David Perron: MacTavish’s Masterpiece?

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.

  • THRNHJE

    Wrong thread DSF, go back to the thread about MacG, this one is about MacT.

    I must agree that our drafting has been historically dreadful. Someone on the other page said offer SJ’s scouts copious amounts of money to come here… I could get behind that idea.

    OH and on topic, I liked Magnus more than most fans did, but I thought it was a good trade when I saw it. It has turned out to be evem better than I expected.

  • S cottV

    No question that the Perron deal was an excellent move by MacT. Hiring a rookie Coach that killed playoff aspirations by mid Nov was quite the opposite. Eakins let his ego get in the way, by trying to implement too much change too soon. Suspect new systems overly confused the player group and led to avoidable losses. You don’t have to put “your stamp” on a hockey club right out of the gate. The Eakins way could have been staged in over time. Run more familiar systems with the focus being a strong start, not playing Eakins hockey. The swarm was a disaster and has for the most part been scrapped, but the damage is done to this season. An experienced coach would not have made these mistakes and this club is no worse than.500 at this point. Don’t blame the goaltenders, this one is on MacT – for hiring a rookie Coach. Oilers should have had a chance to rally for a playoff spot this year.

    • D-Unit

      I’m not saying Eakins is without fault for where this team is at, but I am very doubtful many other coaches would have the Oilers in much of a different position. One thing I do fault him for is that he assumed he was dealing with a team who understood the fundamentals of playing NHL Hockey. Any coach coming to a team who has been through as many coaches as the Oil have recently should have picked up on that. Ralph wasn’t the guy to be coaching this team either. Let’s face it, the only reason he was ever head coach was because Steve T didn’t want to do any hard work finding a new coach last year, and didn’t want to look like a bad guy.

      • S cottV

        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…

        • D-Unit

          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.

  • I hated this trade when MacLooselips made it. I thought MPS had turned a corner in his play last season and was starting to protect the puck with his body and take it to the net. I thought MPS AND a second rounder was a terrible price to pay for Perron. I thought he was another small skill player on a team already overloaded with them.

    I was wrong.

    I knew Perron had skill and great hands. What I didn’t know was how much grit and agitation he had in his game. He has been excellent, and I am happy to admit I was very wrong about that trade.

  • I’m continually amazed that some people who rely on stats are confounded by the possibility that a pro athlete might do something different or change something about his game to acquire massive improvements (legally I mean – not “The Armstrong way”). Being at the top of your sport doesn’t mean you can’t always strive to get better. Sometimes in the course of doing so you discover something simple that puts you on a new level. That’s one of the coolest things about sport.

    On the other hand, Perron’s improvement might be the result of something as inane as a training camp conversation like this:

    Eakins: Hey David, you ever thought about shooting more? Might help.

    Perron: Nope. But I’ll give it a try and see what happens.

    *High fives*

    • David, if it’s so simple why doesn’t it happen more often?

      I’ve looked over the 15 years of data the NHL has, and as far as I can tell
      no other player has seen this kind of jump in his shots totals at this age
      .

      If it were just a matter of a conversation in training camp, you’d think we’d see this more often, no? After all, Dallas Eakins isn’t exactly the only coach in the NHL who wants his players to shoot more.

      I’m not sure what you do for work, David, but do you have a conversation with your boss and then decide to be twice as productive as you have ever been in your life? Is it really that easy?

      Your view seems like a gross oversimplification, something that you’re relying on because it’s a hell of a lot easier to say ‘oh, he just decided to be twice as good’ when someone asks ‘what happened’ than it is to try and answer the question in any kind of meaningful way.

      • A-Mc

        Actually this happens all the time in the work place but it’s staged a little different.

        People can only do so much, but if given the green light, they can focus on one aspect of their job to exceedingly increase production in that category.

        In Perron’s case, the oilers may have given him the green light to focus on a few things that he wasn’t allowed the freedom to do in STL.

        He isn’t taking his normal work accomplishments and then doubling them, because that would likely be impossible. He’s more than likely taking FROM one aspect of his game and refocusing in another. Because the refocus has been offense and offense is king, we notice it more.

        A poster earlier talked about systems *heavily Defensive) and another posted about possession. Maybe these are aspects that have suffered to make his Off. So much better.

        Just a thought.

      • 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.

        • I expect that has something to do it, but I never really keyed in on Perron when he played in St. Louis so I can’t offer a meaningful answer as to what, exactly, happened.

          But we know Perron wasn’t a great fit for Hitchcock and we know Hitchcock is heavily defence-oriented, so it seems highly plausible to me that it is at least part of the answer.

