The shocking thing about Max Pacioretty’s decline in the past two years is that fantasy owners had always had reason to see him as one of the most reliable players around.
Check out his career points and “point pace” (projecting those points over an 82 game season).
|Season||Tm||Games||Points||Points per 82 games|
That’s six sweet seasons of a point pace between 64-73. And that’s back when a 70 point pace MEANT something. In 2014-15, his 67 actual points were 21st in the NHL, though the same total would place a player only 41st in last year’s offensive environment.
Pacioretty turned 30 earlier in November. From an article in hockey-graphs, here’s how players’ overall offensive value changes by age:
And here’s Max’s point pace by age:
A measurement of WAR vs. PP82 is a bit of apples and oranges, but the pattern in these two graphs have a family resemblance. NHL players hitting their 30s tend to have to face the bitter truth. The fall can be swift.
So what’s going on under the hood?
As of this writing, in 23 games Pacioretty has: 10 goals, 5 assists, 4 power-play points, 63 shots, 43 hits, and 10 blocks. 4 of his goals and 2 assists have come in the last three games. Over at Natural Stat Trick, I checked some of his current 5×5 stats. Pacioretty has slightly positive possession stats (51.84% Corsi and 51.73% Fenwick). He’s been fairly unlucky with a .973 PDO and a below-average 7.3% on-ice shooting percentage, which might help explain his measly 5 assists in 23 games (only two of which are primary assists.)
The Knights are doing their part to get him chances — Pacioretty has a 60.3% offensive zone start percentage which puts him in the top third of all these forwards. His time on ice is at its lowest level since the lockout year: 16:40. Last year in Montreal he was getting 19:01. He’s on Vegas’s power play for about half of its minutes. Pacioretty was used to top deployment in Montreal. In Vegas, his linemates have changed more out of necessity than tinkering. He started the year with Paul Stasny and Erik Haula at 5×5, until each went out in turn with injury. Now he mainly skates with Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin, which (given recent results) seems like a good thing. While not a first liner in Vegas, he is still getting fantasy-worthy minutes.
Pacioretty is suddenly on a point pace better than last year in Montreal, tracking toward a career-high in hits. His shots are not what they were in 2014-15 and 2015-16, when his 300+ twice landed him third overall in the NHL. Still, he’s on pace for a very respectable 225 shots (juiced a bit by a 9 shot performance on Max’s return game in Montreal). His shooting percentage is currently 15.87% at all strengths, which would be the highest of his career — don’t count on that continuing.
If there was a time when owners were going to panic sell on Pacioretty, it was when he started with an abysmal 2 points in 14 games. Now that Pacioretty has put up 13 points in his last 9 games, players are no doubt a bit happier with him. It could be worth a flyer trade offer in the unlikely case your opposition is not quite aware of the resurgence or thinks the last three weeks are the fluke and this is a last chance to sell high. If you’re the Pacioretty owner on the other hand, congratulations on your patience.
What to make of Pacioretty? People tend to remember streaks that come at the beginning of the season more than streaks mid-season. That wretched start following last year’s drop no doubt dampened interest in the once-elite winger. This will be especially true if Pacioretty’s current hot streak regresses back somewhere to the middle of his range of outcomes. His statistical profile hasn’t completely changed and you can probably expect a player who gets about 85% of the ice time he used to and gives you, say, 80% the stats. In dynasty leagues, owners are probably correct seeing him as a player who is a win-now help if you want to shore up goals, shots, and hits and a seller doesn’t ask for 2015 value in return. It seems likely that if the drop isn’t here now as some feared, it is more likely than not coming within the next couple of years, so you have my blessing to sell if you have to.