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2019-20 Player Review: James van Riemsdyk had a middling season

Improvements in possession stats were perhaps overshadowed by his lack of production.

Philadelphia Flyers v Montreal Canadiens - Game Three Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

If you’re looking to talk about divisive players on the current Flyers roster, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone more divisive than James van Riemsdyk. Since re-signing with the Flyers for the 2018-19 season, van Riemsdyk has been a source of frustration for Flyers fans due to his hot-and-cold play, often leading to long goal droughts. As we have repeated often at Broad Street Hockey, goal-scorers are often streaky, and van Riemsdyk is no exception, nor should we be surprised at this finding. However, for a player on a $7.0 million dollar cap hit, 19 goals is a let down, especially given that he scored 27 goals in the same amount of games played (66) the season prior. Yet, we can’t say that van Riemsdyk did not contribute to the team, as he improved upon other areas of his game.

By The Numbers

Basic Stats

James van Riemsdyk Basic Stats

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM Shots on Goal Shooting Percentage
Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM Shots on Goal Shooting Percentage
66 19 21 40 8 151 12.60%

As I said in the introduction, 19 goals for one of your supposed premier goal-scorers is suboptimal. In fairness, van Riemsdyk’s usage changed under Alain Vigneault, and he spent a lot of time on the third line, and even the fourth line. Though, regardless, this was due to existing struggles, and I really have no excuse for van Riemsdyk’s lack of power-play production (his goal tally on the man advantage was cut in half). For a winger who is realistically a middle-six player at this point, 40 points isn’t bad, but weighing that in context of his contract and expectation of production, he should be scoring more.

5v5 On-Ice Stats

James van Riemsdyk On-Ice 5v5

Corsi-For% Corsi-For% Rel Expected Goals-For% Expected Goals-For% Rel Goals For% PDO
Corsi-For% Corsi-For% Rel Expected Goals-For% Expected Goals-For% Rel Goals For% PDO
52.95 2.06 55.6 5.94 57.14 1.011

5v5 Individual Stats

James van Riemsdyk Indiv 5v5

Goals/60 Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
Goals/60 Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
1.14 2.27 8.11 2.58

However, we can possibly credit the change in usage (and for lack of a better term, mentality) with his uptick in how he grades by advanced metrics. James van Riemsdyk went from a Corsi-negative player (46.53%) in 2018-19 to a Corsi-positive player, and performed quite well in aiding possession for the Flyers relative to his teammates. It was a welcome run of form for van Riemsdyk, as he has always hovered around breaking even to slightly underperforming from a Corsi perspective (his career average is 49.92%).

The statistics fit well with the narrative that van Riemsdyk was better at improving the offense from a non-goalscoring perspective, and his game overall looked better. That is a welcome sight to see, especially if his goalscoring doesn’t improve.

Three Burning Questions

Did this player live up to our expectations this season?

I don’t think I can say so. Despite improving his game in other areas, van Riemsdyk is ultimately judged on his goal production, and in this regard, he underperformed. Perhaps it was unrealistic to expect the 36 goal season van Riemsdyk enjoyed in his last season in Toronto back in 2017-18, though truthfully, for a player proven to score 25+ goals a season, you need him to be hitting that mark.

What do we expect from this player next season?

Realistically, van Riemsdyk can get back to his old self, and put in a 25-27 goal season, possibly even 30 goals if we are being optimistic. That estimate can change given his line-mates, but if the Flyers can improve their depth at center, I’d fully expect van Riemsdyk to fulfill that expectation.

What would we like to see this player improve on?

Hopefully the Flyers fix their power-play, and van Riemsdyk can start to profit from that. I don’t entirely blame his lack of scoring on the power-play as self-caused, given how poor the unit was for most of the year. Yet, equally, an in-form van Riemsdyk would drastically improve their chances.

So, overall, more scoring on the power-play, and a continuation of the good play we saw elsewhere when he wasn’t scoring. If he is able to boost his line-mates and drive play, that increased value only benefits.