  • DSF

    some Oiler trade chatter from Garrioch:

    “Edmonton GM Craig MacTavish has been calling around to get a blueliner to replace D Ladislav Smid, who was dealt down the street to Calgary.

    The Oilers need help everywhere, however, teams are asking for young players in return. “They want to do something but they overrate their players which means the prices are high,” said a league executive.

    He should be able to get a top pick for UFA RW Ales Hemsky”

    http://www.ottawasun.com/2013/11/23/phillys-captain-claude-giroux-set-for-sochi-olympics

  • a lg dubl dubl

    If MacT can pull another trade like he did with Perron, for a top 2 dman this season, he should be handed the GM of the year award, even if the Oilers finish dead last again.

    Petry and this yrs 1st rounder for Letang or something along that line.

  • Wax Man Riley

    My guess is that Perron is a true professional. He came in here a little older and a little more mature, with an outside view of this organization. When he sees that the team needs grit, and the coach asks for more grit, he delivers.

    When he sees that this team needs to shoot more, and the coach says that you can’t pass the puck into the net, he thinks “ok then I will shoot more.”

    I think it is simply Perron realizing what needs to be done and doing it. He is leading by example, and I hope the rest of the team takes note.

  • A-Mc

    When I heard that we were getting Perron, I watched some StL games to see what he was about. In those games he looked shifty with his hands but he definitely didn’t look like a constant threat. Also, he wasn’t as gritty as we have seen so far from him.

    I was on the fence at first but now that we have seen what he consistently brings, he was a steal! His play looks different by my eye but it doesn’t look unreasonable or unsustainable.

    Some players just fit better with certain teams/systems; I really hope Perron has found HIS catalyst for good Play, here in edm.

    If you’re going to have small forwards, you want them to be gritty like Perron.

    • Rob...

      He was actually pretty gritty in St Louis but his linemates were Backes and Oshie on most nights so he didn’t play that role as often as he does here because he didn’t need to. I was always a Perron fan and was surprised when I heard about the deal because he’s a skill guy with some edge and they didn’t give up much for him. I guess St Louis had to decide between him and Oshie because they’re fairly similar players, kind of like Neal and Benn in Dallas. Those deals always make me scratch my head though because unlike Edmonton having too many skill perimeter players, having more than one of Benn, Neal, Oshie, or Perron seems like a good thing.

      • DSF

        Perron was moved as a salary dump so the Blues could sign Chris Stewart and TJ Oshie.

        With Backes, Stewart, Oshie, Reaves, Cracknell, Sobotka and Lapierre, the Blues are a very gritty team.

        No surprise that Perron is a different player now that he’s not playing Hitchcock’s D first system.

        Too bad the Oilers didn’t draft him when they had a chance.

        • S cottV

          “Too bad the Blackhawks didn’t draft Patrick Sharp when they had the chance back in 2001.

          Adam Munro, Matt Keith, Craig Anderson (who they lost on waivers), Nicolas Corbeil were all drafted by Chicago, ahead of Philly’s 95th pick.”

          … is what a pathetic and sour old loser would say!

          Who the heck cares how a team acquires a player? Flyers got fleeced in 2005 and the Hawks made up for that poor draft big time with this trade 4 years later. Sound familiar?

          And who cares what the circumstances in St. Louis were at the time? Oh, they had to shed salary? Thanks, captain obvious! MacT was an opportunist, and 28 other teams lost out, case closed. Arguing anything around this point and blaming the team that won the trade for not drafting Perron in the first place is loser talk, coming from someone who likes to argue for the sake of it.

        • Spydyr

          His point totals are almost identical to the guy we did draft. What is your point? Actually I don’t want to hear it but I’m sure we will anyways. We could have also picked Jakub Voracek or Logan Couture or Jamie Benn, heck even PK. But we didn’t.

          • pkam

            I know, and I also know the head amateur scout Kevin Prendergast for that draft has been replaced.

            You know Canucks picked Patrick White just ahead of Perron, right? And you know that the Canucks picked Cody Hodgson ahead of Erik Karlsson and Jordan Eberle, right?

            And you know that head amateur scout is still with the Canucks organization, right?

          • DSF

            Yeah their amateur scouting has been a weakness forever although Edler (3rd round) Bieksa (5th round), Hansen (9th round),

            Their pro scouting makes up for that pretty well by finding undrafted free agents or useful players on the waiver wire.

            Alex Burrows, Chris Tanev and Eddie Lack were undrafted treasures while they’ve also picked up Chris Higgins, Mike Santorelli, Ryan Stanton and others for peanuts.

          • DSF

            Oh, like all teams, they make mistakes but there is a reason they’ve made the playoffs for 7 years in a row. (might not this season).

