David Perron: MacTavish’s Masterpiece?

Jonathan Willis
November 24 2013 11:30AM

With the Edmonton Oilers struggling as they are, Craig MacTavish hasn’t exactly been given a free pass by fans in his first full season as general manager. What even his most ardent critics should agree on, though, is that it looks like he fleeced the St. Louis Blues when he pawned off Magnus Paajarvi and a draft pick in exchange for David Perron.

Perron was already a pretty good player when MacTavish added him. But the 25-year-old forward is on pace to exceed his previous career bests – and by a lot.

The Basic Numbers

The chart above shows Perron’s 82-game pace from every season in his career where he played more than 40 games. The only preceding season even close to his early work this year was 2011-12, where Perron rode a high shooting percentage to a 30-goal pace.

The really astonishing item here is Perron’s shot totals. Players don’t typically see huge leaps in shot totals, but Perron is running at more than double his established career rate. What’s going on?

Five-on-five

Numbers for this chart (and the next one) come from ExtraSkater.com and BehindtheNet.ca.

There really isn’t much to see at this level: Perron is a hair below his career goal numbers and a touch above his career assist numbers.

But something interesting happens when we compare Perron’s shot numbers for this season to last season. Perron had 61 shots at five-on-five in 48 games a year ago; this season he has 54 in 20 games. He’s firing the puck roughly twice as often as he has in the past once ice-time is accounted for. His goal totals are only at his career rate because his shooting percentage is half what it was last year at even-strength.

In short: he’s been good so far, but if these shot numbers are for real he’s likely going to be even better at evens in the near future. Which is frightening.

Five-on-four

Perron’s numbers are through the roof here. Some of that may come from playing on a better power play unit – it’s extremely difficult to separate teammate and coaching effects from player talent when looking at special teams numbers – and the assist totals in particular may not be ridiculous.

As for the goal totals? Digging into the shot numbers again, we find that Perron is again firing the puck at roughly twice the rate he did in St. Louis, but this time his shooting percentage is roughly double what it was last season. This to some degree will off-set the expected rise in his five-on-five shooting percentage.

In other words, these numbers are likely going to come down because that spike in shooting percentage probably isn’t sustainable, but even so he’s legitimately on pace for a career-best season.

The Biggest Question

I can’t recall an instance of an experienced NHL forward suddenly doubling his shot rates at the age of 25. One of the reasons people like me prize shot rates so much is because they tend to be pretty stable; players reach an established level of ability and move a bit but the fluctuations are nowhere near as dramatic as shooting percentage is.

I don’t know if Perron can keep up this shooting pace, and I didn’t watch him closely enough in St. Louis to hazard a guess as to what’s changed. One item that stands out – Tyler Dellow brought it to my attention on Twitter last night – is that Perron is getting a higher percentage of his shots through to the net (he has 16 missed shots on 80 shots this year; last year the number was 31 on 84) and that seems like something that probably won’t continue, but it isn’t close to being the whole explanation either.

My gut feeling is that Perron shoots a little less frequently simply because this is so far out of the norm, but at the same time it seems entirely possible to me that this is a breakout campaign and an indication of a more trigger-happy player.

If so, that’s fantastic news for Edmonton. Perron is under contract for two more years at a $3.812 million cap hit; that’s a pretty fair deal for a 50-point guy and a ridiculously good deal for a player who will challenge for 30 goals every year if he keeps shooting like this.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#101 DSF
November 24 2013, 06:35PM
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acg5151 wrote:

I wasn't at all surprised by Perron. That dude killed me on NHL 11 and it seems like every time I watched a Blues game he did something to be noticeable which is more than most players on the Blues.

How do fans watch the Blues? I swear that they are one of the most boring teams to watch. That series from a couple years ago with the San Jose Sharks made my eyes bleed.

Also, you can't really cherry pick drafts. Each team makes mistakes and has missed a guy. Pretty much every team in 07 passed on PK Subban. And DSF, this is the first I've heard that the 07 draft is one of the deepest ever. The fact is that had the Oilers drafted Perron, he may not have turned out the way he did.

Also from the 07 draft - every single team in the league passed on Jamie Benn multiple times as he was drafted in the 5th round. The Oilers aren't the only team.

