Saturday, September 11, 2010

30 Caps in 30 Days: Eric Fehr

During the thirty days of September, I'll be trying to preview the seasons of thirty players currently under contract with the Washington Capitals and who have a good chance of spending some time in red, white, and blue this season. Advanced stats are given from ranked against other players at the same position--forward, defense, or goalie--in the same organization, at 5-on-5, unless otherwise noted. Age is on opening night, and linemates are only those listed at 10% or greater. Today, Eric Fehr)

Eric Fehr: age 25, 6'4", 212 pounds, shoots right.
Contract: $2.2 million, RFA in 2013, per Capgeek.
2009-2010 linemates: 24% Jason Chimera and Brendan Morrison
2010 playoff linemates: 28% Brooks Laich and Brendan Morrison, 25% Eric Belanger and Jason Chimera

2009-2010 raw stats:
NHL: 69 GP, 21-18-39, +18, 145 shots, 24 PIM
Playoffs: 7 GP, 3-1-4. +2, 20 shots, 4 PIM

2009-2010 advanced stats: 11th in Corsi QoC, 9th in Corsi Rel QoC, 12th in Corsi QoT, and 16th (of 17) in Corsi Rel QoT. Zonestart 53.6% offensive zone (middling) with Zonefinish 53.2% offensive zone (fourth).
2010 playoffs advanced stats: 12th (third-to-last) in Corsi QoC, 11th in Corsi Rel QoC, 13th in Corsi QoT, and 10th in Corsi Rel QoT.

(Photo courtesy Caps Snaps)

WOWY (yellow is how much better the player is with Fehr, green how much better Fehr is with the player):

Looking back at the 2003 draft, it would be easy to say George McPhee made a bad pick with Eric Fehr. At that time, McPhee seemed to overvalue size, drafting Fehr with his first pick that year, Jeff Schultz in the first round a year later, and both Sasha Pokulok--who barely even played in the AHL, let alone the NHL--and Joe Finley in the first round in 2005. Considering that first round picks sometimes do not make a significant impact at the NHL level, though, Fehr was a pretty good pick. He scored over 50 goals and 100 points as a 19-year old in the WHL and after playing with AHL Hershey for a few years finally really cracked the NHL in 2008 as a bottom-six forward. He still could be a bottom-six forward on opening night.

Since then Fehr has put up spectacular rate statistics. Fehr in 2009-2010 scored goals at the third best rate, tied with Knuble. Fehr's goals against per sixty minutes was middling, leaving his plus-minus per sixty was fifth on the team, behind only the "Young Guns" and Mike Knuble. Fehr drew penalties at the third best rate among Caps forwards while taking them at the lowest rate as well, tied with Nicklas Backstrom. After drawing them, he also produced at a decent clip playing the second power play unit. He also had the least ice time per game of any twenty-goal scorer. In short, Fehr is a rate statistic star. Although in brief stints with more ice time he hasn't been able to produce at the same rate, he hasn't been given too much of a chance to acclimate to those situations (due in part to tomorrow's focus taking a wing spot).

Despite this great production in limited ice time--routinely less than twelve minutes per game--Fehr also needs to prove himself a bit more. The sum of his on-ice save percentage plus his on-ice shooting percentage at 5-on-5 was a very, very high 105.2%. This PDO is unsustainable for pretty much any player in the modern era, save possibly a Bobby Orr or Wayne Gretzky type. His 99.2% PDO in 2008-2009, meanwhile, is very close to what we'd expect on average. From that point of view, we'd expect production along the lines of that season (2.93 GFON/60, 2.08 GAON/60).

In short, Eric Fehr is a question mark heading into the season--we don't really know what we can expect from him. He probably won't score goals and put up points at the same rate, but he very well could even that out with more shots as he becomes more comfortable in a better-defined role. In a small-but-not-insignificant sample, he looked good with Mathieu Perreault as his center, so there could be something there. I really think Fehr will only reach his potential--maybe 30 goals, 60 points, a la Mike Knuble--if he starts digging in the corners and plays a bit smarter in all zones (and stays healthy), but also if he actually can get linemates who can actually produce chances offensively and be good defensive players in terms of Corsi.

I expect some more time on ice per game for Fehr this year. Most of the increase will likely come at even strength and on the power play (Boudreau hasn't used him on the penalty kill over the last two years). I'm guessing around 20-22-42, +12 is where Fehr ends the regular season, during which he'll probably spend a lot of time on the third and fourth lines along with injury-replacement second-line duty. Come playoffs though, I can't really imagine a scenario outside of major injury (knock on wood) in which Fehr isn't a second-line winger come the playoffs. He's just too good of an all-around player.

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