“Some Semblance of Risk”

Jonathan Willis
July 11 2013 09:12AM

On Wednesday, the Edmonton Oilers sent Magnus Paajarvi and a second round draft pick to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for David Perron. Robin Brownlee had the initial write-up here, and Lowetide opined here. But I really wanted a chance to dig into the trade a bit myself; and in doing so found myself thinking back to Craig MacTavish’s first day on the job.

Magnus Paajarvi is a quality NHL player in the here and now; he brings a lot and probably ends up being a useful NHL player for the next decade or more. It’s easy to understand the Blues’ reasoning on the swap – they added a younger, cheaper, bigger player who can play top-nine minutes now and doesn’t have the concussion history that David Perron does. St. Louis still has to ink Chris Stewart and Alex Pietrangelo; between their cap constraints and the extra second round pick this is a trade that makes a great deal of sense for them.

With that said: the Oilers took home the best player in the deal. They made their team better. Perron is 25 years old, contributes at both ends of the rink, and is signed at a reasonable price point for three more seasons. The injury history adds some risk, but as Craig MacTavish said in his introductory press conference, “We have to expose ourselves to some semblance of risk to try and move the team forward in a rapid fashion.”

Cost and risk are both part of this deal, but the amount of both is reasonable.

Finishing Ability

One of the blind spots people who spend a lot of time looking at possession numbers (I’m in that group, by the way) can have is a tendency to entirely discredit finishing ability because so much of it is unrepeatable. To a certain degree, that’s valid – as a “for instance,” the pessimistic predictions of Jordan Eberle’s goal totals after his 18.9 shooting percentage season were pretty much bang on, despite the amount of anger they generated last summer – but sometimes it isn’t. Different players have a genuinely different level of finishing ability, and by the look of it there’s quite a gap between Perron and Paajarvi.

  • Perron career NHL shooting percentage: 13.5 percent on 622 shots
  • Paajarvi career NHL shooting percentage: 7.8 percent on 334 shots
  • Paajarvi career AHL shooting percentage: 5.9 percent on 186 shots
  • Paajarvi career SHL shooting percentage: 6.9 percent on 288 shots
  • Paajarvi career professional shooting percentage: 7.1 percent on 808 shots

Shooting percentage doesn’t typically improve with age either; it’s steady through the mid-twenties and then falls off. We’re still in relatively small samples for both Perron and Paajarvi, but as professionals Perron’s shooting percentage is nearly double that of the player he was traded for, and that’s before taking into account that Perron’s shooting percentage is entirely from NHL hockey while we’re looking at other levels too with Paajarvi. Could the gap be smaller than it appears to be? Sure. But it seems extremely likely to me that there is a real difference between these two players in finishing ability.

Other Numbers

Perron:

Season QC Rk. ZS RelCorsi PTS/60 5v4 P/60
2007-08 9th 50.6 9.7 1.95 2.39
2008-09 10th 61.0 6.4 2.32 2.65
2009-10 10th 54.6 4.7 1.82 3.09
2011-12 3rd 47.3 -3.7 2.07 3.38
2012-13 4th 50.8 2.5 1.58 3.09

Paajarvi:

Season QC Rk. ZS RelCorsi PTS/60 5v4 P/60
2010-11 7th 51.6 3.2 1.36 3.45
2011-12 9th 47.7 6.6 0.75 2.84
2012-13 6th 51.0 -1.6 1.54 2.05

I know, it’s a wall of charts. Here’s a quick rundown on what the numbers mean.

QC Rk. Where each player ranked among eligible forwards (20 game cutoff) on their own team in Behindthenet.ca’s “Quality of Competition” metric. What it shows is Paajarvi mostly playing third-line opposition, and Perron jumping from depth opponents to real quality the last two seasons.

ZS. Short for “zone starts”, another BtN statistic. A number over 50 percent indicates more time in the offensive zone; a number under 50 percent more time in the defensive zone. Not a lot to choose between these players, really.

RelCorsi. The possession number of choice; this is a plus/minus of shots, missed shots and blocked shots adjusted for team strength. Neither player has world-beating numbers, but both Paajarvi and Perron have over their careers demonstrated an ability to outperform their team averages. Put another way: with either guy on the ice, his team generally outshoots the opposition.

PTS/60 and 5v4 P/60. Two scoring measures – the first 5-on-5 points per hour played, the second the same except for 5-on-4 situations. Paajarvi and Perron have both been underwhelming power play scorers over their careers, but while Paajarvi has also struggled to score at evens the offence has come much easier for Perron – a career average in the 2.00 range is quite good for an NHL forward, and represents the primary area of upgrade for the Oilers.

