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Will Eric Fehr have another breakout season?

Statistical analysis

Last season the Washington Capitals scored an impressive 313 goals with seven different 20-goal scorers, including Eric Fehr, who set career highs in goals (21), assists (18) and points (39). His 1.48 goals per sixty minutes of ice time during five on five was more than both $100 million winger Ilya Kovalchuk and Hart Trophy winner Henrik Sedin, but does this mean 2010-11 will be another breakout year for the 24-year-old former first-round pick?

Looking at Fehr's last three seasons, we see a young player on the upswing:


Season Age GP G A PTS Shots TOI
2007-08 22 23 1 5 6 40 242
2008-09 23 61 12 13 25 134 686
2009-10 24 69 21 18 39 145 837

With the youth movement underway in D.C., some are expecting Fehr to take another step forward and perhaps score 25 or more goals in 2010-11, but are those reasonable expectations?

Since 1970, we have 32 wingers with similar seasons (the "comps") to Fehr's 2009-10 campaign with their results in the following season:


Player
Age GP G A PTS Shots
Eric Fehr 24 69 21 18 39 145
32 Comps 23.9 75 21 19 41 140
32 Comps (year +1) 67 17 20 37 129

On average the comps played eight fewer games and scored four fewer goals. As a group, only 21 percent had more goals the following season, so another increase for Fehr looks unlikely.

A few things would have to go in Fehr's favor to take his game to the next level:

  • Have better success on the power play. Last year, Fehr scored only 3 power play goals with a decent amount of power-play time. There were only five 20-goal scorers with fewer PPGs than Fehr last season.
  • Stay healthy. We can see the comparable players, as a group, played fewer games the following season, and for a player like Fehr, with a history of back, hip and shoulder issues, this is not insignificant.
  • More ice time. Playing as a top-six forward on the Caps would certainly help boost his boxcar stats, but with Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann and Alexander Semin in front of him, that will be tough to do barring an injury.

Secondary scoring is going to be a key issue for the Caps in 2011, and while it would be great for Fehr to outperform his recent contract extension, it is more likely we see him turn in a 15-20 goal season.

Neil Greenberg became interested in the mathematical side of sports in 1990, when he discovered Bill James and his statistical analysis of baseball. Over the past few years, he discovered a similar community focused around hockey and started to apply those methods to the Caps in an attempt to better understand the game. Neil also writes for Russian Machine Never Breaks, and you can follow him on Twitter here.

By Neil Greenberg  | October 6, 2010; 11:27 AM ET
Categories:  Eric Fehr, Statistical analysis  
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Next: Capitals place Semyon Varlamov on injured reserve (updated)

Comments

Good analysis. He might also benefit from playing with Marcus Johansson most of the time, as opposed to Brendan Morrison. Too early to say, but that's another X factor.

Posted by: ThisGuy | October 6, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

How many times can one have a "breakout season"?

Posted by: Bagher | October 6, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

@Tom - looks like you've got some competition now for statisical analysis buddy! He doesn't think Fehr is gonna have another breakout yr yet you're very adament about it. I tend to agree with you so we'll see.

Posted by: pokerfaceI208 | October 6, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

If my desires come true and Fehr is promoted to the 2nd line in place of a traded Flash, then I expect him to have 25+ goals with the extra time with a better center and LW (Semin). I see Semin-MJ/MP-Fehr at some point this year with Laich on the 3rd line with Chimeria and MP/MJ at center.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | October 6, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I personally dont see him having another "break out" year while trapped on the 3rd line and Flush taking away his chance at playing on the 2nd. IF he can get significant playing time with Semin on the 2nd line. He could probably pot 30 goals. Otherwise, he will hover in the low 20's again. Then again, who knows until it happens right?

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | October 6, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Will Eric Fehr have another breakout season?
A: Of course he will! ...or my name ain't WTF.

This is the first one of these stat threads I have actually read all the way through.

In a nutshell, if you give this guy more ice time with good complimentary players, he will score more goals.

Incidently he looked better on ice in the preseason than he ever has in a Caps uniform, and that also is encouraging.

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | October 6, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

SAOTI, I imagine you did not like ESPN rating Semin as overrated? I disagree because Semin gets better every year and he sure sent a lot of rubber Halak's way. Had Semin had a good center last year, some would have gotten in.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | October 6, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Rhino40 | October 6, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

He is getting long in the tooth for a breakout season - he better start playing consistently, especially with the new contract. I think the fans are going to be less forgiving for him this year if he stinks it up...can anyone say Getzlaf?

