Entering the 2014-2015 season, Colin Wilson may have been the most polarizing figure in Nashville hockey.
Fans were (who are we kidding, still are) on two squarely different sides. Either he's a dud of a first-round draft pick that will never realize whatever potential management saw, or he's a player that wasn't given the right opportunities to succeed. Either way, everyone agreed that this year, the final of his current contract, was the last he had to show he could be some kind of difference maker. A new coach and style could really help prove what Wilson is made of.
So far, while the points haven't exactly been there, he may be playing some of the best hockey of his career.
One of my favorite ways to judge players performance is by looking at the CF% of his teammates when he's on the ice versus when he's not. Simply called WOWY, for with or without you. Braden has put these awesome graphs together so you can visualize what we mean. These numbers are for players that have played at least 20 5v5 minutes together this season. (Remember, small sample size and all of that.)
Only Viktor Stalberg and Gabriel Bourque have moved around the line up as much or more than Wilson has. The difference is that no matter where he's playing (or what position) shots are going toward the opposing net. Every player (save for Ryan Ellis) is playing better with Wilson than away from him, and it's not in small increments, either.
Olli Jokinen and Calle Jarnkrok benefitted heavily from the Wilson effect during his time on their line. Even Derek Roy and Craig Smith, good players in their own right, saw a noticeable increase. Not much happened in the way of scoring until Matt Cullen returned, but their line also didn't get much time to play together.
Wilson's OZ% isn't as favorable as you might think for such shining numbers. Roy, Smith, Forsberg, and Neal all have more starts in the offensive zone. Granted, he still is starting 57% of his shifts in the opponents end, but even though he may not face the toughest minutes he's excelling in the ones he's getting.
Ok, that's all well and good, but what about the actual points, Jon? What about the actual points?!
Well, in terms of actual shots, Wilson is shooting at a higher rate than any other time in his career. Over the last four years, (2009-2013) he averaged 5.39 5v5 shots per 60 minutes. Now, he's increased that by more than a full shot a game, and there's still plenty of time to increase that. More shots = more goals.
I've fielded many comments about how people won't care about Wilson until he's scores 60 points, or some other arbitrary number. That's nonsense. Only 30 players ended last year with point totals in the 60s, and Wilson hasn't done anything to make anyone think he's that kind of offensive dynamo.
That doesn't mean he's a bad player, though. It's no coincidence that three of his four points this season have come as a result of getting playing time on the first line. There doesn't seem to be any need to move Mike Ribeiro from where he is right now, but Wilson showed Sunday night in Vancouver that he could very well be a viable option on the top line.
It's important to remember that while these numbers are encouraging, it doesn't mean Wilson is going to start lighting up opposing goaltenders. Shot metrics are a basis for predicting future success, but not a stone cold prophecy for it. However, right now Wilson is doing everything he can to have an impact year, and when the points do start coming, you shouldn't be surprised.