When Max Pacioretty was lying on the ice after taking that huge hit from Zdeno Chara in March of 2011, things didn’t look good. A fractured vertebrae and a severe concussion are the types of injuries that can shorten careers. Thankfully Pacioretty has made a full recovery and returned to have a stellar year for Montreal in 2011-12. So much so, that he was awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for his perseverance.
Although the Canadiens had a campaign they would like to forget, Pacioretty was a bright spot and proved that patience and development pays off. After playing a year at the University of Michigan, he went on to play in parts of three seasons with the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs. Not being rushed to the NHL by Montreal allowed the big American left winger to hone his skills and prepare for his opportunity.
Last year Pacioretty led the Canadiens in points with 65, and finished second in goals with 33. His previous career high in points was 24, but until 2011-12 he had never played more than 52 games in a season, leaving it a difficult task to truly gauge his offensive capabilities.
Putting up 33 goals and 65 points are no doubt directly related to Pacioretty establishing himself as one of the NHL’s leading shot takers. His 286 shots last year were good enough to tie him for eighth overall in the league, which resulted in an average of 3.6 shots per game. By averaging close to four shots per contest, Pacioretty not only helps poolies in the shots on goal department, but increases his chances for offensive productivity.
In addition to his shots on goal, Pacioretty’s line mates helped him greatly in 2011-12. He played the majority of the time with Erik Cole and David Desharnais, who finished second and third respectively in team scoring. The two combined for 121 points and left Montreal with a stacked top line. While this may not have benefited the Canadiens when it came to depth, it certainly helped poolies who had one of those three guys on their squad.
|50.61%||EV||72 COLE,ERIK - 51 DESHARNAIS,DAVID - 67 PACIORETTY,MAX|
|7.72%||PP||72 COLE,ERIK - 51 DESHARNAIS,DAVID - 67 PACIORETTY,MAX|
|5.04%||EV||21 GIONTA,BRIAN - 67 PACIORETTY,MAX - 14 PLEKANEC,TOMAS|
|4.39%||EV||72 COLE,ERIK - 67 PACIORETTY,MAX - 14 PLEKANEC,TOMAS|
When you start to play better your coach will tend to reward that effort with more ice-time. Pacioretty is a great example of this as he went from 16th on the team in that category in 2010-11, to 7th in 2011-12. He went from averaging 15:53 per game to 18:15 per contest last season. An increase of over two minutes per game will definitely lead to an increase in production.
Not only was Pacioretty one of the Canadiens most potent players last season, he was also one of the most cost effective. He ranked third on the squad in cap hit per point and fellow line mate Desharnais ranked first. You could argue this makes them the best number one line as far as bargains go in hockey. It may seem like Montreal is being run by some brilliant hockey minds, until you remember they traded for Scott Gomez and his gargantuan contract.
Pacioretty’s strong season flew a little under the radar. Most likely because his style is not necessarily flashy, he emerged into the NHL with minimal hype, and his team did not have a strong year. Nevertheless, that doesn’t diminish what he has accomplished in his short time as a pro. His recovery from a scary and devastating injury is a feel good story for both poolies, and hockey fans in general.