David Perron on his All-Star Season, Analytics he likes (and dislikes) and playing with Ryan O’Reilly.

David Perron on his All-Star Season, Analytics he likes (and dislikes) and playing with Ryan O’Reilly.

By Sheng Peng

David Perron is having a career year — another one.

Just two seasons ago, as a member of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, the winger set a career-high in assists (50) and points (66). Despite these marks, the Golden Knights let the UFA leave Vegas.

Now in St. Louis — for a third time — the 31-year-old has enjoyed another career revival, hoisting a Stanley Cup last year and earning his first All-Star Game berth this season.

I caught up with Perron on December 21st, as the Blues were preparing to take on the San Jose Sharks. We talked about NHLPA concerns with player tracking, what he’s doing well this year, heart rate monitors, and how analytics should fit the team.

Sheng Peng: Puck and player tracking is coming in the playoffs. What’s a stat of yours that you think you’d track well in that’s not publicly available now?

David Perron: Speed? (laughs)

SP: Speed?

DP: I’m kidding. I don’t know. I haven’t thought a whole lot about player tracking, to be honest with you.

When it comes to that, I’m sure it’ll be good, I’m sure, in many ways, but it can also be misleading.

But we talked about it last time, passes, even completion of passes…

SP: Passes in the slot…

DP: Things like that, looks in the slot, who passed the puck and was it completed, those are things I pride myself on, try to do every year.

SP: The NHLPA received protections on how this data will be used in player contract negotiations, arbitration…

DP: Like we talked about before, there’s a position from certain players, most players, quite honestly, that it might be used in the wrong way.

Let’s say heart rate monitors. Some teams have done that where they use heart rate monitors in practice. You think this guy is not working hard, but maybe he’s just well-positioned.

If you have coaches looking at heart rate monitors, that doesn’t tell the whole story on if the player is working or not working. Maybe he’s working smart.

SP: Will all the data from puck and player tracking be barred from contract negotiations? Just some of the data?

DP: I don’t know. I don’t know if legally they can use it in arbitration. But at the end of the day, if the data is out there, both sides will see it and use it.

SP: Right, because there’s a flip side. There will be some data that will be misinterpreted negatively, but there’s positive stuff too, right? Let’s get into some of your good stats.

DP: Good stats.

SP: You’ll like these. You are 10th in the league in Offensive Zone Possession Time, all situations. (The Point Hockey Note: Perron is now ranked 11th in the NHL in Offensive Zone Possession Time.)

DP: Nice.

SP: That’s all players in the league. 10th in Scoring Chances Off the Cycle. Ninth in One-Timers From the Slot. (Note: Perron is now ranked 14th in the NHL in Scoring Chances Off the Cycle, 12th in One-Timers From the Slot.)

DP: It’s nice to hear. I’m surprised I’m that high. But not at the same time. It’s a little bit of our philosophy as a team. 

But also, playing with Ryan O’Reilly, we have certain situations that only him and I know about, we’re trying to keep it tight so we don’t tell our tendencies too much. But at the same time, it’s pretty obvious. We play an honest game, we work hard down there. We definitely try to set up guys in the F3 position for one-timers. We pride ourselves on being heavy on the puck, hard to play against.

It’s all possession and cycling and one-timers, the three things you mentioned.

SP: You lead the team in Offensive Zone Loose Pucks Recovered. (Note: Perron is now ranked 2nd on the Blues in Offensive Zone Loose Pucks Recovered.)

DP: Our team is built on team structure. On depth. We pride ourselves, our forecheck last year, line after line, was a huge key, over the course of seven games, we would tire teams out.We were physical, we were heavy. Being heavy is not only just hitting guys, it’s being heavy when you have the puck. Make the right play with it.

SP: One more good stat. Because it’s not just about offense, you were best on the team in Offensive Zone Stick Checks. (Note: Perron is now ranked 2nd on the Blues in Offensive Zone Stick Checks.)

DP: Yeah, again, it’s part of our team philosophy, being good on the forecheck. Playing with a guy like O’Reilly, knowing our strength, you have to use your energy in the right way.

My speed’s not the greatest, but when you start tiring guys out and you’re in the o-zone and you have the puck, it’s even harder for them.

SP: Part of the reason why I’m bringing all these stats up, I know that players, they should be kind of concerned about tracking. You don’t know what all the stats and data points will be; I don’t know them either. But these stats are from a tracking company, SPORTLOGiQ…

DP: They’re out of Montreal, I think. I like them, I’ve heard many good things about them. It’s interesting, for sure. 

Where guys are reluctant and scared, we want it to be used in the right way.

Not in the way where, oh, your conditioning is bad. One year, a guy scores 30 goals. Next year, he scores 30 goals. One year, it’s 15, and now, it’s conditioning-based. But he was the same player, the same everything. It’s been used against guys before.

Even Corsi’s been used against me…

SP: In contract negotiations?

DP: Not necessarily contract negotiations. But you hear about it. It wasn’t always pleasant to hear. Because line changes, for example, many things can have an impact on that stat.

SP: There’s a positive side to these stats. The good numbers that I’ve just mentioned could’ve been useful, frankly, in 2018, when you were a free agent, right?

DP: Yeah, I hope they were like that too back then. On a line with [Erik Haula] and James Neal, that’s how we had success offensively. I was trying to have the same mentality, be heavy on the puck, tough to knock against.

I knew about some of those, you mentioned the passes.

SP: Were you able to use that in your 2018 UFA negotiations?

DP: I don’t think we used anything like that for contract stuff. But again, you start mentioning one [positive] stat, the other side starts mentioning a [negative] one. At the end of the day, they like you or they don’t like you.

Hockey’s still a little bit of a dinosaur. Sometimes, using one or the other too much is not good, you have to find the right balance. I think we’re getting closer to that.

There was a huge upswing when Corsi started, that it was almost end-all, be-all. Now, there are so many stats out there, so many useful ones, but because there’s so much, let’s use the ones that make sense for our team.

SP: Is there one stat in particular that your coaching staff emphasizes? Scoring chances, perhaps?

DP: We’re digging a lot deeper than that. We have a couple guys in there who do a good job of analyzing every goal in the league, how they’re scored. There are many, many ways. And connecting that with our system, it’s got to make sense.

You can say there’s many goals being scored off the rush right now, for example. There’s a good percentage when you have a three-on-two. 

But that’s not the way our team is built. We’re built to play deep, below the goal line. And we connect that with our system.

SP: Thanks for your time, David. 

This Perron (57) shift from December 29th against the Winnipeg Jets features numerous examples of how difficult the 6’0” winger can be to handle down low:

  • 00:16 Offensive Zone Stick Check on Josh Morrissey (44)
  • 00:30 Offensive Zone Stick Check on Mark Scheifele (55)
  • 00:32 Offensive Zone Loose Puck Recovered
  • 00:34-00:38 Offensive Zone Possession Time, makes Scheifele miss then passes into slot 
  • 00:39 Offensive Zone Loose Puck Recovered
  • 00:39-00:46 Offensive Zone Possession Time, makes Tucker Poolman (3) miss then passes to F3 Oskar Sundqvist (70)
  • 00:53 Scoring Chance Off the Cycle