The LA Kings drafted Thomas Hickey 4th overall in 07. He played 0 games for the Kings before the Islanders picked him up on waivers. Despite this the Kings won a cup. Boston drafted Zach Hamill 8th. They still won a cup. Florida drafted Keaton Ellerby two spots ahead of Ryan McDonagh. How embarrassing is that?

So no, the Oilers aren't an abnormal team at drafting, a lot of teams make mistakes.

Dissing the Kings drafting is not the best strategy.

The number of players they've found in later rounds is phenomenal.

From the 2007 draft alone:

Thomas Hickey

Wayne Simmonds

Alec Martinez

Dwight King

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#102 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
November 25 2013, 10:40AM
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pkam wrote:

I agree with the assessment of Smid and agree he is redundant. But I am still pissed at that trade for the little return that we get.

Perron is also redundant in the Blues roster and they need to dump his salary, yet they get something back in MPS and a 2nd. What do we get for Smid? A 170 lb AHL center and a goalie prospect who just graduated from WHL. I don't care about giving Roy because he won't get us anything anyway.

Didn't San Jose Sharks get 2 2nd round picks for Douglas Murray last year at trade deadline? I'll take Smid over Murray any day. So can we at least get one 2nd round pick for Smid?

This is my main beef with it. If they thought he was redundant for next year, the right move is to wait for the trade deadline when even mediocre defencemen will net a decent return from teams making a push.

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#103 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
November 25 2013, 12:13PM
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Jordan Nugent-Hallkins wrote:

I'll give him credit for chasing Schneider and Bishop, at least he recognizes the weakness in net. Was it ever revealed what Gillis was asking for? Schneider would look great between the pipes in orange and blue right now, and this season would probably have started much differently.

Plus my sister is a massive Vancouver fan, I'd have loved to be able to rub her nose in it.

Here's hoping that Darnell Nurse and Marc Olivier Roy, in hindsight, make this one of the best trades that the Oilers never made.

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#104 Katzhater
November 24 2013, 02:51PM
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David S wrote:

It's NOT simple and it DOESN'T happen more often. But it does happen.

Alot of the time I simplify to make a point because let's face it, I don't take hockey too seriously. But I have in the past been involved with elite level athletes and seen something seemingly stupid like a minor adjustment in technique be the difference between one performance level and the next.

With respect to work, it is entirely possible to be twice as productive as you ever have been before in your life. All it takes is an attitude adjustment. True, not many can make the leap but I've seen it done and the results are astounding.

To me the cool thing would have been that you noticed a quantum leap in Perron's performance and set about trying to figure out what he did that enabled the leap. You're in Oklahoma as a media person. Why don't you ask Todd Nelson for his opinion?

Instead you default to "the stats don't play out for me so...I dunno" (and yes, another simplification). But there's a really cool story going on here. Why not go ask a human what's going on instead of opening up another spreadsheet in search of clarity?

Sorry if that sounds harsh Jonathan. Stats analysis is your gig and you're damn good at it. My point is that stats are only part of the equation. They can identify anomalies but sometimes you have to chase the human factor to make sense of that story.

Stats analysis is not his gig. The advanced stats analysis on this site is enough to make anybody with a statistics education want to throw up.

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#106 Thumby
November 24 2013, 03:44PM
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DSF wrote:

How much of it might be system related?

DSF hit this nail on the head.

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#107 DSF
November 24 2013, 06:46PM
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acg5151 wrote:

My point - even the best drafting teams make mistakes.

No argument from me.

But the Oilers are far from being one of the best drafting teams.

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#108 YFC Prez
November 24 2013, 07:04PM
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bulldog12 wrote:

Negative negative negative You guys are really getting tiring Try coming up with something positive or remotely intelligent.

Perron looks crazy psychotic in that picture. Depending on your perspective that can be quite positive.

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#109 pkam
November 24 2013, 07:06PM
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@JW

How about Gordon? How is his projected number this year compare to his career average and career high?

I think so far he is very impressive too.

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#110 DSF
November 24 2013, 07:35PM
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Everyone is talking about their 2 cups in the last 10 years, or their 4 cups in the last 20 years.

Once the Oilers do that, we'll talk about it...I promise.

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#111 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
November 25 2013, 09:49AM
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@Walter Sobchak

Top pairing defenders don't grow on trees, as much as I wish they did. And it's a little more complicated than getting a couple centres, MacT needs to find a couple centres that bring an element the Oil are missing, namely size and functional toughness. And those don't grown on trees either.

