by Corey Desormeaux , Managing Editor, All Habs Hockey Magazine

(Photo by Bernard Brault / La Presse)

OTTAWA, ON. — Perhaps the touchiest subject amongst Habs fans is the use and deployment of David Desharnais in relation to Max Pacioretty. While some argue that their chemistry is too good to separate them, many believe, myself included, that Pacioretty could elevate his game with a legitimate number one centreman. But those are extremely hard to find. Just ask Marc Bergevin, who got a little testy with the media in his end of year press conference as he made it quite clear that they are next to impossible to acquire.

So what does Desharnais mean to Pacioretty and vice versa?

Before we dive in, I want to clarify that the numbers below are at even strength from the 2014-15 season.

David Desharnais is an often-criticized centreman that has had the pleasure of spending a bulk of his NHL career playing with one of the best goal scorers in the league, Max Pacioretty. Over his time with Pacioretty, Desharnais has shown glimpses of being a legitimate offensive threat with his playmaking ability.

He has a better shot then many give him credit for, then again he doesn’t give himself enough credit for it either as he only put 71 even strength shots on net over 1137 minutes of even strength ice time. That’s 3.7 shots per game at even strength. Other centreman that play with scoring wingers averaged much higher shot per 60 averages, including Derek Brassard (6.64) and Mikael Granlund (4.95). Some elite centreman with scoring wingers put up much higher shot per 60 averages, including Tyler Seguin (10.04).

Obviously having an elite centreman takes pressure away from an elite goal-scoring winger. But, like I said, elite centremen are hard to find. Fans and the Canadiens are hopeful that 21 year old Galchenyuk can develop into that player, but in the meantime how is Desharnais doing?

  CF60 CA60 GF60 GA60
Together 65.01 56.59 2.98 1.53
Pacioretty Without Desharnais 57.07 61.46 2.41 0.99
Desharnais Without Pacioretty 50.85 58.62 2.50 1.81
Canadiens 54.1 57.4 2.21 1.85

As a duo, Pacioretty and Desharnais seem to improve on their individual analytics in mostly all regards. They direct more pucks towards the net, score more goals, however Pacioretty has better defensive numbers.  When away from Pacioretty, Desharnais seems to slip near or under the team average in almost every category.

Since the above analytics are team numbers while the player is on the ice. How does the individual corsi look for each player?

Desharnais directed 137 shots towards the net at even strength in 2014-15. Pacioretty was on the ice for 84 of those attempts, meaning he was on the ice for 61 percent of Desharnais even strength shot attempts. Pacioretty on the otherhand directed 402 shots towards the net at even strength. Desharnais was on the ice for 262 of them, meaning he was on the ice for 65 percent of Pacioretty’s shot attempts. Both Pacioretty and Desharnais spent roughly 62 percent of their total even strength ice-time together so the percentage of shot attempt totals seem to make sense.

Where the difference maker is in the Desharnais-Pacioretty duo, is in their individual points percentage (IPP). IPP is the percentage of goals scored by the player’s team while the player is on the ice that the player had a point on.

Pacioretty managed an 80.8 IPP while Desharnais posted a measly 58.5 IPP in comparison. Therefore the numbers above show the duo being successful together, however it’s clear that Pacioretty produces at a much higher rate…but we all knew that.

So how does the Habs duo compare to other scoring winger-centreman duos?

Using Hockey Analysis I picked duos that I thought were comparable to Pacioretty’s goal production at even strength. The duo’s I chose were:

  1. Rick Nash (29 goals) & Derek Brassard spent
  2. Vladimir Tarasenko (25 goals) & Jori Lehtera
  3. Jamie Benn (21 goals) & Tyler Seguin
  4. Zach Parise (17 goals) & Mikael Granlund
  5. Corey Perry (22 goals) & Ryan Getzlaf

Shots on Net

I realize Corsi may be a better representation of puck possession, but lets park that for a bit later. I want to take a look at each player’s shots on goal per 60 minutes with their teammate.