Linemates It isn’t shown above, but the players Perron and Paajarvi have played with are available. There isn’t a whole lot to choose from – Paajarvi has mostly been Sam Gagner’s wingman, while Perron has played a lot with Patrik Berglund which is, if not a saw-off, at least in the range. Paajarvi has had things a little rougher because St. Louis has been a better team than Edmonton over this stretch, but it’s difficult to make a case that linemates are responsible for the differences between the two.

My View

The risk is two-fold: that Paajarvi suddenly discovers a scoring touch or that David Perron gets hurt again. Given Paajarvi’s long-term record, going back to his days in Sweden, that’s a risk a team can reasonably take for a superior scorer like Perron. The concussion worry is another reasonable risk: Perron suffered one big concussion that basically cost him the 2010-11 season and a bunch of 2011-12, but he’s also played 120 consecutive games since that point. The risk needs to be acknowledged, because it’s happened once before; on the other hand, it would be a mistake to label Perron as “injury prone” because it’s very difficult to know to what degree that concussion has elevated the chances of him suffering others relative to other NHL players. He could be significantly more at risk, but still unlikely to suffer another serious concussion; everyone seems to agree that one concussion increases the chances of having another but nobody can seem to put a firm number on exactly how much that risk has increased.

Those are fair risks to take, given that Perron makes the Oilers a better team than Paajarvi did.

Recently around the Nation Network

At NHL Numbers, Rex Libris reviews the NHL Entry Draft from 1990 to 1999:

All in all, the 90s were a lost decade for anyone cheering for a team in a new or smaller market as well as those fans of the NHL Entry Draft. I don't have a definitive answer as to why it happened, but suffice to say that it may well happen again and fans would do well to temper their enthusiasm amid the seasonal hype that surrounds the NHL Entry Draft.

Click the link to read more, or alternately, feel free check out some of my other pieces here:

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, 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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#51 Pouzar99
July 11 2013, 01:22PM
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The article on truehockey.com about Perron and MP is well worth a read. Don`t skip it just because DSF recommended it.

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#52 Pucker - B class
July 11 2013, 01:23PM
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DSF wrote:

The trade from a STL point of view:

http://www.truehockey.com/articles/Time-for-Perron-to-Move-ForwardPaajarvi-Still-Proving-Himself

you likely won't hear it from this keyboard again but, thanks DSF. That is a pretty good read.

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#53 The Soup Fascist
July 11 2013, 01:25PM
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RJ wrote:

I'm just spitballing here, but if Gagner gets a one-year deal from the arbitrator, then isn't it logical (from a business POV) to test free agency? And if you know he's going to test the UFA waters, then he's just a rental player, which has a lower value than if he was signed for three or four years.

But what do I know? Maybe we hear today or tomorrow Gagner's signed a 5/6 year deal.

You could be right and Tambo not locking Gagner up last year puts Gagner's camp in the drivers seat. However, typically if the team retaining the rights for a player in his last pre-UFA year does not think they can sign them, they will work on a trade and allow permission for the team on the other end of the trade to talk to the player's agent. I could be wrong but I believe that is permissable.

So say Gagner goes to arbitration and at some point the Oilers don't think they can sign him for the 2014-2015 season, they work out a deal with say, Nashville and pending an agreement between Nashville and Gagner's agent and voila a deal is done. In my mind, Gagner's value is only lessened if there are no teams prepared to pay the $ he is looking for. And teams have proved, to a fault, they will pay for a guy like Gagner who appears to have turned the corner and can put up points.

I think it is a moot point though and Gagner will sign before his hearing for 4 years @ $19M or so. But I am just guessing.

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#54 WhattaMike
July 11 2013, 01:28PM
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@Quicksilver ballet

Oh yeah I agree that Hemsky for nothing now is better to have him stay here... as a new 3rd lone winger up to 2nd line .. if the Oilers need him there for a bit more.

But... I would just think that if he could command a 2nd and a 3rd rounder in draft picks at the least then the Oilers can make offer sheets to those such as like Clifford..now this summer.

The trade deadline this coming year would be good to put Hemsky into then but....his history of injury comes up too much as that time period these last past few years...

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#55 The Soup Fascist
July 11 2013, 01:31PM
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Romanus wrote:

The shooting percentage debate is always fun. I always like to look at Ovechkin. The year he scored 56 goals he had a "dreadful" 10.6 S%. He scored 65 with a 14.6 S%, and 52 with a 12.2 S%.

Ultimately the stat that matters is goals. Some players get the puck to the net more often to score, others only shoot when they have the ideal shot. This past season I saw Eberle just get the puck to the net more often and in the back of the mind I was thinking - you are ruining S% and now I am going to have to hear the debate about sustaining shooting percentage again.

Is it better to have a guy that gets 30 goals on 200 shots (15%), or 10 goals on 40 shots (25%)?

Or even 30/200 vs. 30/100? this being equal, the 30/200 likely led to someone else scoring on a rebound more often.

