Hockey

Game #18 – Hawks vs. Knights Spotlight: Are We Getting The Real Patches?

If you want to feel better about organizational methods, it’s always good to laugh at someone else. It doesn’t mean your team is run any better, but at least you know there are other idiots along with you. Misery loves company, and so does idiocy. AMERICA.

Cast your mind back three years ago, when the Montreal Canadiens traded PK Subban to Nashville. Part of the reason they did that was they felt he was a problem in the dressing room, and the reason they felt like that was their captain Max Pacioretty pretty much made that clear. Because Pacioretty is the most boring person in the world and adheres to the strict hockey code that no one can ever be interesting in any way, or something.

Well, less than two years later Pacioretty was gone to Vegas, so that’s some excellent long-term planning there. And the Habs haven’t won a playoff series since all this started anyway. Sounds a touch familiar. Strange that Les Habitants are run by a former Hawks employee, no?

Not that Pacioretty has been all that glorious himself. A big reason the Canadiens decided to punt him before he hit free agency is they felt he was already on the decline. And there was reason to think that. His last year in Montreal saw him play only 64 games, and score just 17 goals. And while a 4.7% shooting-percentage at even-strength and an 8% overall just aren’t Patches numbers, there were other warning signs. We would never trust Marc Bergevin to actually heed them, but maybe he got it right anyway.

Pacioretty’s chances and attempts were dropping. After topping out in ’15-’16 with exactly an 1.00 xGF/60, he had declined in the next two seasons. His attempts per game also fell by a quarter in the next two seasons. Same with his scoring chances. Pacioretty simply wasn’t getting to the same areas. A shooting-percentage spike saved one of those seasons, but he fell to just 17 goals in his last season in the Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge.

Things didn’t improve much in his first year in the desert, either. Patches once again saw his body let him down, as he only played 66 games last year. He did manage 22 goals, but still wasn’t anywhere near the 35-goal machine he had been in Montreal and which the Knights probably thought they were getting some version of when they traded for him and gave him an additional five years on his contract. Again, his metrics continued to slip.

It appears that slide has arrested, at least in the open environs of October hockey.

So far, Patches is averaging more shots per game than he has at any point in his career. His expected-goals is higher than at any time since he became a genuine top-line threat. His attempts per 60 are up around 2016 levels. So even though he’s getting no luck with a 7% shooting-percentage overall, he’s still managed six goals and you’d expect with the chances he’s getting that he’s going to have a binge here pretty soon. Just hopefully not tonight, but when has anything like that worked out for the Hawks against the Knights?

You can probably thank Mark Stone‘s arrival for this. All of Patches’s numbers took a bump up when Stone was on the other side of Paul Stastny from him, and that’s continued this year. Although it could be argued he’s having just as big of an impact on Stone, as in very limited time without each other (just 57 minutes or so), it’s Stone’s numbers that fall off a cliff more than Pacioretty’s. Either way, they make for quite the force. Especially in the playoffs last year, where Pacioretty threw up 11 points in just seven games against the Sharks. Too bad he doesn’t kill penalties though, huh?

They’d better. Pacioretty’s contract was starting to have real potential to become James Neal-like if he’d continued tumbling down the mountainside. He’s signed until he’s 34, and power forwards do not tend to age well in a league that keeps getting faster. And we’ve been over how capped out the Knights are in the near future.

That’s a worry for another day though, because the Knights look primed to take another serious run at a less and less impressive Western Conference. Pacioretty is going to have a major role in that.

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