February 14 2013 12:34PM
Eric Tangradi, LW/RW, WPG
LW/RW 6'4" 220lbs, 24 years old
Drafted 2007, 42nd Overall
Contract: 1 Year, 2-way, 65K / 726K
Nick Name: Big Dog
I recently wrote about how the Jets are using their forwards and suggested that Noel might have to shorten his bench to avoid suffering the struggles of his 4th line. James Wright has had to be sheltered, Anthony Peluso didn't even break a sweat the other night in his 2:49 of ice time, and Slater and Thorburn aren't solving this team's losing ways without some help. Is Tangradi any help to us? Here's what he adds to the Jets and what we can expect in the next few months.
Who is Eric Tangradi?
Well, before you answer 'the guy who couldn't score with Malkin and Neal as linemates!'... well, that's a fair point. But there is a more interesting case to consider. In fact, he's a puzzler.
Tangradi was a late bloomer, as many big-bodied skill fowards are. His first year in major junior was his draft year, and he scored just 20 points in a full 65 games. He came alive in the playoffs (sample size alert) with 17 points in 15 games. Hockey's Future had him rated as a 7C - that is, a likely 4th line forward with 2nd line forward potential. Which one he turns into is still a bit of a mystery these six years later!
His subsequent seasons with the Belleville Bulls were much more successful, and he led the team in goals and points in his 20 year old season. He also seems like a nice guy - winning with the Bulls' Humanitarian of the Year award that season and tweeting this on Halloween:
Anyway, he turns pro. He was called up by Pittsburgh in each of his first four seasons as a pro, with a much publicized and balleyhooed 5 points in 45 NHL games. During those same years, he also posted a points per game average of 0.6, 0.79, 0.79 and 0.53 at the AHL level. Using Gabe Desjardins's league equivalencies, we could predict Tangradi to score almost 30 points in a full NHL season based on his two-year performance at nearly .8 points per game. Still, note this year's curious drop off in a much more competitive AHL league. That also coincides with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins posting their worst record in over a decade, so maybe it's not all his fault.
Tangradi has played limited minutes this season, and in only 5 games. His advanced statistics (from behindthenet.ca) are somewhat unintelligible as a result of the small sample. What we can tell is that despite his not scoring, his luck has been high, and his corsi (shot attempts for minus shot attempts against) relative to his own teammates (RelCorsi) has been positive - both are 4th among forwards for the Penguins at even strength.
Going back to last year's slightly larger sample (all stats even strength), Tangradi had the 10th best RelCorsi among the forwards, beating out celebrated checkers Matt Cooke and Craig Adams, and energy guys Asham and Vitale - all regulars on a successful Penguins team. His PDO (on-ice save % + on-ice team shooting %) was the lowest among the 19 forwards who took a shift for the Penguins last season. This tells us his luck was awful. His PDO was also a cellar-dwelling 932 the season before last, though his Relcorsi was... let's not talk about that.
The point is, it's possible the Jets actually snuck a player out of Pittsburgh who has had bad luck in his half a season of NHL experience, and who has made considerable improvements to his game since turning pro. His points per game in the AHL have improved alongside his relative corsi in limited windows in the NHL. Call me crazy, but I think we might have a real player here. And at the very least, we have a better solution than Peluso for the fourth line.
Ponikarovsky we Hardly Knew Ye
I began to write that I'd like to see Ponikarovsky get the tough minutes with Slater and Thorburn, and have Tangradi take some time with our advanced stats super-star Kyle Wellwood. But Cheveldayoff couldn't even wait for me to publish this before making me feel stupid. Without Ponikarovsky, Tangradi is set step into that third line. The erstwhile Pen is known for his size and ability to get to the net. Maybe he can drive the defence back and make room for the free-wheeling chucker we call Olli.
At the same time, without Ponikarovky, the Jets will still struggle to ice a successful 4th line. Given the mixed bag of success and struggles we've seen from Tangradi, I'm not ready to say he's an upgrade on that third unit over Poni.
So - the tough question - am I crazy? Is Tangradi a real player? Can he help the Jets? Or are his NHL numbers just too poor to consider him a contributor?