You are right. Score 30 again and the shooting % is a non factor.

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#56 Spydyr
July 11 2013, 02:40PM
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Will the Oilers be a better team next year?Sure.Will they be a better team in three years when they are more ready to contend?Not so sure.As always time will tell.

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#57 Oilcan
July 11 2013, 02:47PM
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Off topic but does anyone else think Matheson has lost most credibility, he has said some very odd things lately about players (just way off on player types) and now he is saying Perron is top 9 he is the first person I have seen not say top 6. Maybe it's just that with twitter he now speaks his opinion more then he does in his articles but is opinions seem terrible in my opinion. Just wondering if anyone else has noticed this?

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#58 Fisher
July 11 2013, 03:19PM
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Kovy RETIRES: Here is how you turn nothing into something. We trade Hemmer and swap 2014 1st rounders with NJ for Larrson. Here's the logic. 2014 1st for NJD is a dead pick (forfeited from Kovy signing). The Devils get Hemmer, and go from -1 first round picks, to +1 1st round picks. THAT's the equivalent of two firsts swing. WOULD the Devils trade Larrson for 2 1sts, and Hemmer? DO we need to sweeten with a D prospect? Gernat? Maricin? Better question, does the NHL allow this to happen? Thoughts?

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#59 2004Z06
July 11 2013, 05:15PM
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Obiwan Eberle - Team Silver Fox wrote:

I know its best to move on, but I wonder if Perron, Colburn and Clarkson were all slated to happen independently of each other. Mac T did state he was going after Perron at the draft. Those three plus the other adds would have been "christmas miracle" level of changes....thus they did not happen

I do wonder why everyone is so worried about Gag's arbitration...didn't some 18 players file last offseason, and NONE make it to the date?

In MacT I trust..GO OIL!

I am worried about arbitration because it guarantees Gagner becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He could walk for nothing if the Oilers don't resign or trade him before then.

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#60 2004Z06
July 11 2013, 05:18PM
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oilerjed wrote:

@ Soup facist

Im glad I read through the posts before I commented (my fingers were twitching when I read the article). Totally was thinking the same thing about Ebs, I am expecting a really good year from him. If he doesnt get 80+ pts this year I will be surprised.

Smytty(sp)should be on the 4L unless he somehow has a miracle off season and comes back in the body of a 25 year old. He is exactly what is needed on the 4th and can slide up to 3l if needed and plant his ass in front on the PP to show some how it is done.

@JW Is Hemsky really suited for a 3L role or are we trying the square peg round hole trick only because we cant get rid of him. I cant help but wonder how he feels about coming back next year after being told that he has no place on thge team anymor.

If Eberle doesn't return to form next year i.e. 60+ pts min, then that contract starts to look an awful lot like an ex Oilers captains deal!

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#61 voom04
July 11 2013, 08:36PM
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I would not be in a hurry to give hemsky away, even till after the season starts, teams always have injury`s and will get desperate.

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#62 Fantheoilman
July 11 2013, 09:03PM
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Oilcan wrote:

Off topic but does anyone else think Matheson has lost most credibility, he has said some very odd things lately about players (just way off on player types) and now he is saying Perron is top 9 he is the first person I have seen not say top 6. Maybe it's just that with twitter he now speaks his opinion more then he does in his articles but is opinions seem terrible in my opinion. Just wondering if anyone else has noticed this?

I had to stop following him as I thought he was losing his mind. It was either stop following or start stalking and beat him with DSF.

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#63 exsanguinator
July 11 2013, 09:44PM
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not sure if anyone has mentioned this yet but MacT was one of the representatives of only three or four teams at the big sports analytics conference they had a while ago whose name escapes me.

Pretty sure he's into it.

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#64 Johnny
July 11 2013, 10:04PM
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Fantheoilman wrote:

I had to stop following him as I thought he was losing his mind. It was either stop following or start stalking and beat him with DSF.

I worry about Matheson these days....

On another note, JW, I find it a little annoying how you have to look at shooting percentages to figure out Perron is a better finisher. I guess you are using math to justify it, and it makes a better case than just saying it, but it sounds like you don't even watch hockey.

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#65 Johnny
July 12 2013, 08:14AM
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"Different players have a genuinely different level of finishing ability, and by the look of it there’s quite a gap between Perron and Paajarvi."

"And by the look of it, there's quite a gap"?

One does not have to look at shooting % to know that Perron is a better finisher than Paajarvi.

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#67 Johnny
July 12 2013, 12:11PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Personally, I think "here are facts that support my statement" always trumps "here's what I think with no substantiation."

Fair enough. I caught this article when I was in a particulartily bad mood. And sometimes the math stuff gets to me a little bit.

The last thing I want is to give the impression that I don't appreciate all the work you guys do though. Now if you could only produce actual hockey games...

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