I’m surprised by the number of people who choose to talk about money instead of role when discussing Benoit Pouliot. If we make a list of “responsible two-way wingers who can hit down in the order” since Fernando Pisani left for the windy city, how many can we name? Take your time, I’ll wait—we have all day. Part of the deconstruction of the team (the Tambellini scorched earth) involved selling off all manner of useful, and one of the first casualties was anyone with a two-way skill set. Many the games involving the Oilers would see Ryan Jones lining up in that role, and with respect to Jones (whose eye injury has impacted his NHL career) he simply didn’t fit the job description and Oilers coaching staffs spent several years saying (basically) ‘it is what it is.’
Benoit Pouliot allows us to imagine a world built on logic and reason in the bottom six. Derek Van Diest wrote a series of articles for NHL.com this week, one of them focused on Pouliot. A quote from Edmonton’s general manager frames the issue nicely.
- MacT: “He’s an excellent skater who closes gaps and is able to get quickly to forechecks, and it’s something that was sorely lacking in our game throughout our lineup. We think that Benoit is going to provide that, and he’s got some ability to finish as well.” Source
BENOIT POULIOT 13-14
- 5×5 points per 60: 1.79 (6th among regular NYR forwards)
- 5×4 points per 60: 3.10 (8th among regular NYR forwards)
- Qual Comp: 10th toughest among regular forwards (3rd line opp)
- Qual Team: 10th best teammates among regular forwards (3line linemates)
- Corsi Rel: 7.3 (4th best among regular forwards)
- Corsi for % 5×5: 55.1
- Corsi for % Rel 5×5: +3.4
- Zone Start: 57.8% (6th easiest among regular forwards)
- Zone Finish: 51.7% (3rd best among regular forwards)
- Shots on goal/percentage: 141/10.64%
- Boxcars: 80GP, 15-21-36
Benoit Pouliot did not play a tough minutes role for the Rangers last season, although that third line did take on some tough opposition at times during the postseason. I think the beauty of this player is that he can play a couple of different roles on the Oilers this season:
- serving as mentor to Leon Draisaitl and or Nail Yakupov on a soft minutes line that gets a zone start push
- playing on a de facto checking line with Boyd Gordon on what would certainly be a third line in terms of EV minutes.
It gives Dallas Eakins options, something Ryan Jones never could because he was more of an offensive than defensive player. Jones made $1.5 million a year as an Oiler, Pouliot will make $4 million a season in Edmonton. The range of skills, the number of things the new player can do, the responsible play reflected in the possession numbers, make this a ‘perfect fit’ for a roster that boasted the most damnable bastardization of a bottom 6F since the 1974-75 Washington Capitals.
It’s been so long since the Oilers had a third line winger who didn’t jailbreak the zone at the first sign of possession it may take me time to spot Pouliot on the ice. The money is the money, the player is a perfect fit.