We shouldn’t be surprised by Tomas Tatar’s bounce back season
To say Tomas Tatar had a rough first year as a New Jersey Devil would be an understatement.
Tatar was the Devils’ biggest free agent signing at forward ahead of the 2021-22 season, signing a two-year deal worth $4.5 million AAV. Unfortunately, most of them looked out of place during his first season in New Jersey. He struggled to develop chemistry with anyone while playing throughout the Top 9 and recorded 30 points in 76 games. This wasn’t the splash in free agency that Devils or Devils fans were hoping for, which led to several debates like Gerard’s late last season. if the Devils should try to trade the veteran forward.
Fortunately, Tatar has been one of the more pleasant surprises in the first part of the 2022-23 season… a season that has already been full of pleasant surprises, including good goaltending, strong defensive play and ten games. winning streak after yesterday’s win in Montreal.
Since the Devils lost Ondrej Palat to injury, Tătar has been elevated to the left front role, playing alongside Nico Hischier and Fabian Zetterlund. Their seven-game point streak ended last night in Montreal after their third-period field goal was disallowed on an offside challenge, but that doesn’t diminish how well this line has played Generally. Alex pondered before the season if we could expect a positive regression from Tatarand it’s safe to say that so far, we’ve seen it.
It would be easy to point to the fact that he plays primarily on a line with Nico Hischier, who has been the Devils best forward this season. It’s true that no forward played more for Tatar this season than Hischier, but that was also the case last year. I think there could be some residual effect with Hischier taking his game to another level as the captain is currently on pace to set career highs in CF%, xG%, HDCF%, goals , assists, points and ice time. As a result, I could buy the argument that Tatar was one of the main beneficiaries. But I don’t think it can be entirely attributed to that.
Alex pointed out some factors in his story that I think are worth revisiting. Tatar’s 5-on-5 on-ice shooting percentage was 6.8% and his PDO was .962 last season, both career lows over a full season. Those numbers have increased to 10.49% and 1,027 before last night’s game. The biggest jump in his advanced stats has been in GF%, going from 39.77% to 75%. I already mentioned how Tatar played more with Hischier last season, but Dawson Mercer (GF% with 32.26%), Pavel Zacha (37.04%) and Andreas Johnsson (47.62%) were his next teammates most common lines. One thing all three of these forwards have in common is that they all had long stretches last season where none of them could put the puck in the back of the net. Two of those three players are no longer with the Devils, and the other was a 19-year-old in his first full NHL season … a rookie who struggled when not playing on a line with Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier or Jesper Bratt. It’s not just about who Tatar plays, but who he doesn’t play so far in 2022-23.
I’d also like to point out here that we’re dealing with a relatively small sample size in 2022-23 overall (15 games versus a full 82-game season), but even acknowledging that, this season’s early returns are promising
Some of it can be a bit of luck, of course. The goal he scored against Ottawa, for example, probably had no business being deflected by a body in front. He did, though. I’m a big believer in creating your own luck and your own serendipitous bounces. I see Tatar, I see a player who is comfortable being able to get to the net and get to areas of the ice where he can make a clean shot and potentially make a play. Tatar’s shot is dangerous enough that if opposing defenses lose track of him, he is able to make them pay. like he did against Arizona.
However, none of this should be all that surprising. Unlike most Devils forwards, Tatar entered the season with nearly 700 games of NHL experience. Tatar had a long history of being able to put the puck in the back of the net as he has in his previous stops in Detroit, Montreal and, to a lesser extent, Las Vegas. We’re talking about a guy who had multiple 55+ point campaigns. Most players don’t just lose it at 31. The signs were there to suggest he was bitten a bit last season and is positively regressing closer to the player he’s always been, and so far through the first part of 2022. -Season 23, he’s done exactly that.
I wouldn’t go crazy and suggest that Tatar’s game is flawless. We’ve seen from time to time that he’s prone to a poorly timed penalty or a bad pinch, and those mistakes tend to end up in the back of the Devils’ own net. These plays will happen. We saw a tartar that was scratched in big games in previous stops, probably for the same reasons other players get scratched healthy (competition level, doesn’t do enough prevention/backcheck, etc.). We even saw some plays like forgetting to play again last night that cost him a goal. I also wouldn’t go so far as to suggest the Devils should sign Tatar to a contract extension when most Devils fans were ready to run him out of town after last season.
Fortunately for the Devils, however, Tatar has been closer to the power forward the team thought they were getting when they signed him in the summer of 2021. Perhaps Tatar’s stats this season aren’t entirely sustainable either (although the his shooting percentage of 9.1% is below his). professional standard and has room for improvement). But the Devils’ line of Tatar-Hischier-Zetterlund has consistently been the Devils’ best line through the early part of the season. I don’t see much reason to cut him early, and if the Devils do, it will probably be to replace Zetterlund with Bratt and not Tatar with Sharangovich. Palat will be out for a few more months, and Tatar has done a good job filling his spot in the Top Six.
You’ve heard from me, and it’s time to hear from you. Are you surprised that Tatar has had a bounce back campaign or did you believe it all along? Should the Devils continue to keep him exactly where he is? If Tatar continues like this, would you have any interest in bringing him back for another season? Please feel free to leave a comment below and thanks for reading!
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