him an A grade.