I’ve got it on pretty good authority that the Oilers are closing in on Brandon Pirri. This isn’t news to me and it shouldn’t be to you either if you’ve been following the blog as I’ve been getting regular updates on the Pirri situation for sometime now. He wants to join the Oilers and the Oilers would like him to sign with them. What that means for Edmonton’s bottom 6 is that somebody is either moving soon or that a guy like Jesse Puljujarvi won’t be starting the year in Edmonton. Which in my opinion is a wonderful option.
Another great option going into training camp is that IF Pirri does in fact get signed by the Oilers, there’ll be positional competition and nobody’s spot will be guaranteed apart from maybe Draisaitl and Pouliot. I say Pouliot because we know that Maroon tends to lack production unless he’s put on a line with high-end skill like a McDavid or a Getzlaf. Benny Poo would offer the veteran-like leadership and fancy stats a good third line requires.
I asked G Money to do a little analysis on Pirri and as usual he went beyond the required to provide you with this little snapshot of the unrestricted free agent. Enjoy!
A Quick Look at Brandon Pirri
As you saw in my snapshot of Antoine Vermette, when assessing players with whom I’m not familiar, I look at four areas:
- All situations boxcars and even strength shot metrics
- Context 1: Teammates
- Context 2: Competition
- Context 3: Usage
*Data and visualization in this analysis was sourced from hockey-reference.com, hockeydb.com, corsica.hockey, hockeyviz.com, and my own scripts which scrape data directly from the NHL play by play sheets.
Boxcars and Shot Metrics
In 2015, Pirri played 61 games for Anaheim and Florida, scoring 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 points (9 goals and 7 apples at even strength).
Averaging just shy of 12 EV minutes a game, his points/60 (which accounts for varying time on ice) came in at 1.33, which is a decent number for a third liner, putting him in line with guys like Andrew Shaw and Erik Condra.
As with Vermette, who also scored well, Pirri’s achilles heel is his shot metrics – at 47.8%, he gets outshot badly considering he played on two decent possession teams.
I’m also a big fan of ‘danger adjusted’ metrics that incorporate shot location and shot type. In this case, I’m looking at corsica.hockey’s xGF (expected goals) metric. Pirri unfortunately fares even worse here, coming in at 41.1%. His poor shot metrics are not a fluke – he’s not only getting outshot, but he’s getting outchanced in a big way.
Was it him, or his circumstances?
Context 1 – Teammates
To get a sense of his impact on teammates, I like to use WithOut you With You, or WOWY, looking at a player’s most common forward and defensive matches.
Because he split time between teams, I’m going to focus on his time with Florida, where he played the majority of the season.
His most common D partners were Ekblad & Campbell, with nearly identical TOI. In both cases, with those pairings Pirri was able to reach respectable (50%+) possession. Without them, he was not good, but he was also playing with some poor D partners when he wasn’t with E&C.
In particular, Pirri got absolutely wrecked when partnered with Mitchell and Gudbrandson (I’m happy Mr. Gud is now playing in the PacDiv for the beloved Canooks).
Conversely, E&C do about as well away from Pirri as they do with him, so he’s not dragging them down. From that, we can come to one positive conclusion: backed by decent defensemen, Pirri may not be as bad shots-wise as his raw numbers might indicate.
For forwards, Pirri’s most common linemates appeared to be Bjugstad and Shaw. With Bjugstad, the numbers with/without for both players were relatively close.
With Shaw, their numbers together were poor – but Pirri improved markedly away from Shaw, while Shaw declined away from Pirri. Shaw appears to be something of an anchor.
And from that we can draw a second positive point – Pirri’s numbers, though poor, may be compromised by one (or more) of his common linemates. As with defensemen, he may do OK with more capable players.
You can see this overall effect by using Pirri’s hockeyviz.com WOWY chart. The broad ‘mix’ of red and black all around Pirri suggest that his teammates influence Pirri up or down, rather than the other way round.
He isn’t consistently dragging people down, nor is he dragging them up. Don’t expect him to be the driver on a line, but give him decent teammates and it appears he can generally hold his own.
Context 2 – Competition
Here I rely on the WoodMoney numbers developed by Darcy McLeod (@Woodguy55) and I.
The TOI breakdown confirms that Pirri is playing a third/fourth line role, with 70% of his time against the middle and bottom of the other team’s roster.
His numbers show that he’s not really holding his own against any of those tiers, but based on the earlier WOWY data, I would guess that he’s stuck with some duds a lot of the time, and that’s dragging him down, regardless of competition level.
Context 3 – Zone starts and faceoffs
Pirri’s zone starts are relatively neutral, a shade over 50%. However, his true zone starts – where his coach has sent him out to start shift – are closer to 60%. So we’re seeing a player who is relatively sheltered by his coach(es).
That’s the bad news – his zone starts are favourable, making his poor possession numbers look worse in context.
His faceoff numbers are also poor at 46.8% (Florida) and just 43.6% career. He was sent out for just two faceoffs in 9 games for Anaheim.
His biggest value to the Oilers may be in playing the wing, but providing depth at centre in case of injury.
So what we have is a player who
- scores decently for a third liner
- has poor possession numbers, especially in light of sheltered zone starts and modest competition … BUT!
- those possession numbers are heavily influenced by teammates
- it appears he can play effectively with good teammates
- but he’ll get dragged into the dirt by bad teammates
The teammate effect is where Pirri differs most from Vermette. Also age. At 25, he should have at least 3 to 5 more good years left.
Would I hire him?
He’s a respectable third line scorer.
He’s in the prime of his career.
His shot metrics this year were poor, but his career possession numbers (50.4%) are better, and a down year may mean it’s possible to get him at a discount.
If we can get him at a third line price, he might be a good pickup. He’s likely a scoring upgrade on Lander and probably no worse at possession than Letestu … and if he’s taking Korpikoski’s roster spot – hallelujah.
A decent bet if you can get him at the right price.
Buy low for a change, Chiarelli!