Winger SOG per 60 together Centreman SOG per 60 together Shot per 60 differential
Nash & Brassard 13.1 6.3 6.8
Tarasenko & Lehtera 8.9 4.7 4.2
Benn and Seguin 11.2 9.9 1.3
Parise & Granlund 10.3 5.1 5.2
Perry & Getzlaf 9 7.1 1.9
Pacioretty & Desharnais 12.8 3.5 9.3

The only winger on the list above to put more even strength shots on net than Pacioretty (225) was Rick Nash (226) and their shots per 60 with their primary centreman are very close. Each winger took roughly 66 percent of their even strength shot totals with their primary centreman on the ice.

Desharnais took the least amount of shots per 60 minutes with his primary winger and the shot differential in the chart speaks for itself. Pacioretty managed to hit the net nearly 9.3 times more per 60 minutes than Desharnais when the duo plays together. Furthermore, the Habs duo has the highest shot differential per 60 when playing together. The more elite duos on the list, being Perry/Getzlaf and Benn/Seguin each had differentials under two. It’s clear that a more balanced attack would help Pacioretty.

So let’s dive into Corsi.

Winger corsi per 60 together Centreman corsi per 60 together Corsi per 60 differential
Nash & Brassard 22.1 10.3 11.8
Tarasenko & Lehtera 17.3 8.5 8.8
Benn and Seguin 17.8 15.6 2.2
Parise & Granlund 17.1 9.5 7.6
Perry & Getzlaf 17.3 13.6 3.7
Pacioretty & Desharnais 22.3 7.1 15.2

Pacioretty directs more pucks towards the net than anyone on the list, while Desharnais directs the least amount. Obviously this leads to the largest Corsi differential amongst the duos in this discussion. Once again, the duos that I would consider to be elite in the NHL had differentials under four, meaning they are providing a balanced attack.

How about IPP?

Winger IPP Centreman IPP IPP differential
Nash & Brassard 81.4 69.6 11.8
Tarasenko & Lehtera 79.4 62.7 16.7
Benn and Seguin 79.1 77.6 1.5
Parise & Granlund 74.5 58.0 16.5
Perry & Getzlaf 74 85.5 11.5
Pacioretty & Desharnais 80.8 58.5 22.3

As I spoke about above, the IPP is a true representation of which teammate is contributing more than the other offensively. The differential column speaks for itself. Desharnais is not contributing like a number one centreman. But again, we already knew that.

Desharnais can be an effective NHL player, but he is given more credit than is warranted because of Pacioretty’s ability to carry the play and produce. I can’t help but wonder, like most, what Pacioretty could be with a centreman that could provide a more balanced attack when Pacioretty is on the ice.

  • J.D. Lagrange

    Very well done Corey. While I’m no fancy stats expert, you’ve done a good job laying it out for everyone to understand. Blind personal dislikes aside, we can see that he has a positive impact on Patches’ production. The problem is that the team doesn’t have a true #1 centre and out of what they have, DD is the best puck distributor amongst the team’s centres. The problem is that because he plays top offensive minutes, people forget that he’s at $3.5M player and they seem to expect him to perform like a $7M player.

  • yoshii47

    I think Pac will score with any top 2 centerman, whereas DD would not produce the same without Pac. People talk about weise when he played on that line and I think that whoever plays on that line DD wil always look for pac first.DD has been spoon fed and Eller has paid the price.

  • Once Eller is traded the offence will improve. Book it.

    • Corey Desormeaux

      Eller plays a significant defensive role that is really unmatched by any player on the team. I’d even go as far as saying that Plekanec’s continued offensive success is because of the role Eller has taken on. Eller doesn’t get the chance to succeed offensively.

      • A role De Larose has shown he can handle. Eller’s cap hit can be used to get offensive help:)

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  • aschoen

    Did you restrict your Corsi numbers to even strength? Back when you wrote this article, Paceioretty was only playing without Desharnais on the PK, you would expect a lower Corsi in that situation.