By Bob Trask – Since Jeff Petry’s trade, everyone wants to draw comparisons between Petry and the newly acquired Mike Matheson. The most common comparisons use last year’s performance of the two players or their performance over the past three years.
My comparison will be a little different in that it will compare the offensive output of the two players at similar stages of their careers. Whether it is a valid comparison or not remains to be seen. Actual defensive aptitude is harder to measure so my analysis will be relatively superficial.
Mike Matheson is currently 28 years old, so I will begin by comparing some of the statistics of the two players from the time they broke into the NHL to the season in which they were 28 years old.
Comparison – At a Glance
In this table Petry’s early years include years up until the age of 28 which coincides with Matheson’s career to date. Petry’s later years are from the age of 28 until the end of the 2021-22 season. Matheson has yet to reach that stage in his career.
Comparison – The Early Years
These rudimentary stats indicate two very similar defensemen with Petry being more physical and Matheson being more productive offensively at 5v5. Petry saw almost double the PP time per game as Matheson did – part of the reason for Petry’s superior numbers in that category. Both turned over the puck at a similar rate while Matheson was significantly more efficient at takeaways.
Jeff Petry – The Later Years
Since the beginning of the 2016-17 season, Petry’s game took off offensively. In 438 games he scored 62 goals and added 163 assists for 225 points, literally doubling his annual production rate from his early career. Can he continue at that pace? With Malkin and Crosby at teammates it may be possible but there are no Malkins or Crosbys in Montreal – yet! Or will his offensive production begin to decline if he relinquishes PP time to Kris Letang?
Mike Matheson – Going Forward
It remains to be seen whether Matheson can make the same leap in production that Petry did at the same age but he doesn’t have as far to leap either. However, at the same time as Petry’s offense jumped some of his underlying stats, like giveaways and takeaways, deteriorated. Whether the same progression/regression will occur with Matheson is unknown.
Be cautious with comparisons between Matheson and Petry based solely on next season’s performance. Both players will be thrust into very different situations.
Summing It Up
At this stage of Jeff Petry’s career he was not an ideal fit for the Canadiens who are building for the long term. When you add the complicated family situation that he faced, it made sense for Kent Hughes to find a team for him south of the border. Pittsburgh was a logical choice in that they are in a win now mode with Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Rakell and now Petry under contract.
What the Canadiens received in Matheson is a defenseman who had a very similar profile to Petry at a similar stage in his career. He is at the right age to grow and develop with the rest of the team and with over 400 games under his belt he can use his experience and help to mentor his younger teammates.
From the time Jeff Petry joined the team only one defenseman has scored in excess of 28 points in a season and that was Markov who was at the tail end of his career. Markov achieved his totals in those years while playing 3:07 per game on the PP and ranking up 18 power play points per season.
Matheson will also be arguably the best offensive defenseman the Canadiens have had in years on the left side. He has averaged 27 points per 82 games played while seeing a paltry 0:43 on the PP per game so far in his career. He will likely get the opportunity to see a lot more PP time going forward. And if Justin Barron can develop into an offensive threat on the right side, it will be a nice one-two punch on blue line.
At similar points in their careers the numbers that Petry and Matheson put up are eerily similar. The only question is whether Matheson will continue to develop offensively as Petry did or has he already peaked.
One thing is certain and that is times are a changin’ in Montreal.