The mainstream media and others can’t stop telling people not to panic over Bobby Ryan’s lack of production in two games. However, as outlined nicely by Graeme Nichols at the 6th Sens, it’s unclear that anyone is panicking and it appears to be more or less the mainstream media fabricating, or at least exaggerating, the existence of fan panic.
Interestingly, regardless of whether or not there is fan panic, a common response to Ryan not scoring (in two games) is that statement that he is, to varying extents, a “slow starter”. There appear to be three forms of this statement that I have seen:
1. Bobby calls himself a slow-starter here saying it has just always been this way. Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) has also made the same general observation.
2. Even more specific, a Canadian Press article on NHL.com has asserted that “Ryan traditionally has slow starts with October being his least productive month.”
3. On Tuesday, in a series of tweets, Dean Brown (@PxPOttawa) broke down the last 82 game season (2011-12) into three thirds to show that Ryan’s first third was significantly lower than the other two thirds. He is obviously right about 2011-12, but what about other years and should we expect that we need to wait two months for the “real” Bobby Ryan to show up?
So I set out to either support or rebuff these assertions with really no vested interest one way another. Two quick notes. First, I focused on data from 2009 onward since this is when Ryan began playing full NHL season. Second, primarily as a practical matter, I stuck to looking at point production and shots and did not take the time to break apart goals and assists. I am particularly thankful to Mr. Ryan as he’s basically been injury free for the years analyzed, thus making the analysis relatively straight forward.
CLAIM 1: SLOW STARTER GENERALLY
First I looked at whether Ryan gets better generally as the season progresses… the answer is, kind of. But is it clear is that Ryan is a slow starter? Yes, on average, he struggles noticeably in his first five games.
So we end up with 16 five game segments, but for the last segment which is 7 games. After the first 5 game segment Ryan’s points-per-game (PPG) double and remain at least doubled for 9 of the remaining 15 segments. Even in the non-doubling PPG segments all but one (games 41-45) are 50% higher than games 1-5.
Just to be as fair as possible, here is an adjusted graph without the 2012-2013 lockout season. For intent and purposes of this analysis the results remain the same.
CONCLUSION: Ian Mendes and Bobby Ryan are right. Ryan is a slow starter… and the good news is that he normally breaks out of this funk after only 5 games.
CLAIM 2: OCTOBER BLUES
Of the years analyzed Ryan has only actually played games in October in the 2009-2010, 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons where he played 12, 12 and 11 games respectively during that month.
Comparing the average points over all 3 seasons shows that Bobby did fare better in PPG after October but, interestingly, not in shots-per-game (SPG).
Here is the PPG and SPG broken down by year:
CONCLUSION: The Canadian Press article is right… but predictably so given the 5 game breakdowns above. If the average number of games in October is 12 then 42% of those games would be part of Ryan’s 5 game slow starts. Again, the good news, if history predicts the future, we don’t need to wait until the end of October for Bobby’s PPG to pick up as production doubles from games 6-10.
CLAIM 3: THE RULE OF THIRDS
Dean Brown’s 2011-12 principle doesn’t carry over to the other seasons analyzed. As you can see below, there really is no pattern in terms of which third is Ryan’s best. As a note, Deano broke down by months and I strictly split up the season by number of games. The same inconsistency applies to shots.
So there you have it. The good news is that Bobby Ryan is a slow starter and so, if you’re concerned about a lack of production in the first five games, you can chill out. The bad news is that he lied to all of us when he said he was “Coming in Hot”, more like “Lukewarm” Bobby. But watch for Ryan to breakout in mid-March when he averages 1.13 PPG.
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