            To what do you attribute their ongoing success?

          • pkam

            4th overall in 1998 then 2nd and 3rd overall in 1999, and finally after almost 10 years.

            Base on this precedence, the Oilers will make the playoff 7 years in a row in around 2017 – 2024.

          • DSF

            I am an Atlanta Braves fan – making the playoffs is not enough anymore when you continually find a way to screw it up. The beauty is at least the Brave won once while the Canucks continue to disappoint.

          • pkam

            The fact is, Red Wings only made the playoff twice in 16 years (from 1966-67 to 1982-83) and nobody is talking about it. Everyone is talking about their 2 cups in the last 10 years, or their 4 cups in the last 20 years.

            Also, nobody is talking about the Canucks 7 years playoff streak, but everyone is talking about their 43 year cupless streak.

            The only exception is Canucks fans.

          • DSF

            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.

          • DSF

            Vancouver 3, Oilers 7 and Calgary went 8 years ago with no sign of life for any of the franchises. I will take the draft picks at this point but you’re right enough is enough. Why not use some of that knowledge to support the Oilers as it would be freshing for once …

          • DSF

            Well, considering he was drafted 26th and by the Blues, while the Oilers had 3 first round picks before that, that would leave only 22 teams who passed.

            Some of those were busy picking the likes of Patrick Kane, JVR, Kyle Turris, Karl Alzner, Jakub Voracek, Logan Couture, Lars Eller, Ken Shattenkirk, Ryan McDonagh and Max Pacioretty, so it appears only a few teams missed and only one of them had 3 first round picks.

          • Rocket

            Just curious DSF – do other teams make mistakes in your eye or just the Oilers? It amazes me how you can continually play Monday morning QB ! What amazes me even more is that your allowed to crap on the Oilers on our own site without the admins doing something – lowetide site benefits Wanye – grow a pair !

          • DSF

            Of course other teams make mistakes.

            I’d be more that happy to discuss any team’s record in the draft with you.

            I amazed that you would take umbrage with any critical analysis of a team that is about to miss the playoffs for the 8th straight season.

            That didn’t happen accidentally you know.

          • D-Unit

            Why no mention of how the Wild were busy picking Colton Gillies? Really, he had 10 points for the Wild, he turned out great, and was only picked 10 spots ahead of Perron.

          • DSF

            Yeah, he was picked right after the Oilers picked Alex Plante.

            Gillies has 157 NHL games to his credit while Plante is getting his head kicked in the Austrian league (24GP 1G 7P -11).

            Remember, the Oilers didn’t draft David Perron.

          • DSF

            Keep ignoring reality if you like.

            At least 10 of those teams drafted better players and only 2 teams in that draft had more than 1 first round pick.

            St Louis came away with Lars Eller and David Perron and the Oilers came away with Sam Gagner and a fist full of nothing.

          • YFC Prez

            As usual you use skewed results, 4 of the names you mentioned were drafted before the oilers first pick. You realize you are the joke of this site, with zero credibility.

            It’s sad really because this was NOT a good draft for Oilers, yet you still feel the need to distort the facts…… WOW you really just can’t help your self PATHETIC !

          • Spydyr

            Keep ignoring reality if you like.

            At least 10 of those teams drafted better players and only 2 teams in that draft had more than 1 first round pick.

            St Louis came away with Lars Eller and David Perron and the Oilers came away with Sam Gagner and a fist full of nothing.

            Your hindsight is astonishing.

          • DSF

            Verifiable facts are verifiable.

            The Oilers had 3 shots at hitting pay dirt in what is deemed to be the best draft, perhaps, in NHL history and came away with Sam Gagner.

            While only having 2 first round picks and drafting lower than the Oilers, the Blues came away with two very good NHL players.

  • D

    And I never would have thought he’d draw penalties better than MPS, but he does. Perron brings the Oilers exactly the kind of sandpaper they needed and he’s and offensive weapon.

    Just like he said in his first presser. MacTavish will be judged on his work and his forwards are a plus. His defense is still up for debate.

        • Johnnydapunk

          That’s my fear as well. With Belov as he doesn’t seem to be interviewed much, it’s hard to gauge what his mindset is. He is getting a lot of minutes and seems to have been left to just worry about hockey so that might work in the Oilers favour. He seems like a fairly principled guy, the signing of one year deals to keep his hunger to have to play for a new contract and also keep his options open is different, but kind of refreshing.

          I think we are just starting to see him come into his game, he has a surprisingly nasty streak in him which has only just started to come out. This video from the KHL is what happens when you piss him off 🙂

          Belov reaction