Pouliot’s Struggles

Benoit Pouliot took a seat last night as the Oilers looked to different men to spark the team and get back into the Win column. Pouliot has been a divisive player during his time in Edmonton, and really over his entire career. He’s known both for his 5v5 offense and for his innate ability to get penalized in the offensive zone, but what’s going on with him this year?

To a good number of people, sitting Benoit Pouliot made as little sense as it made perfect sense to others. That’s because over the course of his career Pouliot has been a quality driver of offense 5v5. In many ways, that’s a weird thing to say about a player who has never cracked 36 points as a career high. Injuries have been an issue for him and so was ice time early in his career.

The Oilers took a risk signing Pouliot to a long-term deal after he bounced around the league as a former 4th overall pick of the Minnesota Wild. It was a risk that fancy stats analysis identified as a potential opportunity to snag a high possession forward with even strength offense. While lots of people in traditional circles raised eyebrows, the stats community really liked the deal.

Before joining the Oilers, the maligned forward had produced at a rate of 1.93 points per 60 minutes 5v5 between 2007-2008 and 2013-2014. During that time he also averaged 7.38 shots per 60 minutes, shot at 11.7%, and had a Corsi For a percentage of 52.5% with a CFRelTM of 2.7%. To give an idea of where he rated offensively in the time period, for all forwards with at least 4000 minutes played in that time period, Pouliot was ranked 67th in the NHL on a per 60 minute basis. People BELOW him on that list were names like Carter, Pavelski, and Marleau.

In his first two seasons with the Oilers, Benoit Pouliot produced at a rate of 1.99 points per 60 minutes 5v5. He averaged 6.30 shots per 60 minutes with a 13.2 shooting percentage and had a Corsi For a percentage of 50.7% and a CFRelTM of 2.7%. His offense 5v5 on a per 60 minute basis was ranked 42nd among NHL forwards with at least 1250 minutes player over that time-frame. Again, people BELOW him on that list were names like Scheifele, Backstrom, and Stamkos.

But what about this year? What has lead us to the point where this player is sitting in the pressbox?

This season Benoit Pouliot is producing at just a 1.11 points per 60 minutes. He is averaging 3.90 shots per 60 minutes and even though he’s shooting 24.3% it isn’t enough. While he has a Corsi For percentage of 51.0%, his CFRelTM is now a -0.2%. Offensively, he’s ranked 142nd among forwards with at least 200 minutes played. He’s now BELOW names like Girgensons, Ritchie, and King.

Edmonton’s $4 million left winger is almost half as productive as his career numbers suggest he should be. He’s shooting the puck almost half as frequently as he has over the course of his career. He’s still a positive shot attempt player, but now we have reason to question how much he’s the one pushing the pace. These are the numbers of a player who deserved to sit for a night.

To bring this back to more traditional numbers, if Pouliot continues at his current point pace, he’s going to finish with 18 points. In the last 10 games that he’s played, he has shot the puck on net just 11 times. He produced exactly 0 points in that stretch. In three of those ten games, he didn’t have a single shot on net and in two of those games he had played more than 18 minutes per night. That’s a lot of ice for someone who isn’t moving the dial.

There is a high degree of frustration with this player at the best of times, right now it is an all-time high. And, it’s deserved. What the Oilers have been getting from Benoit Pouliot this season is not what was promised to them before he signed with the club and what he has delivered over his first two seasons with the Oil.

The disconcerting part of these struggles is that it is not the case that he’s doing all the same things but this time he’s been snake bit. He actually has a sky high 5v5 shooting percentage and it is some fundamental issues that he’s running into. He can’t just keep doing the same things and wait out his percentages to normalize.

However, before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, let’s allow for the possibility that the move by McLellan to bench the player might be the kick in the ass that he needs to get back to playing the kind of hockey he is capable of. Benoit Pouliot can help the Oilers if he can just return to the form he has established over his NHL career. The past performance is there. We know he can be better. Now it’s on him to turn this thing around.

  • Jiff

    Never been a fan of the Pou. 4 million better spent elsewhere imo. I just hope he can raise his level of play enough so he can contribute until Chia see’s the light and gets rid of him.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I was hoping he would have been one of the few that was gone this past summer to a team that needed to get to the cap floor. Hopefully next summer that happens, because buying him out would hinder the Oilers more when it comes time to re-up a few players.

    Pouliot was one of MacT’s biggest FA blunders.

