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2020-21 Lightning Player Grades: Introduction

School’s out for the summer. But the grades are in.

2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

Welcome to the 2020-21 RawCharge Tampa Bay Lightning Player Grades series. In this series of articles, I’ll be taking a look at each player that appeared for the Lightning this season, give a quick review of their season and performance, and grade their performance. This article will serve as not only an introduction, but also as a syllabus for this course.

First off, the grading is both subjective and objective. To come up with these player grades, I’ve looked at a number of different data points while infusing my own opinions and expectations for players. in particular was of great assistance in this exercise as I was able to use their GAR (Goals Above Replacement) projections for the 2020-21 season and compare it to each player’s actual GAR for the season. This gave me a starting point from a statistical modeling perspective in evaluating how a player performed versus expectations.

I also looked at the players goal and point production. While those aren’t everything in player evaluation, they are still ultimately an important part of the outcome of games, and looking at how much a player produced compared to what I expect them to produce in a season helps me get a sense of how they performed against expectations.

The grading system is just like your normal, American school grade system going from F to A+ (or higher). I’ve also included an Incomplete (INC) for players that didn’t play enough (like Nikita Kucherov in the regular season). Grades are further broken up between the Regular Season and Playoffs. This is for two reasons. The playoffs are a completely different beast and Evolving-Hockey doesn’t have GAR Projections for the playoffs, so I have to go a little more subjective with my analysis and rely a little bit more on my gut feeling.

Some of my grades may shock you, so let me explain. A player that is performing exactly as I expected them to perform going into the season is going to get a C+. This doesn’t mean that I think they performed poorly. On the contrary, it means I think they performed exactly as they should have. If I expect Brayden Point to go out there and scored 40 goals and 85 points, and he scores 40 goals and 85 points, I expect to give him a C+ grade. That grade could fluctuate based on some other factors, but it serves to illustrate my point.

This process makes it more fair across players. Otherwise, I’d just sort by points and start giving A+ grades up top and go on down to Cs and Ds and Fs for the players that didn’t score as much. That’s not fair for a player that was expected to score, let’s say 15 points, but goes out and scores 30 points, but still ends up being the 9th leading forward in scoring. Does that player deserve to only get a C when they well outperformed their expectations? I don’t think they do. I think they performed better than their expectations, better than their average, so I want to give them a better than average grade.

Have any questions, comments, concerns, disagreements? Take them to the comments section. Would love to hear what you think on the grades. If you’re going to disagree about a particular grade, I encourage you to explain your position with supporting evidence, and to keep in mind the metric that’s being used to evaluate and grade players here; how did they perform compared to reasonable expectations for that player’s performance going into this season?