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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org