Written by GarikA common complaint I've seen from Islanders fans on the internet has been with the play of Pierre-Marc Bouchard. 'He plays too soft! He doesn't hit! He isn't scoring either! Why isn't he scratched for Brock Nelson?' Bouchard was the Islanders' biggest acquisition in the offseason; a one-year, 2 Million dollar "show me" deal and was thought to be the Isles replacement for Brad Boyes and PA Parenteau. But despite a week in preseason on line one, he has bounced around two different lines so far and has yet to produce much offensive numbers. So the general line of thinking is that, 9 games in, he's a bust and part of the problem the Isles have had so far.If you know my writing at all, you shouldn't be surprised when I tell you that this general line of thinking is VERY wrong. Pierre-Marc Bouchard has been one of the most effective Islanders on the ice so far for the team on 5-on-5, regardless of which line he has been on!You see, one of the most effective ways of telling whether a team is winning the battles in a game of hockey while a player is on the ice isn't to count how often that player hits or to look at how many shots he is blocking, but rather to see which team is getting more shots while that player is on the ice. You can do this by looking at the amount of shots on goal for each team while that player is on the ice; alternatively you can look just at shots on goal and missed shots while a player is on the ice (this is also known as fenwick, or unblocked shot attempts), or at all shot attempts while that player is on the ice, including missed and blocked shots (also known as corsi). Take a look at these numbers for Bouchard and how they rank among Islander forwards:With Bouchard on the Ice 5-on-5, the Islanders are:Outshooting opponents: 53-37 in shots on goal (1st among Isles' forwards)Outshooting opponents: 68-64 in unblocked shot attempts (fenwick) (2nd among Isles' forwards to Josh Bailey)Outshooting opponents: 90-81 in shot attempts (corsi) (1st among Isles' forwards)That's right; in shot differential PMB is either #1 or #2 among Islanders forwards. In fact, only 2-4 Islander forwards are not being outshot by these numbers. Bouchard and Josh Bailey are outshooting opponents by all three metrics, while Peter Regin and Matt Martin are at least even in shots on goal, although Martin's #s get worse when you look at missed and blocked shots.What exactly does this mean? Well it means simply this: the Islanders are spending a greater percentage of time in the opponents' zone with PMB on the ice than any other Islanders forward.
* * *Could this be not because of PMB but instead because of Bouchard's linemates? Well, look at the shot attempt differential numbers of Bouchard's two centers with and without PMB:Frans Nielsen without PMB: 40.7% shot-attempt differntial (Corsi).Frans Nielsen with PMB: 54.1% shot-attempt differentialPeter Regin without PMB: 47.3% shot-attempt differentialPeter Regin with PMB: 55.2% shot-attempt differentialYes, both of PMB's two centers, with whom he's played roughly equal time, show much better results with PMB at left wing than without PMB. This by the way continues a trend from the last three years where players playing with PMB showed much better results with him than without him on the Minnesota Wild (see right).Nor are these results because PMB is getting a lot of offensive zone faceoffs. Regin's basically gotten the same amount of D-zone faceoffs as O-zone faceoffs and half of his results are with Frans Nielsen on the line that is meant to handle opponents' best forwards. So his results aren't due to facing weak competition either.Simply put, these numbers continue to show that Bouchard has been an ASSET to this team -- making those he plays with better and tilting the ice in the Islanders' favor -- and whose play is important to this team's success. Much like another winger named Pierre picked up off the scrap heap three years ago, this guy is very underrated.
* * *None of this praise is to say that Bouchard has been perfect. He hasn't. For example, while his ability to raise his teammates performance has continued on the Isle, his shooting ability hasn't.During the last three years, PMB has averaged a little over seven shots on goal per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play. This season, PMB is averaging 3.8 shots on goal per 60, roughly half the shooting production from the years prior (and PMB didn't play an offensive role for the Wild either). PMB has actually been a good shooter the last three years, but if he shoots the puck this infrequently, that won't matter much. PMB isn't just here to help his teammates -- although that's a big help -- but also to provide production on his own, and he hasn't yet done that.Still, whatever his individual faults, through nine games it certainly seems like PMB has made whoever he's played with much better at keeping the puck in the offensive end. Perhaps that's something that fans should value, rather than begging for him to be scratched because he doesn't do it in a flashy way. Hockey is about winning, not looking good doing it.