Pouliot’s Production

One of Edmonton’s few success stories from last year was
Benoit Pouliot. He was targeted, I believe, in large part for his impact on
possession and he delivered not only there but also on the scoreboard. He ultimately went 58GP, 19-15-34 on the season. If not
for injury Pouliot would have surely established a new career high in points to
go along with the career high in goals he produced last year. Are
expectations for him going to be too high for this coming season?

Benoit Pouliot is the kind of player that does a lot of
little things really well. Taken one at a time these little things don’t seem all that impressive.
Taken as a whole and those little things add up to a very effective player. One of
the problems for Pouliot, especially early in his career, is that as a former fourth overall pick he wasn’t being judged on the little things that he does well. He was being judged
on offensive output which left some wanting. Not only was he producing point totals in the low 30’s, it
took him a while to establish himself in the NHL.

There’s no doubt that his limited offensive production
played a role in him bouncing around to five different teams in five consecutive
years. Fair or not, his lack of offense contributed to several teams not
believing he was part of the long term solution to their problems (and one of
those teams was the Chiarelli-run Bruins).

Maybe it’s part of the fancy stats revolution, or maybe it’s just MacT believed he saw something that others didn’t, but the club took a leap of
faith and went all in on Pouliot last summer, giving him a five year deal at four million dollars per season.

When I mention the fancy stats and Pouliot it’s because he’s
one of the players that was identified by possession metrics like Corsi as a
potential driver of possession. For just a glimpse into what I’m talking
about, here is how Pouliot ranked among forwards on his respective team in Corsi
for percentage relative to his teammates as per Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com over
the last five seasons.

2014-2015 Oilers – 3rd

2013-2014 Rangers – 2nd

2012-2013 Lightning – 1st

2011-2012 Bruins – 6th

2010-2011 Canadiens – 2nd

So he was first, second, or third in this metric for all but one of his last five stops. It’s a level of consistency that is pretty impressive. When we venture
to judge Benoit Pouliot we shouldn’t forget that one of the biggest reasons the
Oilers went out to get him is because the puck is in the right side of the rink
more often when he plays.

Bang

I say that because last season Pouliot shot the lights out
and found himself on the top line of the club, but replicating that level of success
could prove difficult. The first real experience that Oiler fans have with
Benoit Pouliot has been with him at his best offensively. That could paint some
expectations moving forward that might be difficult to overcome.

The first year Oiler set a new career high in personal
shooting percentage in 2014-2015 with 18.1% on 105 shots in 58 games. We’re
talking about what amounts to roughly a 27 goal pace for a player whose
previous career high was 16 goals.

When the play was 5v5 Pouliot had a team-high 16.46%
individual shooting percentage. On the 5v4 power play that number jumped to
23.53%.

Over the four seasons prior to that, those numbers were predictably
lower. Pouliot at 5v5 from 2010 to 2014 had a shooting percentage of 10.64%. On
the 5v4 power play over that same time, he shot 19.57%.

Now, those numbers for Pouliot over the last several years
aren’t bad. Not at all. In fact his points per 60
minutes has been pretty darn good for a while. A large degree of his increased overall production also comes from the Oiler winger playing 16+ minutes a night as opposed to
the 11-13 minutes he was getting elsewhere. That said, we still shouldn’t expect
Pouliot to maintain the sky high percentages he was putting up last year. We
should expect solid even strength production. We should expect him to continue
positively impacting possession. We should also be prepared for the goals in
particular to drop off.

If a drop off in production doesn’t happen then that’s fantastic,
but if we’re being reasonable then we shouldn’t be upset come December if
Pouliot is well off the pace he was on the year before. This isn’t an article
to suggest Pouliot doesn’t belong on a line with RNH or that he isn’t capable
of scoring 25+ goals this coming year. It’s all possible. We should just temper
expectations with players whose personal shooting percentage skyrocketed the
year before.

  • Rocklobzter

    Great article. I think if Pouliot can put up 20 goals and keep forechecking hard and giving the opposing D a hard time, then his 4M is well spent in my books.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      i agree. and the fact we signed a player that can actually play on the top 2 lines, and not have him be an overpay for 3rd liner like most Oiler fans thought he was going to be is an absolute bonus! i’m hoping hard that he can have a solid season this coming year and not have last season’s production be just a one off.

  • Rocklobzter

    if Pouliot can net 20 goals and 25 assists this season while playing 70+ game I would say that’s a successful campaign. Anything over that number is pure gravy.

  • Lofty

    As for Pouliots shooting percentage… I think his role on a line with Nuge and Eberle is conducive to a high number.

    Pou’s role with his line mates is to play in front of the net in the tough area. The closer you are generally the higher the shooting percentage because the quality of chances is better. Ryan Smyth had a pretty high shooting percentage for a season at 17% and a career above 13%.

    The opposite would be someone like Patrick O’sullivan who loved to loft butter biscuits at the net from outside the attacking zone.

    18% probably won’t happen again but if he stays with quality players like Nuge and Eberle 13% is a fair number to expect.

  • Canoe Ride 27.1

    So you are saying we shouldn’t be surprised if he scores 25, but also not surprised if he only scores 17. Okay. That is some fine fence sitting..haha

    Informative article, but ending it with an opinion would make it stronger.

  • Rocklobzter

    Hats off to MacT. This was an excellent signing and the thought of watching Pouliot play with Nuge and Ebs this year excites me.

    Is the season here yet?

    • Canoe Ride 27.1

      Yep, it gives us a solid top 6 line and opens up the other line to McDavid, Hall, and X.

