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2017-18 Player Review: Taylor Leier gave us what we asked for (but didn’t we want a little more?)

Lots to unpack here, folks

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

We’re rolling on through the RFAs, folks. Hextall’s been handing out contracts for his RFAs and we’re handing out season reviews. We’re doing continuity. Isn’t this nice? But, okay, fine, enough of that lead-up. Let’s get to the review.

Let’s talk about Taylor Leier. After a couple of cups of coffee over the past few seasons, 2017-18 finally saw Leier make his full-time debut with the big club, and it came with…well it came with some mixed results. A strong start with our much beloved Honey Bees quickly stalled out, and where he was once garnering much promise, getting tastes of play in all situations, Leier just as quickly found himself a press box mainstay. So, what gives? Was this founded? Let’s investigate.

By The Numbers

Okay, so this may be the ugliest part of the picture that we’ll be looking at, here, so just stick with us while we work through it. These numbers are not so good. One goal and five points in nearly half of a season? That’s rough. He only got a very small taste of power play time, sure, but it’s still rough.

And then it also gets weird. 48 shots on goal isn’t much—that averages out to just over one shot per game—but from it one might expect a result higher than one goal. The league average in shooting percentage tends to average out to about nine percent, but Leier’s? 2.08 percent.

So, what’s going on there? It’s hard to say. Maybe there’s some bad luck in there. Maybe his shot is just easily stoppable to goalies. Maybe he needs to shoot more from high danger areas (though he put up 15 high danger chances for, over his 39 games). But perhaps the encouraging fact is that this presents as an unsustainably low shooting percentage—even if it doesn’t take a massive hike in the future, it still should increase somewhat. Something’s got to give, sooner or later.

5v5 On-Ice Stats

Score-Adjusted Corsi For % SA-Corsi Relative Corsi For % RelTM Score Adjusted-Expected Goals For SA-Expected Goals Relative Goals For % PDO
Score-Adjusted Corsi For % SA-Corsi Relative Corsi For % RelTM Score Adjusted-Expected Goals For SA-Expected Goals Relative Goals For % PDO
52.72% 2.95% 3.35% 48.86% -3.39% 25% 0.91

But let’s get to the rest of the picture. It gets a little more encouraging. If we’re looking at our Corsi figures, as broken down above, we see a player who, while he was on the ice, the Flyers tended to hold a territorial edge, and performed well in this area compared to both his teammates and the rest of the league. And this makes sense—Leier was a mainstay on the Honey Bees line that did drive play reasonably well through their tenure. So we see that.

But, then, as expected, we see a drop off in expected goals. And this makes sense, too. Pair Leier’s poor individual points production with the fact that the Honey Bees struggled to close on their numerous chances, all while giving up more than a fair amount of quality chances against while they were on the ice, and, as such, we see their expected result take a hit.

5v5 Individual Stats

Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
0.86 0.17 10.27 0.45

But let’s circle back around to some more individual stats, let’s strip out the linemate effects. It gets less rosy, again.

When we get back to looking at individual contributions, in short, we aren’t seeing a whole lot. In each of these metrics, he’s hanging out well into the back of the pack of forwards, sitting second to last ahead of only Matt Read in P1/60 and xGF/60, for example. So, if we were to turn this into a question, to ask, what was he contributing individually to positive on-ice results, the answer would be, in short, not a whole lot. We get the sense that Hakstol isn’t looking at figures like these when making his roster decisions, but in a way, they seem to align with how far he fell down the depth chart.

Three Burning Questions

Did this player live up to our expectations for this season?

Yes. Technically. During the preseason, we saw Leier as a bubble player—on the cusp making the NHL, and seemingly ready enough to do so, but the question remained whether he would be able to hold up over a whole season, or close to it, against NHL competition. If nothing else, we wanted to finally see what he was, and see if he was indeed and NHL player. And he proved that. He only ended up playing those 39 games before hitting the long stretch of scratches, but he proved he could hold his own, over those games. It doesn’t sound too nice to say, but he at least did the bare minimum that we were hoping for. So that’s not nothing.

But, at the same time, I think at least most of us were hoping for a little but more than what we got. Even though we can say that he passed the eye test, the fact that he was on about a two goals and 10 points pace for the season is not quiet what we were hoping for, either, even if we never put a hard estimate on what figure we were expecting.

What do we expect from this player next season?

It’s hard to say. To look on the surface, we could say “this will be his second NHL season, and we might see him getting a little more settled, and, hopefully, taking a step forward and finding a way to get a bit more consistency in the way of scoring.” That would be something of a best case scenario. But is also strips away just about all of the contextual pieces that might prevent this from happening.

Simply put, by the end of the season, Leier found himself situated as the 15th forward on the NHL depth chart, and even as we’ve lost two forwards ahead of him, the question still remains whether he’ll be able to play his way back into the lineup next season. The coach’s trust in him has seemed to waver, and we have a handful of kids who will be knocking on the door, come training camp, as well. We’d like to see him get another shot to show us a little bit more, but he’ll have an uphill climb to get to that chance.

What would we like to see this player improve on?

*cringing* finishing.

I know, I know, the whole “he just can’t finish” is such a tired narrative, no matter who it’s applied to, and there are so many confounding factors that go into why a player might not be closing on their chances that are completely out of their control. But there’s something to be said for the very sharp disparity between the number of chances that Leier contributed in generating to how many of them actually turned into goals. So, maybe there were pieces outside of his control that were hindering his efforts, but we also need to see him doing a little bit more on his end, as well.

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