By all accounts, Matt Read had a pretty tough season in 2014-2015. With him starting the year off on the new-look second line with Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds in the first year of his contract extension, there was optimism that Read could take his game up another notch now that he was freed from some of his and Couturier’s defensive responsibilities. Fast-forward six months and Read finished the year with his lowest goal and point totals of his career on a per-game basis. What happened?
80 games played, 8 goals, 22 assists, 30 points, 47% CF%
Here’s a look at Read’s statistics through the first 4 years of his career:
We can see that before this year, Read was one of the Flyers’ most effective forwards. He was particularly good at 5v5, as he never finished lower than 3rd on the team in 5v5 goals before this year. However, his 5v5 scoring cratered this year. He still finished 5th on the team in 5v5 points, but his goal numbers dropped to a third of what they were his rookie year and dipped dramatically from his second and third seasons as well.
If I had to guess, there were a few factors that caused Read’s play to dip this season. One was the high ankle sprain he gamely played through for much of the first half of the season. Read’s game has been largely predicated on his top-end speed since he entered the NHL, and his ankle injury sapped much of his speed, and along with that, his effectiveness, early in the year. Another factor was his usage: for most of the year, him and Couturier were tethered to RJ Umberger in the defensive zone. The defensive zone starts are one thing, but Umberger was another entirely. Read’s CF% with Umberger was just 44.6%, but jumped to 48.4% when he played apart from him. Umberger had a similar effect on Couturier, as he had a 46.4% CF% with Umberger and jumped to 49.5% without him. The third factor that contributed to Read’s struggles was an absurdly low shooting percentage. After 3 years where he never shot lower than 14.6% and had a career shooting percentage of 15.1%, Read’s shooting percentage fell off a cliff to 5.6%. Part of that shooting percentage drop is likely due to the ankle injury and not being put in good positions to score thanks to the defensive zone starts and Umberger, but a lot of it is just due to plain old bad luck. The average shooting percentage for forwards this season was 10.4%. How likely is it that someone who shot roughly 4-5% above average for 3 years suddenly drops down 5% below average? And how likely is that to be some overnight disappearance of shooting ability and talent? I’d say the answer to both of those questions is “not very”.
Read, when healthy, is still a very solid two-way winger who can play on the penalty kill, power play, and produce at even-strength. Even with his struggles this year, he was still 5th on the team in 5v5 points, behind only Voracek, Giroux, BSchenn, and Couturier. That’s pretty solid, especially when you factor in his usage.
Going into the year, there were expectations of a solid season from Read given that he was bumped up to the second line with Couturier and Simmonds. However, the line was broken up early on, and the litany of factors mentioned earlier combined to contribute to Read having a subpar season. His scoring struggles, along with the struggles of the penalty kill (not Read’s fault, but a group failure), meant that Read definitely failed to live up to the expectations of him to improve in his new role, and still failed to live up to the expectations set by his performances the past three seasons before this one.
What’s He Worth?
Read is entering the second year of a 4-year, $14.5M contract extension signed before the 2013-2014 season that gives him a cap hit of $3.625M per season. That’s not bad value at all for someone with Read’s skillset, a middle-6 forward who can play on a variety of lines in a variety of situations. After his tough season, I would strongly caution against moving Read in a trade. This would be selling extremely low on Read, as low as they could sell on him, and I’m confident that with better linemates and better deployment (courtesy of a better coach) along with some better luck, he’ll have a very solid bounce-back season for the Flyers next year. I would hold onto Read and see how he produces next season, and then and only then entertain trade offers that would improve the team.
C-. He seemed snake-bitten all year, and while not everything that happened to him was his fault and his injury was definitely a drain on his production, the fact of the matter is that Read didn’t live up to expectations and had a poor season by just about any measure imaginable. His performance saw an uptick when put on lines with Couturier and Voracek as well as Couturier and Schenn, and I’m confident that 2015-2016 will treat him much better and we’ll see a bounce-back year from Read. That being said, 2014-2015 was a disappointing year for Read no matter how you look at it.