      For all the crap we’ve given MacT, he deserves some credit for this one. Go Pouls!

      • freelancer

        By no means am I a MacT apologist but he did do a lot of good things for this club. He was able to bring in some actually effective complimentary players. Fayne, Pouliot, Gordon, Hendricks, and Klinkhammer all came in and did exactly what was expected of them and in some cases exceeded them.

        Unfortunately for him, the same as his predecessor he was not able to bring in the key positions to fill the clubs many critical holes.

  • freelancer

    I expect his points to go up a fair amount if healthy , but his shooting % to drop to a more sustainable rate . This would be incumbent on being a mainstay on top 2 lines . If on third line , I doubt he can fare any better than last season . I expect most of our players scoring figures to go up as a team with a revamped defence , goalie , coaching philosophy , and of course McDavid . .

  • fran huckzky

    Some players worth has to be measured by more than goals and assists. Are they strong in the corners? How quick do they come back if the puck gets turned over? Do they create space for linemates? etc etc/ Pouliot will get his points but he will also contribute in many other ways. Some guys,if they aren’t getting points,are not contributing.

  • freelancer

    Well said Matt, though very different players I would compare Pouliot to Perron. Had a career year his first year with the club and then dropped down to earth in his second year but was then looked down upon by fans because of high expectations.

    If Pouliot can continue to do what he does well (possession numbers wise, agitator) and be a 15-20 goal scorer he will continue to be a great complimentary player in our top 6.

  • bwar

    Really need to wait and see what McLellan does with the lines before any predictions on Pouliot’s production can be done with any level of accuracy. He could very well find himself on the first or third line this coming season and I think that playing with RNH and Eberle over Lander and Purcell will have a significant impact on his performance.

    • ubermiguel

      I can’t say the last time a team had their Top 6 score 25+ goals, but I looked up the top 10 scoring teams of all time and found that 40% of them only had five 25+ goal scorers; and as you can see these were all exceptional teams. So having your Top 6 all score 25+ is probably unreasonable.

      81-82 Oilers – 6
      82-83 Oilers – 7
      83-84 Oilers – 6
      84-85 Oilers – 5
      85-86 Oilers – 5
      70-71 Bruins – 7
      87-88 Flames – 6
      76-77 Habs – 5
      81-82 Isles – 5
      88-89 Kings – 7

      EDIT: And I forgot to look up how many of these scorers were defencemen so subtract Coffey and Orr and it’s much less reasonable to have your Top 6 forwards score 25+.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Shooting % is a cruel mistress. What really warmed me up to advanced stats was the summer after Ebs’ 78 point season. Willis was constantly warning us that his S% was inflated and unsustainable, and there would be a drop off next season. I didn’t believe him, but lo and behold, his shot percentage dropped, along with his goals.

  • A-Mc

    There are a number of other distractions on the team, i don’t think Pouliot is going to feel heat from fans or media TBH.

    Maybe that’s what he needs too: to be out of the limelight. As you say, as a 4th overall, he has been a relative disappointment to many who wanted JEberle numbers, but that’s not the type of player he is.

    Whether he’s on the 1st 2nd or 3rd line, he’ll do just fine. All three of those lines have high potential to score.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    I am fine with several players having a few goals less so long as the goals against average goes down more. I really expect to see a change over the season. I expect a great start just due to enthusiasm. Then a bit of a dip as players adapt to the new coach and systems. Then we should finish strong. The real question is will the dip be big enough and long enough to make the post season another lost cause.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    Does seem to really validate Corsi doesn’t it! The real measure is can you take advantage of such measurements and find hidden jewels.

  • The Soup Fascist

    My recollection of Pouliot was that he did not typically play with first line players at any of his previous stops for a sustained period of time.

    Is it possible his anomalous shooting percentage is the result of getting better “looks” that comes with playing with better offensive players?

  • Tikkanese

    Another positive sign about Pouliot’s last season was that when he was crazy hot (was it 9G in a 10GP stretch?) Eakins did not bump him to the 1st line then. So in other words he was crazy hot while not playing with the best offensive players or getting extra ice time.

    That drove me nuts that Eakins failed to recognize/reward/maximize a hot streak but Pouliot kept it going regardless.

  • Tikkanese

    Pou is an awesome player. Assuming he stays with Ebbs and RNH his linemates have not yet hit their stride. Combine that with an offensive 2nd line with Hall, McDavid and ? means less pressure for the first (or second line) Pou is on. Add in a D that can hold/retrieve the puck better and everything points to improvement.

    This guy is a quality top 6 forward that needs no training wheels.

  • Canoe Ride 27.1

    Black tape, left shot, left side seems to be the consensus, but I’m not opposed to seeing 67 left of 97 in the search for chemistry. His skills, overall game, and veteran demeanor could be nice for McDavid.

  • Rocklobzter

    I have to commend Pouliot for growing as the season progressed.

    He used to take horrible penalties (selfish, offensive zone, etc.), something that we were told he was known for. After one memorable penalty that cost them a game he never took a bad penalty again from what I remember.

    I consider it noteworthy because it seemed that he changed his attitude so that instead of retaliating he played harder on the puck.

    So in more ways than one I hope he resumes where he left off.

  • Rocklobzter

    He was a really good signing plus he is big and plays a fairly physical game however In a perfect world he would score at the same pace on the third line with Lander and Purcell. Leon and Yak are too good to not play in the top six somewhere that leaves Poo out on the third. Drai is not getting the love he deserves this guy is a future star.