As we await the beginning of the new NHL season, I’ll be previewing each of the players in the Minnesota Wild system who will be on the roster, or competing for a place this year. My subject for this edition is Jason “Doodle” Pominville.
On trade deadline day 2013, Chuck Fletcher made a huge splash, taking advantage of the imminent Sabres rebuild to trade for, their captain and franchise player, Jason Pominville. The cost was very high, with top prospects Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett, along with 1st and 2nd round picks going the other way. The trade was made to add depth to the forward corps and to try and kick-start the Wild’s stuttering offence. Cruelly, as Pominville arrived, Dany Heatley went down injured for the rest of the year, instantly eliminating that depth. Pominville made an immediate impact with the Wild, scoring 4 goals and 9 points in 10 games, before having his regular season prematurely ended by concussion, courtesy of Dustin Brown’s elbow. He looked particularly good on a line with Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Kyle Brodziak, which was the team’s best down the final stretch of the regular season.
He made a surprising (possibly rushed) return during the playoffs and played 2 games, though he didn’t look himself at all during that brief cameo. Pominville is a UFA after this season, and there has apparently been some discussion between his part and the Wild about getting that done. One assumes it will be a lengthy, big-money contract seeing as Pominville brings a big reputation to the table and will be looking for “retirement money”.
-Here are some of his regular season numbers from last year (Buffalo and Minnesota combined):
|SHOOTING %/SHOTS ATTEMPTED||11.86%/118|
Pominville’s numbers who what kind of player he is; a captain who can play big minutes in all situations. It’s that level of leadership and responsibility that made Chuck Fletcher go after him and trade away such a large package of assets. His production was okay last year, but not eye-popping. He’ll definitely need to improve it if the Wild want to get value out of the trade. Pominville is clearly a clean player, taking very few penalties last year and throughout his career.
-Here are his underlying numbers from last year (Buffalo and Minnesota combined):
|OFFENSIVE ZONE START %||51.9%|
|OFFENSIVE ZONE FINISH %||50.2%|
|QUALITY OF COMPETITION||1.756|
|SHOTS FOR/20 MINS||9.197|
|GOALS FOR/20 MINS||1.060|
|SHOTS AGAINST/20 MINS||11.133|
|GOALS AGAINST/20 MINS||0.998|
|5v5 1st ASSIST/60||0.561|
Now, it must be noted that these results are a from playing on two different teams so some of the results are a bit skewed. Playing for an awful team like the 2013 Sabres for most of the year will have had a negative impact on a lot of his numbers. Still, one can see that Pominville drives possession fairly decently while playing tough competition.
His points are fairly evenly made-up of goals and assists. A reasonably low amount of his assists are 1st assists. His PDO is fairly close to 1000 so luck didn’t affect his numbers a whole lot. It’s hard to assess Pominville’s underlying numbers due to the time spent playing with bad teammates. We will get a much clearer pciture after watching him play an entire season for the Wild.
-Here’s the Player Usage Chart for the Wild forwards who played more than 30 games last year:
(Click To Enlarge) (Bubble Size=Corsi On Rating. Blue Bubble=Postive. Red Bubble=Negative)
As you can see, Pominville’s bubble stands-out from the others, as his time spent playing on the struggling Sabres team bumped his quality of competition rating.
-Due to the noise caused by his two-team-season, here’s a chart of his entire career (season with more than 20GP):
He’s been a pretty good possession player in tough circumstances during his NHL career. One thing that is consistent is the he has always played against tough competition.
Pominville is a very very good player in the prime of his career. The Wild are obviously hoping that with him and Parise alongside Koivu in the team’s forward corps, they will be able to form a trio of captains (former and present) and provide the rest of the group with leadership and veteran knowledge. This is a good idea, in theory, but my issue is that Pominville is now 30 and is due a new contract. Most likely, he will get a “big” contract, and I’m not sure how much I like the idea of the Wild having a lot of players on the downside of their careers signed through their late thirties and early forties. Sure it’s great to have these guys so the team can shoot for the moon now, but I don’t think mortgaging the future is a smart idea. The goal should be to establish long-term, competitive, NHL hockey in Minnesota. Guys should be paid based on their future production, not the past. Pominville needs to show that he’s a worthy investment.
