Executive Summary for the first Happiness Survey of 2022-23 (confidential)

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We are twenty games into the season, and the Washington Capitals are not great, folks. But standings points and five-on-five score- and venue-adjusted on-ice shot-attempt percentages are not nearly as important as the most important statistic of all: your feelings.

Here now is the executive summary for the first happiness survey of the season. More than 1000 respondents scored each Capitals player from 1 to 5, based on how happy the respondent is that the player is on the team.

Here’s how the question was worded:

On a scale from 1 to 5, how HAPPY are you to have this player on the team?

2 means UNHAPPY
4 means HAPPY

The way I deliver the information in this series sometimes obscures the way we all distribute the votes. This visualization from our friend Alex G. should help.

Courtesy of Alex G.

For fun, I have subjectively grouped the results into tiers.

Below, each player is listed with their average score and their standard deviation. A bigger average score means fans are happier to have that player on the team. A bigger standard deviation means there is more disagreement about the player. Here we go.

Franchise Player Tier

This is the tier for the franchise player.

This is the lowest Ovechkin has ever scored in the happiness survey (between 4.7 and 4.9). I don’t interpret this as voters being down on Ovechkin so much as a reverse-halo effect from the team overall.

Nucleus Tier

This tier is the core of the team, but I use the word “core” too much so I’m doing “nucleus” this time.

  • Tom Wilson 4.4 ± 0.9
  • Dylan Strome 4.2 ± 0.8
  • Dmitry Orlov 4.2 ± 0.8
  • Conor Sheary 4.2 ± 0.8
  • Garnet Hathaway 4.0 ± 0.9

The usual cast of characters. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to put Wilson down with the asterisk’d players, but fine.

One of the genuine bright spots of the season, Dylan Strome seems to have settled in well in Washington and is enjoying a high happiness score as a result.

Hathaway’s inclusion is interesting, mostly because there is daylight between him and Dowd. This has been a point of discussion at RMNB lately; I think they’re both great.

Weird That Both Goalies are 4’s Tier

The goalies have identical scores. That’s weird, right?

  • Darcy Kuemper 4.0 ± 0.9
  • Charlie Lindgren 4.0 ± 0.9

Whatever complicated feelings we may have about Vanecek on his way to a Presidents Trophy and Samsonov saving big (when healthy), at least the vibes are positive towards the new goalies.

Cytoplasm Tier

These are the guys outside the nucleus. I asked Aileen, who has a PhD in microbiology, and she said this is the right word.

  • Nic Dowd 4.0 ± 0.9
  • T.J. Oshie 3.9 ± 1.1
  • Sonny Milano 3.8 ± 0.8
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov 3.8 ± 1.1
  • Trevor van Riemsdyk 3.8 ± 0.9
  • Nick Jensen 3.8 ± 0.9
  • Martin Fehervary 3.7 ± 0.9
  • Aliaksei Protas 3.7 ± 0.9

Kuznetsov has been on a rollercoaster. He scored a 2.2 during his Troubles, before reaching 4.4s in his comeback season of 2021-22. I think the team is badly wanting for more Kuznetsov production, especially as a puck-mover and playmaker.

Milano seems right at home here in the cytoplasm, and I think he could rise further as the season grows. He’s a very curious player to me, and I think the team’s blah-ness is temporarily masking his skills.

Lastly, Protas is head-and-shoulders above the tier with his age cohort, and I think I agree with the crowd there.

Raised Eyebrow Tier

These are three promising young guys and two guys ostensibly blocking the promising young guys.

  • Joe Snively 3.3 ± 0.9
  • Erik Gustafsson 3.2 ± 0.9
  • Beck Malenstyn 3.2 ± 0.8
  • Marcus Johansson 3.0 ± 1.0
  • Alexander Alexeyev 3.0 ± 0.7

There is a big drop-off from the cytoplasm tier to here. I suspect we have different intents with our scores. Snively, Malenstyn, and Alex^2 are all interesting young players who may eventually become full-timers in the NHL. I think Malenstyn would be there already were his finger unbroken.

Then there’s Gustafsson and Johansson. There are two kinds of critiques of Marcus Johansson. One kind is that he’s soft, that he can’t finish, that he doesn’t play The Right Way and is therefore not very good. This critique survives on ignorance and is wrong. The other critique is that his presence on the roster evidences the team’s problems with youth development. Yeah, that one tracks.

Boy I Dunno Tier

These are the guys where you don’t go hmm or hrmm so much as, oh I’m not having a very good time with these fellows.

  • Anthony Mantha 3.0 ± 1.1
  • Connor McMichael 3.0 ± 1.0
  • Nicolas Aube-Kubel 2.9 ± 0.9
  • Lucas Johansen 2.9 ± 0.8
  • Lars Eller 2.9 ± 1.1
  • Matt Irwin 2.9 ± 0.9

Mantha and Eller are the standouts here to me: two top-nine forwards upon whom a lot depends. Both have had offense problems this season, with Mantha’s magnified by the team’s lack of other scoring options.

John Carlson Tier

This is the tier where John Carlson is.

I think we need to have a chat about John Carlson. There is a lot going on here, and I think it merits more space and attention that a little blurb from me here.

Hobbled Tier

These guys have long-term injuries.

  • Nicklas Backstrom 3.6 ± 1.2
  • Connor Brown 3.1 ± 1.0
  • Carl Hagelin 2.4 ± 1.1

No mail-in ballots. No ballot stuffing. No recounts. Zero mules.

What do you think?

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