In Hockey Prospectus 2010-11 were we overly critical of Martin Havlat's performance?
"Disappointment. Letdown. Disaster. No, we're not talking about a blind date with Mike Ricci, we're talking about Martin Havlat's first season with the Minnesota Wild."
"Havlat failed to fill the void left by Marian Gaborik."
"Simply put, Havlat was Ha-Flat."
"We're not saying that Martin Havlat had a bad season trying to fill (Gaborik's skates) but let's just say that he's got plenty of room for his toes."
"Havlat was a tremendous disappointment in Minnesota."
"It may be better to Have-Not than to Havlat."
Ok, maybe we were being a little unfair, but one criticism in particular raised the most eyebrows- the assertion that Havlat can't work the power play.
"5-on-4 hockey is not Havlat's expertise" and "Even at his best, Havlat is injury-prone and ineffective with the man advantage" are common statements you might hear about Marty.
In the first 16 games this season Minnesota is capitalizing on a whopping 29.4% of its power play opportunities, thanks in part to Havlat's 8 power-play points working alongside Mikko Koivu on their top unit. Were we mistaken?
Anything is possible over a small sample size, so let's take a look at a larger one- the past four seasons. Over that time, Martin Havlat is 8th in even-strength scoring rate, at 2.7 points per 60 minutes. Here is his peer group, and their even-strength scoring rates.
Top 20 Even-Strength Scoring rate, 2006-10
Sidney Crosby 3.19
Alexander Ovechkin 3.06
Evgeni Malkin 2.94
Daniel Sedin 2.89
Marian Gaborik 2.89
Henrik Sedin 2.87
Joe Thornton 2.72
Martin Havlat 2.70
Pavel Datsyuk 2.68
Daniel Alfredsson 2.67
Jarome Iginla 2.65
Thomas Vanek 2.61
Alexander Semin 2.59
Jason Spezza 2.58
Dany Heatley 2.57
Ilya Kovalchuk 2.56
Henrik Zetterberg 2.56
Marian Hossa 2.55
Jason Pominville 2.55
Paul Stastny 2.52
Minimum 150 GP
It's reasonable to expect that Martin Havlat's scoring rate with the man advantage should be similar to the rest of this group, especially since we're taking a decent sample size of hundreds of games over a four-year period.
Power-Play Points per 60 minutes, 2006-10
Martin Havlat: 3.64
Peer Group Average: 5.49
Ouch! Martin Havlat scores at only 2/3rds the rate of his peer group average! He's even below the group's weakest performer (Kovalchuk's 4.03), and in fact only three of these players failed to score at a rate of 5.0 or higher (Buffalo's Pominville and Vanek were the others).
Havlat's 3.64 ranks 223rd over this sample period, roughly equal to players such as Peter Mueller, Scott Hartnell, Curtis Glencross, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Chris Clark, Owen Nolan, and Patrick Sharp - none of whom would be confused for top-line producers (perhaps with the exception of Ponikarovsky).
Even among his Minnesota linemates, Havlat doesn't compare favorably, not only to top-line forwards like Mikko Koivu (5.07) and Andrew Brunette (5.05) but even to depth options like Kyle Brodziak (4.84) and Chuck Kobasew (4.06).
Generally speaking a forward can expect to score 210% more on the power play than at even-strength, but for Havlat it's just 135%. There are only a handful of players with that small an increase in scoring with the man advantage, and only one of whom sees even half the ice-time Havlat does (David Backes).
Smallest increases in scoring with man advantage, 2006-10
Martin Havlat 135%
Mike Fisher 144%
Erik Cole 150%
Tuomo Ruutu 152%
Ilya Kovalchuk 157%
Nathan Horton 159%
J.P. Dumont 159%
Alex Tanguay 161%
Matt Cullen 164%
Chris Kunitz 164%
Minimum 50,000 Power Play Seconds
Martin Havlat and the Minnesota Wild have been performing very well with the man advantage so far this season, and while we certainly hope this will continue, it's an awfully small sample size. While Havlat has certainly established himself as one of the league's top ten players at even-strength, over the long run he hasn't demonstrated the ability to significantly improve his production with the man advantage.
Maybe at a high level we were too tough on Martin Havlat based on a single disappointing season, but our specific criticism related to his work on the power play is well-justified. With the man advantage, Havlat has been a secondary contributor getting top-line minutes - a situation on which coach Todd Richards should keep an eye on if their current success is to continue.
Robert Vollman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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