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What to Make of Jesper Bratt’s Slump

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Bratt is in an intense slump. Or is he just not as good as we thought? I look at his underlying stats to try and extract a possible answer to that question.

Columbus Blue Jackets v New Jersey Devils Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

In the beginning of the season, the upstart Devils had a rookie setting the world on fire. He was doing things never before seen like scoring on each of his first 3 shots, which happened to be converted into ES, PP, and PK goals. He played in all three situations with heavy minutes (sometimes 19+ per game) and he embodied the aggressive mindset that the team had which trickled down from the top line down to the Colemans and Gibbonses of the world. He had podcasts (yes, plural). Now, we all knew that a 2.5 point per game pace wouldn’t continue, but he actually sustained pretty solid production through much of the year. As of January 22nd he was still 2nd on the team in scoring behind only Taylor Hall. By all accounts, this kid was for real. And then .... disaster. Since January 22nd he’s been invisible. A downward spiral culminating in an eventual healthy scratch.

Below is an image from Dr. Micah McCurdy’s HockeyViz.com. I’ve drawn a vertical line where the slump, as I define it, began, — the first day of his goal drought — January 22nd.

As you can see, a few things had happened here. He was in the midst of not only a possesion tumble, but ALSO a PDO tumble. While the point production hadn’t disappeared yet, he struggled mightily in both pace and results. As of our slump date, Bratt had just recorded his 4th point in 4 games, but he got crushed in possession and was The Devils were outscored 0-2 when he was on the ice 5v5. This was the first of a 4 game stretch in which Bratt’s line had been outshot 28-63 and outscored 0-6. Not coincidentally, as you can see from the top row of the graph above, this is also when he was pulled from the top line next to Nico and Hall. It’s pretty clear that he had already been struggling a bit when that move happened, but that was the beginning of Bratt being inundated in shots against and seldom producing offense.

As mentioned above, Bratt was 2nd in scoring on the team at the time. That same guy, put has put up zero 5v5 goals since then. Over that time, 15 have Devils have recorded a goal, he is none of them. With just 4 assists, 11 Devils have outscored this kid who had been the 2nd leading scorer up until that point. It gets worse. Of the 22 Devils with >50 minutes played, Bratt has the lowest CF%Rel, SCF%Rel, AND HDCF%Rel. That’s #1 lowest. As in, below Jimmy Hayes. In all of them. That is REALLLY bad news.

If you want to see how all-encompassing his slump is, I’ve created a thoroughly depressing Tableau visual in which you can see a 10-game moving average of any stat.

In a self-perpetuating fecal hurricane, he kept getting bumped down the lineup, which made him perform worse, which got him bumped down the lineup, which made him play worse, which got ..... you get the idea. The point is, he’s filling in for an injured Miles Wood as of this writing on a line with Brian Boyle and Drew Stafford — a pretty far cry from Nico and Hall.

So I know you have questions now. What is causing this? Will he break out of it? Which is the real Jesper Bratt? With such a young player, the answers to these questions are hugely impactful. Well, first lets run through the cause. Going from a 100 PDO to a 93.8 likely didn’t help much. Palmieri’s resurgence forcing him out of the top line spot also didn’t work out well for him. He might be fatigued after really heavy usage early in the year in tough situations against top competition. And his rel stats indicate that he’s also actually playing worse than he was early. All of those things are factors. Will he break out of it? Well he’s lost his spot on the top line, so barring other movement, he’s going to have to figure this out on his own. And I don’t know if he is going to. How can we help him? Well IMO playing him with Brian Boyle and Drew Stafford is not likely to result in a return to form. I think Bratt is a top 6 forward so hopefully the kid that seemed unshakable early this year will take his first bout of adversity in stride and find his game again. One thing going his way is that he can break out without producing on the scoreboard because he can contribute in so many different aspects of the game. Special teams, responsibility in both ends, sniping, forechecking, etc. He performed well in Corey Sznajder’s A3Z statistics when I profiled them earlier this year and he’s maintained that level for the most part. He, Nico, Hall, and Wood were the only effective transition players and he’s still doing well there. My hope would be that as the PDO boogeyman scatters away, his confidence will come back and that will bring old Jesper back, but with such a small sample this is just conjecture on my part.

What do you think? Is Bratt destined to rebound? When? What do you project him for now that we’re closing in on a full season of data?

Thanks for reading and leave your thoughts in the comments below!