Posted by: lylewimbledon | October 6, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

It's past the witching hour, is AGordon still in the organization?

Posted by: PhilR | October 6, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Nice lyrics and rhythm but too 80ish for my taste

Posted by: guer_j | October 6, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

A Gordon cleared. And for the record nobody claimed Kennedy.

Posted by: pokerfaceI208 | October 6, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Also all opening night rosters have to be established by 3pm EST today. Expect more moves.

Posted by: pokerfaceI208 | October 6, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Neil,
Why didn't you post this article BEFORE I drafted Fehr?

Stevie K.

Posted by: StevieK1 | October 6, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

That proves it -- Kennedy is a bust and GMGM is the worst GMGM evah!

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | October 6, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Then I do apologize for my rant yesterday afternoon concerning Gordon. What length contract did he sign? If it was a one year I would expect him to bolt to another team mext year where he has more of an opportunity to break the lineup.

Posted by: PhilR | October 6, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

As far as the analysis goes, how did the "comps" compare to Fehr in terms of ice time? Also, did the "comps" have the strong upward trend in terms of points and ice time that Fehr has? Or were they guys that played a lot in their younger years and then plateaued? The "analysis" looks pretty crude to me. Of course, injuries, Laich blocking him from getting more ice time, poor performance of linemates, etc., could all have adverse impacts.

Posted by: zmega | October 6, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Re: waivers - just like we're high on our prospects who had to clear waivers, the Detroit blog had some favorites. One of these is Derek Meech. Anyone know about him?

I didn't realize how much Matt Hendricks actually looks like BB! Our gritty forward is the stay-puff marshmellow man after a month at the gym.

Posted by: RedLitYogi | October 6, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

When I think of a "breakout" season, and I don't care when it happens, I think of a sudden and significant increase in production.

If a guy like Fehr goes from being a 20 goal scorer to a 30+ goal scorer...BREAKOUT.

...and if he is consistent his paycheck is gonna breakout too.

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | October 6, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

pokerface,

Sources feeding you anything or is all quiet?

Posted by: PhilR | October 6, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

@PhilR

Bob McKenzie tweeted a few minutes ago that everyone placed on waivers yesterday cleared, so it appears Andrew Gordon is off to Hershey.

Posted by: cainoo7x | October 6, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

@JIMALLCAPS

You know I stand up for my boy. I for one dont feel he is overrated in the least. He's a lethal player and brings more to the game than others give him credit for. I also imagine if you polled NHL d-men, they'd probably say seeing Semin come in on them 1v1 is the last thing they would want. :)

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | October 6, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

interesting part of the following article regarding AnGus...

"Rookie forward Anton Gustafsson was reassigned to South Carolina Sunday, but the Charleston Post and Courier reported the former first-rounder may not report to the team."

Um, ... What?

Posted by: FrankM73 | October 6, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: MReilly9 | October 6, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

lylewimbledon:
i wonder if, when discussing jessiman, ny ranger fans utter: can anyone say fehr

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | October 6, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

TSN announced their top 50 players ranking. Crosby was first, of course - they love little Cindy up in Toronto, don't they? Ovi is 2, Nick is 9, Green is 27, and Semin is 41. I couldn't find Flash on the list - I'm sure he must be there, so I will keep looking.

Posted by: zmega | October 6, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

*head collapses in dejection* Well... I guess 2 out of the 3 Swede center-men panning out is better than other teams! (provided MoJo does become a 2 or 3 Center-man for the Caps.

More fuel for the anti-GMGM masses!

I sincerely hope there is something lost in translation!

Posted by: FrankM73 | October 6, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

@zmega...don't look on the bottom 50 list, you won't find him there either...but if you read this site regularly you would think he was the worst player on the Caps since Jeff Schultz

Posted by: boomer44 | October 6, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Rhino40 | October 6, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

In order for Fehr to have a "breakout season" one of the following three things must occur first:

#1. Boudreau is fired.

#2. Fleischmann is traded.

#3. Fehr is traded.

As long as Boudreau is coaching this team and Fleischmann is on it, Fehr is not going to be given a chance to succeed.

