Earlier in the season, I wrote an article about the decline in play of Brooks Orpik.
Before the Olympic break, Orpik was in the midst of his worst season to date. In his mid-30′s, Orpik was beginning to regress heavily due to age, as well as the fact that he was still recovering from a concussion after being assaulted by Shawn Thornton.
After a sub-par Olympics, Orpik returned to the Penguins and was paired with 19-year old Olli Maatta on the blue line. Amazingly (and this is a testament to how big of a stud Maatta is), Orpik’s play took a dramatic turn for the better.
And while he is certainly still on the back-nine of his career, Orpik has regained his confidence and has returned to his physical, shut down style of play.
Maatta helped revive Orpik’s season, and now it looks like he may need to do the same for fellow blue-liner Rob Scuderi.
Pittsburgh’s biggest free-agent signing of the season, Scuderi inked a sizable four year, $13.5 million contract back in July. The Penguins have him for three more years, and he’s not going anywhere.
Touted as “the piece” that the Pens so desperately needed, Scuderi’s season has been nothing less than an abject disaster.
Limited to only 40 games due to injury, Scuderi has been a black hole even when he has been healthy.
A -4 on the season, it seems like Scuds finds himself getting burned more and more every game he plays.
Now, some of you might say, “plus/minus is an unfair stat that doesn’t tell the whole story”, and for the most part, I would tend to agree. However, there’s a multitude of other stats that tell a similar story, all of them negative.
First and foremost, the wonderful people over at behindthenet.ca have done all the heavy lifting and put together this handy little chart of the Corsi ratings for all the Penguins defenseman this season.
At -15.64, Scuderi is dead last in On-Ice Corsi for all Penguins defenders. In laymen’s terms, that means that the Penguins give up an average of 15.64 more shots than they take when he is on the ice as opposed to off it, per 60 minutes of ice time.
True, Scuderi is a “shut-down” defenseman, one who specializes in shot blocking, but you can only block shots when you don’t possess the puck.
Furthermore, he currently sits 135 among defenseman in the NHL with 69 blocked shots in 40 games, or about 1.725 blocks per game. By contrast, Orpik has blocked 127 in 61 games, which averages out to around 2.1 blocks per game.
Yes, Scuderi has a played 21 less games, however his per game average has been steadily regressing the last three seasons. What’s more, he’s averaging his lowest career ice-time since the 2007-2008 season at 19:01 per night.
Which brings me back to Maatta. Would ice time with the 19-year old Finn cure all of Scuderi’s problems just like that? Certainly not, but it’s ludicrous to think that it wouldn’t help at all.
It worked for Orpik, we can only hope that it has a similar effect on Scuderi.