The Canadiens ended one of the worst season in their history, and changes have already started within the organisation. I expect that we will soon see player movement. Before that, I have prepared for you a series of articles evaluating the performance of your Habs.
In the first part of the series, we will cover two of the Canadiens pillars, Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty.
For these reviews, only players who played at least half of the season will be covered. I’ll use some traditional statistics but mainly the advanced analytics eSAT metric, especially the eSAT Diff, eSAT FAR and eSAT AAR. If you are still unfamiliar with this advanced statistic, I suggest you read the article introducing the eSAT that will give you a better understanding of the metric.
In brief, eSAT Diff (effectiveness-of-the-Shot-Attempts Differential) shows the level of impact the player had on his team, therefore influencing the impact on the team rankings. It can also be use as a measurement to determine an MVP player.
The eSAT FAR (effectiveness-of-the-Shot-ATtempts-For-Above-Replacement) describes the quality of the offensive supply or the capacity to convert it into successful attack. The league average is at fifty percent, so top three forwards should be over 55 percent and top six should be over 50 percent.
Finally, the eSAT AAR (effectiveness-of-the-Shot-ATempts-Against-Above-Replacement) shows the quality of opportunities allowed to the opposition. Therefore, an eSAT AAR over the fifty percent mark would suggest a higher ability to shutdown the opponent’s offense.
But there’s more to the eSAT AAR, it will also tend to increase when players are in possession of the puck. On that account, it connects perfectly with the adage ‘the best defense is a good offense.’
Brendan Gallagher might not wear the ”C” on his jersey, but he’s a true leader by example. Gallagher never gave up, even when the season was beyond savings as he kept pushing, trying to give inspiration to his teammates. The graphic above clearly shows when he took the team on his shoulders.
Analyzing Gallagher on a simple stats matter, it’s easy to see that he recorded a career-high season in goals and points with 31 goals and 54 points. But, the most impressive was his 13 goals and 14 assists in the last 31 games of the season.
Gallagher didn’t just lead the Canadiens in goals and points, he was also the leader in the most shot attempts from the high danger area with 166, placing him fourth in the NHL. His constant work around the puck drew 24 penalties, the most among the Canadiens and 19th in the NHL. And Gallagher also finished first in the NHL with the most rush attempts with 24.
The Canadiens had a lot of problems at five-on-five this past season. Gallagher couldn’t make a bigger impact in that category. His eSAT FAR was just below the league average at 49.5 percent, trailing only Victor Mete (53.9 percent) and Paul Byron (50.2 percent.)
However, Gallagher had great chemistry with a few different line-mates where his numbers were higher than the league average.
His best line-mates were Tomas Plekanec and Charles Hudon, with a combined eSAT FAR of 55.6 percent and an eSAT AAR of 53.7 percent. With Plekanec now gone to Toronto, this won’t be an option for next season, unless signed as a free agent.
The second-best combination for Gallagher was with Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron. Like the previous combination, their numbers were over the fifty percent mark, with an eSAT FAR of 52.4 percent and an eSAT AAR of 54.3 percent.
On the power-play, Gallagher had a lot of his offensive success with Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk, Pacioretty and Jeff Petry with an eSAT FAR of 60.5 percent. Perhaps the only problem to that unit of five was the utilisation of a fourth forward. This resulted in many turnovers at the blue line allowing the opponent to score six short-handed goals. The eSAT AAR of 29.9 percent shows that sad reality.
Finally, looking at Gallagher’s eSAT diff, there’s no surprise to see that his number is lower than the previous season, considering this year overall team performance. However, at plus 23.21, he finished first among the Canadiens in that category by a fair margin. There’s no doubt that he was the most valuable player for this season.
Needless to say, with only 17 goals,the captain had his worst season in career. This ended a sequence of four seasons with thirty or more goals for Pacioretty. This is not because he didn’t try, he was averaging around the same amount of shots as the previous season, where he was able to connect 35 goals.
It is tempting to conclude that his low goal production resulted from more shots coming from an unfavorable area. But this was not the case. In fact, this season he accumulated 83 high danger chances, a ratio of 1.3 per game, compared to a ratio of 1.2 for the previous season.
What could explain his poor shooting percentage then? The reason can be correlated with a lower quality of the plays and a less puck movement preceding his shots.
To be efficient, Pacioretty needs teammates to distract the opponent attention, so he can find a spot with a clear shooting lane, then receive a pass, allowing him to deliver a devastating snap or wrist shot. In 2016-17, he scored 29 goals in these type of shots. The fact that Pacioretty scored only 13 this season gives us a hint that these situation were much less frequent.
In 2016-17, Pacioretty had most of his success with Phillip Danault and Alexander Radulov, playing a total of 442 minutes at five-on-five. The trio maintained strong numbers with an eSAT FAR of 56.6 percent and an eSAT AAR of 60.6 percent. However, this season he did not enjoy the stability nor quality of line-mates.
Still, the combination with Danault and Andrew Shaw was quite positive. Together they had a better offensive conversion with an eSAT FAR of 59.6 percent but a low eSAT AAR of 46.6 percent. This means that they were spending more time on defense rather than offense and were not effective enough in their zone. However, this trio could not be maintained, due to all the injuries each of them sustained, resulting of a total of 249 minutes playing together.
Pacioretty surely didn’t had the season he would have liked, and even if his eSAT diff was close to the neutral point at minus 3.25, it’s not enough. Add to this, his five-on-five eSAT FAR of 48 percent, it’s well under the expectations of a top line player, who should make a positive impact.