I really wanted to talk about statistics today because there were some great posts by other bloggers over the weekend. First of all, Die by the Blade had a good summary of Buffalo’s struggles against weak teams. This is the kind of analysis I wish we did more often here, and over the next month we are going to try doing more of it. This team is getting more and more frustrating, and maybe the answers lie somewhere inside the numbers.
Another really cool post came from D.O.’s SB Nation cohort James Mirtle. He took a look at how blocked shots correlate with points percentage in an effort to determine if “good teams block shots” after all. Really good work by James, who has picked it up a bit since moving to From the Rink. I’m curious to see how that chart changes as the season matures, but it really is worth looking at to see for yourself how some stats relate to wins.
I could have talked in depth about all that, but since Saturday I’ve been thinking a lot about Thomas Vanek.
I didn’t post about the game on Saturday night because I was really depressed over it. After two really good games the team fell short again, and it seems to me more and more that this team is simply mediocre. Vanek was amazing again, scoring two more and he continues to pace the field, but it wasn’t enough. This whole Atlas thing has really made me think about Vanek and pretty much everything about him; from his contract to his game as a whole and even his personal life. Sometime today it hit me:
I’m really happy for Thomas Vanek.
There are a lot of times as a sports fan you are happy for the success of a player on your team. They do well for you and you are happy, that’s how it works. However, with Vanek I think there is something else there that I take pride in, and it’s that he’s finally coming into his own.
Let’s face it, he had a rough season last year. But as my friend Dave commented sometime back then, who can blame the kid? In the span of a few short months he had a baby, got married, and had a $52 million contract thrown at him. To see him struggle was difficult, but he had all the pressure in the world on his shoulders and performed pretty admirably in hindsight.
This year everything has been different, and certainly for the better. Vanek is playing lights out hockey, earning the nickname I threw on him early and looking like one of the best forwards in the game. It’s something we hoped to see out of him from the moment he was drafted, and it looks like we are finally getting our wish.
I don’t want to get weepy here but, well, it’s just nice to see good things happen for the kid. It’s obvious he worked so hard last year and struggled so much, but now everything is falling into place and all that hard work is paying off. I love that good things are happening to one of our boys, and it’s about time someone on this team shows they can live up to the pressure of high expectations.
It’s just a really cool change of pace not to make fun of a player on our team. No over dramatic f-bombs, no slamming the stick after a giveaway, nothing. Sure he takes the occasional bad penalty these days but when you think about all the times this year he’s completely bailed the team out it’s hard to get upset. Right now Thomas Vanek is having the season of his life, and I can’t help but smile every time he touches the puck.
I’ll be in the building tonight expecting more great things from #26. This one could get really, really interesting.