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2021 Report Card: Chris Kreider

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New Jersey Devils v New York Rangers Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

Expectations

Chris Kreider’s 2019-20 regular season ended after he broke his foot blocking a shot vs. the Philadelphia Flyers. This injury came shortly after inking a long-term extension worth $45.5 million over seven years ($6.5 million AAV). Then the COVID-19 pandemic put the season on pause, and by the time play resumed, Kreider was ready to go again. With everything said and done, Kreider’s line finished with 45 points in 63 games while also being worth 7.6 Goals Above Replacement which was seventh among all skaters according to Evolving Hockey.

The expectation for Kreider in 2020-21 was for him to continue being one of the New York Rangers’ most productive players, and step up his game to justify his new salary.

Performance

Kreider had a down year in terms of counting stats for the Rangers finishing with a line of 20-10-30 in 50 games which equates to 0.60 points per game, a decline of 0.11 from the year prior. The winger also finished with 7.2 Goals Above Replacement in 50 games, or a GAR per 60 of 0.496 which was a slight increase from his 2019-20 rate of 0.420.

It was a weird year overall for the Rangers’ alternate captain, as he tallied 9 goals and 11 points in the first 19 games of the season (January and February) and then posted 11 goals and 8 assists in the final 31 games of the season (March and April). Kreider missed the final six games of the season with a lower body injury, and it is quite possible that the nagging injury is what led to a rough end of April.

In terms of fancy stats, Kreider finished 18th among regulars with a Goals For Percentage of 48.33 at 5v5, 7th in Corsi For Percentage (49.65), and 4th in Expected Goals For Percentage (52.15). The quirk here is that Kreider deserved a better fate, but the goals for just didn’t line up with the expected numbers which isn’t exactly new.

How many times have fans felt that the given year at hand was going to be the one where Kreider completely broke out, only for the season to take an unexpected turn?

That said, here’s a visual look at his end of year player card, and how he ranked among other players in the league.

This is pretty decent card all things considered, I thought it was going to be uglier, and the Rangers are going to need this version of Kreider to be a factor going forward, especially now that Pavel Buchnevich is out of the picture. He’ll likely have a top six role, and in the event that he doesn't, that means something went wrong for him, the kids played at a level to push him out of the picture, or both.

Grade: C+ | Banter Consensus: C+

Kreider was a tough grade overall, and I debated back and forth on whether or not I could get him up to a B-. I tried to find a balance between his regular stats, advanced stats, his season card, and other factors. Ultimately I think it is fair to say that Kreider was average this season, and C+ is where I landed. I’m open to disagreements here, but that’s where I landed.

The crux of his grade comes off the fact that from a bare bones perspective, Kreider’s salary increased from $4.625 million to $6.5 million, and it was a year in which he was maddeningly inconsistent which included a stretch where he recorded one even-strength goal in 22 games. He did score 20 goals overall on 102 shots (19.6%), and 11 of them came on the power play. The year prior he had 24 goals on 156 shots (15.4%), 15 of which game at even strength.

Evolving Hockey has a metric called Standings Points Above Replacement which takes production and factors in salary, and in 19-20 Kreider’s SPAR was 2.6 which gave him a value of $5.3 million, or a surplus value over his $4.6 million salary. Last season Kreider had a SPAR of 2.4 which was worth $4.8 million, meaning he underperformed relative to his salary.

One of his most frequent linemates was Mika Zibanejad, and he was a player who was negatively impacted by COVID-19. That could explain partially the relationship between Kreider having a gap between his actual and expected goals for percentage — especially since his performance improved in a stint alongside Ryan Strome. But there’s also the possibility that Kreider has peaked, and going forward he will be productive, but not to the point he was in his prime.

Kreider turned 30 in April, and long-term deals in which the majority of years are in the 30s generally don’t age well. His contract carries a NMC until the start of the 2024-25 season, at which point he submits a 15 team no trade list. That doesn’t matter much now, as Kreider and the Rangers need to perform. He will have all the opportunity to do so, and as a veteran on the team there’s going to be even more expectations on him heading into the upcoming season.

Stats via Evolving-Hockey, Hockey Viz, Hockey-Reference, and Elite Prospects unless otherwise noted.