It looks like Sidney Crosby has found his new right wing in recently acquired David Perron, a position that’s been up for grabs since December 2013 when Pascal Dupuis tore his ACL against the Ottawa Senators.
Since then, the coveted position has been filled by the likes of Brian Gibbons, Joe Vitale, Evgeni Malkin, and even Dupuis himself, but none has stuck.
When Dupuis' (regular) season was ended by a blood clot in November, there seemed to be a low-grade panic setting in among Pens fans that he was a player who couldn’t be replaced. After all, who else keeps the Penguins light like the guy who set Crosby’s toilet to spray him with water?
Can Perron replace Dupuis?
Let’s compare Dupuis and Perron across a few categories:
(Data courtesy of stats.hockeyanalysis.com and war-on-ice.com)
If we take a look at their possession data, Dupuis appears to have a bit of an edge. Since joining the Penguins, Dupuis has posted a 50.8% CF%. Over that same time span, Perron’s CF% is 50.1%. Digging into the numbers a little more tells a slightly different story, however.
Sidney Crosby has been Dupuis’s most common linemate since 2007, when Dupuis was a throw-in on the Hossa trade. Together, Crosby and Dupuis have put up a CF% of 53.9%. Away from Crosby, Dupuis’s numbers take a dive down to 48.9%. This tells us that Dupuis’s 7-year CF% of 50.8% was seeing a bump from the time spent with Crosby, who was driving possession on their line.
Because Perron and Dupuis are also on different teams, it can be hard to compare possession statistics without a little more context. (For a good example of the effect a team can have on a player’s possession, in the 6 years Perron spent in the league before joining the Oilers, his CF% was 51.2%, much higher than the 49.9% we see after including his time in Edmonton, which is encouraging as to the success he could see on a good team.)
dCorsi, a statistic developed by Stephen Burtch, can help us account for some of these factors (such as age, position, time on ice per 60, teammate Corsi for, and team). I’ve used dCorsi impact to account for differences in time on ice. As Burtch writes, “As dCorsi is a normalized stat per 20 minutes of 5v5 TOI, dCorsi impact is determined by multiplying the player’s yearly dCorsi by the number of 20 minute intervals they have played in each season. To determine the player’s 3 year total, the yearly dCorsi impact values are then combined. The Average dCorsi Impact is determined by dividing the total by the number of seasons played by the skater in the data set.”
Having calculated their average dCorsi impacts, we see in the chart that Dupuis has overall had a larger positive possession impact on his teams than Perron, though both players have made positive contributions.
Perron has scored 7 points in 6 games with the Penguins, primarily playing alongside Crosby and Kunitz (the role Dupuis himself used to fill). He’s off to a pretty hot start, and the possibilities of what Crosby could do with Perron long term are exciting.
Perron and Dupuis have very similar points per 60 numbers, at 2.0 and 2.2 respectively. It’s safe to say Dupuis has seen a bump from playing with Crosby, and Perron will likely become the beneficiary of even greater offensive production as well. Although Dupuis has an impressive 56.3% goals-for percentage, that number falls to 51.7% away from Crosby, which gives the edge to Perron's 55.3% in this category.
It’s also worth noting that Perron is 26 and Dupuis will have turned 36 before he can even contemplate a return to the ice. Perron is still in the scoring prime for forwards, while Dupuis is well past that age.
Overall, in scoring I’d give the win to the much younger Perron, having never played with Crosby but still putting up pretty solid points per 60 and goals-for percentage numbers.
By and large, it would be a misnomer to say that the statistics community doesn’t believe intangibles exist. The problem is that intangibles are hard to quantify, and it’s near impossible to figure out what, if any, impact these qualities have on on-ice product.
Still, from all accounts, Dupuis is as well loved of a teammate as it gets. Whether or not the Penguins can replace Dupuis off the ice, it appears they’ve more than satisfactorily replaced him on the ice, where games are won and lost. And with Dupuis remaining with Penguins in an off-ice capacity, it doesn’t appear as though they have to look far for his replacement.
Encouraging also is the way Penguins teammates have taken to Perron. Kris Letang took him grocery shopping. Simon Despres had him over for dinner. Perron says it took him weeks after he got traded to Edmonton to stop thinking of himself as part of the Blues, while thinking of himself as a Penguin was instantaneous. If off-ice relations have any impact on the ice, this is a good sign for the Pens.
One category where Dupuis has Perron beat? Hot Dad.