Claude Giroux took a step forwards last year. He went from being tied for 11th-14th in points to third, from being considered (perhaps mistakenly) a support player on Mike Richards' team to being the coverboy for a video game.
Let's dig into the numbers in serious detail and see where that improvement came from and whether we should expect his point total to continue improving, plateau, or fall back.
Here's one way of dicing apart point totals into various components:
I'll go through each component and look at what changed from '10-11 to '11-12.
- His ice time was flat; he played more per game, but fewer games.
- He shot more, up from 6.3 shots per 60 to 8.6.
- His shooting percentage was flat, from 11.9% to 11.8%.
- The team's shooting rate with him on the ice was flat, from 35.2 shots per 60 to 35.3.
- The team's shooting percentage with him on the ice was flat, 9.4% both years.
Net result: a small boost from 50 to 53 even strength points, based entirely on an increase in his own shot rate.
- His ice time increased, from 3:04 per game to 3:54 per game.
- He shot more, up from 8.1 shots per 60 to 10.3.
- His shooting percentage plummeted, from 24.2% to 8.2%.
- The team's shooting rate with him on the ice went way up, from 41.7 to 59.3 shots per 60.
- The team's shooting percentage with him on the ice dropped slightly, from 14.7% to 13.1%.
Net result: power play points doubled from 19 to 38, based mostly on his assist rate skyrocketing from 2.2 per 60 to 6.1 per 60. Part of that is because the team's shooting rate was higher, but a lot of it is because Giroux was just involved in a lot more of the team's goals -- he assisted on 53% of his linemates' goals in '10-11 and on 88% in '11-12.
I'll guess his even strength ice time goes up next year -- maybe he plays the same amount per game, but since he's only missed five games because of injury in four years, there's no reason to project him to miss five games next year (we're assuming for now that there'll actually be 82 games next year).
The other numbers were mostly flat; if they stay flat again, that bumps him up from 53 even strength points to around 56. You might project a little more if you're optimistic that Jakub Voracek will help drive the play forwards, or maybe a little less if you expect his shooting rate to drop back down a little, but somewhere in that range seems reasonable.
Power play production is a lot more variable, and was the driver of last year's step forwards. Will it repeat?
First, let's check the power play ice time. Last year he was fifth in the league in PPTOI, in part because the team led the league in power play time by a healthy margin. He might not get that many chances per game again this year, but playing more games mitigates that a little. If the team's penalty-drawing drops by 10%, the drop in power play ice time will cost him a point or two.
For power play goals, his shooting rate might slip a little, but his shooting percentage should come up quite a bit -- it's hard to put him at 8% on the power play when the league average is over 12%. An increase to ten power play goals wouldn't be surprising.
The power play assist total is where things really exploded last year, even though the team's shooting percentage with him on the ice was in a normal range. Will they continue to get so many shots off, and will he continue to be involved in so many of the goals?
Giroux's four most frequent power play linemates will all be back next year. That group was one of the best units in the league last year at generating shots. The units in San Jose and Vancouver have sustained even better performances, so it's possible Giroux's line will continue to play at that level; only time will tell. Let's figure it drops off a little bit -- maybe through regression, maybe through injury, maybe just from not having Jaromir Jagr and Matt Carle as the next-most-frequent linemates. Just a small drop, enough to shave off a point or two.
The big effect comes from his personal involvement in the goals. Even for a player who has the puck a lot, getting an assist on 88% of your teammates' goals is absurd. It was easily the highest number in the league; second among people who were on the ice for at least 10 goals was Jamie Benn at 82%, and no player even sustained a rate over 70% for two straight years.
If the team's shot rate comes down a bit and Giroux's personal assist rate falls appreciably, it could cost him 10 assists. Overall, maybe his 38 power play points last year drop to somewhere around 30, depending how many power plays the Flyers draw.
In the end, what are we left with? A few extra even strength points (from playing all 82 games), a few extra power play goals (from shooting better than 8.2%), and 10-12 fewer power play assists (mostly from not getting an assist every single time the team scores). Obviously all of this is guesswork, and it won't follow the exact pattern I've laid out -- or anything particularly close to it, in all likelihood.
The goal is to set a reasonable expectation -- some aspects will come in higher and some will come in lower, but when you run through the various factors, something in the range of 85-90 points seems like a reasonable guess.