From Alzner to Wideman, we're taking a look at and grading (please read the criteria below) the 2011-12 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2012-13. Next up, Mathieu Perreault.
#85 / Center / Washington Capitals
Key Stat: Perreault led the Capitals in even strength points per 60 (minimum 30 games).
Interesting Stat: No full-time NHL player had a higher shooting percentage than Perreault's 26.7%.
The Good: Perreault's offensive rate stats were outstanding across the board. In addition to leading the team in points per 60 at even strength, Perreault led the team in Corsi On ice (by a lot), Corsi Relative, On-Ice shooting %, goals per 60, goals for on ice per 60, and on-ice plus/minus per 60. Perreault also finished third in primary assists per 60 as well as percentage of shifts that ended in the offensive zone (setting up his teammates with a favorable situation to start their shift. He also was tied with Nicklas Backstrom for 4th on the team in game winning goals. All this helped Perreault set personal records for games played, goals, assists, points, plus/minus, power play goals, and shots. He also finished tenth on the team in points on the season.
Perreault also seemed to round out his game at the NHL level. Caps fans were accustomed to seeing Perreault play great for the first game or two after a call-up, only to fade a way. This year Perreault seemed to find a way to keep his game sharper over the long haul. He (obviously) spent a lot more time in the NHL, and so he had fewer of those call-up opportunities, but he managed to find a way to contribute regularly throughout the season. He only had 2 pointless streaks longer than five games (and the season high was 9). While Perreault only had four multi-point seasons on the season, it'd be hard to pick 4 better opponents (Philadelphia Flyers on 10/20, Detroit Red Wings on 10/22, Pittsburgh Penguins on 1/22, Boston Bruins on 1/24).
Perreault also showed a commitment to some of the finer details of the game, and found a way to succeed against larger players despite his size disadvantage. Perreault's hat trick game against the Bruins with Ovechkin out of the lineup is also one of the highlights of the team's regular season.
The Bad: Perreault never fully seemed to have the trust of either coach this season. He was tenth among forwards in even strength time on ice per game and ninth in power play time. He eventually spent the last ten playoffs games wearing a suit as (apparently) a healthy scratch. Given the style of hockey the Caps were playing at that point, the obvious concern was his defensive reliability. Perreault's size is a clear disadvantage in the defensive zone, and he was unable to win the board battles and muscle players out of the tough areas in the playoffs. His defensive reads and instincts have never been a strong suit, and glaring gaffes were very costly in a series of one-goal games (though it should be acknowledged that every player on this team had their moments this year).
While Perreault was able to be effective on offense at even strength, he did it against the easiest competition of any player on the team. Beating fourth line competition and being exposed by top competition is a fast way to earning fourth line minutes. Further, a player like Perreault has to be effective on the power play, and he wasn't. For a player that is all skill, two goals and zero assists on the season is simply not enough. Advocates of Perreault can, and will, point to his limited ice time, mostly spent away from the top-six talent on the team, and defend the lack of production, but when it was all said and done Perreault was a player that was a non-factor on special teams and a one-dimensional forward that scored at a 38 point pace. That's not going to force your way into the top six on a good team.
Perreault did set his career numbers, but most of that is a product of playing a lot more games than any prior year and sporting an unsustainable shooting percentage. And against the backdrop (like every other forward) of Backstrom's prolonged absence. With both top 6 center positions open for the taking, Perreault took neither (though he did look good when he got some extended time with Alexander Semin late in the season).
The Vote: Rate Perreault below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Discussion: With Perreault looking for a new RFA contract this summer, what kind of commitment should the Caps make? Is Perreault a player that should be seen as part of the group George McPhee moves forward with, or is he a player that should be replaced/upgraded over the summer? Does Perreault have more upside in his NHL game? What kind of NHL career do you expect to see from him?