I'd say they have the pieces to make a good 3rd line. The fourth line definitely needs a serious overhaul, when you're right, you're right.

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#112 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
November 25 2013, 09:57AM
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@camdog

If the 'Smid with offense' comparison of Klefbom is correct, then I would completely understand jettisoning Smid at his cap hit. But if Belov elects to go to a contender, and Klefbom doesn't live up to his billing, the Oilers could be hurting for defensemen next year.

Here's hoping Belov signs here and the big Swede is all that and a bag of chips. I'm looking forward to shouting 'DROP THE K-BOMB' when opponents cross the blue.

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#113 pkam
November 25 2013, 10:17AM
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Jordan Nugent-Hallkins wrote:

If the 'Smid with offense' comparison of Klefbom is correct, then I would completely understand jettisoning Smid at his cap hit. But if Belov elects to go to a contender, and Klefbom doesn't live up to his billing, the Oilers could be hurting for defensemen next year.

Here's hoping Belov signs here and the big Swede is all that and a bag of chips. I'm looking forward to shouting 'DROP THE K-BOMB' when opponents cross the blue.

The Habs just signed Alexei Emelin to 4 years @ 4.1M per. I guess Belov will be asking somewhere around that number. If we believe we can sign him to 3-4 years @ 3.5M per, then it is a better contract that Smid's 3.5M contract.

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#114 war
November 25 2013, 10:19AM
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Mact did great getting Perron,Gordon and Ferrence,and I gotta think theres something coming after getting rid of Smid,so i give him a b+ for that.He gets a d+ for the goaltending issue though and hope he fixes that during the off season

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#115 pkam
November 25 2013, 11:08AM
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Jordan Nugent-Hallkins wrote:

I'll give him credit for chasing Schneider and Bishop, at least he recognizes the weakness in net. Was it ever revealed what Gillis was asking for? Schneider would look great between the pipes in orange and blue right now, and this season would probably have started much differently.

Plus my sister is a massive Vancouver fan, I'd have loved to be able to rub her nose in it.

Rumor was Gillis asked a 1st and 2nd rounder plus a high prospect like Marincin or Pitlick.

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#116 CellyHard
November 25 2013, 11:27AM
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@WILLIS Do you think maybe a different coach and team could be why? He said Edmonton was more catered to his play style then St Louis.

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#117 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
November 25 2013, 12:08PM
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Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things wrote:

This is my main beef with it. If they thought he was redundant for next year, the right move is to wait for the trade deadline when even mediocre defencemen will net a decent return from teams making a push.

You make a good point......It makes you wonder about the details......did they consider moving Nick Schultz before Smid but could find no takers? Did they value N Schultz more than Smid?(which would imply that they think Smids reputation as a tough gritty D man was exaggerated)....or did they value them about equally but liked the Schultz contract more ....or was it that the return for Smid was greater than what was offered for Schultz?

Also, did their scouts value Brossoit and Horak more than most of us casual observers do?

Also, is the new management style gaining traction?.....not waiting around once a decision is made....impatient....etc.

I wish the local media would ask these questions in the pressers....or maybe they did and I missed it?

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#119 justDOit
November 24 2013, 03:23PM
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@Jonathan Willis

In trying to find another player who has seen a big jump in shots/gm, try looking for someone who might be obvious.

I don't know where to look this stuff up, nor do I have the time, but I'm willing to bet at least one guy on the 88-89 LA Kings saw an uptick in sh/gm. I'm not saying that Perron is playing with Gretzky here in Edmonton, just trying to find another example.

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/leagues/seasons/teams/0000401989.html

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#120 BC BOY
November 24 2013, 03:31PM
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@Rocket

Yeah he hasnt been a good signing so far but it wasn't a high risk signing only one year

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#121 Darrell
November 24 2013, 06:04PM
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DSF wrote:

Making the playoffs is certainly not the ultimate goal but it sure beats the alternative.

Agreed - the problem is that a good regular season means nothing if you lose in the first round every year. We would kill for a first round exit around here but drafting first is a pretty close second choice IMO as being Vancouver fan has to suck pretty bad too.

