Since GeoFitz posted a Victor Hedman Appreciation Station earlier this week, I feel like we should have one on Brayden Point as well. Why post it today? Well, because it’s the one-year anniversary of Point ending our summer-long regional nightmare by agreeing to a three-year bridge contract and keeping him in a Tampa Bay Lightning uniform through the 2021-22 season.
Oh no, that’s only two more seasons. Is it too early to panic? Feels like it might be too early. What if he decides to hold out for real this time? What about an offer sheet with some real teeth behind it? Start working on the new deal now.
While today is the one year anniversary of the announcement of the deal, it would be another couple of weeks before Point took to the ice in an official game as he didn’t make his debut until October 10th, the Lightning’s fourth game of the season (typical athlete, gets paid and stops playing). Actually, he was still recovering from off-season hip surgery to repair labral tears in both hips that had been plaguing him since 2017-18. In his first game he didn’t show any signs of being rusty as he potted two goals and added an assist.
Things would slow down for him a bit, as he only scored two more times over the next fourteen games, but wasn’t everything “slow” for the Lightning during that time frame? Like the rest of the team he heated up as the calendar swapped over to 2020 and ended up with 64 points (25 goals, 39 assists) in 66 games.
While those numbers didn’t reach the heights of his 2018-19 (91 points in 79 games) there were some signs he was becoming a more complete player. Of the 41 goals he scored in the previous year, 20 came on the power play (49%). He “only” scored 25 this season, but just 8 of those came with the man-advantage (32%). He also recorded 39 assists, his second highest total in his career.
The underlying numbers show that while he might not have produced as many points, he was slightly better at possession. In 2019-20 he set career highs in CF at 54.6%, Fenwick at 54.6%, and face-off percentage at 51.1%. Those are some pretty good numbers and justified his spot on the top line with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, the so-called “Nuclear Option” in the Lightning’s offense.
With the new contract, new expectations set in and during the regular season, it was a decidedly mixed result. The prolific numbers weren’t there, but he still was the best player not named Kucherov on most nights during the second half of the season. While on his entry-level contract not only was he an up-and-coming superstar, he was provided the best value per dollar in the league.
Cost per point is an interesting “stat” that you can search on CapFriendly. It’s super simple - take the player’s cap hit and divide it by the number of points they put up in the season. Basically what you find out is that teams get a lot of value on players that are still on their entry level contract. Brayden Point is a prime example of this.
In 2017-18 he had the fourth lowest cost per point at $10,404 (66 points on a cap hit of $686,667). The next season he was even more valuable to the bottom line putting up 92 points against that same $686.667 cap hit for a bargain rate of $7,463 per point. That was the lowest cost per point a player has put up since 2011-12 (which is the furthest back Cap Friendly goes back with this information).
With a new contract and slightly fewer points his number this season sky-rockets to $105,468 per point, good for 284th in the league. That’s still in basically the top third of the league and theoretically a better value than Patrick Laine ($107,142), Taylor Hall ($115,384), Artemi Panarin ($122,556), and Nick Bjugstad ($2,050,000).
Of course, even with a price tag that’s almost $20 million higher over it’s entire term than his rookie deal, Point’s contract is still a deal. If you don’t think so, ask a Maple Leaf fan about Mitch Marner’s contract that was signed in the same summer as Point’s.
You literally can’t calculate the monetary value he’s providing in the playoffs (mainly because we don’t know how much of the bonus pool they’ll be splitting). Statistically it’s a little easier to appreciate what he’s done. If we want to keep it simple (which is how I always like to keep things), so far he’s missed two games and the Lightning have lost both of them. Ergo, he’s quite important.
If it wasn’t for Nikita Kucherov’s 28 points (and two more games played) Point would be leading the league in points with 26. He does lead the league with 10 goals (well, along with Joe Pavalski and Bo Horvat).
Why, though? I’m sure scouts and experts can talk about how he skates and the angles he takes attacking, but to a layperson such as myself, he just seems faster than everyone else out there, especially when he has the puck. It’s one thing to be fast skating in a straight line (Dmitri Afanasenkov comes immediately to mind), but it’s another to do it while you have the puck in game situations.
Players who haven’t seen him before take angles to shut him down thinking they’re going to beat him to a certain spot and he just skates by them and into open ice. It’s hard to forget him splitting the Bruins defense a few postseasons ago and making future Hall-of-Famer Zdeno Chara look foolish, and that was before the hip operations.
His speed is an asset in other areas as well, mainly puck retrieval in the offensive zone. When the Lightning power play is hopping, they are beating other teams to rebounds and loose pucks along the boards. That gets their opponents out of their set positions, starts opening up gaps that allow the seam passes to go through and that leads to easy goals. Point is usually at the forefront of that secondary effort, swooping in to pick up the loose pucks and cycle them back up to Victor Hedman or Mikhail Sergachev to start the puck movement all over again.
It also backs defenders off of him when he’s entering the zone. After getting burnt once or twice, or seeing their teammates skated around, a defenseman is going to retreat back towards his goal to at least stay between Point and the danger areas. That allows the young forward options, and offensive players are always dangerous when they have options. He can keep driving the net and try to force a shot in. Point can also pull up and snap a wrister, using the defender as a screen. A third option might be to hit a trailing teammate behind him who has a different angle on the shot. Worst case scenario, he slams on the breaks and waits for the rest of his merry band of Lightning teammates to join him in the offensive zone for passing and scoring festivities.
For someone who has never been described as having a top-tier shot, he scores a lot of goals. And a lot of them come from close quarters, which is impressive for someone listed at 5’10 (my size!) and 166 lbs (not even close to my weight). Point has that prenatural knack for finding the soft spots in front of the net where defenders aren’t (even if he has to battle his way to get there) and his release is impressively quick. That’s why the shot from the slot on the power play is usually so effective for him. If he’s open, a defender isn’t getting in the way before it’s off his stick and heading towards the net.
Goal No. 10 of these #StanleyCup Playoffs for Brayden Point!— NHL (@NHL) September 22, 2020
: https://t.co/aJBVd9MbOa @NHLonNBCSports
: https://t.co/eVCyWTbCNm @Sportsnet pic.twitter.com/ZeH4Z2cV1z
Yes, this actually hits a Dallas stick and catches Anton Khudobin by surprise, but it still shows how quick his release is as well as the trust he has in Nikita Kucherov to put the puck where it needs to be. His stick is in position and primed to go before the pass even comes. And he doesn’t blast at it. Point takes a nice controlled shot, focused on accuracy over power.
Part of the reason he’s been so dominant in the playoffs is that he finally had time to heal a little bit (yes that’s odd knowing that he is battling some type of lingering injury) from the off-season surgery. Rehab isn’t the same as preparing for a hockey season and the season kind of wore on Point a little bit. Having a few months off between the regular season and the playoffs allowed him to rest and recover. Once the gates opened back up on The Restart he started skating circles around everyone else on the ice and hasn’t stopped since.
Without his play this off-season the Lightning aren’t playing for the Stanley Cup right now. That’s what we appreciate most about Brayden Point.