James Van Riemsdyk is the man many Flyers fans love to hate.
He Is the kind of player Flyers fans seem to criticize the most: the goal-scoring winger. Goal-scorers, for whatever reason, are streaky, and historically when they struggle to find the back of the net, they receive the brunt of criticism, born of frustration. I think that there exists unrealistic expectation on so called “goal-scorers”. James Van Riemsdyk was never going to return to Philadelphia and instantly play like Connor McDavid or Patrik Laine for a better comparison. But, I digress.
JVR has indeed been streaky this season, and he has only produced three power-play goals from his usual net-front position. However, recently (in the third quarter of the season) he has played significantly better than at any point in the season. This, according to me at the least, is visible both in his statistical profile, and of course in the on-ice product optically.
What do the stats say?
On the season, not just in this recent stretch of games, van Riemsdyk ranks fifth in Corsi-for at 5-on-5 with 53.23 CF%. For context, that’s better than Kevin Hayes, and Hayes is thought of as one of the better play-driving forwards on the team. However, van Riemsdyk performs significantly worse from a Goals-for perspective. There, he’s only ninth (well, really seventh if we don’t include David Kase and Mark Friedman who have barely played for the Flyers) with 54.90 GF%.
The interesting thing about this statistic, however, is that his Goals-for (28) is not being weighed down by his Goals-against (23), meaning van Riemsdyk isn’t profiling to be a defensive liability, he simply wasn’t registering as many offensive chances compared to other players. This makes sense as well, as he was playing on the fourth line at points in the season earlier when he was struggling.
However, like I said, JVR has seemingly found his eye for net recently. In the third quarter of the season (so far), through ten games he has scored seven points, though only two of those points are goals (against Pittsburgh before the break, and Los Angeles). Perhaps more telling is that in his last fives games, van Riemsdyk has five points. Of course you would like the man you paid to score goals to score more of them, but any contribution is meaningful at this stage of the season, and van Riemsdyk is contributing regardless.
And the qualitative info?
At the very least, what I’m seeing with my own eyes backs up the stats.
As a bit of a precursor to this next section, to play devil’s advocate, we can perhaps place van Riemsdyk’s recent success on his new line-mates Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny. That would certainly be within reason given the two are all-star caliber talents. Yet, at the beginning of the year, van Riemsdyk was paired with Giroux and Jake Voracek and did not see similar results to what we are seeing now, so I would say that while Giroux and Konecny have certainly had an influence on van Riemsdyk’s play, their presence on that line is far from being a singular determining factor in JVR’s improvements.
In terms of the power-play, the double net-front idea, while I’m skeptical of its long-term success, has helped JVR produce points. With a forward waiting at the other side of the net (usually Travis Konecny), van Riemsdyk is given the option of attempting a move on his own, or if the opportunity presents itself, sliding a pass to the other forward for a slam-dunk into an empty net. When the Flyers are able to get the puck down low into those areas where van Riemsdyk can control it, this has been quite effective when they’re able to move and create space for it to happen.
As for 5-on-5 (well really all even strength situations), van Riemsdyk has been around the net and has been primarily getting his chances by creating space in front of the slot:
As shown by this in-game event map overlay I created of his last five games, there’s an awful lot of green dots (positive events) right in front of the goal mouth, right where you’d want van Riemsdyk to be. He’s unfortunately getting some shots blocked or missed, but that’s to be expected when in an area of the ice with heavy traffic. This map shows van Riemsdyk’s play at all situations including the power-play, yet from a manual reading, I can assure that the majority of the events on the map come at either even strength or 5-on-5.
James van Riemsdyk is entering one of his ‘hot’ phases, and with Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny feeding him the puck, we can expect van Riemsdyk to stay ‘hot’ for the immediate future. Regardless, if he continues to drive play like he has done consistently throughout the season (to my surprise in honesty), then JVR will be a valuable asset to the Flyers’ playoff push over the remainder of the regular season schedule.