He’s been the hottest Washington Capital coming down the stretch and it’s not even close. While the Capitals have floundered since the All-Star break and continue to limp to this season’s finish line, Dylan Strome has been thriving, leading the team over the last two months of the season. But that wasn’t always the case for Strome.
Strome started the season, in contrast to the team, struggling to find his footing. As a matter of fact, most of 2022 was a relative wash for Strome. He was able to manage eight goals and 20 assists in his first 39 games, good enough for a 16 goals and 40 assists pace for the season. Not bad, but not worth his eventual new deal of $5 million for five years. There was some early concern.
Strome’s performance eventually led to him being a healthy scratch in January. As it turns out, Laviolette wasn’t the first NHL coach that felt the need to sit Strome for a game or two, for “inspiration” purposes.
Honestly not worth spending energy on, but I’d like to point out to Hawks fans who probably didn’t notice: Dylan Strome was a healthy scratch last week.
That’s now the 5th NHL head coach to do that with Strome. Not just a Colliton thing. It’s almost like… he’s a limited player
— Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) January 21, 2023
In researching reasons why other NHL coaches felt the need to scratch Strome, the reasons have varied quite a bit (here, here and here). But that was then.
We’ve seen players continue their “issues” as they go from team to team (See Jakub Vrana), but we’ve also seen players finally get “it” (See Ilya Samsonov). So where does Strome land?
A NEW DAY
Since the first of the year, the #3 overall pick in the 2015 NHL entry draft has doubled his goal-scoring pace. In the last 40 games, he’s recorded 15 goals and 20 assists for a 30 goals and 40 assists pace for a full season. Since signing his new deal (27 games) Strome has scored 12 goals and recorded 15 assists (36g, 45a per season pace). That’s well worth the $5 million for five years.
After slow start (16g, 40a per season pace), Dylan Strome has doubled his goal scoring pace in last 40 games (30g, 40a season pace):
First 39 games (10/12 – 12/31) = 8g, 20a
Last 40 games (1/3 – 4/10) = 15g, 20a#ALLCAPS
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) April 11, 2023
Strome has also shown a huge uptick in his possession metrics in 2023. In his first 39 games he had an expected goals for percentage of 50.41%. Not bad. In his last 40 games his average has risen to 53.00%. That’s excellent.
So what has spurred the turnaround for Strome this season? It’s really difficult to say for sure, but we can consider a few breadcrumbs dropped along the way over the course of the 2022-23 season.
Benchings Occasionally Work
If we consider his rolling expected goals for percentage (xGF%) – a common in-season measuring stick – his turnaround began around the middle of January. Before or after his benching can be debated, but the turnaround began in very much the same time frame as his benching occurred. Whether that’s the reason, a sheer coincidence or just part of a culmination of other circumstances, no one can empirically discern at this point. [Click to enlarge].
[The statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, MoneyPuck and the NoVa Caps Advanced Analytics Model (NCAAM). If you’d like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our NHL Analytics Glossary]
A Vote Of Confidence Goes A Long Way
Strome suffered through several seasons of doubt and negativity during his tenure in Chicago. That takes a toll on any player. A fresh start was needed.
While he started slow with the Capitals, and was ultimately scratched (again), he eventually played well enough to garner a lucrative long-term deal, which also occurred around the same time Strome’s game began to rebound and thrive. (See graph above).
Again, whether that’s the reason for the resurgence, a sheer coincidence or a culmination of other circumstances, it’s almost impossible to discern at this point.
A Combination Of Factors
Strome’s recent resurgence is likely a combination of all of the above, and more. Strome is finally out of Chicago and has been given a vote of confidence by the Capitals. He has secured the future for he and his family, which is always a concern for any family person. He doesn’t have to worry about his future for a long time, as long as he continues to produce. Strome’s Confidence is also high, and that’s a powerful thing.
The positives are beginning to (finally) snowball for Strome, and that too is a huge boost. Throw in a maturing player (he just turned 26) and it’s likely we are beginning to get a better picture of Dylan Strome’s reasoning for his rise in performance.
IT’S STILL EARLY
We can’t project Strome’s past scoring rates or his current scoring rate. It’s simply way to early to label Strome’s new deal and value to the Capitals. That decision will be made in several seasons. However, Strome’s late-season surge is a huge positive for him, as well as the Capitals. Can he sustain it. We will find out.
By Jon Sorensen
Hopefully he has found a home.
I’m not sure whether that played into it, but wasn’t Tom and Backy coming back also a contributing factor? We had one Center too many and as the new guy he got rotated out first. I never got the impression that it was because the coaching staff was unhappy with him, it was mostly roster management. Lavi split up Strome and Ovi as well around that time to put the Kuzy/Tom line back together with limited success.
Not for Strome. He was on top line, which has been pretty steady.
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