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What's Wrong With Gustav Nyquist?

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Since starting the season with 12 goals in his first 33 games, Gustav Nyquist has slowed considerably, netting just two goals in his past 27 games. Even more concerning is that from the first 33 games to the last 27 games, Nyquist's shots per 60 minutes has dropped from 8.91 to 6.84. Not only is Nyquist not scoring, he's barely even putting the puck on goal. For a frame of reference, Darren Helm is averaging 7.85 shots/60 minutes. What gives? What happened to the guy who electrified the fans en route to scoring 55 goals over the past two seasons?

Nyquist At Even Strength

Take a quick look at the table below and mentally decide in your head if you think Player A or Player B is producing at a higher level.

Player 5v5 Score-Adjusted CF% 5v5 Goals/60 5v5 First Assists/60 5v5 Primary Points/60 5v5 TOI/Game
Player A 53.71 0.63 0.58 1.21 12.63
Player B 55.26 0.52 0.77 1.29 11.70

*Data from Puckalytics and War-On-Ice

Just looking at those two players and the number I gave you, there's not really a significant difference between them. You could argue that Player B has been just a tad better given that his 5v5 score-adjusted CF% is higher and his 5v5 primary points/60 is higher. I'll offer the disclaimer that both of these players have a PDO between 99 and 100, indicating that there's not really an element of luck to consider here. Well Player A is Gus Nyquist from last season and Player B is Gus Nyquist from this season. As you can see, his individual production at 5v5 is exactly the same, if not slightly better. Sure his individual goals are down just a touch, but you can see his primary assists have increased significantly.

In fact, if you were to apply Nyquist's 5v5 goals/60 number of 0.63 to this season, he would have ~1 more goal than he currently has this season. So his scoring at 5v5 really hasn't decreased all that much in the grand scheme of things. The big thing I've harped on with Nyquist is his drop in shot attempts.

Looking at this graph, you're probably thinking "why has Nyquist stopped shooting the puck?". However, one of the things I've noticed is that teams have started to key in on Nyquist more frequently, and therefore he tends to dish the puck to his teammates to create chances. So while Nyquist's individual attempts may be down, check out how the team performs when he is on the ice at 5v5.

From this chart you can see that the Wings have been much better offensively with Gustav Nyquist on ice, he's just not the one taking the shots. The Wings are attempting more shots, putting more shots on goal, and are scoring more this season than they were last season at 5v5 with Nyquist on the ice. Nyquist's 56.09 CF60 this season ranks better than Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader, and Tomas Jurco. Given this information, how much blame can we put on the guy if his 5v5 assist numbers are up, his team is playing better, he's just not the one taking the shots or scoring the goals? I don't think 5v5 is the issue for Nyquist and while many have said (including me) he's looked invisible, I think his overall numbers indicate that he hasn't been the problem.

Nyquist On The Powerplay

Last season, Nyquist scored 14 powerplay goals which was tied for 3rd most in the NHL last season behind only Alex Ovechkin (26) and Joe Pavelski (19). The Wings powerplay this season has been a major source of frustration as the powerplay is operating at 17.7%, down almost 6% from last season. Many were not expecting the impact of Jim Hiller's departure to be this significant. One of the players who has suffered the most from Hiller's departure is Nyquist.

After averaging a whopping 12.08 shots/60 mins on the powerplay last season, Nyquist has seen that number tumble down to just 7.96 shots/60 this season. As a result, Nyquist has gone from averaging 3.13 PPG/60 mins to just 2.28 PPG/60 minutes. That's almost 1 goal fewer per 60 minutes just from a single player! I'll show you the exact same graphs as I showed you above at 5v5, but this time focus in on how much Nyquist's drop correlates with a team drop.

Looking at those two charts, you can see that the significant drop experienced by Nyquist from last season to this season has translated to a team effect, particularly with the shots that reach the net. Is Nyquist the only reason the powerplay has struggled? No, but it appears to be a significant part of the problem. Why has this happened? What has happened to one of the most electrifying powerplay players of the last two seasons? We're talking about a guy who ranked 3rd in the NHL in PP goals last year and for his career shoots 23.01% on the powerplay.

Powerplay Schematics

In addition to making subtle adjustments to the powerplay zone entries, new assistant head coach Pat Ferschweiler has also adjusted the roles for a few of the players play on the powerplay. As a refresher, the Wings play a 1-3-1 powerplay, which looks something like this:

As you can see, there is a defenseman that plays the mid-ice point, two powerplay QBs along the half-boards, a slot player, and a net-front presence. Last season, Hiller primarily utilized Nyquist in the slot position. This player is responsible for reading the movement of the puck and moving into the slot when the team has full control. Once in the slot, this player is responsible for angling his stick and body to set himself up for either a one-timer or a shot-pass deflection. Additionally, he is responsible for weaving around the slot area to distract the penalty killers and create shooting/passing lanes.

Nyquist was absolutely sensational in this role. Watch a few of his goals that come off of set plays or him finding the open ice.

Look at the movement by Nyquist on the goal. He is all over the ice, knows when to get to the slot and then how to attack

Watch Nyquist read the play, get to the slot, get the puck back to a PP QB, and then dive to the net for a rebound chance. He's an absolute monster when it comes to rebound chances on the powerplay because he has such a good nose for the net.

On this goal look at how Nyquist reads the play, provides the option for a shot pass, and then dives to the net off of the rebound. Think of it as offensive rebounding in basketball. As soon as the shot heads to the net, everybody turns to the goalie (rim), and you have to find someone to box out. Nyquist is so elusive and so good that he gets to the net and finds that rebound.

So you may be asking, why hasn't Nyquist been able to score these goals this season? Well for a majority of the season, Detroit has utilized Nyquist as one of their powerplay quarterbacks, meaning that he is now out by the half boards instead of in the slot. An example of this is shown to you below.

From this clip you can see that Nyquist really isn't afforded an opportunity to use his instincts to get to the net. He's primarily asked to be a shooter from the top of the faceoff circles and a distributor. It's not exactly a bad thought given that Nyquist has a great shot, but unless the mid-ice point man walks the blue line to create space for Nyquist, he's almost always firing through heavy traffic.

I think Nyquist would benefit greatly from being moved back into the middle of the ice on the powerplay and allowed to use his instincts to crash the net and create havoc in the slot. Specifically, I would recommend Nyquist get back on powerplay unit #1 with Datsyuk and Zetterberg as the powerplay quarterbacks. I think you'll find that the Wings can recreate a dynamic powerplay if this happens. Additionally, the Wings would be better served to do this sooner rather than later as I would hate for Nyquist to get moved at the trade deadline or in the offeseason due to a decrease in production when it could potentially all be related to his poor utilization on the powerplay.

*All stats are taken from either Puckalytics or War-On-ice

*Since NHL.Tv has removed all games from previous seasons, the clips you see above are screengrabs from Alex Wood (better known as awood40) on YouTube. Please check out his channel here!