We Need to Talk About Chris Kelly and Tom Pyatt
While Chris Kelly and Tom Pyatt bring certain things to the table, they just have not been good enough to be playing every single night
I've said it for years now, and for the Ottawa Senators, this still rings true: they aren't a very deep team. It's obvious how thin they are when they essentially forced to play two players in particular: Chris Kelly and Tom Pyatt. I'm not going to take a long-winded road to get to my point here, I'm just going to say that Kelly and Pyatt have not been NHL-calibre players this season. That's a real problem for a team that does not have many alternatives, because it is not as simple as scratching them and putting in a different player.
In the summer, Kelly seemed like a decent signing who would be good enough, but not anything spectacular on the fourth line. I was fine with the move, besides the fact that they chose him over other alternatives. Nevertheless, I thought it was better than nothing. At the time of the Pyatt signing, I don't believe a single fan thought he would be with the NHL team for most of the season. Pyatt hadn't played in the NHL since 2013-14...and maybe there is a good reason for that.
I did not come into the year thinking that both of these players would be horrendous, and I was certainly willing to give Pyatt a chance because I had never seen him play. But two months into the season, I have seen enough of both of them to realize that they have simply not been good enough. Let me preface these stats by saying that it's understandable why Kelly is struggling. He is coming off of a broken femur, and is also 36 years old, so he is not going to be the player that scored 20 goals in 2011-12.
Pyatt is probably just being asked to do very simple tasks from Guy Boucher, and it's not like he looks completely lost when he is out there. In fact, after the first few games I even praised him because of how solid he looked. Since then though, it is clear that the only reason he is in the lineup is because of Boucher's love for him, as he coached Pyatt in Tampa Bay.
No matter what, the two of them have been objectively bad this season, and I don't even know if their strongest supporters could disagree with that.
Let's look at the numbers.
Offensively, Pyatt has been good enough for a 4th liner, with 2 goals and 5 assists, which puts him on pace for 20 points. Kelly has only 2 goals and 2 assists, putting him on pace for 11 points. Those basic point totals right there don't exactly show them as amazing players anyway, but the underlying numbers don't flatter them at all.
For example, at 5v5, Kelly's GF% sits at 26.7%, meaning when he's on the ice, the opponent is going to score about three goals for every one that Ottawa gets. GF% is pretty much +/- and is not a good stat, but for those who like +/-, you cannot even use that as an argument to prove their worth. Pyatt is a bit better with a 42.1 GF%, but that's still incredibly low.
How about something that everyone likes to use, like corsi? It isn't pretty.
The two of them sit last and second last on the team in corsi, and it isn't particularly close. Take a look at the list:
That is a six percent drop from Cody Ceci to Tom Pyatt, and Chris Kelly is somehow below the 40% line. It's hard to argue that they do not have as good linemates either, because they are the ones that are dragging others down.
Out of the 605 players that have played at least 100 minutes this season, Kelly ranks 603rd in CF%, and Pyatt ranks 598th. Furthermore, in CF% relative, Kelly is 600th (-9.6%), with Pyatt sitting at 594th (-8.6%). So it is not as if Ottawa is simply a bad possession team and lots of other players are playing just as poorly. Sure, there are some players that have possession rates in the 46-48% range which are not good at all, but nobody is even close to Kelly and Pyatt.
Kelly does have a more defensive-minded deployment, with the 3rd most defensive zone starts on the team, but Jean-Gabriel Pageau is 1st, yet his corsi is much higher at 47.3%. This does not even apply for Pyatt, as he sits 11th on the team in defensive zone starts.
The one thing that both of these players are supposed to be good at is the penalty kill, yet they have not even been valuable in that department.
Kelly has the 2nd highest (out of 9) corsi against per 60 on the penalty kill (at 117.80), while Pyatt is 4th (108.32). In this case, higher is worse, as they have allowed too many shot attempts on the penalty kill. Across the entire league, Kelly is the 28th highest out of 297 skaters with 25 minutes on the PK, while Pyatt is 73rd.
Both of their goals against per 60 on the PK is a bit better while being barely above average, although we've seen the penalty kill regress extremely quickly in the past few games. Plus, if they are giving up a lot of shot attempts, those are eventually going to go in more, which would make their GA60 go up.
I know this is a lot of numbers to digest, but the premise of this is that there isn't any set of data that makes them look good, or even of NHL calibre. They are getting obliterated when they are on the ice, which effectively kills two lines. Sure, Pyatt has made a few nice plays, and Kelly even had that awesome game-winning goal against San Jose, but on the whole, they have hindered the team more than they have helped them.
Of course it is expected for these kind of role players to not have great possession numbers. Typically that is why they are on the fourth and third line instead of the second or first. But there are players out there who may not produce a lot of points but are efficient in limiting goals against or at least keeping the puck in the offensive zone. Kelly and Pyatt have simply not done that, nor have they been efficient on the penalty kill.
I would have loved to see Kelly thrive in his return to Ottawa, because five years ago he was a very solid third line centre. But now, he's become unplayable. And unfortunately, Ottawa sort of has to roll with him here. It would have also been great if Pyatt was a cheap hidden gem, but instead it looks like he is a player that Boucher loves too much, which is what I feared would happen:
Really hope Tom Pyatt isn't that one bad guy that Boucher inexplicably loves. Every coach has at least 1. Willing to see what he can do tho— Trevor Shackles (@ShackTS) October 1, 2016
This may seem like nitpicking a roster that has some good pieces, but when there are two players in the bottom six who are playing this poorly, it has a big effect on the team. I don't have much of a problem with Ottawa's top players, because their core can match up with lots of other teams. But what will separate Ottawa in the future is if they minimize the drop off from the top six to the bottom six. They can probably do that next sesaon, but for now it does not look good on the third and fourth lines.
Unfortunately, it is clear as day that Kelly and Pyatt have not been good enough. Hopefully the Senators can minimize their impact on the team by acquiring a depth forward before the deadline or not signing them for next season. But for now, we have to watch the two of them struggle.