Greenberg defends Tavares snub

January, 17, 2012
1/17/12
6:14
PM ET
Some omissions from ESPN Insider's Neil Greenberg's Top 25 Under 25 list -- a ranking system based on highly-detailed statistical analysis -- garnered more criticism than others. But apparently the most vicious vitriol came from Islanders fans furious over John Tavares' absence.

Hence, Greenberg's defense in the article, "Why John Tavares is good, not great." Essentially, he substantiates his choice -- which also ranks Jonathan Toews ahead of injured superstar Sidney Crosby -- based upon his CPI (Clutch Performance Index) and Corsi percentage.

My take?

He belongs on the list. So do Matt Duchene, Jami Benn and Jeff Skinner.

Granted, I'm not one for complicated mathematical schemes -- as my college statistics professor would gladly vouch -- but I tend to take such analyses with a grain of salt. There are some categories that I believe have great value (a team's goal differential, for example ) and some I find to be pretty misleading ( a player's plus-minus rating).

Here's what I can tell you about watching 21-year-old John Tavares since he was taken first overall in the 2009 draft. Despite the floundering Islanders' dreadful past three seasons, Tavares has improved steadily with few marquee players around him.

He made huge strides -- both literally and figuratively -- in his pace and skating from year one to year two. He has grown tremendously in the strength department from his sophomore campaign to his third year pro. In talking to a couple of his teammates this week, the one thing they have all mentioned when asked what's impressed them about his game?

His strength on the puck and ability to win battles. The fierce competitive nature has always been there, but now he has the muscle to back it up.

Just as he did in his first two seasons with the team, he is leading the team in scoring. With 16 goals and 27 assists in 43 games, Tavares earned a well-deserved All-Star nod for this month's festivities in Ottawa, Ontario.

Let's face it. The Islanders have stagnated at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings in all three seasons since he was anointed The Chosen One on Long Island. The conditions for his development have been far from ideal, but instead of crumbling under the circumstances, he has thrived.

I'm not suggesting he should be mentioned in the same conversation as Crosby or Ovechkin, or even past No. 1 pick Steven Stamkos. But Top 25 Players Under 25?

He belongs on that list.



Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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