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#122 D-Unit
November 25 2013, 09:13AM
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S cottV wrote:

I would have to disagree. An experienced coach would have this team at .500 with an outside chance at rallying to make the playoffs. This is a disaster because it would have put the club in a position to play very serious must win hockey games for the remainder of the year. A great learning experience for the club, whether they ended up making the playoffs this year or not. Now - they will try to put a brave face on it - say the right things - maybe get the players to rally somewhat around the bigger picture beyond this year - but - very difficult to play 60 games with no chance to make the playoffs. The fact that we have had such turnover with the Head Coach was probably all the more reason to avoid too many system changes - too soon. The players looked like they were over thinking - second guessing themselves left and right through too many avoidable losses this year. I read a post not long ago that was apparently from an inside source which said something like "it might take 30 or 40 games for the players to totally get what Eakins is trying to do." OMG! Information overload - and it sure looked like it. With a 4 year contract, you dont have to fully put your stamp on a team until mid way through year 2, after a decent run at the playoffs year 1 and well on the way to making the playoffs in year 2. Arrogance, ego and inexperience got in the way. Geez - will this team make the playoffs next year? Only 140 more games to go, before we find out I guess...

I don't think you can say an experienced coach "would have", but maybe "should have". Things were a disaster, and it is system related. But systems get way too much talk. Every system comes back to fundamental hockey, with some minor differences. The players had a hard time playing his system and he did make tweaks to it. Though, it appeared the players only wanted to play the "I will just do whatever I want system". No coach will ever implement it though, cause it doesn't work.

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#123 Oildrops
November 25 2013, 10:02AM
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Dubnyk has not been rock solid, his corners are still the place to get goals, he's been beat so many times and saved by the post the past games.

With the Hawks, those guys don't miss a lot so I aspect him to be as soft as butter on Jennifer Garners a**.

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#124 pkam
November 25 2013, 10:12AM
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camdog wrote:

I'm starting to follow Mact's logic here, not saying that I agree, but I understand.

Mact thinks that Klefbomb will be as tough as Smid and ready for next season. Between Belov and N.Shultz the Smid role became redundant. The organization doesn't think Smid is good enough with the puck and not tough enough to warrant keeping around for another 3 seasons at his projected salary and subsequent cap hit.

I agree with the assessment of Smid and agree he is redundant. But I am still pissed at that trade for the little return that we get.

Perron is also redundant in the Blues roster and they need to dump his salary, yet they get something back in MPS and a 2nd. What do we get for Smid? A 170 lb AHL center and a goalie prospect who just graduated from WHL. I don't care about giving Roy because he won't get us anything anyway.

Didn't San Jose Sharks get 2 2nd round picks for Douglas Murray last year at trade deadline? I'll take Smid over Murray any day. So can we at least get one 2nd round pick for Smid?

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#125 pkam
November 25 2013, 10:31AM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

Dubnyk named one of the NHL's 3 stars of the week:

http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=693003&navid=DL|NHL|home

So… I guess everyone predicting he had eternally cratered was being reactionary… who would have guessed?

I have said before, by the end of the year, his SV% will be .915 or better, mean average or better than average.

Dubnyk's number is about the same as Crawford and Crawford has a much better team in front of him.

If we want an elite goalie, than Dubnyk is not the answer. But who is going to trade away their elite goalie?

Before we can develop our elite goalie (either we draft our own or we trade for a prospect with the potential), I think we are stuck with Dubnyk.

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#126 yaksbak
November 25 2013, 01:58PM
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S cottV wrote:

I would have to disagree. An experienced coach would have this team at .500 with an outside chance at rallying to make the playoffs. This is a disaster because it would have put the club in a position to play very serious must win hockey games for the remainder of the year. A great learning experience for the club, whether they ended up making the playoffs this year or not. Now - they will try to put a brave face on it - say the right things - maybe get the players to rally somewhat around the bigger picture beyond this year - but - very difficult to play 60 games with no chance to make the playoffs. The fact that we have had such turnover with the Head Coach was probably all the more reason to avoid too many system changes - too soon. The players looked like they were over thinking - second guessing themselves left and right through too many avoidable losses this year. I read a post not long ago that was apparently from an inside source which said something like "it might take 30 or 40 games for the players to totally get what Eakins is trying to do." OMG! Information overload - and it sure looked like it. With a 4 year contract, you dont have to fully put your stamp on a team until mid way through year 2, after a decent run at the playoffs year 1 and well on the way to making the playoffs in year 2. Arrogance, ego and inexperience got in the way. Geez - will this team make the playoffs next year? Only 140 more games to go, before we find out I guess...

Scotty Bowman couldn't have had this team at .500 with the goaltending we got.

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