Tim Stützle: Year In Review

The underlying numbers were bad, but our favourite rookie passed the eye test with flying colours

Welcome back to the latest iteration of our Year in Review feature, where we re-visit the past season for key members of the Ottawa Senators. Here are the players we’ve profiled previously:

Drake Batherson

Erik Brännström

Connor Brown

Josh Brown

Thomas Chabot

Evgeni Dadonov (noted current member of the Ottawa Senators)

Alex Formenton

Victor Mete

Josh Norris

Nick Paul

Shane Pinto

Today, we turn our attention to perhaps the most exciting Senators draft pick in recent years: rookie Tim Stützle.

By the Numbers

Ah, so we’re starting off with the bad news.

Stützle’s advanced stats are... controversial. Not in the sense that people are arguing about whether or not his advanced stats are good (they’re not), but in the sense that people are arguing about how much that should matter to us right now.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Stützle was quite sheltered this year, as can be expected from a player in his first season in the NHL. He started almost all of his shifts in either the offensive or neutral zone, and didn’t face particularly strong competition. If his numbers had been good, this would be an asterisk to remind us that he will probably regress as he begins to face more difficult competition, but his numbers were decidedly not good, and that’s what makes this so concerning.

With Stützle on the ice, the Sens created less offense *and* performed much worse on defense. According to With-Or-Without-You charts, most Sens players performed better without Stützle on the ice than with him on the ice:

He also gave the puck away more frequently than any other forward in the top 6, by a long shot. Basically, if you’re looking at shot attempts, scoring chances, or pretty much anything that isn’t your basic goal and assist stats, it looks like Stützle made his team worse whenever he was on the ice.

However, the non-advanced stats tell a different story. He ranked 6th on the team in goals, assists and points. He was also fifth in shots on goal. Leaguewide, he ranked 165th in points, making him the 5th most productive rookie in the NHL. His numbers were good enough to get him a few Calder votes, though he wasn’t a finalist.

The underlying numbers are very much at odds with the eye test, and that’s something to pay attention to going forward.

Season Story

Jimmy Stü came to Ottawa with more hype than any Sens prospect since probably Jason Spezza. Even his first practice with the team and the ensuing press conferences were some of the most memorable moments of the season, and set the tone for the year he was about to have.

Unfortunately for those of us who were really looking forward to watching him light up the North Division, Stützle started the season on the third line, stuck with players who weren’t exactly known for their ability to produce offense. Still, our boy stood out in his first few shifts, and in just his second game, scored one of the prettiest first NHL goals I’ve ever seen.

And it was against the Leafs, too! An icon.

You may remember that the first few weeks of the Sens’ season were... a little bit rocky. While Timmy didn’t look completely out of his depth in the NHL, he also didn’t immediately become the best player on the team.

A few weeks in, Stützle was moved up to the second line and given a bit more responsibility, and that’s when things started to go better for him and for the team as a whole. He had quite a few different linemates throughout the season. He found quite a lot of chemistry with Drake Batherson in their brief stint on the same line. By the end of the season, he was looking fantastic on a line with Shane Pinto and Connor Brown.

Of course, I can’t write about the story of Stützle’s 2021 NHL season without mentioning the hat trick. Here’s the video of the celebration at Mark Stone’s house, in case you forgot about it:

So, there you have it. Started the season on a good note, ended it on a pretty good note as well. It wasn’t the Calder-winning season we were all wishing for, and there’s certainly room for improvement, but it was a very solid start to what’s sure to be a great NHL career.

Future Outlook

Stützle has pretty much locked down that second line left wing spot now. While he has played centre in the past, there has been no indication that the Sens plan to move him to centre anytime soon. It seems like they’re hoping that Pinto will turn into a first line centre. It definitely seems like a safe bet that Jimmy Stü will start the season as a left winger on the second line, with Brady Tkachuk holding down the first line spot.

The Sens are obviously hoping that he’ll turn into an elite forward, and the eye test says that isn’t an unreasonable expectation. However, those underlying numbers will have to improve.

Is there hope for that happening? Yes, absolutely. Young forwards are often bad at defense. Defense is something that comes with age and experience. Yes, Timmy will have to put in a lot of work, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

As I mentioned earlier, Stützle was quite sheltered in his rookie season, so if he takes on more responsibility in 2021-22 - as he absolutely should - there’s a good chance we’ll see some regression and that the holes in his game will become more apparent.

He’s ridiculously skilled, though, as you will see if you look at any of his highlight videos. He’s fast, he’s a great playmaker, and his shot is amazing. He clearly has the tools to become an elite player in this league, and I personally am not especially worried about him.

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