  • Pouliot’s career in the NHL and the 2 years with the Oilers prior to this one show that he has more value than he gets credit for. He really is struggling right now, but he should be able to overcome that. I support scratching him or anyone when they struggle. I’m looking forward to an Oiler team with a contributing Pouliot.

  • Strottie

    I’ll never cheer against a guy that’s snakebit: if Pouliot can put up 30+ points by the end of the year and can get his underlying numbers back to where they should be, then good on him. If the Oilers are going to make the playoffs this year, they need every guy on the team firing on all cylinders. Pouliot is a part of that.

    However, even if he brings himself back up to career numbers I’d strongly consider leaving him unprotected in the expansion draft. Pouliot’s tendency to take stupid offensive-zone penalties and inability to consistently put up north of 40 points (before injuries he’s had a couple of seasons where he was on pace for >40) leaves a lot to be desired out of a player cashing a 4M/year contract. If he boasts a strong two-way game, it’s appreciable, but hard to take advantage of when he’s usually the guy in the box. Las Vegas is projected to have a 25-ish million dollar gap between their salaries and the cap floor post expansion draft: two years of a serviceable player earning a bit too much is going to be attractive to their young team.

    4 million in cap space is going to become a luxury for us really soon once Draisaitl, McDavid, Nurse, and Puljujarvi get their bridge and/or big boy contracts; throughout this season and parts of last, I haven’t seen enough of a reason for Pouliot to stick around. The emergence of Caggiula and Benson’s projection down the road makes him expendable.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    Why was Letestu thrown in with Pouliot last night? Were they sitting too close to one another and he got lumped in.

    Points might not be there but I’ve been generally happy with Letestu this year.

    Mind you not happy enough to spend money on a jersey bearing his name. Call it more content with his play than anything.

        • Right, for one game…
          I’m not arguing the merits of one player over another, but if you compare the players that were shipped out under chia and the ones who were brought in, it’s tough to make the argument that the Oilers are building a fast team…

          • camdog

            I didn’t write they were putting together a fast team, I wrote the “Oilers are employing a faster line up right now.”

            Pitlick, Slephyshev, Russell and Hendricks are all better skaters than Pouliot, Gryba, Letestu and Lander. There is a possibility that this group including Fayne when he comes back, get limited ice time.

            And the only player that was shipped out that actually had speed, was Taylor Hall…

          • Cowbell_Feva

            The guy who is out for a month again? That guy? Please dude. Draisaitl beat Hall in the Oilers skills competition. McDavid is phenomenal. Sure Hall is fast. But also often injured and not a team player.

            If you haven’t figured out that the Oilers are a better team WITHOUT Hall then you haven’t been watching.

            I love Adam Larsson’s game. He has surprised me with his physicality. Great contract. And if he could ever gain some offensive awareness he would be a stud. Add Lucic and Russell and this team is better. Straight up.

          • camdog

            “If you haven’t figured out that the Oilers are a better team WITHOUT Hall then you haven’t been watching.”

            Are you illiterate? Do you have a grade 6 education? I have never written that the Oilers are better team with Hall. I wrote that PC hasn’t built a slow team, the only player with speed that he traded was Hall. The defense is faster both at skating and moving the puck than we’ve had in years. The defense being faster and quicker with the puck is a compliment.

      • Total Points

        I watch a lot of hockey games featuring other teams. I can watch without emotion.

        Sometimes I think the Oilers play too fast a game.

        This results in McDavid or Drai or Nuge or Kassian carrying the puck the lenght of the ice with out a pass and go system that many other teams do.

        The play, many times dies without a shot on goal or scoring chance.

      • Oilerchild77

        What? Kassian is one of the fastest skaters on the team. And Larsson isn’t a burner, but he’s a ptetty good skater. As for Pouliot, he’s also an excellent skater. That isn’t the problem. The problem is his production and consistency of play.

  • The Bored Man

    He’s been a perfect middle-six winger for two years and deserves another chance, starting Monday. Hopefully the healthy scratch was a wake-up call.

    Nonetheless, if the expansion draft was tomorrow and the Oilers had to choose between him and Maroon, I would fling the Poo without hesitation.

    We have 75% of the season left to see how that plays out.

  • freelancer

    My problem with Pouliot has always been that despite his “50 point pace” he has never actually scored 50 points. When he is playing he effective. I just believe that once his contract expires we should look for guys that can score 40 points and play more than 50 games a season.

