Photo Credit: © Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Pilot’s Logbook: Mathieu Perreault

The Winnipeg Jets’ 2016-2017 disappointing season finally ended. While the extent of disappointment may be subjective from individual-to-individual dependent on expectations, fans without a single franchise playoff win prefer their seasons to carry some post-season excitement.

So, what went wrong? What went well? How do the Jets measure up against their competition? Which areas actually require improvement relative to others?

If your car breaks down, you need to know what is wrong with it prior to dropping cash to fix it. With that in mind, we continue our in-depth investigation on the Jets’ performance breaking down the team player-by-player from worst-to-best according to statistical impact, with some adjustments made by my own, personal analysis.

Up next: Mathieu Perreault.

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Basic Statistics

65 13 32 45 -11 30 3 15 0 0 3 0 134 9.7

Perreault put up 45 points despite missing nearly a quarter of the season, posting his second lowest shooting percentage of his career (last year was his lowest), and the lowest 5v5 PDO of his career.

Missing games is a bit of a trend, and a legitimate concern with Perreault, but the other two factors suggest that Perreault’s point production was depressed by luck and that Perreault did not remotely deserve the +/- he carried this season.

Goals Above Replacement

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Goals Above Replacement data courtesy of @DTMAboutHeart. Reminder that GAR is an aggregate statistic, so it is not relative to games played or ice time.

Goals Above Replacement (GAR) combines multiple statistics in terms of one currency, allowing one to estimate a player’s overall impact on a team’s goal differential, which ultimately drives wins. It is imperfect, as it combines many imperfect statistics, but it is also a severely useful tool.

Perreault is a fancystats super star, and for good reason. Despite only dressing for about 1000 total minutes (about equal to a typical top player’s 5-on-5 minutes) Perreault provided the 36th most value in goals above replacement in the league. What this means is that only 35 players helped their team win more games than Perreault, and almost all those players played more minutes.

Perreault’s injury history is a concern, but when he does play he is extremely useful and impacts the team like a top-line forward. He makes everyone around him better, immensely. Despite scoring fewer points per minute than the average first line forward (but more than the average second line forward), Perreault place 41st in the league in even strength offensive contributions. He contributes offense by severely tilting the ice, causing his linemates to have more opportunities to score.

His defensive abilities is also highly underrated, with him producing the 77th highest defensive value in the NHL last year. Do not be fooled by the coin-flip, terrible statistic that is +/-. After all, you probably should not care about the worst statistic in hockey.

Overall Perreault is a good player, and if his shooting percentage bounce back improves his value more than his aging hurts the other areas, we could see Perreault even improve upon his solid first-line impact.

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Advanced Metrics

TOI CF% REL CF% G60 A60 P60
838 52.3 +5.13 0.64 1.22 1.86

Perreault posted his third lowest 5-on-5 point production per hour pace of his NHL career. This dip in production hurt his overall value some, but it hurt the perception of his value even more so. Over the previous six seasons combined, Perreault has paced 2.06 5v5 points per hour, tying him with Claude Giroux. While his production was below his norm, he still produced more than the average second line forward, which is about 1.75 points per hour.

The biggest area of Perreault’s strength is his ability to improve his linemates. Everyone does better with Perreault. Players shoot more, score more, and out shoot the opposition. The only Jets that stayed above the 50 per cent shot share line away from Perreault were Ehlers, Scheifele, and Wheeler. Everyone else crashes away from Perreault.

The only issue for Perreault was that the Jets’ goalies decided to forget how to save a puck with him on the ice. The Jets netminders combined at a 87.98 save percentage for 5-on-5 situations with Perreault on the ice. I don’t care if Jets goalies were the worst in the league and Perreault was terrible defensively (which he is not), that is completely and utterly unsustainable. We would suspect that number to be much higher next year, even if we changed none of the Jets skaters or netminders and Perreault played exactly the same way next season.

This terrible save percentage hurt Perreault’s goal differential. The Jets controlled about 52.5 per cent of unblocked shots with Perreault on the ice, but only controlled 44 per cent of the goals. This hurt Perreault’s +/- and the layman fan’s perception of Perreault value.

The truth is that Perreault is actually very, very, very good. You can see how his tilting of the ice impacts the team with these handy graphics:

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Visual is for minutes played in 2015-16 and first half of 2016-17 combined.

I have often seen Perreault called merely a third line forward on a good team. While I’m not surprised players may be improperly valued (it is in part the source of the need for my day job), but what does surprise me is that Perreault never performs like a third line player in any single area. The above is the closest I’ve seen, with Perreault producing shot volume just above that of an elite third line forward.

While his shot volume is low (relatively speaking), he places himself in prime areas to receive dangerous passes (as shown above) and also shoots from prime areas extremely close to the net. Perreault was a high percentage shooter for the bulk of his career, but has not been the past two seasons. I suspect this has more to do with injuries than his actual talent, and we should suspect far more goals next season.

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For the most part, Perreault performs like a first line forward. He pushes the play and transitions extremely well. Perreault is a great puck distributor, with huge pass production and primary shot assist totals.

Perreault exited the defensive zone with over 80 per cent efficiency, with over 60 per cent of which were with possession of the puck. The versatile forward produced a large amount of zone entries, although his ratio of controlled versus uncontrolled was only average. Perreault did excel in producing successful passes from his entries, more so than any player not named Scheifele. Successful passes from zone entries exponentially improve the next shot’s chance in scoring.

Perreault was a big fan of receiving and distributing high quality passes, especially those into the danger zones from down low in the offensive zone. He was also the Jets most efficient forechecker.

Please support Corey Sznajder (@ShutDownLine) for his contributions in manually tracking microstatistics. He has a Patreon page where you can make a donation for his tireless work supporting the community. Also, give Ryan Stimson (@RK_Stimp) a follow.

Final Thoughts

It is not uncommon for teams consistently outside of the playoffs to carry players undervalued by fans throughout the league. The Jets have quite a few of these. It’s rarer for teams to carry players that are undervalued by even their own fans, and Perreault is one such player.

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His biggest perceived weaknesses are his shot volume and recent point production, both of which are still within acceptable second line levels, and the latter is likely to improve next year. Everywhere else Perreault produces and performs like a first line forward, and it is even likely Perreault’s point production rises to bonafide first-line levels next season.

The only real weakness of concern is Perreault’s health. He struggles to last a full season, which diminishes his overall value. However, Perreault’s injury potential is likely related to his aggressiveness which makes him the efficient player that he is. That said, I think his injury issues have been heavily slanted to recent:

If we could see Perreault return more to the 70-80 game range, it would be a huge boon for the organization.

Perreault does everything exceptionally well. He makes almost every player with him better. He’s also exceptionally underrated at face offs, although he fits better as a winger for the minutes following.

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Over my series, I have suggested the Jets run a top-nine system while splitting their three best forwards: Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, and Mathieu Perreault. The idea is the team puts together three scoring lines with a defensive fourth line. When the team is in the lead for high-leverage situations, the Jets reshuffles their lines; the six best form a new top-two lines, the defensive specialist line graduates to third line minutes, and the three worst in the top-nine become the new fourth line.

This may sound sacrilegious for me to basically suggest Perreault should be placed on the third line for even strength situations after spending a whole article showing how he’s essentially a top-line forward in terms of on-ice impact.

However, I think ultimately it is for the best. It makes the Jets an overall stronger team. The Jets become extremely difficult to linematch with an exceptional talent on three different lines. It also helps shelter skilled rookie forwards, placing them with top talents for most of the game as opposed to trying to swim with terrible linemates in the wrong role (poor Nic Petan).

The Jets ice time becomes properly distributed as well. While Perreault technically sits on the third line, he would receive bonus ice time with special teams and the late – high leverage minutes (much like Maurice did with Trouba in his sophomore season). The Jets don’t overuse defensive talents like Armia and Lowry, but still are able to use them more often and efficiently than a standard fourth line role.

It’s crazy, but it’s crazy enough to work. It’s also not completely unique or revolutionary, as Maurice did this very same thing with Trouba on the third pair and Byfuglien on the top pair, but then sitting Chiarot and Stuart in high leverage minutes, late in the game.

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All numbers courtesy of @NaturalStatTrick, @ShutdownLine, or @DTMAboutHeart unless otherwise noted. Please follow them all.

More Pilot’s Logbook Series