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?
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.
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.