-Here’s the production trend for his career:
CAREER AVERAGE: 0.78
Last year fell roughly in line with his recent totals, after his huge production from last year regressed to the mean. The closest he has ever come to being a point-per-game player was in 2007-2008. I don’t think we’ll be seeing any production like that from him, but it would help the Wild a lot if he could get back somewhere close to the scoring rate he had in 2011-2012, or at least above .80 points per game.
-Here are some graphs showing other trends in his career (with the numbers for 2012-2013 projected for 82 games):
CAREER AVERAGE: 25
CAREER AVERAGE: 214
CAREER AVERAGE: 11.86
Looking at those trends, it’s interesting that Pominville shot his career average last year and was on pace for 25 goals. If he was to keep to his average goals to assists ratio next year, then he could be projected at 25 goals+34 assists, a grand total of 59 points. That’s a decent return, but I think the Wild will want a bit more from him in a contract year.
Obviously context becomes important and Pominville won’t be playing beside, goal-machine, Thomas Vanek this year which may dent his assist totals, but I would argue that he will be playing within a much more talented and much deeper forward group this year and that could negate the loss of Vanek, and even increase Pominville’s own production as there will be less pressure on him to carry the team.
-Looking at Pominville’s WOWY numbers shows that Vanek struggled more without Pominville than vice-versa:
Pominville+Vanek CF%: 49.3%
Pominville-Vanek CF%: 45.5%
Vanek-Pominville CF%: 40.1%
-This chart further demonstrates how Vanek had a worse time without Pominville:
Bear in mind that Pominville only played 10 games for the Wild and still managed to get more goals than he did playing with Vanek all year, and nearly half the points. Vanek’s goals dropped-off dramatically without Pominville.
Now, it could be argued that Vanek’s time away from Pominville was spent on an awful Buffalo Sabres team, and that Pominville had the cushion of playing on the playoff-bound Wild, but Pominville actually spent a lot of his tenure with the Wild playing on a line with Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Kyle Brodziak. They’re both good players, but they’re not superstars by any stretch of the imagination. Vanek on the other hand was with Cody Hodgson and Drew Stafford/Ville Leino; not that much better than Bouchard and Brodziak, but Hodgson would be considered a decent 1st line player so there’s definitely no room to say that the Wild made life easier for Pominville.
So there’s a lot of reasons to be optimistic about Pominville going into the new season. For me, how I judge him will be based on what his contract ends-up looking like, assuming it gets done before he hits free-agency. If he wants a long, expensive deal, then he needs to show that he’s got a second wind now that he’s over 30, and can get his points-per-game closer to 1.00 again.
In terms of how he is used, I’m not really on-board with the idea of having him on the 1st line with Parise and Koivu. I think the Wild got smoked in the playoffs last year because they were too top-heavy. A 2nd line of Heatley/Granlund/Pominville has a nice combination of talents and spreads out the team’s offence a bit. Pominville will still put-up “top line minutes” through special teams so being on the 2nd line doesn’t de-value him as a player at all.
His Season Is A Success If…
His Season Is A Disappointment If…
….his numbers drop-off and he seems to be going into the usual post-30 years old decline that NHL players tend to experience. He gets injured and misses a lot of time. His contract situation gets messy and he hits free agency.
Okay, that’s it for Pominville. Next, I’ll be taking a look at Dany Heatley and previewing his 2013/2014 campaign.
Hit me up on Twitter for more hockey views/analysis and also so you can yell at me.
Previous articles in this series:
*Numbers in this article courtesy of: