While I’ve been leading the bitch about Q brigade for at least the past three years (it’s lonely and cold out here), there comes a point where you have to dig into the evidence and see if you’re just spouting nonsense. Or at least more nonsense than usual.
So before we take a look into some of the metrics we have on Jeremy Morin and Brandon Pirri, a couple caveats. One, they’ve played a combined 15 games, and that’s not really much of a sample either way to get a true reading. Two, by no means am I certain that they are the answers for their respective positions. I really have no idea. What I do know is that I want to find out, and I think we can only do that if they get a fair shake.
So, what do we know? Well, the numbers kind of break both ways.
Zone Starts: Morin is the most sheltered on the team, starting just 9% of his shifts in the defensive zone. That’s kind of remarkable given that he’s mostly played on the 3rd line with Shaw and Bickell who are expected to carry some defensive responsibility. Or they did in the past, but Bickell himself is right behind Morin in this category. And Pirri is right behind that, starting just 16.3% of his shifts in the defensive zone. That’s not that unusual for the Hawks #2 center, as it’s always been a hammock spot — i.e. gets the most offensive zone starts and easiest competition because Toews and Kruger take the harder stuff.
Quality of Competition: Of all the forwards, Pirri is seeing the easiest competition as you’d expect. He’s at -0.196. Morin isn’t far behind at -0.092.
Quality of Teammates: This is about the only place they diverge. Morin has the highest quality of teammates on the team, and Pirri has the worst. This is where the numbers don’t tell you the whole story. Pirri’s QofT is so low because he’s mostly played with Patrick Kane, who has the worst Behind The Net Rating on the team. I’m not making that up, he does. Now is that because Pirri is dragging Kane down or vice versa? You want to say vice versa, but what they’re really suffering from is a terrible PDO for Kane. For those who don’t know, PDO is the team’s shooting percentage plus the team’s save percentage when that player is on the ice. It’s an attempt to measure luck somewhat, because generally these things normalize to around 1000. Kane’s is 920, with a .871 save percentage when he’s on the ice and a 4.85% shooting percentage (.871+.0485 =.920 or so). You could argue that because of a lack of defensive positioning or awareness that opponents get better looks and shots when Kane and Pirri are on the ice. And that may be the case, but this is still extremely unlucky. For example, last year the Hawks shot 11.8% when Kane was on the ice. So while they may give up goals while Kaner is out there, they should be scoring more and will.
Possession numbers: Morin’s Corsi% for the year is 61.2, meaning that the Hawks attempt 61% of the shots and the opponents 39% when Morin is on the ice. Pirri’s is 60.2. Both are above what the Hawks are as a team. Of course, there’s a lot of factors in these numbers, like who they’re playing against and with and all that.
What I think we can glean from this is that Pirri and Morin certainly aren’t dominating in a way that say Brandon Saad did. But no one expects them too, and Saad kind of warped how we view performances from young players. But neither are Morin and Saad getting their skulls kicked in. They’ve been ok to good.
There’s always the eye-test, of course. Pirri is trying in the defensive zone, but you can he’s still thinking of where to be instead of reacting. That can come with time. He still has some problems along the boards behind his net, which the Hawks count on. Morin is more mobile and active in the offensive zone than defensive, and that should change. But neither has been a detriment either by stats or by scouting. At least I don’t think.
We know the drill here. Q makes his opinion on players early and it becomes incredibly hard to change that opinion. It goes both ways. Andrew Shaw was on both special teams and the second line in his third game with the Hawks. Nick Leddy was killing penalties in his rookie year. Even Dylan Olsen got a fair amount of time in his one stint up here, though injuries played a part.
Meanwhile Smith has only been able to get a game or two a year the previous two seasons. Same with Morin and Pirri. Now they’re here, and they’re having a tough time changing that opinion. I just would like to see them get a minute or two more per game to get a bigger chance to do so.