Is Corey Perry Poised for a Plummet?

by Matt Cane with Rob Vollman on September 12, 2015
Corey Perry - USA Today Sports Images

 

Matt Cane takes a deep look at the future of Corey Perry's fantasy stock …

 

By Matt Cane (with Rob Vollman)

Matt Cane and Rob Vollman have devised a system to project a player's future performance by finding players with common statistics historically (Vollman, on the left) and in the modern day (Cane, on the right). This article is part of a series to introduce readers to their system, and to demonstrate how it can give you an edge in fantasy hockey.

 

In terms of goals, Corey Perry is one of the safest fantasy hockey selections. After all, he has led the Ducks in goal scoring in seven of the past eight seasons, and his sophomore 2006­07 season was the last time he finished outside the team's top two in either goals or points. But, is Perry actually an early­round gamble that you should be letting someone else take?

Based on the results below, a weighted average of his own previous three seasons sets base expectations at 40 goals, the average of his historical comparables (on the left) predicts 34, but the average of the modern players with the most similar statistics (on the right) actually sets a best-case mark of just 27 goals.

 

Rob's Take

First of all, it's hard to imagine anyone scoring fewer than 22 goals playing with Ryan Getzlaf. Heck, Perry scored 10 in just 18 playoff games last year! Given their success together, and the absence of any major change in either the coaching staff or the team's roster, there's no reason to suspect that they would be split up.

Just as important a factor as his center, there's the matter of Perry's playing style. While both systems take shooting percentage into account, there's a difference between those who shoot at 17% because of tremendous talent, like Joe Nieuwendyk, or because they really pick their spots, like Alex Tanguay, or because they crash the net and bang in rebounds, like Perry.

That's why the most interesting names on the historical list aren't all those highly skilled Lady Byng candidates, but his fellow crease­crashers, like Brendan Shanahan and Bill Guerin. While most goal scorers do experience a noticeable decline in their 30s, and those who play a highly physical style of hockey tend to have their careers cut short by injury, that wasn't the case with these two. Shanahan continued to consistently bang in goals, recording 40 as late as age 37, and Guerin may have bounced around the league, but continued to score as many as 36 goals as late as age 36.

There aren't a lot of net­crashers on the modern list on which to base a judgement, with the exception of fellow agitator Darcy Tucker. Yes, Darcy Tucker! Although he was obviously never at Perry's level, it's easy to forget that he was briefly a top­line offensive force. Coming out of the lockout, a 30­year­old Tucker took advantage of Toronto's depth down the middle to score 52 goals and 104 points in 130 games.

Of course, a slight slip was more than enough to knock that gritty veteran winger down into more of a checking line role for the Leafs and then the Avalanche, much as Chris Stewart may have been acquired to perform for the Ducks this year. There's no doubt that Perry will one day slide down into that kind of role – but probably not until only a couple of seasons remain on his massive, long-term contract.

In short, I do believe that Perry remains a safe scoring bet, but those modern comparisons alert us to what happens to these types of players when they start to slip. Given that his ice time has dropped from 22 minutes a game in his prime to just 18 minutes last year, it's at least possible that that day is closer than any of us expected.

 

Matt's Take

For years now, the Anaheim Ducks have been the team that have defied the analytics world and kept winning at a rate well above what their less than stellar advanced statistics would suggest. It should be no surprise then that Corey Perry’s base projection of 72 points turns up well above the average of both his modern (58 pts) and historical (66 pts) comparables – the big Canadian winger has made a habit of defying expectations over his 10-year career in California to date.

Because of this, we shouldn’t be shocked that Perry’s comparables are all over the map – his modern counterparts include both pure scorers (Havlat, Semin, Tanguay), and power forwards (Tucker, Wheeler), but don’t lean towards skaters with the same superstar status that Perry has deservedly earned. Perry and center Ryan Getzlaf play a style of game that many clubs in today’s NHL have abandoned, preferring to grind away at their opponents rather than use the finesse approach that most squads have moved towards over the past few years. Indeed, if we look instead at his matches from earlier eras, we see players that more intuitively match up to his on­ice approach – players that are willing to drive to the net to get a goal, and who are willing to battle for the puck to create opportunities, which may be why his historical projection is more in line with our intuitive expectations and his past performance.

What’s perhaps most interesting, however, is that the modern projections seem to view Perry’s goal scoring as beginning to decline. This shouldn’t be all that surprising for a player entering his age 30 season – goal scoring tends to peak around age 27, and a fair share of his closest modern comparables were beyond the 30 year mark – but his average projection of 22 goals, and best case scenario of 27 goals would be a fairly sharp decline for a player who’s scored at a 41 goal per year pace over the past five years. It should be interesting to see whether Perry and Anaheim are able to maintain the success they’ve had over the past several seasons, because if Perry starts to see results more like his modern counterparts and less like the bruising wingers of old that he so closely resembles, then the Ducks could be in for a long campaign in the coming year. 

 

For complete projections on over 700 active NHL players, Vollman and Cane Historical Projections 2015 is available exclusively through the Dobber store for just $4.99 – or it's free if you bought the Fantasy Guide using the coupon code found on page 151!