Posted by: CapsNut | October 6, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Did people really think A. Gordon wouldn't clear waivers?

Posted by: richmondphil2 | October 6, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

"I sincerely hope there is something lost in translation!" - FrankM73

I think his skills and talent were lost in translation.

"I couldn't find Flash on the list - I'm sure he must be there," - zmega

Maybe he is using his Playoff Cloaking Device given to him by the Romulans.

Also, funny how ESPN declares Semin overrated, and TSN says he's Top 50 in the NHL.

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | October 6, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

How about no song? Or do we need a song to tell us when to cheer for a goal?

Posted by: GFisher1 | October 6, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

My question would be what are the numbers of the year - 1 and year - 2 for those 32 comperable players as well as the year + 2 and year + 3.

Also, Fehrs numbers are just as close, if not closer to the year + 1 numbers for the comperables, especially if you factor in games played.

And what is the avg TOI/game for the comperables in their seasons? Did they see an increase in TOI in year + 1 as well?

And I am also curious if Brooks Laich and Tomas Fleischmann are included in those comperables -

Laich at 24 had 21 goals 16 Assists, 37 points and went on to 23 goals, 30 Assists, 53 points the following year.

Fleischmann had 19 goals, 18 assists, 37 points at 24 and went on to have 23 goals, 28 assists 51 points the following season.

So if you look at 2 comperables who are on the same team as Fehr who were 24 just in the last 3 seasons, things look a lot better for Fehr than looking over the last 40 years at a wide variety of teams.

I personally look for Fehr to have about 22 goals, 23 assists, 45 points this season.

Posted by: piratusus | October 6, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

OMG...A GORDON CLEARED WAIVERS! THE CAPS FUTURE IS SAVED!!!!!

Some of you are so overdramatic about the weirdest things.

A Gordon is an AHL lifer. The NEW Alexander Giroux of the Bears.

And Fehr--will get hurt (again) and will not come close to 20 goals again.

I like him but he is a combination of Fleishman and B Gordon. Some skill, but likes the smell of the first aid room.

And Gus...see ya! Join the list of former NHL players sons who couldn't live up to their fathers.

Posted by: SoaringCaps | October 6, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

@ zmega..

Green and Semin are on that list?

Green shouldn't be, unless he is listed as a forward.

Semin shouldn't be, unless he is being graded on his ability to draw, I mean, TAKE offensive zone lazy penalties.

Posted by: SoaringCaps | October 6, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

One of these is Derek Meech. Anyone know about him?

_________________________

Soft, bottom pairing type of guy. We have no use for him.

Posted by: richmondphil2 | October 6, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

My lines...

8/19/22
21/90/28
25/hendrix/16
King/39/10

Our defense is INSTANTLY upgraded this year! Though I think Schultz's true colors will shine through...

But Alzner and Carlson should have made the team LAST YEAR! :)

Posted by: SoaringCaps | October 6, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

@Gfisher1:

You may be right...still, I think it would be a great tune to hear at some point in the building.

Posted by: Rhino40 | October 6, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

wooooo
sahhhh

...i will ignore the lunatics
...i will ignore the lunatics

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | October 6, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

A couple of guys were claimed off of waivers yesterday. Tampa claimed C Mattias Ritolla from Detroit and the Islanders claimed forward Michael Garbner from Florida.

Also, Flash being on the team is not preventing Eric Fehr from being on the 2nd line this year. Fehr is a RW and Flash will be playing center this year.

Posted by: sgm3 | October 6, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

He is getting long in the tooth for a breakout season - he better start playing consistently, especially with the new contract. I think the fans are going to be less forgiving for him this year if he stinks it up...can anyone say Getzlaf?

Posted by: lylewimbledon |

And we also picked Anton Gussy over Eberle...do you have a point to make, or are you just pointing out one of the infinite examples possible to show when a GM messed up a draft pick? (Which takes all about 5 seconds to google)

Posted by: richmondphil2 | October 6, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

PhilR - same as yesterday.

Posted by: pokerfaceI208 | October 6, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

There's a huge jump on almost every NHL team from their top two pairs and their 5-7 d-men; just because a guy has feasted off slower, less mobile d-men in the past does not automatically he'll do so in the future.

Fehr has magic hands, that's undeniable - but with his glaring lack of footspeed I just don't see him ever getting much time and space against good d-men every night, which he'd do as a top-6.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | October 6, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

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