We here at Raw Charge usually like to do something every summer that celebrates all of the hard work our contributors did over the last hockey season. This summer, we decided to do a Christmas in July Secret Santa drawing. Each contributor was given the name of another and was asked to find a piece from that person to highlight from the 2017-18 season.
It wasn’t easy finding something from Tom Hunter for the Lightning this season. For some reason he decided to take the reigns of Mile High Hockey and has had his hands full corralling their stable of writers and upsetting their fan base. Yet he still found some time to keep us updated on some of the Lightning prospects as well as hazard some well thought out guesses as to whom the Lightning might draft.
So what was my favorite thing that he wrote over the last season?
Old man Seldo needs to stop acting like an old man— Boy Genius Tom Hunter (@PuckDontLie) October 3, 2017
(The rivalry between Tom and Seldo behind the scenes is quite the thing to behold and ranks as one of my favorite things to watch play out in our group Slack chats.)
Unfortunately, the powers that be have said that it has to be an actual post and not just a Tweet that we have to write about. So, I chose his breakdown of Mitch Marner and Brayden Point. I really like this piece, primarily because it seems like his idea was to try and infuriate two different fan bases with one post.
Toronto fans: “How dare you impinge the ability of one of our darling young boys!”
Tampa fans: “Why does everything have to revolve around Toronto and their players?”
The other reason I liked this was because he stepped out of what he normally provided for us—covering prospects—and delved into an analytics-driven piece between two young stars in the NHL. He nailed it.
At the time he posted this (early in the 2017-18 season), we still weren’t quite sure what Point was going to be as a player. We had a good idea that he was way more talented than most people knew, but the history of the NHL is littered with the corpses of players that have had a great first year and then faded into obscurity.
Meanwhile, Marner was a key part of the Leafs youth-led resurgence that had propelled them back into the playoffs. He had the benefit of playing in a huge media market and was seen as the better player going into the season, mainly because of the increased coverage. Considering Point was a relatively unknown third round pick playing in a smaller market, it was only reasonable that Marner would garner much of the acclaim.
Tom mentions that, and concedes that Marner may be the more dynamic offensive player, but he also emphases that Point was better defensively. He also concedes that Point’s usage by the Lightning gave him an advantage:
Looking back to the original question, it now looks like Brayden Point has a very strong chance of outproducing Marner this season. Through no fault of his own, Marner finds himself buried on Toronto’s fourth line playing about 12 minutes a game. Combine that with a hot start from the Bolts and Point has a pretty nice head start outscoring Marner 12-6 thus far.
Lightning fans agreed with Tom (as evidenced in the poll he ran at the end of the article), but overall it seems like Marner was the favorite to score more points. Click on the below Tweet to see the responses to his original Tweet:
Is it a hot take to think Brayden Point outscores Mitch Marner this season ?— Boy Genius Tom Hunter (@PuckDontLie) October 7, 2017
The majority of the responses, from a sample of fans outside of the Tampa Bay Lightning bubble, agreed in the hotness of the take that Point would outscore Marner.
The beauty of this post is that he uses stats to back up his original theory. It wasn’t just a “hot take” thrown out there without supporting evidence. He used the numbers available to show why it wouldn’t be outlandish to think that Point could outscore Marner. This is a prime example of how to use advanced stats to compare two similar players and try to predict future outcomes.
As an old man, I personally have been slow to adapt to some of the newer stats, not because I don’t think they are valuable, but because I have struggled to see them (or use them in correct context). An article like this one shows the numbers and then applies them to an argument in an understanding way. That’s not easy to do.
From an offensive standpoint, Point was very good as a rookie - Marner was great. Where Point closes the gap, however, is on the defensive side of the puck. While Marner was generating a ton of scoring chances, he was also giving them up. Point was above the 50% threshold for both CF% and xGF% at even strength, while Marner was negative in both categories. What this means is that while he is on the ice, Brayden Point was actually more beneficial to his team winning the game than Mitch Marner was - if you’re a fan of these types of metrics.
You don’t have to be a “fan” of those metrics to understand why Point was more valuable to his team then Marner. Tom spells it out using those very numbers. A lot of writers who use some of the less traditional stats just put them out there - “Point had a 52.55 CF% at 5v5” - and assumes the reader knows why that is good. In 5 years, maybe the common fan will intrinsically know what that means, but we’re not quite there yet. One of the best ways to get there is to use it as Tom does, put the number out there and explain why it makes Point more beneficial than Marner.
As for his prediction - not only did it turn out not to be a hot take, it turned out to be true. Not only did Point out-perform Marner defensively, he was also the better player offensively as well.