All season, one of the most common elements of
the Montreal Canadiens has been the surprising rate that they continue to take
penalties despite not being a particularly physical squad. Yes, it’s easy to
look at the PIM totals and say who the culprits are, but that doesn’t take into
account the fact that some play more than others. So, just who is the most
proficient at taking penalties?
Let’s start by looking at the defencemen.
There are a trio of Habs who sit in the top-30 amongst NHL D’s in terms of minor
penalties taken: Subban (1st), Hamrlik (T-3rd), and Mara (T-28). But as we
all know, Subban and Hamrlik log the most minutes. So to assess how
frequently they take penalties, I’ve compared their total TOI (rounded to the
nearest minute) with minor penalties taken. Here are the results:
So although Subban is the league leader in
minor penalties on defence, he isn’t the most guilty culprit in terms of getting
sent to the box too often relative to time on ice. At the other end of the
spectrum, we see Sopel which may very well be another reason why he was Pierre
Gauthier’s target before the deadline. Not only is he a decent defender in
his own end, but if he can stay out of the box, he could prove to be more
valuable, particularly in late game situations when avoiding dumb penalties is a
Onto the forwards now. We have been
talking all season about Pouliot’s struggles in avoiding dumb penalties but he’s
not exactly the only culprit amongst the forwards. There are 3 Habs in the
NHL’s top-50 forwards in minor penalties, Plekanec (T-13), Pouliot (T-36), and
Eller (T-46). Obviously, Plekanec plays a lot so the quantity is a little
more understandable but where does he fit in with the rest of the attackers in
terms of TOI per minor penalty?
Note: Only forwards with 100 minutes played
qualified for the list so players who have played less but have taken penalties
(Boyd, Palushaj) aren’t included in this assessment.
I must admit, when I started putting this
together, I expected to see Gomez relatively high on the list. Instead, he
sits in the bottom half suggesting that although his penalties have a tendency
to be untimely, he clearly doesn’t take as many as some in the local media may
lead you to believe. Not surprisingly, Pouliot and Eller, both players who
have had noted struggles this year with staying out the box, sit atop the top of
this list. So too does Plekanec, which is a grave concern considering he
is the team’s best penalty killer. I was a little surprised to see
Pacioretty this high but as he was playing with a physical edge, it is
The last two names really jump out at me.
The fact that Pyatt has taken just 1 minor penalty this season says a lot about
his discipline and also why Jacques Martin has used him in more games than some
would like (though the team has a much better record with him in than without
him). As for Gionta, he leads all forwards in TOI but sits 2nd lowest in
this stat. That coupled with the intensity he brings most nights is a
positive sign that he’s leading by example in this area. If only some of
his teammates would follow suit, the Habs just might be able to stay away from
leading the league in minor penalties before the season ends.