The Tampa Bay Lightning season is over. With a long summer ahead of us, we’re going to hand out grades to each player on the roster. You did your part submitting your grades via the reader survey, and they are presented along with our writers’ grades. All told, about 360 of you submitted grades, which is less than last season, but that’s understandable considering how the season went. Follow along with the series through the month of May and share your thoughts in the comments.
Probably no one would be surprised, but Ondrej Palat wasn’t able to play the whole season again. He played just 64 games this season, missing almost the entirety of November. Injuries have been the biggest concern over his career. He has never played all 82 games of a season with the closest being the 2013-14 season, when he played 81 games.
Looking just at points, this was his weakest season, despite playing on the top line for part of it. For the first time in his career, he didn’t reach the 10-goal mark and had just 34 points, which is one point fewer than in 2017-2018, when he played only 56 games.
Another significant fact is his ice time, which showed the biggest decrease during his career at the Lightning. He’s still getting a lot of time on the first power play unit, but his average TOI has dropped to 14:53. During previous seasons, it was always above 17 minutes. One of the reasons why he’s not getting as much ice time as he used to is the fact that he’s not playing on the penalty kill anymore. He played just 8:48 this season while shorthanded. With the increasing role of Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn, it seems like they are more effective on PK.
In terms of grades, I gave him a B-, which was the highest grade he received from writers. Most of us agreed that C+ is probably close to what deserves. As for readers, there was quite a variety of different marks: some of them gave him D grades or even an F. I guess those would be people still disappointed about the Playoff loss. On the other hand, there are people who gave him A grades. They must still be remembering the old triplet times. But the majority of people also were very critical of him and gave a grade in the C range.
As you can see from a chart above, his offensive impact were below average. That was obvious from his scoring stats, but advanced stats shine even more light on it. Palat has spent the majority of this season playing with Steven Stamkos on the first line so below average offense isn’t a good sign. With Stamkos on the ice, Palat controlled 52.05% of the shot attempts at 5v5 and without him, his percentage dropped to 48.32% The following chart also indicates how many shots were taken with or without Ondrej Palat’s presence on the ice. According to the threat indicator, the Bolts created more offence without Palat. On the other hand, his defensive stats are a little bit better. He’s not allowing a lot of chances at his own end.
His WAR indicator is also something that concerns me. He show3e the least impact since the 2012-13 season when he was a rookie and played just 14 games. It’s not something you would expect from a player who has established himself as a playmaker in previous seasons.
I’m not saying that Palat is a bad player. He has been dealing with a lot of injuries in recent seasons and I’m not able to say how much it affected his play. In my opinion, he’s still a top-6 player, the coaching staff still can rely on his defensive numbers. Hardev wrote about Tyler Johnson that he’s not looking like the 2015 Tyler Johnson. That also applies to Ondrej Palat. While Nikita Kucherov has taken a huge step forward, other triplets couldn’t stay on the same level without him.
According to CapFriendly, Ondrej Palat has four more seasons on his contract. He also has a no-trade clause that will be in effect until the 2021-22 season when he submits a 20 team list. His cap hit is $5,300,000. I don’t think that his contract is a problem yet, but it will be interesting to talk about it in a year when we’ll know whether this was just a one-year slump or if there is a long term decline in his game.