Friday, August 20, 2010

Time to step up: Sammy Pahlsson

  • Center
  • Alternate captain
  • 32 years old, 10th year in National Hockey League
  • $2,650,000 cap hit 
  • 4.5% of Columbus Blue Jackets salary cap
  • Contract expires at end of 2011-2012
  • 2009-2010 CBJ numbers: 79 games played, 3 goals, 13 assists, 16 points, -9, 32 penalty minutes, 16:16 avg. time on ice
How do you measure this type of defensive play?
That's the challenge when evaluating Sammy Pahlsson.
It's a challenge for someone with as minimal a playing background as I to construct a meaningful critique of Sammy Pahlsson.  His role on the Columbus Blue Jackets is clear: Center the 3rd line - the line that shuts down the opposing team's top line.  But how can you tell that he did it from a stat sheet?  Hockey statistics largely reflect on offensive performance, and the one that suggests defensive performance (plus/minus) reflects not just on a single player's effort but on their linemates as well.

Pahlsson had 16 points last year, two off his NHL career average of 18.  His -9 rating was slightly worse than his NHL career average of -6.  And he played on a team last season that suffered from anemic scoring and a penchant for letting other teams score goals, so did he have a down year or was he simply consistent with past performance on a personal level?

In reflecting on Sammy Pahlsson's efforts over the last season, I honestly cannot remember a point to which I can point and say, "We won that game because of Pahlsson," or "That player was neutralized because of Pahlsson."  Now, I can look at the second Washington game last year and say that Fedor Tyutin largely had Alexander Ovechkin bottled up.  I can remember the CBJ's only playoff appearance and recall how Rusty Klesla manhandled Tomas Holmstrom in ways that I had never seen anyone do against "Homer."  But not Pahlsson.  Does that make his worth any less than the others, or does it simply point out my need to better understand the sport I enjoy so much?

Many CBJ players - from the biggest stars to the AHL callups -  have been subjects of criticism over the past season.  Pahlsson has never been one of them.  When someone suggests trading him (though his contract is by no means exorbitant in the NHL scheme of things), there's a hue and cry that Pahlsson shouldn't be on the block.  So I'm guessing that there's something to Pahlsson that could perhaps be better explained in the comments.

Looking over Pahlsson's stats over the years, he's been remarkably consistent.  I'm guessing that the Blue Jackets like that consistency out of him, and he needs to continue being the performer that he's been over the next couple seasons in order to get that great last contract.  A strong, steady shutdown guy is apparently a valuable item on an NHL roster.

[UPDATE: @alderirish forwarded me this nifty breakaway and subsequent penalty shot by Pahlsson.  I guess he can play some serious offense after all!]


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