Paul Stastny is having a tough go of it this year. For whatever reason, most of his numbers are down. His 11 goals are right on pace, but his 10 assists and 21 points are far and away the worst numbers he's given the Avalanche. Using the brilliant game logs at hockey-reference.com, I thought it might be.... enlightening.... to look at his career in terms of goals, assists, and points per game over the last ten games. The upside of doing this is that it takes a few games to start showing change in the trend, flattening out many of the inconsistent spikes hockey is expected to produce from anybody. The downside is the same--it's a bit of a sluggish measure to show change.
After the jump: graphs, details, and speculation.2006-07
Stastny had what you might call a ridiculous rookie year. His stat line reads 28G-50A-78P, playing in all 82 games. He took part in Joe Sakic's last 100-point season. Though the graph of this season is fairly chaotic (he's a rookie), some important trends begin to emerge: hot start, cool down, respectable pace, and absolute explosion late in the year.
As with all the graphs here, the blue line corresponds to goals, red to assists, and green to points. It starts at the 10 game mark (because goals per game over the last ten games makes no sense until you've played ten games). Paul starts with a brief stint over a ppg pace, calms back down, hovers back around the same level for awhile, and then blammo, as the Avs jump into their ultimately unsuccessful playoff push, Stastny goes on a world-beating tear. That's a 20-game point streak, at the height of which he's between 1.5 and 1.6 ppg. What's most interesting to me is he isn't scoring goals in that time, as you can see by the G/10 line dropping to 0.2. It's assists. That's another important trend to watch going forward.
No sophomore slump here. Stat line: 24G-47A-71P, in only 66 games. It's not pictured in the graph but he also got his first taste of the postseason. There's also his only time with a productive Peter Forsberg, who popped in to say "oh hey guys 15 points in 9 regular season games" at the end of the year, though Forsberg didn't figure into enough of Stastny's points to be relevant.
Stastny peaked early in this season. Then he came back down to Earth hard and missed some time to have his appendix removed. A groin problem kept him out a little longer than expected, but when he did return, well, was his appendix removed for being made of kryptonite? Right back up to at one point a 1.4 points/game pace.
Ah, yes. The season in which Joe Sakic retired and the NHL declared a year off to figure out how to carry on. Some NHLers still played games of shinny or something to pass the time, and some utter nerds kept track of their numbers. Stastny played in some of those games, tallying 11G-25A-36P, but due to a couple of different injuries only made 45 of the games. No graph due to the unreliable nature of the data, the games, the teammates, the injuries...
Welcome to the Joe Sssssssacco Show. Welcome Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly. Welcome back, Old Paul Stastny. 20G-59A-79P in 81 games.
Ugh, girl look at that spring. Points in 16 of 20 games from March on (and he was scratched the last game to rest up for some playoffs action.) Not that he was a slouch when the season began either but there was that typical late-in-the-season push we're seeing over and over. Boy I don't know what the Olympics taught Mr. Walnuts but lordy be, that peak at 1.7ppg is his highest ever. The Avs may have ridden hot goaltending into the playoffs, but Stastny was a big part of it himself.
In the 2010-11 season the Pepsi Center decided it had had enough of this whole return to the playoffs thing and decided to pick off Avalanche players one by one until they had amassed 5 full seasons or more of man-games lost to injury. By the time the organization figured out what was going on and put in softer, more understanding boards, the damage was done, but at least we came out of it with a fancy new Swede and a gnarly D-man who's still shivering up in Saskatoon. Stastny also switched to a graphite stick, from wood, at the beginning of the season. His line: 22G-35A-57P in 74 games played. If that looks low...
It's because it is. Stastny did not see his typical late-in-the-year burst; in fact, quite the opposite. He and everyone else couldn't goals. The goalies couldn't saves. Forsberg himself couldn't right the ship. Peter Stastny was mad about some big blockbuster deal or something. Turn the page, ugh.
isn't much better for Stastny. So far with 37 games, his goals actually outnumber his assists (what???): 11G-10A-21P. That's 0.57ppg and would easily be his worst season on record if it continued through April. Here's the graph. It sucks.
Never once has he touched a ppg pace over ten games. This team needs more than that out of him.
All right, so, what happened?
First, here's a look at all these graphs put into one big one. This version is teeny-tiny so I couldn't fit in the important marks of when things happened, so, click to embiggen.
Look at that drop-off. It wasn't so noticeable in the context of only the Tank Season, but compared to his whole career, and with this year on the end of it, and with a big black arrow showing it to us, man. That's a huge sudden noticeable difference. First off, when was that? Second, what the hell happened?
That trough hits bottom around the midway point of last season. Game 41. Chris Stewart, still heralded as CGDS around here, was out with a hand broken on Kyle Brodziak's melon. He returned shortly after, but you'll notice nothing is noticeably different. Stastny's numbers slightly peak but it's not until after the St. Louis deal.
I had some ideas I wanted to check before I started this project. They were:
- It's Skipper Joe's fault. Sacco can't coach star players. Probably not the problem, look at October 09-December 10.
- It's the graphite stick. Probably not the problem, as Stastny was doing fine with it for half the year last year, and it would be strange for him to un-adjust.
- Peter Stastny was right, and dealing Stewart and Shattenkirk was a big blow. Eh, not so much, the struggles had begun before that deal happened and Stewart had been out with his busted hand long before Stastny's numbers plummeted. This has some evidence for it but I'm not convinced due to confounds that I'll get to.
- Stastny relied heavily on input from Super Joe to excel. Probably not, again, look at the 09-10 season
- Something physically is wrong/different with him.
Do you guys remember a game last December in Chicago? It was game 31, and Bryan Bickel cross-checked Stastny from behind into the boards behind one net or the other, can't remember which. The hit was gnarly, we feared concussion, but Stastny was back 2 games later, only missed one with some sort of back injury. Two games into that return the Kings rolled in and won 5-0, and the Languishing began. Here comes the speculation: Game 31 is ten games before game 41. Ten games later, the full time it takes this measure to adjust (synergy!), Stastny had entered the funk he's still in. In the calendar year-plus since returning from that injury, Paul Stastny has had 8 multi-point games. For comparison's sake, he had 20 during the preceding calendar year, 17 in the 09-10 season. You can't blame all that on the Tank either, as half came in each season.
Do I know that Paul Stastny is battling some kind of nagging injury? ....no. Don't be ridiculous. He should have had all summer to recover from it had it lingered even that long. But would I be surprised to see him suddenly turn on the jets and be quoted in a Chambers article that he just hadn't felt right in a while but is better now, or to see him undergo some kind of surgery and come back on fire? Not at all.
Maybe Stastny needed Stewart. I doubt it, because Stastny tore up the league to the tune of a shiny new $6.6 million contract while Stewart was still in Cleveland, but there's a confound I can't control for. Maybe he's been phenomenally unlucky. Maybe his confidence has been in the toilet since the Tank. Maybe, physically, something is wrong.