The Ottawa Senators have found themselves giving up almost record high shots against per game this season. The offence has been rolling just fine, however, the defence has not. Because of this, head coach Guy Boucher has decided to put Tom Pyatt on the top line for defensive responsibility. Here is a look at if this is something that should continue or not.
Tom Pyatt Promotion: Earned?
Numbers Thus Far
Tom Pyatt was given a promotion to the top line for his “defensive” responsibility. However, in hockey this is often times a word a coach uses when the player is also just bad at offence. So, is this the case with Tom Pyatt?
Pyatt gives up 39.5 shots against per 60 minutes. In the entire league, this ranks only behind fellow teammates Chris Tierney and Mikkel Boedker. When it comes to shot attempts against, Pyatt ranks first in the entire league with 77.6 against per 60 minutes of play. To be fair to Pyatt, the Ottawa Senators as a whole team are bad at this, with most the players in the top ten for most given up being Senators. However, when you are the worst of the worst you have to question defensive responsibility.
Tom Pyatt has some of the worst shot differentials in the league, which would be fine if it just meant he didn’t contribute offensively. However, when you also are a liability in bleeding shots defensively this doesn’t help your case.
The Change Defensively
So far, Tom Pyatt has played two games on the line with Matt Duchene and Drake Batherson. In that time, the line has had just 30% of the shot attempts, six for and 15 against. This would put them on pace for 85 shot attempts against per 60 minutes. Batherson and Duchene without Pyatt this season have had a 41% Corsi For percentage. They have given up 71 shot attempts against per 60.
It has been a small sample size but it seems fair to say that so far this isn’t working. Tom Pyatt has made the Duchene and Batherson line worse in their own end. Combine this with Pyatt’s poor defensive results and it seems fair to say that he is no defensive specialist.
The Change Offensively
If Tom Pyatt has hurt them defensively, has he at least helped in other ways? In the games that he has been on the line, they have generated 34 shot attempts for per 60 minutes. Without Pyatt this year, that line has generated 50 shot attempts for per 60 minutes. So, once again there doesn’t seem to be an improvement anywhere.
Pyatt has just one point this season despite playing 256 minutes at 5v5. The sample size of the line has been very small, but his much larger season and career sample size show just the same results.
If he hasn’t played well in the bottom 6 and he hasn’t played well in the top 6, why exactly does he deserve a role on the top line?
The Eye Test
I am definitely someone who values analytics more than eye test. However, there is no denying the eye test has a place in the game. In small sample sizes like this, it can sometimes help to look at how he has played.
While on the top line, he hasn’t looked completely out of place. In the game against the New York Rangers, he came close to scoring, just hitting the crossbar.
— Alex M (@nhlsensandstuff) November 27, 2018
Overall, what I have seen from Pyatt on this first line has been a player who hasn’t looked completely out of place, however, also hasn’t helped in many ways either. When the Senators have a player like Ryan Dzingel on that line it makes it feel like a triple threat. All three players are solid offensively. With Pyatt, it feels like more of an odd man out situation, where teams know they can give at least a little more focus on the other two.
The defensive play hasn’t been very noticeable. That’s good because it likely means there haven’t been any huge mistakes. However, using the underlying numbers we can see it’s likely not a great thing.
Going forward, it seems given the numbers Tom Pyatt has put up it should be more of a debate about whether or not he belongs on an NHL roster, not a first line. A guy who has played tons of minutes but hasn’t provided much of anything for a team should be looked at as someone who could be replaceable, not a first liner.
There could be an argument made that because this Senators team is a young, rebuilding one, a player like Pyatt can help lead. However, that should mean a limited role on the ice and more role in the room, not more ice time.
Some also think that this may be the last shot for Pyatt. If he can’t make it work he is done.
But this is probably a last chance to see if Pyatt can actually play in the league. If he can’t get Duchene and Batherson to get him points or look remotely good, I expect him on waivers Wednesday & Paul up Thursday
— Pan (@PanofSCU) November 26, 2018
Whatever the case, through the numbers it is painfully obvious that Tom Pyatt does not belong on the top line. If the Ottawa Senators want to see improvement defensively, finding someone else would be a much better fit.
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