  • PlayDirty

    Suggestion: when you use your more obscure stats, add a brief explanation at the end of the article or a link directly to somewhere it is spelled out. I’m not a stats geek but it would help you sell that POV without me having to think too hard.

    • RJ

      They had an article a couple of days ago, and I made the point that there are in the neighbourhood of 30 different shot statistics. You’d almost have to write a graduate thesis in statistics to keep them all separate, never mind saying my why one is better than another.

      I agree with this suggestion 100%. If you’re going the bring up “-0.2 CFRelTM”, perhaps you can have a side note explaining what that means and why it is significant. Perhaps a comparable. Is that better or worse than Yak under Eakins? Is it Boyd Gordon-esque? Is it worse than Korpse last year? Should we be mildly annoyed or outraged?

  • Mitch92

    With players of Pouliot’s ilk what matters is how they play when they are not scoring. Pouliot has to find a way to not get called for deflating penalties such as those in the offensive zone when his team has the momentum. He can afford a mistake or two when he is producing but you can’t give up much when you are not scoring much. Eberle is a prime example of that.

  • Oiler Al

    In a real world,Pouliot, is really a third liner.
    His best Nhl year was 36 pts. That is not top six performance.
    Typical of Oilers always wanting guys to punch above their weight.

    • chombo

      For what a 4 th rounder.
      The only way the Oilers are getting rid of Pouliot is if they package him with better picks then they are getting or if they eat Salary.

      • FISTO Siltanen

        Few things:

        If the Oilers dangle him in the expansion draft they are exposing him to be picked up by Vegas. There is no compensation to the Oilers for losing him.

        We just saw the untradeable Nail Yakupov leave for what will probably be a 3rd round pick. Somewhere out there a deal is possible without fancy maneuvering.

      • FISTO Siltanen

        Few things:

        If the Oilers dangle him in the expansion draft they are exposing him to be picked up by Vegas. There is no compensation to the Oilers for losing him.

        We just saw the untradeable Nail Yakupov leave for what will probably be a 3rd round pick. Somewhere out there a deal is possible without fancy maneuvering.

  • hockey1099

    I have no idea why people (hendo and Willis ) blog about stats. Just put the links up And be done with the article. Writing out stats lines makes them more difficult to read.

    In regards to pouliot I like the fact the coach benched him. Next up lucic. If you’re a veteran you need to produce and play well. If you don’t I’m glad to see McClellan willing to bench them to wake them up.

  • wiseguy

    Interesting isn’t it that we excuse rnh lack of points because he’s playing a shutdown role against the other team’s best players every night. Poo has been on the same line in the same role most nights yet here we are – disappointed that he is only producing half the shots and points.

  • S cottV

    We would do Pouliot, Lucic, Maroon and Kassian a big favor by transitioning away from one and done rush hockey.

    We brought these guys in to do that, but remain in limbo – not that great at either.

    So – we’re making these guys skate miles, instead of doing what they are built for. Puck protection, cycling, moving the puck around the o zone and crashing the blue paint for heavy hitter goals.

  • whateverhappenedtoearledwards

    Has anyone factored in the number of times Poo shoots the puck into his own net? Seriously he scored the winning goal for Pittsburgh and I recall he also shot into his own net(I don’t mean a deflection of his skate or arm or something) 2 or 3 times last year.

  • Gravis82

    when he stopped taking offensive zone penalties, his production fell off a cliff.

    When he stopped being aggressive, his production fell off a cliff.

    When he stopped doing what got him to the NHL, his production fell off a cliff.

    When he stops playing to his strengths, he is a weak NHL player.

  • RJ

    I’m not a fan of Pouliot, but I think some focus on his linemates would also help.

    Nuge had been a decent point producer his career. He now has 8 points in 19 games. He’s not producing and how much of that is Pou being a dead weight and how much is Nuge losing his offensive game?

  • hockey fan 1976

    I know it sucks to waste $73k sitting out for one game, but it might just be what the “bear” needs to get mad and start playing with the edge and mean streak he was paid to come to Edmonton for.

    will TM have the guts to do it though?

  • baxwar_580

    I like what Pou brings. Refs really hate him I’ve noticed. The penalties affected the way he was playing and he lost momentum. It seems he’s adjusting to playing how the refs are calling him. I think that’s part of the factor for his diminished points total.