HockeyBuzz.com – Zach Jarom – Detailed Analysis: Max Domi

The first ‘big’ signing under Kyle Davidson last season was Max Domi. Like many Hawk fans, I was curious what we were getting from Max and wondered if there was any chance he would reach the potential scouts once predicted. Over the weekend, I received a message from SchwiftyHawk. He told me about this blog, he and TheSabresTaco spent a lot of time breaking down Domi’s advanced stats. After reading it, I found it super interesting how deep they were able to dive into Domi’s career and how deep they dug into his advanced stats. With all of their hard work they put into this piece, I knew it had to be shared. Read on and let SchwiftyHawk and TheSabresTaco know what you think!

When we talk about Max Domi, we are talking about a player who has fought inconsistency throughout his professional career. To understand why, we need to look at all available viewports, from the overview down to the micro level.
When Max was with the London Knights, his scouting profile was as perfect as it gets for an offensive zone forward. Elite vision. Scorer. Big passer. Hockey IQ. The rapidity. Dawg In Him™. Agile. He was inconsistent in the defensive zone, however, and like most forwards projected in the first round, they continue to develop that side of the game. His size wasn’t NHL ready either, again like most kids before the draft.
So why wasn’t he drafted for 12 years? It was believed that his height would be a factor in his effectiveness in the NHL, as well as his defensive and off-puck engagement. Yet in 2013, when “big” was still the dominant trait GMs loved, being drafted this early is pretty impressive.
Domi stayed in London for a year after his draft and collected 102 points in 57 games, continuing on his expected development path while honing his defensive game. Domi also had 10 points in 7 World Junior games with Sam Reinhart and Connor McDavid.
It was a year later that Domi joined the Coyotes and had a fantastic rookie campaign, collecting 52 points on an under-average Coyotes team. As is common with rookies in all skating positions, they will be positioned to succeed. Generally, all offensive skaters will be used heavily in the offensive zone, and defensive skaters will be paired with stronger veterans against weaker competition in an even spread across the ice. Domi is no different and received significant offensive zone time (66.4% OZ and 33.6% DZ) which would help his corsi and fenwick numbers to be above 50%. Max’s PDO, or very simply ‘luck’, was 102.9, meaning he was lucky on his scoring chances, and a modest regression could be expected. His advanced analytics were solid here, with his overall contributions (xGAR (expected goals)/xWAR (expected wins above replacement)/xSPAR (expected ranking points)) being 9.8/1.9/3 respectively, 7. Max had brought Arizona about 4 more points in the standings, making him the 79th most “useful” forward that year. Players in this vein included the likes of Chris Kreider, Max Pacioretty, Jeff Skinner and Claude Giroux. Domi’s RAPM scores are also aligned, making him the 67th strongest forward for scoring impact. Overall for a rookie, a very solid and promising season.

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As his time in Arizona progressed, those numbers went down. By his second and third year, his offense had stalled and his overall impacts had worsened significantly. His PDO had stabilized and his deployment remained similar. His corsi and fenwick remained positive, but his individual impacts dropped. By its third season, its xGAR/xWAR/xSPAR had risen to -6.5/-1.3/-2.4. You might recall that’s around this time that Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp started slipping. Domi had similar negative impacts on Arizona that Keith and Sharp had on Chicago. And so, Arizona had abandoned Domi and sent him to Montreal.
Montreal got the best version of Domi that year, collecting 72 points in 82 games, his best season to date. Even his defensive impacts, which have always been negative throughout his career, were only a modest -1.4. For a top 6 striker, racking up more than 70 points is usually worth ignoring.

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Unfortunately for Max, while enjoying similar playing time and deployment, his box score stats had dropped significantly and his impacts on his team as a whole stabilized at average at best. His AOP was 99.6, meaning he was a bit unlucky but generally level. While Domi has faced roughly equal competition since his two years in Montreal, his quality as a teammate has actually increased modestly.

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Domi’s actual (unexpected) WAR rates are an interesting story that doesn’t necessarily match his offensive output. Domi started his career with an 81% WAR rating as a rookie. He steadily declined in his last two years with Arizona, collapsing to 13%. Once traded to MTL and CBJ, his career regularly rises from the ashes. His best offensive year, 72 points in 18-19, his WAR was only 27% because of his negative impacts on the power play and his own zone. The following year, Montreal fans got to see an even better version of Domi. His defensive impacts remained the same, but he actually played better on offense and on the power play, making the 19-20 season the best of his career. The points weren’t there like the previous season, but having Max on the ice was a big advantage for Montreal. I believe Montreal was just looking for a different type of player when the unfortunate Josh Anderson was kicked out of Columbus. Montreal probably weren’t sure what they should pay Max given the breadth of his career. His 72nd season was probably seen more as an anomaly than a breakthrough. And so he was fired for the more physically imposing Anderson. Max showed up in Columbus and was absolutely crushed by Torts. Throughout his career, Domi has always been a “plus” player. Positive impacts on WAR and GAR even though his play outside of EV attack wasn’t great. But that year, he was negative across the board. He was one of the worst forwards in the league, ironically along with Josh Anderson, Eric Staal (woof) of the Sabres, Eric Staal (WOOF) of Montreal and David Kampf of Chicago, which I’m sure you’re all very aware of. When Torts took off, Domi bounced off his back setting up a similar career offense (apart from this year in Montreal). His impacts were more than acceptable, being of the same quality as guys like Yanni Gourde, Teuvo Teravainen and stronger than Jon Toews. But again, the Blue Jackets sent him the roundabout way to Carolina in a messy trade that included some unlikely prospects, making Domi, probably, the best guy in the business looking at the present and the future. . At this point, you can see what he’s worth in the league and what he can and can’t do. He’ll probably never be a guy who wins a long-term contract.

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So, with all that out of the way, what can we expect to see from Domi this year? Well, he’s certainly been relatively stable in his box scoring and overall positive impact on his team when healthy. Stripping out the terrible year with Torts and the great year in Montreal, he’s a go-anywhere, top-9, 50-point forward who can probably be a good utility player paired with a strong defensive presence on his line. While investigating Max’s microstats, his common tendencies keep coming back. Solid attacking play, mediocre defensive play, disappointing finishing while receiving plenty of high danger opportunities. He takes a lot of penalties and isn’t usually paired with the top third of forwards. He’s pretty below par in the starters and exists and he’s struggling to get the puck back. He is also poor on the power play, which is interesting because he is a very talented passer.

To put it all together, Chicago gets a low-risk, moderate-reward guy who plays a chippy game, can play 50-point pace, is extremely unreliable in his own end, and won’t score a ton of goals. For a team like Chicago trying to add some excitement while [whispers] *Tanking* it’s a nice bet for Domi to recover and score carefree while Hawks fans blame bad defense and goaltending. Considering the “talent” the Hawks have left themselves for the upcoming season, he should have no problem being one of their best forwards. If Max likes the team environment and wants to be part of a rebuild, this could be a good opportunity for him to secure a multi-year contract.

Image credit: Evolving-Hockey and JFresh Hockey

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