• Pouliot: Possession and Production

    by  • July 7, 2014 • Hockey • 6 Comments

    Jason Gregor, in a piece entitled ““POULIOT: POSSESSION OVER PRODUCTION”:

    Nine years after being drafted, Pouliot is going to carry more unfair expectations due to his new five-year, $20 million contract. I’m not a fan of signing a third liner player to a five year contract. I think Pouliot can be a very useful player on the team, but long term deals should only go to elite players.

    I don’t have an issue with the dollar figure, because I understand that UFAs get big money. Good on them. I never blame the player when he gets overpriced contract. We would all gladly take more money, so if you want to be upset then look at the GM and owner who signed him.

    There is no arguing that Pouliot is the type of player the Oilers need. He has size, skates very well, is aggressive on the forecheck and, most importantly, he relishes the opportunity to play against the other team’s best players and limit their scoring.

    If you are expecting Pouliot to put up big offensive numbers you’ll be disappointed. He is coming off a career-high, 15-21-36 season, although he did score 15 goals and 24 points in only 39 games with the Canadiens in 2010. He has scored 15 goals three times, so that is what the Oilers should expect from him.

    I think that this kind of misses the point, in that it seemingly fails to recognize that what good teams pay players for is marginal production; that is to say, production over and above what they could get from the typical player (or replacement level player or whatever) in a given spot in the lineup.

    Pouliot is presumably going to slot in as the Oilers 3LW. Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov/David Perron will be ahead of him, although Pouliot might play pretty similar minutes/tougher matchups than Yakupov/Perron. Talking about Pouliot as a 30-35 point scorer and holy cow that’s a lot of money misses the point.

    What if we compare Pouliot’s production to typical third line production? In order to do this, I generated a list of forwards for the last three seasons, sorted by 5v5 TOI/G. I then created four buckets of players to represent first line, second line etc. Each bucket has about the same number of games played in it. Pouliot falls into the third bucket, which is my third line bucket.

    The third liners played between 12.39 and 10.55 5v5 minutes a game. There are 193 players in the group. I’ve gone through and sorted them into groups based on 5v5 PTS/60 and 5v5 GFON/60. The orange groups are where Pouliot falls.

    Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 8.17.20 PM

    Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 8.17.29 PM

    He’s pretty elite by third line standards. I haven’t got around to writing about Teddy Purcell yet but he comes off pretty well too. If the Oilers could somehow bundle Leon Draisaitl and Nail Yakupov into a time machine, they’d have a forward group that would really raise some eyebrows.

    Just for some additional context: a lot of the guys who fall in front of Pouliot aren’t really third liners – they’re guys who spent enough time down the lineup over the past three years to get caught here or guys who played a couple of games and had some pucks go in. If anything, Pouliot’s numbers are closer to the absolute top of third liners than it appears from these graphs.

    The more interesting question, I think, is what a player who can be part of an elite third line is worth. I’m pretty comfortable with $4MM per but I’ll be the first to say that that’s a pretty subjective analysis. It just sort of feels right, particularly given how the NHL’s salary structure has changed following Lockout II. It’s not the stars who got richer, it’s the middle class. I think you have to take that into account when considering this deal. He’s making more than the typical third liner but then you can make a reasonable argument that no true third liner has put up better numbers than he has over the past four or five years.

    What that should warrant in terms of salary is something that I’ll kick at over the summer but I suspect that the typical third liner has to be averaging $2MM. If you could hire three Benoit Pouliots at $6MM above average, one piece that I’ve done suggests that that would net you about eight goal difference above the average third line. I suspect, but am not certain, that that’s a good deal. Something to think about over the summer – I have a lot of half formed ideas here that I need to puzzle through.

    The key point though is this: Pouliot produces a lot by third line standards. The Oilers are getting possession, yes, but they’re getting production too.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com

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    6 Responses to Pouliot: Possession and Production

    1. JAmie
      July 7, 2014 at

      Pouliot has never played against the oppositions top players. He’s played against bottom 6, odd 2nd line type players his entire career. His advanced stats are good for his weak mins yes, but he’s played on some really great possession teams -which the Oilers aren’t.

      Last season for example, NYR was a top 6 possession team (fenwick close). Pouliot started 58% of his shifts in the ozone, was a positive possession player, but played against middling competition. To hand out that type of contract to a 3rd line player is hilarious.

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    3. SoilentGreene
      July 8, 2014 at

      Love your stuff Tyler, but I disagree enough this time to actually post. Divorcing production from the salary cap just doesn’t seem at all reasonable. While I agree marginal production is the right way to look at it; it’s got to be marginal production over and above what they could get from the typical player per dollar of cap.

      While you suggest that a 3-Pouliot clone on the third line is worth 8 extra goals per 6MM, it just leaves me wondering how many less goals is -6MM from the top6? or more particularly for the Oil, -6MM from the Defense? Paying for production in one part of the lineup necessarily takes it away from somewhere else.

      It also doesn’t account for changing lineups. Comparing him to 3rd liner stats makes sense now, but who knows in 5 years? Acquisitions or injuries could easily change the comparables even if his production remains the same. He will always be worth 4MM per though.

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    5. Hockey watcher
      July 10, 2014 at

      I will enjoy reading Oiler fan spending the next 4 years trying to run Traded Six Times out of town for being a chronic 35-pt player while the statheads try to convince everyone he’s good on the Corgis and worth all that dough.

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